Next up in union reform: VA legislature to block card-check effort

posted at 12:01 pm on December 12, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Big Labor had a lot of high hopes when Barack Obama won in 2008.  They expected a raft of friendly legislation to force workplaces to organize, but instead the Obama administration spent their political capital on ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank rather than card-check and micro-union recognition.  The dreams of union nirvana have turned into nightmares of reform — and in the most unlikely of places, too, like formerly pro-union states like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan, which went Right to Work yesterday.

No sooner had that fight finished than a new front opened, this time in Virginia.  In case the Obama administration has any idea of trying to pass card check, the legislature wants to prevent it with a state law requiring secret ballots in organizing elections:

In Virginia, already a right-to-work state, the Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee recently passed a bill that calls for amending the state’s constitution to guarantee voter privacy in union elections.

Held over from the 2012 General Assembly session, the bill is expected to come to the Senate floor in the session that opens Jan. 9.

“This amendment is essential if we are going to preserve voter integrity and privacy,” said Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), who introduced the measure. “No citizen should be forced to reveal how they voted in any election, be it a federal, state, local or a union election.”

As Virginia is a right-to-work state already, this may be less critical for reform than it would be in closed-shop/forced-dues-extraction states.  If unions organize a workplace in Virginia, the workers that voted against it could refuse to join the union and refuse to pay dues if they don’t want to do so.  That’s more choice than workers had in Michigan before yesterday’s action.  Still, it’s an important step against the kind of abuses card check would bring.

In fact, while we’re talking about worker choice, just what do unions have to fear from it — if they deliver the benefits they claim to workers for the money it costs them?  In my column for The Week today, I argue that workers should have the choice to organize a workplace, but also the choice not to join a union or pay dues if they don’t see a benefit from the service.  Why should unions be exempt from the same dynamics of voluntary association that control the transactions between consumers and providers in every other context?

However, unions claim that the reduction in revenues and dissent in the workforce will weaken their hand at the bargaining table, lowering wages and working conditions. That might be true, but it’s not as if much of the revenue goes to that purpose now. Michigan Capitol Confidential took a look at recent federal filings by Michigan’s largest union, the Michigan Education Association, and discovered that only 11 percent of dues went to “representational activities.” Over half of the dues (61 percent) went to “general overhead” and benefits for union employees rather than direct services on behalf of workers. No dollars got spent “on behalf of individual workers,” the form notes, but almost $5 million went to “political activities and lobbying,” nearly a third of what was spent on “representational activities.”

Perhaps workers support that distribution of their money.  If so, they still can support the union through voluntary dues payments.  Nothing in the new law prevents workers from doing so, but the success of generating revenue will now depend on the union providing workers with enough good reasons to pay dues, rather than just taking the money before workers even get their hands on it. In any other enterprise other than government tax collection, organizations have to convince consumers and/or members that their goods and services are worth the price demanded. Why should that not be true of unions?

Will this kill the power of the unions in Michigan? That may have already happened even without a theoretical-but-likely reduction in revenue from right-to-work legislation. Michigan voters had an opportunity five weeks ago to preclude the legislature from taking this step by passing Proposal 2, which would have amended the state constitution to make closed shops and forced dues collection unassailable. Even while right-to-work critic Barack Obama handily won the state by nine points, Proposal 2 lost by 16. The legislature took that result as a sign that Michigan voters want reforms that put them in charge of their own paychecks.

Workers should have the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining with their employers, if they so choose, but workers should not be forced into funding unions as a condition of employment. Unions at one point embodied reforms that transformed workplaces from exploitation to partnerships, and made great advances in worker safety, autonomy, and dignity. Unfortunately, they have in some ways become as intransigent, unaccountable, and as consumed by the pursuit of power as management of old. Perhaps a little reform will do them some good, too.

Rick Newman argues in US News that unions allowed themselves to become anachronisms and need to reform themselves to remain relevant:

We are also entering an era in which Americans value individual initiative more than collective welfare. For better or worse, our modern heroes are entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, not team players such as union leaders or even CEOs. This is happening as public trust in government and other institutions is falling to record lows, as is loyalty between companies and their workers. More Americans are striking out on their own, some because they want to, others because they have no choice. We’re becoming a DIY nation, and unions don’t fit that identity.

Unions have fallen out of step with the initiative many Americans need to show these days, and the sacrifices they need to make. Most unions have held on to defined pension plans, guaranteed healthcare and other perks far longer than the overall workforce has. In some municipalities, this is forcing a showdown between taxpayers being asked to fork over even more money so unionized firefighters, police officers, teachers and sanitations workers can enjoy more job security and better benefits than the people paying their salaries. That sort of imbalance can’t last very long in a democracy.

