Conservative groups go after union members

A Nevada organization and some high-profile partners want to show them how to opt out.

By Jason Notte Jun 25, 2013 7:41AM
The United Auto Workers Local 174 sign stands outside their building in Romulus, Mich. on March 22, 2013 (© Paul Sancya/AP Photo)They're 11.3% of the U.S. workforce, but they're the No. 1 target of conservatives who remain unnerved by their very existence.

They're union workers, and 60 conservative groups in 35 states have begun a national campaign to tell them they have the right to opt out. The campaign, launched Sunday, comes courtesy of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian think tank that's recently been prodding members of the state's Clark County Education Association to opt out of their unions.

The coalition of conservative would-be union busters includes such high-powered Pinkertons as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, and the conservative Workforce Fairness Institute. In chatting with The Wall Street Journal, they stop just short of accusing unions of withholding opt-out information for workers. They instead claim that information is buried in union contracts and that their group is just performing a public service.

To what end? That's not exactly clear. Union membership has declined from 20% of the U.S. workforce 30 years ago and from 17.7 million workers to 14.4 million over the same span. Missing from what the Nevada Policy Research Institute calls its "counterbalance of information," however, are just a few key bits of information.

For one, federal labor law already prohibits workers from being forced into unions or any other organization they're ideologically opposed to. For another, even if workers opt out in a union shop -- as 15.9 million nonunion U.S. workers have -- they're still receiving the pay and benefits the union negotiates for. They're just not paying for that negotiation.

For another, they're not being told that union workers, on average, make $943 a week. Even nonunion workers represented by a union in their shop pull in $933 each week. Their nonunion counterparts, however, make only $742 a week.

So when the Nevada Policy Research Institute dumps $25,000 into Employee Freedom Week and gets a few dozen other like-minded groups to beat the same drum, it's not espousing "freedom" from the tyranny of unions themselves. It's freedom from 21% of an average paycheck and from collective bargaining with management.

Every American worker has the right to choose between the two, but it helps to have all the information in proper balance.

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Jun 25, 2013 10:11AM
The only reason Unions got so big in the first place is because they had to to maintain bargaining power for the members as companies continue to grow and move about.  If a company has plants in say 10 cities and only 1 or two is Union there is no bargaining power because the company can build a new facility somewhere else and close the union shop easy as can be.  But if all the shops are union they can't the other shops could strike and stop production.  If neither side was as big as they are we'd have a lot fewer problems.  So buy locally and support family owned and  operated.
Jun 25, 2013 10:39AM
Ideas first lobbied for by unions. The 8 hour work day, the 5 day work week, child labor laws, Sick days, Vacation days, Lunch Break, Safe working conditions, and other worker benefits. Yes many union leaders are corrupt like most people that have any power but that does not mean the progress made for the common working man made by Unions as a whole should be overlooked. We could always go back to 12-14 hour work days, 7 day work week, no sick or vacation days, having children work, and having our workplace not required to be safe but I would prefer not too
Jun 25, 2013 10:03AM
There have been countless articles about the massive decline in Product quality over the last Decade. There has also been countless articles about how Union Membership has fallen off a cliff. So as the vast Majority of products are now made from non-union workers, product quality has dramatically fallen off also. As pay has declined, Workers attitudes have fallen/suffered, dramatically. Meanwhile, the elitist are laughing all the way to the bank.

The folks in this country that hate Workers have used every excuse in the Book from making bogus claims about Marxism to just about anything else they can lay their lying hands on. It's all misdirection to keep everyone that actually works confused while they Rob us Blind. In plain sight.

Jun 25, 2013 12:24PM

In 1914 Henry Ford pushed and got $5 a day wages for his workers because he wanted to

keep his talent.He was called a socialist,a communist,etc,etc.The shareholders wanted to kill

him.They were all wrong.His company was #1 for years because of his ideas.

Jun 25, 2013 12:56PM
I am a conservative union member. I do not like freeloaders live off of union members . The unions help workers receive better wages and benefits. If it was up to most companies. Workers would barely receive any wages and benefits.
Jun 25, 2013 11:33AM
The pendulum swings both ways. The rich will never have enough, but the poor will want more. The bottom is close, and the unions better be ready.
Jun 25, 2013 12:49PM

Conservative groups targeting Unions, you say?


