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Labor Unions and Mandatory Dues

Many public and private sector labor unions require mandatory dues from their members or a fee from non-members within the same workplace.  This policy harkens back to a time when union membership was compulsory.  Under the Wagner Act of 1935, employers were forced to collectively bargain with employees under its purview whether they were unionized or not.  This act spurred union membership by 55%, but this alone was not enough.  During World War II the federal government imposed a maintenance-of-membership provision where, according to former University of Maryland economist Mancur Olson, “anyone who joined the union (whether voluntarily or because of a ‘dues inspection’ or other forms of intimidation of social pressure, or because of temporary personal grievance that required union help) had to remain a member of the union at least until the next contract was signed.”(Olson 80-81)   Maintenance-of-membership provisions were imposed by the War Labor Board, and the federal government came down to prevent strikes.  Union membership drastically increased due to the new law, enforcement techniques, and policy methods of the federal government.

Union power was created through compulsion.  According to the local SEIU website, joining the union will improve your pay, benefits, and working conditions.  This is counter intuitive, however, as Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, Lloyd Ulman, “remarks [because] unions have used their closed-shop policies and other instruments of job control to bring in new members.  But if these new workers were kept out of the union, the jobs of the old members would presumably be more secure.”(Olson 83)   Mancur Olson agrees, stating “when unions raise wages the quantity of labor demanded tends to fall.”(Olson 82)   Thus unions seek job control to fortify, expand, and stabilize themselves as organizations.

The mandatory dues structure or a fine for non-union members is an extension of the compulsion perpetrated in the mid-1930s.  Union dues and fees are mostly used to fund and lobby the Democratic Party in today’s political climate.  The largest Democratic political committees in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Oregon are unions.  10 of the top 15 all-time political donors since 1989 are labor unions and those 10 unions contribute, on average, 75% of their donations to the Democratic Party.  Mandatory dues and fees allow union bosses to funnel exorbitant amounts of money without feeling any repercussions from rank and file union members, who potentially do not agree with the bosses’ decision to fund the Democratic Party.

This is taken to the extreme when public sector unions take taxpayer money to promote Democratic candidates who allow for increased spending or expanded roles of government agencies and thus an increase in the public sector.  A never ending serpent feeding upon itself is created as unions control both sides of the bargaining table, the Democratic politicians on one side and the union bosses on the other to divvy up the loot, or taxpayer dollars.  Public sector unions allow their members to have a 31% advantage in wages and 68% advantage in benefits compared to non-union members.  According to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute “public sector labor unions actively fight against school choice, privatization, and other policies that can improve government efficiency.”  Not only is the serpent ever increasing, but it incentivizes those within the mandatory dues structure to remain within it.  Poorly performing workers are paid more, and a larger than necessary staff is created.

The ever bloated serpent is able to not only mobilize its members financially through mandatory dues, but also to mobilize them in a twisted grassroots fashion through coercion.  Members are faced with the loss of their higher wages and increased benefits and again are incentivized to become a mobile army for Democratic candidates to protect the aforementioned benefits.  Members not wanting to participate in this coercion not only face losing their higher wages and benefits, but also are deterred through a painstaking process of attempting to have their dues reimbursed.

Unions are the war chest and foot soldiers of the Democratic Party.  The two are inseparable.  They are able to achieve their goals through compulsion, whether through mandating membership, or requiring those employed under a certain employer to pay dues or a fine regardless of union membership.

Olson, Mancur The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and Theory of Groups Harvard University Press 1971