Opinion

Unions devouring their own in desperation for survival

SEIU LAX

With union membership at its lowest level in close to a century, pickings have become so slim that organized labor is now resorting to cannibalism for survival. And they lack the good grace to actually waiting for their victims to die before devouring them.

All of this is taking its toll on both groups. The raiders are expending funds they would normally use to draft the 88.2 percent of the workforce employed in non-union shops to woo members away from competitor unions. Those being raided have to expend time and money to fend off the raiders. And it’s all a huge public relations fiasco for organized labor, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“Union rivalry creates bad public relations and shows the seamy underside of the union movement,” Clark University Professor of Industrial Relations Gary Chaison told the Los Angeles Times. “Fights between unions seem to contradict the idea of solidarity between all unions and between all workers.”

Currently, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are attempting to pull American Airlines mechanics away from the Transport Workers Union. Transport Workers is fighting back using the slogan “Teamster Air: More job departures to China than any other union” on billboards, magazines and even airline vomit bags sent to its members.

The Service Employees International Union successfully fended off a raid by National Union of Healthcare Workers over SEIU’s 45,000 California healthcare workers.

The Times noted:

Members are valuable to labor unions for the millions they pay in dues, as well as the clout that comes along with the potential votes members cast in U.S. elections. And right now, they may be especially vulnerable to promises from another union trying to win their allegiance.

And, as it turns out, union members are not at all unreceptive to the advances of the raiders.

Union members are often upset at union bosses “in an environment in which there are givebacks, cutbacks, concessions in bargaining and the union movement is in retreat,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara. “And when that discontent happens, they may look around for another or a better union.”

The bottom line for labor organizations is revenue. Loss of members due to defection means loss of dues. Each of the SEIU healthcare workers in the example above pay an average $51.74 a month in dues, coming to $28 million a year. That’s a lot of political clout.

But it all amounts to an exercise in futility according to David Regan, the president SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. “It’s the classic example of, ‘Let’s rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic,'” he said.

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