Whoa. Did NOT see that coming...

Jun 25, 2013 2:17PM

Over the past decades unions have helped bring wages, safety, and some improved fairness to the workplace. The key word is PAST. Somewhere along the way they strayed into extortion, political and often criminal enterprises, bankrupt major industries, cities and states. Public unions shoiuld never have been allowed to exist but vote buying politicians went along with it and now you are seeing one disaster after another. One comes to mind. The Chicago school system where only 10% of students read or write at their grade level, yet they were on strike demanding more and the mayor caved in.

Many public unions are bringing municipalities to financial ruin and still demanding MORE. Look no farther than Detroit as an example of a predictable outcome of unions and politicians feeding at the same trough.

There are hundreds of situations like this in the country that will not be able to keep kicking the can down the road as they do now. The bill will come due.  

Jun 25, 2013 8:39AM
Unions gave AMERICANS the 8 hr day and time and a half for overtime , healthcare , unemployment laws and workers comp laws , anti discrimation laws and an end to child labor in the USA , equal work for equal pay for woman , dental ,and optical insurance .paid vacations , safe work places and rules. A living wage . Sick leave and pay .And defined pensions and so on the list is HUGE... So to all you non union idiots remember who strike and bargained for all you get to enjoy today ! But WAIT its all under attack by republicans today so plan to get all this slowly taken away ! And boy are republicans doing a great job today doing just that ! ....
Jun 25, 2013 12:38PM
My heartburn with unions starts with the pay they negotiate for their members. A persons pay should reflect what they bring to the table not how long they have had the job. If someone can learn to do your job in less than 6 months then you do not deserve $30/hr. I don't care how long you have been doing it. Detroit is drying up and blowing away because the unions for the automakers inflated the wages and benefits beyond the skill levels of the employees. If I hire someone off the street and they do a better job than you do, then they deserve to be paid more than you. Even if you have been employed with me for years. Unions have done great things to enhance the working man but they have also caused many to be compensated beyond the skills they bring to the job.
Jun 25, 2013 11:56AM

So many people have so many misconstrued ideas and opinions..about Unions..

NOT so much here, but Americans in General.

Workers groups and unions were formed, basically to "humanize the workplace" it wasn't always about money..

Unions were the answer to "Un-Fettered Capitalism" that had run Amok, where an Industrialized Nation being born, could take advantage of uneducated workers, in very similar ways of how Afrikaaner slaves were treated in the Southern States..Low wages, no benefits, owe your soul to company store or live in Company housing..Most monies went around in a circle...Coming back to the Man.

Workers very seldom got ahead and only existed, to serve...Shades of Europe and the Elitist ideas.

A lower Prolitarian Class and the Upper Class.


With the advent of worker's groups, conditions improved; Better wages, lesser hours(unless compensated), better working conditions for women, elimination of children from the workplace.

Better safety regulations ensued, healthcare was increased(yes Mirage) with better benefits and sick time eventually, vacation time(paid) and eventual pension plans other compensations followed after decades..

The Capitalism and Conservatives(wealthy) labeled the Groups Communist, Marxist and a lesser term of Socialist, attempting to sway "popular opinion" amongst Americans in general and the Politico in power...That the groups would bring down America and destroy the very basis of Capitalism that was giving the U.S. it's strength....It eventually failed at the attempts.

There were battles and many crimes committed against Union groups and Organizers, with Law enforcement and Government "turning a blind eye." In the 20s-40s.


Because of all this and that, the "working men and women" were pulled up by their bootstraps and brastraps to form a Middle Class and America has become a much more powerful Nation, building on Pride, stronger families, beliefs and a "sense of self" and accomplishments.

Capitalism was never really detered per se, but was somewhat forced to share the bounty by or with the people that help provide or build it..Productions were increased immensly, fortunes have been made and America has a "standard of living" that few other Nations enjoy..

And "nothing" is for the worst, because of it...Do you? or Who do you know that really wants to go back to the "old ways"??



Jun 25, 2013 1:45PM

In my hometown, because of the unions, a teacher must be given tenure after three years, meaning they can't get fired unless they actively do something terrible.  They can't be fired for being a poor employee. 