Finally, Michigan is undergoing a demographic shift in which union members and their families become a smaller and smaller part of the population, as unionized companies fold or move elsewhere, and new companies avoid Michigan while scouting lower-cost states like South Carolina, Alabama, or Texas. The whole nation is grappling with trends like this as the value of skills changes rapidly and employers test just how far they can push their workers. In Michigan, that test may only be getting started.

The PEU reform that Wisconsin passed will go a long way towards restoring the balance that Newman rightly says has vanished.  Too bad unions had to be dragged to that reform.


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Sleep with the devil you know.

Bmore on December 12, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Nightmares ensue.

Bmore on December 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM

When you awake. Its still there.

Bmore on December 12, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Unions have turned into a bit of a scam, haven’t they? Which explains why organized crime was so enthused to control them. Just like modern day Democrats.

pat on December 12, 2012 at 12:09 PM

.

Bmore on December 12, 2012 at 12:10 PM

The sooner Unions die a natural death the better…

They are useless in this modern age except to be used to line the dems pockets…

I predict more and more States will become RTW states…

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Another in our series on Leftist logic:

It’s only when we can force people to do what we want that they are free!

Galt2009 on December 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Question: Is HA gonna put up an article about the $63 bucks a month everyone is gonna have to pay next year regards the OHCA?

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM

We’re becoming a DIY nation…

Really? Then why so much support for BIG government and the welfare state?

Charlemagne on December 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM

However, unions claim that the reduction in revenues and dissent in the workforce will weaken their hand at the bargaining table, lowering wages and working conditions.

What percentage of most union income goes to actual collective bargaining–16%? It’s not like collective bargaining is an always-ongoing thing. What happens when a three-year contract is settled? The contract is in force so there’s really nothing to bargain for until near the expiration date.

What is always ongoing, though, is the high salaries and perks paid to union executives, and donations to Democrat candidates or the party’s National Committee.

If unions were truly such a great thing, then the leaderships shouldn’t have concerns workers will opt out. Quite the opposite would happen: their ranks would swell. So people need to ask why the unions fear loss of membership and the dues money that would result.

Liam on December 12, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Question: Is HA gonna put up an article about the $63 bucks a month everyone is gonna have to pay next year regards the OHCA?

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM

I believe that post was up yesterday.

tom daschle concerned on December 12, 2012 at 12:23 PM

I ain’t no way tuuuuured – Hillary Clinton

antisense on December 12, 2012 at 12:24 PM

!

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 12:26 PM

$

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Why should unions be exempt from the same dynamics of voluntary association that control the transactions between consumers and providers in every other context?

Because the deal to workers is so good they have to be forced to accept it!

gwelf on December 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM

*

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM

I believe that post was up yesterday.

tom daschle concerned on December 12, 2012 at 12:23 PM

It wasn’t clear to me in the post whether the $63 was per year or per month.

Are you sure about $63/month?

WisRich on December 12, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Charlemagne on December 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Yeah, I had the exact same thought.

lucyvanpelt on December 12, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Send In The Clowns Thugs!

pilamaye on December 12, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It’s a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Obama’s health care overhaul.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/10/obamacare-fee-of-63-per-person-to-begin-in-2014/#ixzz2ErP2wMzT
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Sounds like a “Fee” as opposed to an increase in monthly premium, I guess that is per annum? IDK. It isn’t clear in the washingtontimes article.

The sick thing is, every time an article like this comes out, the leftards always come in ridiculing saying “its only $x you heartless racist bigot homophobes!”

But the avalanche of $x here, $y there, $z there, etc is gaining pace as this crappy legislation gets implemented. Pretty soon you are talking real money being removed from earners.

tom daschle concerned on December 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM

tom daschle concerned on December 12, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Oops! Thanks Tom! That’s what happens when you miss a day and night :-)
.
.
.
WisRich on December 12, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Had heard it was monthly… I could be very wrong! Its to cover folks with pre-existing under OHC… I don’t think $63 a year would cover much do you?

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Tom, you are pretty smart guy, care to tackle this one?

http://apple.copydesk.org/2012/12/03/breaking-down-a-huge-fiscal-cliff-graphic-from-the-chicago-tribune/

My local news just covered this and it is over a month old ugh…

I have sent the link to HA editors… :-)

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Had heard it was monthly… I could be very wrong! Its to cover folks with pre-existing under OHC… I don’t think $63 a year would cover much do you?

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Maybe that’s why the Washington Times left out the detail of how often that fee will be attached. No well-trained journalist or editor would let that omission slip by, for it decreases clarity. As I was taught, a reporter must be clear in the details, and the frequency the fee is applied is important.

