At least this explains why Andy Stern spends so much time at the White House. The Heritage Foundation looks at union penetration in the private and public sectors and finds that the government’s where it’s at, baby. While labor unions have more trouble getting workers to organize at private firms, government workers now comprise more than half of all union members in the country:
Who do the words “union members” bring to mind? United Auto Workers building cars in Detroit? Teamsters truckers hauling freight? Steel workers in Pennsylvania?
Not any more. Newly released numbers show that the actual face of today’s union movement is the teller at your local Department of Motorized Vehicles.
Preliminary estimates of union membership this year show that most union members now work for the government. The overall unionization rate between January and September 2009 stood at 12.4%, unchanged from last year. However, this difference masks a large difference between unions in the private and public sectors.
Union membership has fallen to 7.3% of private sector workers – the lowest rate since Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act into law. But it is a completely different story in the public sector: 37.6% of government employees belong to unions, up almost a percentage point since last year. Those 7.9 million unionized government employees are 51% of all union members nationwide. Most union members today now work for Uncle Sam.
That gives us two unofficial parties pushing for big government — Democrats and the labor movement. As Heritage notes, this evolution has serious political consequences. It makes labor a partner to statists looking to expand the role of government in order to maximize the hiring potential, not because larger government benefits the nation. It presents a pressure point for inexorable trends towards greater government control and greater loss of individual liberty, even without the collectivist approach of unions in general.
As Heritage notes, it also turns union management into tax-hike advocates. On the West Coast, unions are pushing for big tax hikes and fighting politicians opposed to them. None of the tax hikes have anything directly to do with labor issues or even government hiring. However, reductions in revenue would force states to start shedding jobs — which are union jobs, of course. They want greater tax hikes to keep those people employed, rather than force states to reconsider big-government bureaucracies and look for efficiencies.
When Obama told the SEIU he wanted to paint the nation purple, this is exactly what he had in mind. The union movement has become completely co-opted by the nanny-state movement.