1) Government Union Members Outnumber
Private Sector Members. The Bureau of Labor
Statistics released its
annual report on union membership last week and, to no one's surprise,
union membership and market share fell once again.
There were 770,000 fewer union members
in 2009 than there were in 2008. Union members comprised 12.31% of the
national workforce, down from 12.44%. But aggregating the numbers masks the
important part of the story. Last year, for the first time in American
history, there were more union members who worked for the government than
there were in the private sector, though the private sector workforce is
more than five times larger. We now have
7.9 million public sector union members, and only 7.4 million private
sector union members.
Only 7.19% of the private workforce
belongs to unions, down from 7.65% in 2008. As I have mentioned in the past,
this number actually overstates union market share, since all self-employed
individuals are excluded from BLS statistics. Unions lost 834,000 members in
the private sector last year, but managed to add 64,000 members with
By far the most unionized segment of the
U.S. workforce is in local government, which includes police, firefighters
and, of course, teachers. In 2009, almost 4.9 million union members worked
for local government, a 43.3% rate.
What the Heritage Foundation is calling
new face of organized labor" has enormous implications for American
politics and for the dynamics of the labor movement itself. With the
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in hand,
unions will no longer have to disguise their direct political advocacy as
"member communications" and hide endorsements behind member-only firewalls.
The National Education Association is already
the largest political spender in America. The new rules will allow the
unions to multiply their message with little additional outlay.
Increasingly the primary message will
call for the expansion of government, but that message does contain hidden
hazards for the labor movement. For decades the image of unions has been
that of the trucker, miner, longshoreman and assembly-line worker. To that
extent that those occupations are still unionized, those folks no longer
call the shots for Big Labor.
For positive public relations, it is a
simple task to substitute teachers, police and firefighters for the
disappearing industrial workers, but teachers - especially NEA teachers -
have resisted identification with the broader labor movement in the past.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel's emphasis on this area particularly
telling. And where does that leave the private-sector industrial workers,
the former heart of organized labor?
The Wall Street Journal's Melanie
Trottman reported last Friday on an AFL-CIO poll in Massachusetts that
union households voted 49%-46% for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott
Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley.
The AFL-CIO predictably tried to spin
this as generalized anger about Congress' failure to enact the labor agenda,
and the union household factoid somehow
failed to merit inclusion in the pollster's memo to interested parties.
Ah, but wouldn't it be instructive to know what the private sector
member/public sector member vote split was? Is it possible that private
sector union members went largely for Brown and the public sector went for
As we toy with the idea of turning
private sector jobs into public sector jobs, will we reach the point of
having a virtually union-free private sector supporting a highly unionized
2) Oregon Fails to Identify Largest
"Out-of-State Contributor" to Tomorrow's Election.
Tomorrow, Oregonians go to the polls to determine the fates
of Measures 66 and 67; the first would increase the top income tax rate, the
other would increase the corporate minimum tax.
Media outlets have regularly identified
the state's public employee unions as being the primary movers behind
the Yes campaign. "The 48,000-member Oregon Education Association, the
state's main teachers union, is the biggest single donor on either side,
contributing more than $2 million to support Measures 66 and 67," reported
Brent Walth of The Oregonian.
Those membership numbers may be a bit
inflated, but even if we accept them as entirely accurate, that still comes
to about $42 from each and every member of OEA - even retirees and students.
OEA's ballot measure fund assessment is only $20 per member, who is
making up the difference?
The Oregon Secretary of State's
campaign finance database identifies every contributor to the Vote Yes
for Oregon committee, including OEA's $2 million in cash. It also flags
out-of-state contributors such as AFSCME and SEIU.
Last month, the NEA board of directors
approved a $550,000 contribution from the national union's Ballot
Measure/Legislative Crisis Fund to OEA specifically to support Measures 66
and 67. But because the cash passed through OEA first, it was treated as an
In NEA's 2008-09 fiscal year, which
ended August 31, the
national union sent an additional $1 million to OEA. It is unclear
whether this money was targeted for the November 2008 elections or for other
purposes. NEA did send $3 million directly to
Defend Oregon last year.
3) Iowa State Education Association
Local Disaffiliates. The Professional Educators of
Twin Cedars voted to disaffiliate from the Iowa State Education Association,
becoming the second independent bargaining unit in the state.
Local officers identified the state
union's push for an agency fee law as being a major part of their decision.
"There is one sure way to keep the union from collecting any 'fair share'
fees and that is to make sure they don't run things," said PETC President
4) Last Week's Intercepts.
Intercepts, covered these topics from January 19-25:
Scott Brown's Election Will Mean for America. Analysis you won't see
Around the Horn. Did NEA inadvertently help get Brown elected?
Shovel-Ready Teachers? An expansive definition of school construction.
Homeowner Avoids the S-Trap. Teach for America parallels?
"Lost" Recapped by Extended Italian Family. Those wacky Antonuccis.
Quote of the Week.
Page 1A we report on the tentative teachers' pact reached between the Racine
Unified School Board and the Racine Education Association thanks to the
efforts of our reporting staff in getting a copy of the 'secret' document
that had only been released to teachers.... We have objected to the secrecy
of this process before and maintained that the public has just as much right
to view and digest these pacts and to be able to contact school board
members with their views - whether they be in support or opposition to the
package.... What is bothersome about this secrecy and the delay in revealing
the details is that it presumes a propriety attitude by both the board and
the REA - that this is the teachers' contract and they and the board members
should be able to peruse it first.... So, too, this contract belongs not
just to the teachers, but to the people who pay for it as well. They have a
right to know what's in it in a more timely fashion." - the editorial board
of The Journal Times of Racine, Wisconsin.
The Journal Times)