Advice for unionsWritten by Tom Morrissey | | email@example.com
Dear union leaders and decision makers:
It’s not breaking news that union membership is in the dumps. Your early 1950s membership roles consisted of 32 percent of the nation’s working population. The year 2008 saw that number jump a few tenths above 2007’s level to a paltry 12.4 percent. The union heydays seem to be past, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
The mentality of union workers versus nonunion workers is poles apart, according to a recent Rasmussen survey. Nearly half of union workers believe that most workers want to join a union, and only 18 percent of those surveyed disagreed with the statement. However, when polling nonunion workers, the numbers are flipped with 56 percent disagreeing with the statement that most workers want to join a union and 14 percent of nonunion workers are on the other side.
But it gets worse. Your popularity among nonunion America is in the gutter, worse than President George W. Bush’s basement approval ratings. Nine percent of nonunion workers want to join a union, with 81 percent firmly on the other side of union membership. Unions just aren’t that popular among nonunion America — 87 percent of the American work force.
Mr. Union Decision Maker, it’s time for you to do something, and with Toledo’s mayoral race warming up, the time has come.
I am not anti-union, but this 87 percent of nonunion workers presents a tough challenge. What can you do change that huge block of people’s minds? The UAW seems to have found the right approach.
Forget that 87 percent.
In 2008, the UAW spent more than $13 million on political elections, with nearly $5 million going directly to Barack Obama’s campaign. This is a legal and wise business move, and local union leaders should need no motivation to make these smart decisions and follow the UAW’s example.
The union picture is bleak nationally, and locally, Toledo government unions are getting the shaft, thanks in part to the “endorsed Democrat,” Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. The social importance of a union doesn’t matter to Finkbeiner exemplified by the Toledo Police Department’s union, the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, (TPPA) being forced onto the chopping block first because it became popular to “save” the city’s budget via layoffs.
Political contributions supposedly come without strings attached, but would someone give millions to a candidate and expect nothing in return? After receiving a huge chunk of cash, would a candidate feel obligated to the financial supporter in any way?
Coincidentally, contributions to Finkbeiner’s political campaign, not the union’s social importance, forecasted which government union would get cut the most. Originally, the mayor wanted to cut police and fire, but a court restraining order based on the manning requirement for the fire department presented a legal roadblock, so only police were laid off. The TPPA contributed $500 to the mayor’s 2005 campaign, while the Toledo Fire Department’s union contributed $5,000. Apparently, these contributions weren’t enough. The Ohio American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) contributed $7,500, and their local unions have avoided layoffs so far, beyond a handful of members that were unable to transfer to other positions when the layoff axe fell. The Teamsters, who reached the platinum level by contributing more than $10,000 in 2005, have also avoided layoffs.
Unions need to make mammoth contributions to the mayoral race. To avoid cuts to union membership, Toledo government unions need to contribute. Government unions need to cut checks larger than $500 or even $5,000. Large campaign contributions and court orders have evolved into the only way to preserve jobs from budget-cutting politicians.
Government unions are in a unique position. You can contribute to the man who will one day have an important role deciding whether you take a cut or whether you can hire. With the ability to contribute monstrous sums legally, why hold back?
E-mail columnist Tom Morrissey at firstname.lastname@example.org.