Time to Take On the Unions

The self-actualizing tea-party/townhall movement continues its remarkable job on the national political scene. Nudged by talk radio and the alternative media punditocracy, conservatives have put boots on the ground and cash in the coffers for deserving Republican candidates in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The near miss in the effort to elect Conservative Doug Hoffman in N.Y. District 23 may not have gone for naught either. There is another election coming there soon. 

The efficacy of the movement has been based on its speed, mobility, and ability to generate cash. Once a vulnerable target like Martha Coakley has been identified, action follows swiftly and effectively. The fact that the special elections that have been held were isolated from the normal brouhaha of a full national election with hundreds of races and candidates has facilitated the effectiveness of the conservative response. The question becomes: How can conservatives approach the national political landscape now that it has proven susceptible to focused effort and amenable to the conservative message?

The dearth of additional special elections in the near future will allow the conservative movement to target the underlying causes of our ailing national economy and diminished national pride. No other single cause has been more disruptive to our economy and the principles of the American Dream than the pernicious undermining of commonsense capitalism by the greedy bullies in the teachers', auto workers', and public sector unions.

The restrictions placed upon corporate political donations by the McCain-Feingold Act simply facilitated the ability of the huge labor unions to use their cash to purchase the Democratic Party lock, stock, and Obama. SEIU's Thug-in-Chief  Andy Stern was the most frequent visitor to the Obama White House reported on the W.H. Visitor list. Do you suppose he showed up empty-handed every time?

Labor unions provided protection to workers from the sharp practices of powerful companies in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since the 1950s however, the American labor movement has taken unfair advantage of a political climate, opening doors to political influence denied others. Through collective bargaining, the unions have negotiated contracts that have bankrupted our auto industry, destroyed our public schools, and bloated state and federal government payrolls with unconscionable pension, benefit, and payroll costs.

Needless to say, it's impossible to run a company or the government when you can't fire incompetent workers, are manacled by ridiculous work rules, and pay pensions to fifty-year-olds nearly equal to their highest salary when fully employed. How did anyone ever believe that this business model would work?

Of course, the Democrats and their union pals have the solution: They want to make everybody a union member. When quizzed about the wide difference between wages for American union members and those not in unions, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis provides what passes for critical thinking on the Obama team:

As workers across the country have seen their real and nominal wages decline as a result of the recession, these numbers show a need for Congress to pass legislation to level the playing field to enable more American workers to access the benefits of union membership. This report makes clear why the administration supports the Employee Free Choice Act," a bill that would make it easier to unionize.

The report cited by Ms. Solis is the annual report of the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics on union membership, which was released last Friday. It reveals that private-sector union membership continues to decline as private businesses with unionized labor forces falter, reduce their workforce, go bankrupt, or find a way to escape the unions. Government union membership, however, continues to grow, reaching 37.4% of the total government workforce. There are significant political ramifications to this continued growth.

Meredith Jessup at townhall.com quotes senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute Fred Siegel:

At the same time the country is being squeezed, public-sector unions are a rising political force in the Democratic Party," he said. "They depend on extra money for the public sector, and that puts the Democrats in a difficult position. In four big states -- New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California -- the public-sector unions have largely been untouched by the economic downturn. In those states, you have an impeding clash between the public-sector unions and the public at large."

And therein lies the opportunity for conservative action.  All across America, people of nearly every walk of life have been forced to sacrifice during the current recession. Yet the American Labor Union movement seems to think that its members should be the only ones to get through this trough without getting a haircut. It's time for the tea-party movement to encourage our elected officials to get out the coarse clippers.

The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision has deprived private-sector labor unions of a key advantage over their employers, who are now able to fund election advertising. A coalition of citizens hurt by union dominance can be effective at the polls.

Ronald Reagan provided us with a blueprint demonstrating how American capitalism should deal with greedy and ineffective labor unions. On August 3, 1981, 13,000 unionized members of the Profession of Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike after the Federal Aviation administration refused to provide them with a 25% pay increase combined with a 20% shorter work week. President Reagan called the strike illegal and worked with air traffic managers to develop a contingency plan to cover for the striking unionists.

To the chagrin of the strikers, the FAA's contingency plans worked. Some 3,000 supervisors joined 2,000 nonstriking controllers and 900 military controllers in manning airport towers. Before long, about 80 percent of flights were operating normally. Air freight remained virtually unaffected. (Reagan stood his ground and fired all of the strikers.)

In carrying out his threat, Reagan also imposed a lifetime ban on rehiring the strikers. In October 1981, the Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified PATCO." 

Don't you love a happy ending? There really isn't another solution. Let's encourage our elected officials to commence wholesale pruning of the bloated state and federal workforce. At the same time, we need our best conservative legal minds to help discover a way to decertify the labor unions that continue to suck the lifeblood from the productive members of American society.

Ralph Alter blogs at Right on Target.
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