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Looking Hard For The Union Label.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its statistics on union membership in 2004. It was not pretty for the labor unions.

John Carlisle, writing in The American Spectator takes on why union membership has fallen so precipitously in the U.S.

"...12.5 percent of workers, including both the private sector and government, were enrolled in unions in 2004, down from 12.9 percent in 2003. For the private sector alone the number declined from 8.2 percent to 7.9 percent. This represents a dramatic drop from labor's peak in 1956, when 35 percent of private-sector workers belonged to unions."

Carlisle argues that there are two major reasons why union membership has fallen so dramatically:

1. "Misuse of members' dues for political activism"
2. "Lack of financial accountability"

Carlisle explains,

"Unions take in at least $17 billion annually, which mainly comes from the compulsory dues culled from the paychecks of more than 12 million workers. But only about 20 percent of dues are used for collective bargaining -- which is the top priority of rank-and-file workers. As a result, unions are able to lavish hundreds of millions of dollars on politicians.

In the 2004 election cycle, union political action committees gave more than $58 million to political parties and candidates. Of this amount, 87 percent went to Democrats. Unions also donated about $100 million to pro-Democratic 527 committees, which ran ads and conducted get-out-the vote efforts."

So what? Shouldn't unions be able to lobby, just like corporations?

Sure, but as Carlisle points out:

"There would be nothing wrong with such political spending if it expressed the wishes of labor's rank-and-file. But all too often, it does not. Usually, 35 to 40 percent of union members vote Republican. And even many Democratic union members do not approve of their dues going to political activities. When the AFL-CIO launched a $35 million campaign in 1996 to buy ads for Democratic congressional candidates, a Luntz Research poll showed that 62 percent of union members opposed the plan."

Is it any wonder that union membership is falling off?

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 February 2005 02:35 PM