Breaking down the Machine: Unions

Private sector unions have always had a close relationship with Democrats. They serve the dual purpose of being fundraisers and boots on the ground within the Democrat machine. One needs look no further than the Democrat-sponsored auto bailouts, which gave funding priority to the United Auto Workers (UAW.)  After receiving tax payer money, the UAW then funneled much of that money back to the Democrat machine.

How do we remedy this? Republicans at the state level can start by curtailing privileges built into the system over the years that directly benefit unions. All in all, 25 states have both Republican majorities in both legislative chambers (or one in the case of Nebraska) as well as a Republican governor. In addition, Missouri has a Republican supermajority that can hypothetically override a governor’s veto. Unions often shift money from state to state, so even heavily Republican areas can see great sums of money raised to benefit Democrats abroad from unions. These states must then focus on limiting this. As a side note, a comment on my last post warned against unfairly targeting unions. The intent of the following policy recommendations is not to ban unions, who do have the freedom of association. The intent is to weaken or remove the privileges that have been built into the governance system for the expressed purpose of unfairly benefitting unions, and thus the Democrats.

An important step towards accomplishing that is right to work legislation. Right to Work legislation prohibits employees from having to pay union dues or agency fees as a condition on employment. Union members claim that mandatory payoffs are “fair,” as all workers, regardless of union membership benefit from union bargaining. This is akin to saying that all citizens should be required to pay dues to the NRA, since all Americans, regardless of NRA membership benefit from NRA lobbying. 24 states have already passed right to work legislation, with the most recent being Michigan. In addition to protecting the rights of workers, this type of legislation has the additional effect of reducing union membership and union money. Passing right to work then limits the effectiveness of union fundraising, as the state can no longer be used as a collection service. The most likely opportunities then for future right to work legislation are Alaska, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The one drawback is that passing right to work in certain states can amount to kicking a hornet’s nest. Given their skill at organizing, unless legislation is passed quickly, there is a certain risk of vocal protests that will be picked up by the Democrat-controlled media. In Michigan, the Republicans were smart enough to take up the bill and pass it through both houses on the same day, with the governor signing it a few days later.

Additional priorities, are prevailing wages laws and project labor agreements (PLAs). While the BLS reports that 86% of construction workers were not unionized as of 2011, there are a disproportionate number of state construction contracts with union firms. This is partially caused by prevailing wages laws, which require that contracted workers be paid the local “prevailing” wage, which is typically reflective of the inflated local union wage. This crowds out smaller firms and minority-owned firms, as they are robbed of their one competitive advantage, cheaper labor. As a result, unions get more contracts, and thus more money to devote to the Democrat machine that protects this policy. Relevant states that maintain prevailing wage laws include Alaska, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. While a full repeal would be optimal, political concerns may dictate a more prudent course. Such a course could include increasing the minimum monetary threshold required before a contract qualifies. Currently, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas have no threshold whatsoever. Additionally, exempting certain types of contracts from prevailing wage requirements, as Indiana has done with education-related projects, likewise reduces union privileges.

Project Labor Agreements are pre-negotiated deals between the government and unions that establish the terms of employment before individual firms offer project bids. These agreements can go beyond typical wages and hours and often require contracted labor to be hired through union hiring halls. Even in right to work states where non-union firms or workers cannot be discriminated against, they still must abide by all of the pre-negotiated terms, which again take away their competitive advantage. There has been a lot of state movement lately prohibiting these agreements, but there are still plenty of Republican states that have not. Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are our targets here. As a side note, four of the states that have prohibited PLAs have only done so by executive order: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nevada. While executive orders can be ignored by future governors, they still serve as temporary roadblocks to the machine. So I’d also recommend that New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez issue a similar executive order.

Our interest is in reducing their long-term political  capital, so eliminating their special government privileges is necessary.

In my next post, I will be addressing public employee unions, which I believe differ enough from private sector unions to warrant a separate review.