The Facade That Is Labor Day: Labor Unions Have Tried to Convince the Public That Labor Day Is Meant to Celebrate the Accomplishments of Labor Unions. but If That Were True, There Wouldn't Be Much to Cheer
Farmer, Brian, The New American
Labor Day is a federal holiday falling on the first Monday in September and is meant to pay tribute to the contributions of American workers who have promoted the economic strength and prosperity of our nation. Not surprisingly, it was various leaders of the U.S. labor union movement who have been given credit for proposing and urging celebrations on a day devoted to honoring American workers, which initially took place primarily in the industrial centers of the country. With the passage of time, the celebrations grew in number and size, to the point that local governments started to take notice and get in on the act. Eventually, state and national politicians began to recognize the political significance of Labor Day, as it provided them the opportunity to make speeches at organized events, to create a higher profile before the public, etc., and passed legislation formally recognizing Labor Day as an important holiday.
Perks and Quirks of Unions
There appears to be a certain amount of irony in the celebration of Labor Day because, while it is meant to pay homage to all workers, the labor union movement behaves as though it is celebrating Labor Union Day. It seems particularly odd when one keeps in mind that unionized workers have never made up a majority of the nation's workforce. In fact, at its zenith during the 1950s, the labor union movement was able to organize no more than approximately 40 percent of the workforce. That figure has now fallen to around 12 percent, and the only reason it is that high is due to the fact that many government workers have joined labor unions over the past half a century. That raises an obvious question: If the labor union movement exists to promote the welfare of all workers, as labor union leaders and their minions would have us believe, then why has membership in labor unions dropped so precipitously over the past several decades? This is particularly puzzling, when one considers all of the special privileges that the labor union movement enjoys. The National Right to Work Committee has put together a list of what it views as the top 10 most egregious powers and exploitative privileges that have been granted to labor unions by federal politicians, bureaucrats, and judges:
1. The exemption from prosecution for labor union violence. In 1946, Congress passed the Hobbs Act, aimed at suppressing a wide range of union violence. It included a provision that defined criminal extortion as "the obtaining of property ... by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear." In using the word "wrongful," Congress apparently did not anticipate the unintended consequences that would result, when the legislation was eventually challenged in the courts. Using logic that would strain the credulity of a rational person, the courts argued that, if certain acts of violence were wrongful, then that would imply that there must be some acts of violence that were not wrongful. As a result, in the 1973 case of United States v. Enmons, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that three electrical union members indicted for sabotaging an electricity substation and perpetrating other violence in Louisiana had not done anything that could be deemed illegal, because they were actually pursuing " legitimate" union objectives, that is, wage and benefit increases and improved working conditions.
2. The exemption from anti-monopoly laws. The Sherman Anti-trust Act of 1890 prohibited "combinations or conspiracies" whose objective was to restrain or obstruct interstate commerce, and the courts interpreted that as applying to labor unions, as well as trusts. As one could easily imagine, labor union leaders were not at all happy about those developments and responded by launching a political campaign to get the antitrust laws changed so as not to apply to labor unions. The campaign resulted in the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914. The key passage in Section 6 of the act reads:
That the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Nothing contained in the antitrust laws shall be construed to forbid the existence and operation of labor ... organizations ...; nor shall such organizations, or the members thereof, be held or construed to be illegal combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade, under the antitrust laws.
3. The power to force employees to accept unwanted labor union representation. No other form of private organization is allowed to compel people to become members, but labor unions can do that because monopoly bargaining, or "exclusive representation," which is included in most of the country's labor relations statutes, enables labor union officials to act as the exclusive bargaining agents of all employees at a unionized workplace, thereby depriving employees of the right to make their own employment contracts.
4. The power to collect forced labor union dues. Unlike other private organizations, labor unions can compel individuals to support them financially. There are certain exemptions in the 27 states that have passed right-to-work laws but, otherwise, employees may be forced to pay labor union dues as a condition of employment, even in situations where they are able to reject labor union membership as a condition of employment.
5. The ability to engage in unlimited, undisclosed electioneering. The Federal Election Campaign Act exempts labor unions from its limits on campaign contributions and expenditures, as well as some of its reporting requirements. Labor unions can spend unlimited amounts of money on communications to members and their families in support of, or in opposition to, candidates for federal office, and they need not report those expenditures if they claim that union publications are primarily devoted to other topics. As a result, for example, the National Education Association teachers union has been able to get away with claiming zero political expenditures on its Internal Revenue Service tax forms for many years.
6. The ability to strong-arm employers into negotiations. The National Labor Relations Act, the Federal Labor Relations Act, and the Railway Labor Act make it illegal for employers to resist a labor union's collective bargaining efforts and make it difficult for employers to counter the aggressive and deceptive campaigns that are often waged by labor union organizers.
7. The right to trespass on an employer's private property. The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932, as well as various state anti-injunction acts, gives labor union activists immunity from injunctions against trespass on an employer's private property, which amounts to an invitation for labor union militants to vandalize buildings and equipment under the protective umbrella of the aforementioned United States v. Enmons Supreme Court decision.
8. The ability of striking workers to keep jobs despite refusing to work. Unionized workers in the private sector have the right to strike, that is, to refuse to work while keeping their job. In some cases, it is illegal for employers to hire replacement workers, even to avert bankruptcy. Meanwhile, labor union officials almost always demonize replacement workers as "scabs," in order to justify retaliation against them.
9. The ability to impose union-only labor cartels on construction projects. Under so-called "project labor agreements," governments at the local, state, and federal levels award contracts for construction on major projects such as highways, airports, and stadiums exclusively to unionized firms. Such agreements have the effect of locking out qualified contractors and their employees who refuse to submit to exclusive labor union bargaining, forced labor union dues, and wasteful labor union work rules. At the present time, only three states have outlawed these discriminatory and costly project labor agreements.
