For Union Members, A Losing Proposition

By November 10, 2005Labor Unions

On behalf of the regular working stiff out there, the run of the mill union member, it was sad to see Proposition 75 go down in California yesterday. Once again, as with its predecessor in 1998, Prop 226, this was an initiative that started out enormously popular in union households. And why wouldn’t it be? If you were a union member, you were actually going to get a little more jingle in your pocket every month, in an amount equal to the sum your union was putting down the political rat hole in your name, supporting mostly causes that you didn’t agree with. At last help was on the way in the form of “Paycheck Protection.” (Here’s an excellent overview of Prop 75 by the Pacific Research Institute).

Not so fast. The unions rushed in with plans of their own…

In the most ironic political maneuver since they beat back 226 the same way, unions unleashed a $100 million deluge of their members’ money — some of it raised through special taxes assessed against their members for this purpose — to fight this measure. If you’re a union member, what can you do? You are powerless, as your money is being used to fight this initiative with which you agree. You can’t quit and you can’t get your money back.

To those of us in the business community, $100 million is still a lot of money. We heard a union organizer complain on Tuesday about that sum, saying, “How many immigrant Latino workers could be organized with this money?” Ah, but grasshopper, you assume the unions care about organizing. Haven’t you been reading the NAM blog? They have long since stopped being a labor movement and have become a political movement and a pretty ineffectual one at that. This organizer went on to lament that this money was spent, “To perpetuate the status quo.” Indeed, it is what they do.

So anyway, we were just sitting around, trying to get our brains around a sum like $100 million, thinking about how we could begin to put it in context. Here are a few comparisons:

— $100 million would pay a month’s unemployment benefits for almost 100,000 union members in California;

— $100 million would pay a year’s unemployment benefits for over 8300 California union families;

— $100 million would buy a month’s groceries for almost 200,000 California union families of four;

— $100 million would buy a years’ worth of groceries for over 16,000 California union families of four.

— According to the US Department of Agriculture, $100 million would buy 2.7 million 10-person Thanksgiving dinners, meaning 27 million dinners, about 5 million more people than the entire population of Texas, and more than the populations of Ohio and Pennsylvania combined.

We hope this puts in all in some context, that this great service organization that claims to care about workers and its members in fact cares about — as the organizer said — perpetuating the status quo. What makes this shameful is that they did it with their members’ money. What makes it disgusting is that they did it against their will.