State of the Unions

Published June 1, 2006

With the immigration debate raging across the nation, unions are mobilizing to exploit the immigrants’ cause for political gain. Faced with an unprecedented decline in membership and political clout, unions have abandoned their traditional opposition to low-wage, migrant workers and have embraced mass immigration and amnesty for illegal immigrants. Union officials hope the charged political issue will resuscitate their own political machine and gain them another cash cow.

In “Member-Hungry Unions Place Hope in Mass Immigration,” the Capital Research Center describes the new dynamic.

“The driving force behind Change to Win [a group of unions that broke away from the AFL-CIO last year] is SEIU [Service Employees International Union] president Andrew Stern, who believes in labor and business ‘standing shoulder to shoulder’ on immigration, fighting for more of it,” the report states. “AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, Stern’s former boss and mentor at SEIU, is also an immigration enthusiast, though he expresses his enthusiasm in language couched in classic Leftism.”

The report warns that unions organize this new workforce at their own peril.

“Labor’s strategy to ratchet up immigration indefinitely is self-defeating. Unions may acquire additional members and dues collections, but they will get a bumper crop of workers who are less skilled, educated and English-fluent than the overall labor force. These workers are replaceable. And replaceable workers, in whatever industry, are in no position to press demands, unless they engage in Justice for Janitors-style sturm und drang,” author Carl F. Horowitz wrote.

Source: “Member-Hungry Unions Place Hope in Mass Immigration,”

Paycheck Protection

The James Madison Institute’s latest Backgrounder, “A Paycheck Protection Primer for Florida,” explores the benefits of laws requiring labor unions to obtain members’ annual, written consent before spending their dues on politics.

Source: “A Paycheck Protection Primer for Florida,”

Unions Push ‘Fair Share Health Care’

A publication by the National Legal and Policy Center, “Unions Find a More Potent Weapon,” discusses how the recent Fair Share Health Care fad is part of a broader movement by Big Labor to push its agenda. Union officials have found “corporate campaigning,” which pressures companies “in every conceivable way,” more effective than traditional strikes or protests.

Opponents of Maryland’s Fair Share Health Care bill correctly noted it was intended as just a first step toward mandatory health care in the private sector. Shortly after passing the bill targeting Wal-Mart, the Maryland legislature took up another bill aimed at smaller businesses.

The ultimate economic effects of the policy are still unclear, but the Employment Policy Institute concluded the policy in New York could cost companies up to $6,000 per employee each year, as reported in the organization’s publication, “The ‘Fair Share for Health Care Act’ and New York’s Labor Market.”

Sources: “The ‘Fair Share for Health Care Act’ and New York’s Labor Market,”; “Unions Find a More Potent Weapon,”

WA Court Quashes Workers’ Rights

In March, the Washington State Supreme Court delivered what many analysts are calling a terrible blow against the rights of workers in Washington state. In a decision involving the state and the Washington Education Association, the court struck down statutory protections for teachers barring the use of union dues for political purposes without the dues payers’ permission.

In doing so, the court disregarded the union’s admission it had intentionally spent nonmember dues on politics without permission, a violation of state law.

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said he will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: “Washington public sector unions grow in 2005,”

Pensions, Health Raising Worries

Public employee pensions and benefits have become a hot topic over the past year and will become even more controversial as people begin to realize the burden politicians are placing on taxpayers through huge pension obligations.

A report by the Yankee Institute, “America’s Second Civil War: The Public Employment Complex vs. Taxpayers,” says the root cause of many of today’s contentious policy debates is the trillions of dollars in future wages and benefits that have been pledged to government employees at all levels.

A good example is in Pennsylvania, where the Commonwealth Foundation concludes the state is heading toward a crisis in funding retirement benefits for lawmakers, judges, teachers, and other state employees.

A report by The Heritage Foundation, “The Other 71 Million,” notes retirement insecurity looms for millions of American workers. For most, Social Security will not be enough.

“MSAs Increase Freedom and Choice,” from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, argues Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) offer tremendous promise for reining in rising health care costs and giving individuals more freedom and choice. Numerous studies indicate 3 million Americans are enrolled in MSAs, triple the number of just 10 months ago.

Sources: “America’s Second Civil War: The Public Employment Complex vs. Taxpayers,”; “Think tank sees trouble for Pa. pension funds,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,; “The Other 71 Million,”; “MSAs Increase Freedom and Choice,”

Where Does Your State Stand? has posted on its Web site state-by-state union membership numbers for 2005. The Public Service Research Foundation used the numbers to update its tables listing union membership and union density for private and pubic unions nationwide.

Source: Union Membership and Coverage Database from the CPS (Documentation),; Public Interest Research Foundation,

Ryan Bedford ([email protected]) is a labor analyst with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.

For more information …

A Better Bargain: Overhauling Teacher Collective Bargaining for the 21st Century,