AFL-CIO Shifts the Cost of Membership Losses to Those Who Still Remain

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
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AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor union, voted in mid-October to hike union membership dues for the first time in 17 years in what its leaders are calling an all-in effort to recruit one million new members.


Bloomberg Law reported the union anticipates the hike in dues will raise $10 million per year from AFL-CIO’s 12 million members in 58 affiliated locals.

Buried under a mountain of meticulously arranged compost, however, the announcement yields several nuggets of information unflattering to Big Labor in general and AFL-CIO in particular.

For starters, the Bloomberg story explains that the AFL-CIO executive board voted to raise its per-capita monthly membership fees starting in January, with a second increase to be phased in later.

Conspicuous by its absence, of course, is any reference to how the rank and file responded to the increase. Perhaps that’s because the union leadership — which describes itself on its own website as a “member-driven organization, based on democratic principles,” couldn’t be bothered to ask permission before approving the higher dues deduction or solicit feedback afterward.

Like everything it does, the union’s only motivation for the move was an insatiable appetite for more and more of someone else’s money, with which to line the pockets of its leaders and corrupt politicians who pass laws keeping the whole dirty enterprise legal.

If it were, indeed, a “member-driven organization,” AFL-CIO would be more interested in limiting the supply of labor available to keep wages artificially high for those affiliated with the union.


As Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman explained the phenomenon, “(U)nions raise wages for their members by restricting entry into an occupation, (and) those higher wages are at the expense of other workers who find their opportunities reduced.”

Even if it were possible (and it isn’t), adding another one million workers to the AFL-CIO’s membership rolls would do nothing to benefit those already turning over a portion of their paycheck every month to AFL-CIO.

Rather, it would almost certainly reduce their incomes and put their very jobs in jeopardy as employers struggled to absorb the glut of comparably trained workers all expecting to be paid inflated union wages.

Such a scenario would also pour gasoline on an economy already reeling under the manifest incompetence of a president largely installed in office by AFL-CIO and other luminaries of Big Labor.

On the other hand, the increase will generate a projected $10 million per year to spend on recruiting efforts. Or whatever Shuler decides to spend it on.

Since the revenue comes with no strings attached, we have only the assurances of Madame President that it won’t simply disappear down the same rathole that consumes every other union dues dollar.


Happily, these optimistic projections have about as much basis in reality as the rest of the left’s dogma.

As is true when liberal politicians impose a tax of a given amount on a finite number of taxpayers, the result is rarely what they promise because it’s not a zero-sum game.

With each new assessment, more and more Americans decide to find a tax shelter or move their assets offshore rather than giving Uncle Sam an ever-larger share of their shrinking paychecks. So, too, will AFL-CIO members decline in greater numbers to play the game by the union’s suddenly more expensive rules.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that government employees have a First Amendment right to refuse to join a labor union or pay dues to one as a condition of employment. In the years since, hundreds of thousands of American workers have opted out of union servitude.

The Freedom Foundation has helped to free nearly 130,000 public employees and deprive unions of a corresponding $250 million in dues revenue — which doesn’t even include those who’ve opted out on their own.

It’s these losses the AFL-CIO is desperately trying to backfill by shifting the burden onto the backs of the dwindling number of members it has left.


For how many of these will the union’s latest scheme be the straw that breaks their back?

“We’re making an unparalleled investment dedicated exclusively to organizing to build power for America’s workers seizing this unprecedented moment,” Shuler said in making her announcement.

The trouble is, that investment — as always — comes from someone else’s pocket, and the only thing unprecedented about the moment is that the Supreme Court and dire economic necessity are finally forcing union leaders like Liz Shuler to confront it.

Jeff Rhodes is vice president for news and information at the Freedom Foundation.


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