2012 Was Not A Good Year for Big Labor

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FrontPage.com Blogger Earl Capps reviews 2012 moves toward worker freedom, including the events in Wisconsin, and teh passage of Right To Work Laws in Indiana and Michigan.

 

These political upsets were just the latest in a string of recent setbacks for organized labor which signify a growing erosion of the once-formidable power of labor unions:

• Republicans scored major gains in the 2010 elections at the state level, gaining control of eighteen additional legislative chambers, including several in heavily-unionized Midwestern states. Democrats were left holding just 38 percent of legislative seats in the Midwest, the lowest share since the 1950s. With the exception of Minnesota, Republicans were kept in control of their Rust Belt state legislative majorities in the 2012 elections.

• A high-profile battle erupted with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the decision by Boeing to open up a 787 manufacturing plant in North Charleston, South Carolina. Following a House hearing, the NLRB dropped its case against Boeing and the new plant began operations.• Leaders in other Democratic, union-friendly areas stood up to large public-sector unions, including Chicago and New York state, forcing concessions. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie built a bi-partisan coalition to push through legislation aimed at reining in benefits packages for state workers against strong union opposition.

Michael Lotito, a California labor attorney, who warned the Michigan defeat could be costly for unions in terms of money and political power:

The new law has “tremendous symbolism,” he emphasized, and will drain union coffers because unions can no longer require employees other than police and firefighters at unionized Michigan worksites to pay union dues.

The appointment of South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jim DeMint will likely be another setback for labor unions. Given his record of going after unions and the NLRB in the House, Scott is expected to be a strong anti-union activist in a Senate where the White House has already had considerable difficulty moving pro-union appointees.

This chain of political setbacks, many in union-friendly states, combined with statistics about union membership from a report by the U.S. Department of Labor which shows labor union membership continuing to decline both in percentages of workers and total number of union members in the workforce, make it clear that unions are on the defense.