The biggest loser in this election is likely to be the the unions, particularly the public sector unions.   

There have definitely been times in our nation’s history when Unions helped bring attention to serious problems.  Perhaps the best example is the United Mine Workers and their efforts to require mine owners to pay more attention to workplace safety.  In other cases the unions were effective in requiring business owners to increase wages for blue collar employees.  There were certainly employers, like George Pullman, who were unwilling to treat their employees fairly. 

 But unions, by their very nature, also have the potential to abuse their power.  The close relationship between unions and organized crime is well documented.  Unions were used to extort business owners into cooperating with or at least tolerating organized crime. 

Politicians in both parties realized that there was a potential for enormous problems if unions were allowed to organize public workers, particularly public safety workers.  The following article, by Daniel DeSalvo published in National Affairs does an excellent job in providing a historical perspective on public sector unions:


Democrats originally were just as opposed to public sector unions as Republicans.  For example this article includes the following quote from Franklin Roosevelt, who was definitely a pro-union guy:

Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government….The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”   He went on to say that “[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.”

The New York Supreme Court issued an opinion in 1943 warning about the danger from public service unions:

To tolerate or recognize any combination of civil service employees of the government as a labor organization or union is not only incompatible with the spirit of democracy, but inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. Nothing is more dangerous to public welfare than to admit that hired servants of the State can dictate to the government the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizen. To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous.

The Democratic Party has been closely allied with unions from the start, beginning with the Wagner Act in 1935.  Republicans, on the other hand, were opposed to unions, as represented by Taft-Hartly in 1947.  The result is that unions are closely connected with the Democratic Party, particularly in big cities.  This is why nearly every major city in the United States is dominated by Democrats.  Unions have incredible power and they almost always support Democratic candidates.   It is nearly impossible to get elected to public office in a major city without union support.  The end result is a country where big cities are dominated by liberal democrats while the rest of the country is largely republican.

The following red-state/blue-state maps tell the story.  The first is from 2004, when Bush defeated John Kerry.  This shows results by county.  It is a stark reminder of how the lethal combination of the Democratic party and public sector unions in high density population centers can dominate national politics even when most of the country disagrees.

The second map is from 2008.  The pattern is the same, but Obama obviously attracted a much broader base than John Kerry:

2008 Presidential election by country

It is clear, in retrospect, that FDR and others were spot-on in their warnings about public sector unions.  Even now unions are lobbying for increased taxes and increase spending even though this is not financially sustainable.  But this year things have changed.  Candidates like Chris Christie have been elected even though there was widespread union opposition.  One of the side effects of this horrible economy is that the average worker who has trouble even finding a job is underwhelmed by the complaints from government workers with their bloated pensions and lifetime job security.  Sometimes, recently, it is hard to tell who to believe in a political ad.  Very rarely does a candidate admit to being a Democrat or even a Republican.  Even some of the most liberal Democrats are running on a platform of budget cuts and deficit reductions. 

But I have learned that there is a quick way to find out who or what to support.  I just look for the Union Label.  If the add is being funded by a public sector union, I vote no.  It’s a beautiful thing.


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