Unionized employees may enjoy 'freedom'
What comes to mind when you see that phrase, which you might in what's left of this week?
This is National Employee Freedom Week.
Does the phrase conjure up wage-slaves walking out on tyrannical bosses, bad pay and unsafe machinery?
Nothing so predictable.
The implied revolt of the week may be more surprising. Call it union members vs. unions.
Which makes for an ironic, non-violent but morally courageous precursor to Labor Day, still a couple of weeks off.
To observe this week most actively a working guy or gal who fills out a union opt-out form is likelier to risk being called names (“freeloader” is a favorite) than to court broken windows or slashed tires.
After decades of declining membership — except in government unions — a fair number of organized workers don't like unions spending their dues money supporting political forces to which the individual wage earner would never send a dollar. Namely, candidates and parties whose policies he or she hates.
Why, after all, should any portion of dues raised for collective bargaining get spent on one-size-doesn't-fit-all politics?
Contrary to how they're pigeonholed as an interest group, working folks seem to be no more unanimous than the citizenry in general on whether Democrats or Republicans are the way to go. Or whether conservatives, progressives or libertarians are more to be trusted at budgeting or war-making.
Political giving on a big scale builds up labor leaders, no question. They get to pass out other people's money at City Hall, Congress and the White House.
But where's the gain for rank-and-filers who think for themselves?
And when politicians make sweetheart contracts with government unions, workers and bosses alike get hurt.
Pension obligations are a special sore spot. They've ballooned way above the norms of private industry. California is $80 billion in the red in unfunded pensions alone; Illinois, reputed proportionately worse. Detroit is bankrupt, its deteriorated public services the result, partially at least, of unaffordable labor contracts.
Hence the second National Employee Freedom Week, begun last year in Las Vegas.
The Nevada Policy Research Institute started it with the Association of American Educators (a $16.50 monthly dues alternative to major teacher unions). Organizations in 37 states back it.
The message: Union members can push back against the conventional belief that union membership, dues-paying, and political giving are compulsory for many jobs.
The liberal EclectaBlog recently called the promotion a “laughable anti-union effort,” essentially a business front.
But the week's sponsors cite a 2014 survey that shows more than 28 percent of union members would quit if they could. And 82 percent of the general public thinks they ought to be able to do so without penalty.
It's sort of like freedom.
Jack Markowitz is a Thursday columnist of Trib Total Media. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Pirates plan to carry Hurdle deep into playoffs
- Steelers’ Tomlin does not like his coaching style to be characterized
- State trooper fatally shot during training exercise
- Knife-wielding man attacks 2 in Sheetz lot in Greensburg
- Penguins notebook: Malkin picture muddy
- Despres is relishing his regular role on Penguins’ blue line
- Pittsburgh rises up for a 2nd year of Pirates magic
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin bringing officials to practice
- NK grocery store robbed
- Franklin Regional stabbing suspect could leave Pa. for treatment
- Gorman: Lincoln Park charade over