With labor reforms sweeping the country, Big Labor is digging in its heels and preparing for the fight of their life to stay relevant. Union bosses certainly aren’t going down without a fight. With the recent passage of a right-to-work law in Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels sent a strong message to union bosses that the status quo is no longer acceptable and that labor reform is coming.
During CPAC’s panel ‘The Return of Big Labor’, experts from the field spoke about the union resurgence and the drastic measures they are taking to protect mandatory membership dues and collective bargaining rights.
Teri Scanlon, president of the Capitol Research Center (CRC) moderated the panel. CRC works hard to track where money is coming and going for groups like AARP and ACORN, and distributes a monthly Labor Watch newsletter that investigates union political strategies and what we can lean from them.
Vinnie Vernuccio of the Competitive Enterprise Institute gave the most compelling argument for why unions are concerned over labor reform.
“How do I know that we are winning? The other side is ramping up the rhetoric,” Vernuccio said. “Employee choice and taxpayer freedom are working.”
It’s no surprise that Big Labor isn’t happy.
Steve Malanga, Executive Editor of City Journal noted that during times of great economic prosperity, public sector unions have built up benefits and focused on passing laws that make reforms very difficult.
One aspect of the current system that allows unions to maintain their strangle hold on employees is the mandatory payment of dues and the access to employee paychecks. Research shows that when states enact legislation that denies unions direct access to employee paychecks, union activity decreases by nearly 50 percent.
According to Kevin Mooney of the Pelican Institute, this is the first time in decades that public sector membership has surged past private sector membership. One of the primary reasons for this is that union members don’t feel that their unions are well represented.
Unions have also focused intensely on supporting politicians that will protect their strangle hold on employees – collecting mandatory dues and maintaining their revenue stream. While exit polling shows that 40-50 percent of union members vote Republican, only 3 percent on union political contributions go to GOP candidates.
While Conservatives can all hear the union war drums beating in the distance, the panel fell short in telling activists what they can do to fight back. Other than mentioning need for better messaging, the playbook offered was fairly sparse.