Do Union Bosses Care About Workers?

In this March 5, 2011, file photo, people protest against legislative efforts to do away with teachers' collective bargaining rights in Nashville, Tenn. The measure passed in Tennessee this year and ended collective bargaining for teachers unions in the state. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

One of partisan talking points I’ve always objected to is the notion that labor unions are these ethically pure players; that unlike evil, nasty corporations or groups like the NRA, unions and union leadership represent and advocate purely for the interests of working people, not themselves as institutions and interest groups in their own right.


Conservatives, and to be fair plenty of liberals who have had personal interactions with unions, know this is baloney. Take a closer look at these claims and it becomes readily apparent that union leadership, at least these days, picks and chooses fights based on what actions will bring the most cash into union coffers, thereby enabling union bosses to get rich, much like the corporate CEOs they frequently malign. It’s not actually about working people’s welfare, or working conditions. It’s literally about cashflow.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) is among the best examples of this. Unsurprisingly, given that the UAW’s membership comprises automotive manufacturing workers, safety is a concern of the membership. But the UAW also claims that they are “a leader in the struggle to secure economic and social justice for all people.”

That sounds awesome, but the problem is that the UAW’s record just doesn’t back up its assertions. There are plenty of examples to choose from to demonstrate this point solely with regard to the UAW, but straight out of California comes an awesome, and new, one.

While attempting to organize Tesla, unions have been critical of the automaker for being sued for discrimination, with many automotive industry insiders believing the UAW has pushed behind the scenes, and “without fingerprints” to highlight allegations of discrimination.

But as the Daily Caller News Foundation just recently noted, a recent Employment Matters Counseling and Consulting (EMCC) investigation into claims of gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation by Tesla found those claims unsubstantiated. Tesla accurately points out that “in the history of Tesla, there has never been a single proven case of discrimination against the company. Not one.”


Contrast that with other union shops; for example, 33 women are involved in this class action lawsuit that goes back more than two decades. These women had filed a claim with the union but either were ignored or faced retribution for doing so.  A union chief was suspended due to the lawsuit, and the union fought to protect the man under whose watch the gender discrimination happened.

The UAW has also gone after Tesla for safety issues. Ironically, the plant Tesla currently occupies was a union plant before and from at least 2003 until it closed, the facility had a worse incident rate of injury or illness than the industry average.  In 2009, the plant had an incident rate of 9.09 compared the automaker industry rate of 7.3. In 2008, the rate was 10.84 compared to 6.8.

The UAW has also claimed that Tesla intimidated workers who were attempting to organize. This claim is especially ironic, since as the California Policy Center has noted, unions have a history of using “scab” lists to intimidate workers. The UAW used this tactic  in 2016 in Michigan, where it also mandated that workers who wanted to exercise their right-to-work rights and quit the union to show up in person and provide identification to do it. Remember, the UAW opposes voter ID and doesn’t require an ID to vote in their own elections.

All these kinds of actions– fair or foul– help to boost union membership, which is great for the bosses. More money means higher salaries, for them, and the UAW has at least 453 employees who take home a six-figure salary according to one list.


For me, it supports the theory I’ve had for a long time. That for unions, it’s often more about the big labor bosses’ interests, and far less about their members.

It should not be controversial to believe this or to say it. But so many supporters of the concept of unions cannot seem to separate themselves from the increasingly apparent reality of its current condition.

You want workers to be protected and think unions are the way to go? Hey, be my guest. But if you support those workers while looking past all of this crap or give them a pass ask yourself an honest question: Is it just because their donations go to the “correct” party?”

Intellectual honesty. It’s a thing. Do it.


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