They get to retire at 55 if they want and continue to receive 80-90% of their salary after retirement.  They can then get another job and continue to receive the 80%.

They demand and usually get all cost of living increases, when private sector employees get wage freezes. 

Jun 25, 2013 12:44PM

Should you be forced to join a union? No way in hell.
If you are forced for some reason to join a union, should you be forced to pay dues? No way in hell.
If you voluntarily join a union should you be forced to pay dues? Yes, of course.
Union members should have the final say on what gets done with their dues. But that's up to each union. If you don't like what they do with YOUR money, quit or become a union boss.

Jun 25, 2013 9:47AM
Trust me.  It's still not a choice in some parts of the country whether you have the choice to be union or not.  Try to step onto a construction site in Chicago and not have union membership.  If anyone finds out you will be kicked off the job site so fast it will make your head spin.  

The union is still very powerful in most larger metropolitan areas around the country.  If you think corporate America is corrupt try dealing with a union sometime.   Neither is good for the common man but I think we live in a world today where if you keep enough competition between companies then the union is not needed.  If I'm a pipe fitter and I don't feel I'm getting paid enough I can go work for the other guy for more money.  

This is what is happening in China right now.  They used to be the cheapest labor with the poorest of work conditions.  But once enough companies start competing for workers wages and benefits automatically increase.  Monopolies and contracts between companies are the only down fall to the free market system.  
Jun 25, 2013 2:19PM

American businesses could be much more competitive globally if they didn't have to deal with Unions.  The American economy could be much more efficient if it did not have to deal with public sector unions.  That is why people oppose them.   

Jun 25, 2013 12:45PM

To those of you who say jobs have moved oversees because of corporate greed, here are some questions for you.

How far out of your way are you willing to go to buy American?

How much more are you willing to pay to buy American?

Is it really corporate greed or union and worker greed that caused jobs to move out of this country?

How many benefits are you willing to give up to have some of these jobs back?

How many of you have agreed with government over-regulation of business?

How many of you have stood side-by-side with your employer to fight over regulation?

I’m sure I can answer for most of the complainers.

Jun 25, 2013 1:34PM

unions were necessary in the past.  they are now counterproductive.  ever been to a union job site?  "oh I can't turn that valve, i'm in maintenance and not operations"  then you sit there and wait 2 hours until someone with a proper title comes over and turns the valve. 

or you do 5 minutes of labor to keep a project moving along and a union member finds out you did labor and files a "greiv" or whatever saying you took 8 hours of labor from him.

Jun 25, 2013 9:44AM

"[U]nion busters includes such high-powered Pinkertons as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, and the conservative Workforce Fairness Institute."


. . . Just some of our domestic Taliban longing for the time when you didn't have to pay the help at all. 

Jun 25, 2013 6:55PM
I've worked in union shops twice. The first was only for a year and not a contract negotiations year so I can't say much about that one except that even though we were in the steel workers union we were paid about 1 dollar above minimum wage, but the supervisors did not get away with bullying workers although a few tried. the second was a flour mill and I was local president/shop steward for 17 years. The other employees trusted me enough that if I said we should reject an offer, they did. If I said accept it ,they did. I understood the realities of wheat prices, flour prices and profit margin for that business and only asked for about 3% raise per year which was about the cost of living increase at that time. The biggest reason we needed to be union was how workers were treated and decent health care insurance. Management constantly violated the contract by firing someone for a minor first offence that would have earned a verbal warning anywhere else, I always got their jobs back.  There biggest offence during my tenure was to change insurance plans to one that was an extreme cut to our benefits. When I pointed out that it was a violation of the contract they said, if you can find a plan that meets the contract for the same cost we will switch. It only took 3 phone calls to find a better plan than the original plan. They just didn't care. My last job before retirement was in a completely different field and if anyone had tried to unionize, the employees would have beat them to death. That was because the owner and management treated everyone with respect, gave the best raises they could afford and genuinely cared about their employees. The bottom line is that whether a company needs a union or not depends on how the employees are treated and whether management sees them as people or as expendable machines.
Jun 25, 2013 4:02PM

"For one, federal labor law from being forced into unions or any other organization they're ideologically opposed to. "

it may be the law, but it most certainly NOT enforced. How many closed union shops are there in public school districts? Any state not right to work, right?

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