February 13, 2013
Union BluesBy Gary Jason
A recent report of some importance seems to have escaped the eagle-eyes of the MSM, so it is worth bringing to light here.
It turns out that even though unions reached the zenith of power with the re-election of their tool Obama last year, they hit a nadir of support. In 2012, union membership dropped an incredible 400,000 nationwide, which is a half-percent drop in just one year. Union membership is now down to 11.3% of American workers, the majority now being government workers. Thirty-five point nine percent of public-sector workers are union members -- a drop from 37.0% in 2011 -- while only 6.6% of private-sector workers are union members -- down from 6.9% in 2011.
Michigan, which just enacted a right-to-work law, saw the greatest percentage drop in union membership -- dropping from 17.5% in 2011 to 16.6% last year, a loss of 42,000 members from union ranks. And the number of "agency shop" workers -- i.e., workers represented by unions but not members of those unions -- dropped from 18.3% in 2011 to 17.1% last year.
AFL-CIO head (and Obama hod-carrier) Richard Trumka offered a pathetic excuse: "... our still struggling economy, weak laws, and political as well as ideological assaults have taken a toll on union membership[.]" Teamsters head (and Obama myrmidon) Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. offered equally pathetic cheer-leading: "It was collective bargaining that helped bring back the auto industry. It was unions that led the effort on the ground to re-elect President Obama. The labor movement has had its ups and downs over the past 150 years, but I'm seeing a new energy on our unions."
Of course, it never occurs to Hoffa that the corrupt crony rescue of GM and Chrysler will wind up costing the American taxpayer in the range of $35 billion and so is hardly a bragging point -- unless you are on the receiving end of the stolen taxpayer loot!
Then there is the recent news that Big Labor may now be feeling buyer's remorse regarding the very bill that they were most responsible for inflicting on the innocent public: ObamaCare!
Really, a team of the best comedy writers couldn't dream this up. The obtuse union bosses are finding that many of the law's provisions are driving up costs on health plans union members have and making union members even less competitive than they already are.
In particular, ObamaCare ends the caps on benefits and has other mandates that raise the prices of union-run plans -- namely, the "Multiemployer Plans."
So what are unions now going to push for? Perhaps for repealing this stupid law and replacing it with something more sensible? Quit dreaming! No, the unions are now pushing to get their lower-paid workers covered by the subsidies the law intended for just those who have no health care insurance at all.
In other words, the unions are once again trying to rip off the taxpayer to cover the mess they themselves caused.
We are talking about a potentially huge new expense to this already obscenely costly bill. There are 20 million workers covered by these multiemployer plans, which are managed by both the unions and the companies and are common in those industries (such as construction or trucking) in which unionized workers work varying hours for different companies.
Early on, the Obama administration rejected the idea of giving subsidies to union workers already covered by health care, but it is now open to the idea -- it will now be "subject to regulations still being written."
The unions are now doing what they do so masterfully: threatening. They are pushing the already compliant Obama administration -- which got elected with the help of tens of millions of dollars from unions -- with the threat of dumping all the workers on these multiemployer plans onto the government subsidy system by terminating the employee insurance and letting the employers pay the mandated yearly fine.
As Ken Hall, the Teamsters' treasurer, so delicately put it, "[w]e are going back to the administration to say that this [not allowing workers on a union-run health plan to get the subsidies intended for those without any health insurance] is not acceptable."
The prospect of tossing their members onto the government program and accordingly looking like the plutocrats they portray business CEOs as being is concentrating union bosses' minds wonderfully.
For example, John Wilhelm, chairman of Unite Here Health (the plan that covers over a quarter-million casino and hotel workers), said of Obama: "I heard him say, 'If you like your health plan, you can keep it.'" After saying that he expects Obama's administration to protect existing employer health plans, he added, "If I'm wrong, and the president does not intend to keep his word, I would have severe second thoughts about the law."
The administration is totally forked here: if it doesn't give the unions the subsidies, the unions may turn on it...but if it does, then businesses will want the same deal.
And that latter option spotlights the gorilla in the room. In a recent analysis of ObamaCare, the Economist reports on the threat the law poses to citizen's existing health-care plans.
Almost 150 million Americans have their health care provided by their employers. These citizens have little if any idea how much these plans cost their employers, that these costs are considered by their employers just another form of compensation, and how much it would be for them to negotiate a similarly priced plan with the same benefits on their own. But it appears that the citizens are in for an unpleasant education.
By January 2014, all employers with 50 or more employees (who work 30 or more hours a week) will have to provide dramatically more expensive health insurance to their employees, or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee for dropping/not insuring them. Considering that the average family plan at large companies already costs nearly $16,000 a year per employee, it is obvious that many if not most companies will do what the unions who supported this idiotic law are already threatening to do: dump the employees on the government-subsidized state exchanges.
A survey last year by McKinsey (a business consulting company) found that 30% of employers would "definitely or probably" drop their programs by 2014. The CBO pooh-poohed that survey last year, but the CBO itself now estimates that 7 million Americans will lose their health care plans. Given that the CBO's past cost projections for ObamaCare have been ludicrously low, it is a good guess that the McKinsey survey will be proven accurate.
In sum, Big Labor (which represents only a small percentage of American workers) shoved down the country's throat a law that even it is having trouble with -- one that will cost many workers (union as well as non-union) their existing plans and throw them onto much worse ones. The law will also cost workers their full-time jobs as they are converted to part-timers -- or lose work altogether as employers offshore or automate -- to escape the law.
People are becoming aware that Big Labor will be responsible for losing their insurance, losing full-time work, or losing their jobs entirely. I suspect that it is this growing awareness that is responsible for Big Labor's plummeting popular support.
Gary Jason is a lecturer in philosophy and a senior editor of Liberty. He is the author of Dangerous Thoughts.
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