As the book closes on 2010, great changes have appeared on the political landscape. None more visible than America’s labor unions and their accelerated decline from coast to coast.
The country’s attitude towards organized labor is becoming combative. That became abundantly clear in the last election. Americans no longer regard organized labor as their saviors from evil corporations and government taskmasters.
Big labor has lobbied Congress hard to pass Card Check, which eliminates secret ballots in workplace elections, allowing organizers to identify workers opposed to unionizing. The massive effort hasn’t shown the results they envisioned. In fact, four states have ratified initiatives to continue secret ballots.
Public-sector union pension plans are failing under trillions of dollars of debt. Newly elected governors are promoting alternative employee plans including 401(k)-defined contributions. Many state governors also talk about eliminating laws dictating union-scale wages for public projects and dropping certain bargaining privileges for police and firefighter unions.
All proposals unheard of until the last few years.
States across the country are finding alternatives to what no longer works. Laws to cut back labor union power have passed or are pending in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Alabama, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Nowhere is the fight gearing up for an all out political bloodbath more than in California.
The state’s public employee union pension plan is $535 billion in the red, or $36,000 in debt for every household in the state. Democrats now hold all seven of the state’s highest offices, yet voters are showing growing displeasure with the enormous debt and negotiating intransigence by labor unions.
The public is further indignant with private-sector unions. California’s unemployment rate is over 12% with big business fleeing the state at a record rate. Corporations are balking at signing billion-dollar deals with unions notorious for cost overruns while stuffing their own coffers. More and more states are offering companies relocation deals that sidestep exorbitant union participation and guarantee and abundance of non-union labor workers.
The situation is entirely different on the federal front.
Despite ominous disengagement by the states, the Obama Administration, with their liberal appointees on the National Labor Relations Board, recently passed a decision allowing unions to forgo secret ballots in certain circumstances.
The president has rolled back transparency requirements for unions and encouraged project labor agreements on $140 billion in stimulus projects. In the 111th Congress (considered the worst in 80 years), the $813 billion stimulus bill and subsequent $26 billion teacher unions bailout kept public-sector unions flush even as the private sector was drowning.
These are obvious political paybacks by Obama to the unions for their almost blind loyalty to his party. Organized labor spent more than $200 million trying to save Democrats in the midterm elections.
With the 112th Congress installed this January will come a Republican majority in the House. The question is not whether the new majority will face off against the unions, but how many more elections labor feels the American people will put up with them altogether.
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