Welcome to the Unionized States of America
Unions will be in the catbird seat while Democrats in Congress and the White House hold the reins of government. Unions are a key donor group to the party and contribute a great deal of unpaid labor (leaflets, canvassing) during campaigns. This is the pay-to-play politics that Democrats decry except when they benefit. These are special interest groups that Democrats never mention when they draft legislation, rules, and regulations to benefit them.
Unions have already been amply rewarded through taxpayer bailouts of industries they dominate. Democrats are working on card check and mandatory arbitration legislation to help strengthen the power of unions. Obama has placed key union leaders in pivotal spots in our government - among them, the Federal Election Commission, and as head of the key Federal Reserve Bank of New York. A devoted union supporter now heads the Department of Labor.
Of course, unions have helped devastate the very industries that are being bailed out by our money (think auto companies..but the list is growing). The problem will get worse in the days ahead. The government is bound to become more a part of our lives. Most people's experience with government workers has been unpleasant. Government is inefficient and is often run not with the citizens in mind, but with politicians and government workers in mind. Many government workers enjoy munificent pay packages, complete with gold-plated and guaranteed pension payoffs. I wrote about the problem these sweetheart contracts pose to the nation's health last month ("Taxpayers: Eat Your Hearts Out, Suckers").
The problem is bound to get worse, and the stranglehold unions have over politicians (and more importantly, us) will get that much tighter as more of the unionized labor force consists of government workers.
In 2008, a mere 7.6% of all private-sector workers belonged to labor unions, while 26.9% of utility companies' employees were unionized - utilities being, in most cases, regulated monopolies retaining considerable power to set their own rates. And, of course, the only "industry" where unions have flourished in the past 40 years has been government, the ultimate monopoly. The same Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that 36.8% of public-sector employees were union members last year. (To put the point another way, while private-sector workers were more than five times as numerous as public-sector ones in 2008 - 108 million compared to 21 million - the number of private-sector unionized employees was only 6% larger than the number of public-sector ones; 8.3 million versus 7.8 million.) Unless the trends that have held for decades are reversed, the majority of American union members will soon be government employees.