John Ransom
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Alarm bells are going off for labor unions around the country.

Four years after electing the most pro-labor president of the last half-decade, it looks like the scheme has backfired.

In 2008 and 2012 labor unions used everything, including a little body English, ballot stuffing and voter intimidation to elect a president who would bring the prestige of presidential backing to recruitment efforts for labor unions.  

Since then not only have labor unions taken historic defeats in former union strongholds, like Wisconsin and Michigan, labor union membership is declining at a rate that will make them a footnote in the annals of history if the steady decline in membership keeps up at the current pace. 

“The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released statistics Jan. 23 that confirm an alarming drop in unionization,” writes Denver Labor attorney Bill Berger in the Denver Business Journal, “especially in private (nongovernmental) workplaces…. BLS statistics show unions lost 400,000 members in America last year. In 2011, 11.8 percent of all workers were union. That dropped to 11.3 percent in 2012.”

“We’re getting destroyed,” said MNBC’s hilariously-named “business” expert and Democrat, pro-union candidate Krystal Ball about labor unions.

And yes, I understand “Krystal Ball” is her real name, but there are cool real names- like Johnny Ransom- and ones that make you sound like a stripper, like, um Krystal Ball.

If you can manage to watch past her eyebrows moving up and down to highlight her sincerity and the drippy, syrupy, plastic rhetoric …well, anyway, you can see the video below. 

OK, so here’s a dumb question: With union membership at a 97-year low, what’s not to love? In my book, anything that can make a liberal lose it like Ms. Ball has above is worth looking at more deeply

Because the Left will only concentrate on the decline in membership, while ignoring why the decline is happening.

Conservatives must continue to take advantage of union weakness. Wherever conservatives have run against unions, conservatives have won.  

And underneath the declining union stats are examples that show that the basic problem with unions is that they don’t play nice with others.  And people are paying attention.  

Getting past union thuggery like Vinny Castaldo, union organizer for Westchester Unit 9200 of the Civil Service Employees Association- a guy who makes his living off of your tax dollars and who wants to get rid of the 2nd Amendment as a favor to Obama by beating people up- there are little questions of conflict-of-interest, self-dealing and the reactionary element when it comes to unions.

One of the most serious financial crises we face is the result of underfunded pension obligations. Union-controlled, civil servant pensions are especially underfunded because politicians took money from unions to get elected and subsequently over-promised benefits, counting on the taxpayer to fill the gap.

“The hole in the pension plans of U.S. labor unions now stands at $369 billion Credit Suisse has calculated with the aid of new reporting standards,” reported CNBC.com last April. “This raises the prospect of higher pension contributions for employers and deteriorating industrial relations….S&P 500 companies’ share of this obligation is estimated at just $43 billion.”

That’s not a scheme that can last. It won’t serve the employees, the employers or the taxpayers or even the union itself. Instead, it has only served to give unions a big black eye, looking like what they really are: a bunch of special pleaders who expect the rest of us to pay for benefits that we can’t afford for our own families.

And that has hurt union members in places like Michigan and Wisconsin.  

Additionally, unions stand in the way of progress on basic governmental reforms such as K-12 education.  The basic problem with public education in this country is the existence of labor unions that can only survive if there is only one provider of education. Every attempt at reform runs into a brick wall of union opposition because it challenges the one-size-fits all public school. The only type of school “reform” that unions support is more money for monolithic public schools, even as the US falls further and further behind other developed nations.

As an added inducement to de-unionize, it’s harder and harder for employers, say for example, in the auto industry, to compete when labor costs are much, much higher.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Consider labor costs. Take-home wages at the U.S. car makers average $28.42 an hour, according to the Center for Automotive Research. That's on par with $26 at Toyota, $24 at Honda and $21 at Hyundai. But include benefits, and the picture changes. Hourly labor costs are $44.20 on average for the non-Detroit producers, in line with most manufacturing jobs, but are $73.21 for Detroit.

This $29 cost gap reflects the way Big Three management and unions have conspired to make themselves uncompetitive -- increasingly so as their market share has collapsed (see the nearby chart). Over the decades the United Auto Workers won pension and health-care benefits far more generous than in almost any other American industry. As a result, for every UAW member working at a U.S. car maker today, three retirees collect benefits; at GM, the ratio is 4.6 to one. 

In short, the math behind failing union membership is the math behind what ails us on Wall Street, Main Street, in DC and state capitols around the country.

How much longer will the rest of us pay for a scheme that doesn’t even benefit the members themselves?

Declining union membership gives conservatives a hint of where they need to go to be successful electorally: Attack the unions for being the prime beneficiaries of government spending, accounting tricks that require taxpayer funding and as the cheerleader for Big Government expansion into every aspect of American life.

Now look at stimulus spending that created no jobs.

Who really benefited?

It’s clearly the people versus the unions.

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John Ransom

John Ransom is the Finance Editor for Townhall Finance.
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