Unless it’s more important to keep the detail from the readership.

Liam on December 12, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Awww, no chance to strong-arm a vote? Man, these are hard times for union goons.

Bishop on December 12, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Why are not unions taxed on all the dues they collect?

That needs to change right now and could be a great negotiation point with 0bama and Dingy Harry.

jukin3 on December 12, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Question: Is HA gonna put up an article about the $63 bucks a month everyone is gonna have to pay next year regards the OHCA?

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Yep. A few days ago.

Midas on December 12, 2012 at 12:58 PM

I don’t think $63 a year would cover much do you?

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Coming from *everyone*, yeah, I think it would.

Midas on December 12, 2012 at 12:59 PM

I love it! Run these clown out of ‘business’ for good.

NCPatriot75 on December 12, 2012 at 1:01 PM

I love it! Run these clowns out of ‘business’ for good.

NCPatriot75 on December 12, 2012 at 1:01 PM

Leftist decency

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:05 PM

The HA mill is really weird. It now holds back Michelle Malkin links, for odd reason.

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:05 PM

The very decent leftists in action

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:08 PM

In fact, while we’re talking about worker choice, just what do unions have to fear from it — if they deliver the benefits they claim to workers for the money it costs them?

One could as the same question about photo ids to vote. Why would the Democrats be so afraid to have people verify who they are before they vote. Everyone has to produce photo ids for just about everything. Try switching your dentist’s office and see if they don’t ask you for a valid photo id.

To answer the above rhetorical question, it’s because a photo voter id makes it more difficult to commit voter fraud.

iamsaved on December 12, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Love the music links :-) thanks!!

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Unions will collapse internally because of pension under funding. Unless they can get the Federal govt. to cover it. For the last two years the sheet metal and plumbers locals here have had to take $.50 to $1.00 an hour to keep the funds from falling further. Had they taken the money sent to Democrats to fund their pensions they would be in much better shape. The problem is the locals put in the money and the national headquarters divert it. They are now short 40% to fully fund.

BullShooterAsInElk on December 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Love the music links :-) thanks!!

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Times a calling!

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:13 PM


On December 12th, 2012 at 11:29 am, happyscrapper said:

Was that hot dog stand owner a Conservative? Or was he just there to make some money? How did the union thugs know? And for anyone to call him the “N” word and be “endorsed” by Obama is hilarious. Does Obama even know the kinds of creeps he is enabling and encouraging? This POTUS is a low-life thug, just like those morons in HIS army!

What he/she said from your link Shadenfreude…

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 1:14 PM

HA, please explain the mill rules.

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:15 PM

BullShooterAsInElk on December 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Obama WILL cover the Unions fo sho…

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 1:16 PM

The HA mill is really weird. It now holds back Michelle Malkin links, for odd reason.

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:05 PM

No, it tends to hold most links, thanks to the spam filters. Also, when you keep trying to post the same thing over and over again, the spam filters tend to hold more and more of it. I approved the first one that was in the filter but you submitted six versions of the same comment. Give us a few minutes to catch up rather than keep doing the same thing over and over again.

Ed Morrissey on December 12, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Unions will collapse internally because of pension under funding. Unless they can get the Federal govt. to cover it. For the last two years the sheet metal and plumbers locals here have had to take $.50 to $1.00 an hour to keep the funds from falling further. Had they taken the money sent to Democrats to fund their pensions they would be in much better shape. The problem is the locals put in the money and the national headquarters divert it. They are now short 40% to fully fund.

BullShooterAsInElk on December 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Why do you think the idea is kicking around to have the government ‘assume responsibility’ for 401K accounts? Of course union pension plans won’t come under the umbrella if the idea becomes law.

Liam on December 12, 2012 at 1:17 PM

!
$
*
Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM

; )

Bmore on December 12, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Ed Morrissey on December 12, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Thank you for releasing the one.

The others were several system tests.

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Too bad unions had to be dragged to that reform.

Do a little digging and 99% of the problems and abuse are caused by the union bosses.

GarandFan on December 12, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Bmore on December 12, 2012 at 1:25 PM

He died too soon.