10. The ability to obtain direct government funding. A study by the National Right to Work Committee found that, in 1995 alone, more than a billion dollars of taxpayers' money found its way into labor union coffers through grants awarded by various federal agencies.
Penalize Thee, Not Me
One of the main reasons that the labor union movement has been in a state of decline for so many years is that, with the passage of time, more and more workers have come to recognize the increasingly blatant hypocrisy of the labor union movement. There once was a time when one could plausibly argue that the labor union movement was needed to take on those who considered personal or corporate power and profit to be more important than the well-being of their employees. But with the current heavy-handed tactics of private-and public-sector labor unions, the labor union movement has morphed into what it once fought so vehemently and successfully against.
Human Events contributor Deroy Murdock highlighted some classic examples of Big Labor's hypocrisy in a 2010 commentary about Labor Day:
* New York's United Federation of Teachers (UFT) employee Jim Callaghan was immediately fired for attempting to start a collective bargaining unit among the employees of the UFT, after one of his colleagues was sacked without cause. "I was fired for trying to start a union at the UFT," Human Events quoted a stunned Jim Callaghan saying. Compare Jim Callaghan's instant dismissal by his labor union employer to the years it can take to fire incompetent unionized teachers!
* Philadelphia labor union boss Henry Nicholas refused to recognize a collective bargaining unit of 20 of his own staffers at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, despite the fact that "all the employees" had signed cards requesting unionization, as their organizer, John Hundzynski, explained to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Compare the behavior of Henry Nicholas to his support for so-called "card check" legislation, which would replace the secret ballot to decide employee unionization in a workplace!
* International Brotherhood of Teamsters president James P. Hoffa chided his unionized employees during negotiations going on at the time, asking "that workers share in the prudent belt-tightening," adding he will not "commit to a collective bargaining agreement that jeopardizes the financial health of your International Union." He concluded: "Though it pains us to do so, we must make contingency plans to operate in the event of a labor dispute." Compare the attitude of Teamsters president James P. Hoffa toward his own employees to that of Big Labor's attitude when private corporations and government entities call for shared sacrifice!
* When the United Auto Workers (UAW) laid off 120 of its staff "to balance its budget," and the remaining staffers rejected the UAW management's austere contract proposal, the UAW management imposed it on their employees anyway. Compare the actions of the UAW management in this case to what would undoubtedly happen if General Motors tried to impose a harsh contract proposal on its unionized employees!
* United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 971 in Massachusetts sacked 40 percent of its business agents with no warning. Imagine what would most likely happen if 40 percent of the members of the UFCW labor union suddenly lost their jobs without any advance notification!
* Dozens of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) staffers picketed the national headquarters when 75 employees were axed. The president of the Union of Union Representatives, which bargains for 210 SEIU organizers and staffers nation-wide said, "This union is supposed to be at the forefront of the progressive movement, but it can't seem to follow its own ideology."
* When the Teamsters built their new union hall in Houston, they did not use union labor because it was too expensive. Then why do labor unions try to impose project labor agreements (see point 9 on the previous page); Why the double standard? "There are serious solidarity issues here," Richard Shaw of the Harris County American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) moaned to the Houston Chronicle.
* When the AFL-CIO renovated its Washington, D.C., headquarters, it used non-union electricians and construction workers to "save us some money." Apparently, labor union leaders like to talk the talk but, when it calls for the money to come out of their own pockets, they don't like to walk the walk.
* Labor unions have even hired non-union workers to picket employers for hiring non-union workers! For example, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters paid the minimum wage to non-union protesters to picket Washington, D.C.'s McPherson Building for renovating with non-union carpenters. The Competitive Enterprise Institute couldn't help noticing that those picketers lacked health coverage, were not paid at the prevailing wage rate, and did not have labor union representation, which just happen to be the benefits that labor unions expect of everyone but themselves.
Labor Union Violence
Perhaps the most virulent labor unrest in the collective memory of many people living today would be the Kohler strike, which went on for several years in Kohler, Wisconsin, during the 1950s. Since nothing of such magnitude has occurred since that time, one might be inclined to believe that labor union violence has been on the wane. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The Supreme Court's 1973 Enmons decision opened the floodgates to an epidemic of labor union violence. The National Institute for Labor Relations Research has documented more than 11,000 incidents of labor union violence since 1975, including more than 200 acts of cold-blooded murder. For all practical purposes, labor unions are now allowed to function as something akin to extortion rackets operating under government protection, because that is the only way labor unions can survive on anything like a permanent basis.
Fortunately, the U.S. Congress has the power to overturn the Supreme Court's misguided Enmons ruling and hold labor union militants accountable for their contemptuous violations of labor law under the Hobbs Act. Pending legislation called the Freedom From Union Violence Act of 2012 would amend the Hobbs Act to hold labor union members responsible. In February Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia introduced the bill as H.R. 4074 in the House of Representatives. Three months later Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced the bill as S. 3178 in the U.S. Senate. Numerous surveys have revealed overwhelming nationwide support for closing the Enmons loophole. Unfortunately, so long as the Democrats are in control of the White House and the U.S. Senate, what the American people want will continue to be thwarted. But the upcoming elections in November offer a golden opportunity to remove from office those politicians who are giving tacit approval to labor union thuggery.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Facade That Is Labor Day: Labor Unions Have Tried to Convince the Public That Labor Day Is Meant to Celebrate the Accomplishments of Labor Unions. but If That Were True, There Wouldn't Be Much to Cheer. Contributors: Farmer, Brian - Author. Magazine title: The New American. Volume: 28. Issue: 17 Publication date: September 3, 2012. Page number: 17+. © 2009 American Opinion Publishing, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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