Last year for the first time in history, organized labor in the United States represented more government workers than private-sector employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private-sector unionization fell to 7.2 percent in 2009, down from 7.6 percent the previous year.

Labor’s declining relevance to workers in the private sector has many roots: Generally improved wages and job conditions, the imperative of workplace flexibility, global competition, and union corruption all play a part.

There’s another important but less recognized factor: Organized labor’s leadership has abandoned the very reason unions first came into existence, which is to represent the economic interests of its workers. In their drive to amass political power, union leaders have aligned themselves with left-wing and “progressive” groups who often agitate against the interests of union workers and show contempt for their deeply held beliefs.

Take the “One Nation” march scheduled for Saturday in Washington. The unions are major sponsors and organizers, busing in union members and doing PR for the effort. The SEIU touts its leadership, the AFL-CIO is making a huge online push for the march, and AFSCME is promoting the effort.

Then take a look at other groups on the list of endorsing organizations, the “partners.”

  • Numerous sponsors are organized around ethnic and racial political interests, many advocating an open-borders immigration policy. Does that serve the interests of union workers?
  • Major environmental organizations are prominent, the same groups that sue unionized businesses involved in resource extraction and energy production. How in the world can members of the United Mine Workers march under the flag of the Center for Biological Diversity, which uses the court to put them out of work?
  • Anti-war groups are big. If you’re a union member who’s proud to have family members fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq for what you think is a just cause, it should give pause that your union has signed on with the War Resisters League  and the hard-left United for Peace and Justice. Their leaders regard members of the military  as stooges of the war machine.
  • Union members who believe in a strong Israel, able to defend itself? They’ll be marching with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
  • And under the “Ps” are Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, and Physicians for a National Health Program.

We can think of many union members who would be appalled that their union dues are being spent to make common cause with these groups. And can you imagine a union organizer trying to recruit new members of a local with a pitch based on this kind of hard-core activism?

National union leaders rail against the forces they say thwart their efforts at organizing employees. Businesses conspire against them, the National Labor Relations Act is outdated, we need the Employee Free Choice Act!

They should look first to their own faults and failures. As the “One Nation” march demonstrates, organized labor too often puts political “progressivism” before the interests of America’s working men and women.

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