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Most unionized workers in America are now government employees. Just 14.7 million—less than twelve percent of the workforce—out of 310 million Americans pay dues to organized labor. Of these unionized workers, 7.6 million hold public sector jobs. Whereas organized labor claims less than eight percent of private sector workers (down from 30 percent in 1958), they boast more than 36 percent of public sector employees, with public librarians and teachers among the most represented professions. Librarians of the world unite!
When the adversarial relationship was primarily one between blue-collar workers and fat-cat plutocrats, unions understandably won the admiration of much of the public. But now that summers-off guidance councilors and six-figure Social Security Administration employees demand raises from taxpayers, the public’s sympathy necessarily wanes.
Big Labor has a bigger friend in Big Government. The president in Trumka’s doghouse has expanded organized labor’s greatest single source of funding. The federal government’s share of gross domestic product rising from 18 to 25 percent in just a few years has coincided with an economic slump not experienced in generations. The policies that Americans voted to curb in 2010, labor unions pressure politicians to expand. If jobs were the concern of labor unions, they would not push to hike the spending, regulations, and taxes that have largely calcified hiring. But since union members (particularly dues-paying public sector employees) often benefit from what harms the rest of us, their leaders frequently advance policies that not only damage America—but the politicians they ostensibly support.
A president, of the USA or of the AFL-CIO, can’t serve two masters. Richard Trumka’s constituency is the AFL-CIO. Barack Obama is the president of the United States. Should the latter confuse the people he serves with the people the former serves, he will be soon looking for work with so many of his countrymen.
Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, popularized the political strategy of the union movement to “reward its friends” and “punish its enemies.” As long as Gompers’s progeny can’t tell their allies from their adversaries, they will continue to act as their own worst enemy.
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