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Since the Republican Establishment/Party no longer represents conservatives, we need to work harder at the local level and take back this country state by state.

lea on December 12, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Tom, you are pretty smart guy, care to tackle this one?

http://apple.copydesk.org/2012/12/03/breaking-down-a-huge-fiscal-cliff-graphic-from-the-chicago-tribune/

My local news just covered this and it is over a month old ugh…

I have sent the link to HA editors… :-)

Scrumpy on December 12, 2012 at 12:44 PM

I agree with the author’s (Charles Apple?) assessment. At first glance it is a clusterschtuck, but it becomes manageable as you read it. One thing I noticed right away is that I am doomed to cross the income threshold from the 3rd to the fourth quintile…Which means my tax burden is going way up this year. Boy, I must be rich… The other thing that really bothers me is the numbe rof people that are going to get absolutely broadsided by the Alternative Minimum Success Punishment Tax.

Thousands of people are going to have a nasty surprise.

tom daschle concerned on December 12, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Go for it, VA. Let’s really piss off those union thugs!

stukinIL4now on December 12, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Thousands of people are going to have a nasty surprise.

tom daschle concerned on December 12, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Nobody expects the Spanish Obama Inquisition.

SWalker on December 12, 2012 at 2:12 PM

He died too soon.

Schadenfreude on December 12, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Many do.

Bmore on December 12, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Too bad unions had to be dragged to that reform.

Too bad??? Good that they got dragged into it. Way over due, let alone allowing closed shops in the first place. I say this as an ex-Michigander that left over 30 years ago precisely over this. Good riddance.

AH_C on December 12, 2012 at 2:26 PM

However, unions claim that the reduction in revenues and dissent in the workforce will weaken their hand at the bargaining table, lowering wages and working conditions.

Doesn’t this argument sound familiar to history buffs? “We just can’t succeed economically if we don’t keep them locked into our work model against their will. And it’s for their own good, after all, they wouldn’t be able to make decisions themselves. It’s for their own good, and ours. Those others are just trying to render us powerless.”

dominigan on December 12, 2012 at 3:03 PM

In this day and age of cheap legal representation, plus being able to get forms filled quickly, what is the reason for going to a large union when you could just form a shop union that will do some things the larger union can’t do like actually be flexible and responsive to the members and their work environment. You don’t need a ‘union representative’ on a shop floor… that is 19th century to its core. In this electronic age things should be able to be done cheaper and faster via electronic means that are agreeable to all the employees and the employer… and, yeah, that means that if other employees don’t like it, they can’t be voted down and also get a veto… your ‘collective’ right doesn’t trump that of the individual and the ‘collective’ in acting like an individual can’t over-ride another individual.

Basically get rid of the overhead, get rid of the cronyism, create something that is capable, responsible, and accountable to the workers and you should get a much better set of services, contracts and working environment in which those who want to be unionized realize they must respect non-union employees and the employer. Of course this can be done on a much looser association basis amongst those wanting such representation… do it ala carte so that benefits can be something you can check off for lower pay, or you can get more take-home by agreeing to fewer benefits. Choose what you want off a list and measure that against net take home pay… wouldn’t that be something that employees would like to be able to do? Can’t get that with a massive union overhead because it can’t respond in a flexible way to multiple small shops while a single-shop representation system could get you that.

The threat to unions isn’t RTW, it is their own bureaucracy, overhead, waste, fraud and abuse leading to inflexible standards that don’t suit a modern workforce. The modern followers of Taylorism and timing how long it takes to do something are the unions, not businesses because the inflexible overhead of unions can’t cope with changes in workplace efficiency that can happen in weeks or days. A way to better serve those that don’t feel skilled or capable enough to negotiate for themselves is to do it locally as the best and most responsive form of management is the most local and accountable to that level directly… not to some union boss who doesn’t even know the shop. Unions are their own worse enemy at this point.

ajacksonian on December 12, 2012 at 4:06 PM

almost $5 million went to “political activities and lobbying,” nearly a third of what was spent on “representational activities.”

I’m sure that $5 million was spent on BIPARTISAN political activities and lobbying, right? Riiiiight.

Unions were probably a good idea way back when workers rights were being trampled on and there was child labor and people were working in unsafe and insufferable conditions. In some cases those things haven’t changed, but for the most part, laws have been passed to prevent such things from happening. So people no longer need to give up their wages so a bunch of goons can get get rich and line their paid for politicians coffers.

scalleywag on December 12, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Bmore on December 12, 2012

KOOLAID2 on December 12, 2012 at 11:09 PM

ajacksonian on December 12, 2012 at 4:06 PM

I am going to snark a bit here, please don’t think I am dismissing your well thought out post, but really?

Are you under the mistaken impression that the unions exist to help the workers at the shop floor level? Ummm, I don’t think so!!! They have been money laundering racketeers for libs since the first day of time.

karenhasfreedom on December 13, 2012 at 1:42 AM

We are also entering an era in which Americans value individual initiative more than collective welfare.

I wish.

ChrisL on December 13, 2012 at 1:47 PM