The Changing Raison D’Etre of Organized Labor


Gail Heriot takes the birthday of labor hero Cesar Chavez as an opportunity to point out a change in union activities since Chavez’s heyday:

Things are different now. Instead of focusing on their members’ wages as the bottom line, union leaders are often unwavering in their support for the leftist party line. It’s about political power. In order to gain or keep it, they seek to keep the coalition together, even if it means sacrificing the short-term good of their own members. Fight global warming. Support abortion rights. Honor same-sex marriage. Elect Democrats. Any of those may or may not be good policy. But none is directly the concern of farmworkers as farmworkers.  Somehow union leaders have to believe that in the long run their members will be better off by maintaining the coalition.

The problem with this strategy is that it’s so easy to lose sight of the people you are supposed to be representing. The thinking gets very complex. It gets easy to confuse policies that benefit union leaders (or just make them happy) with policies that benefit union members.   One can always come up with a story about why the policies you personally favor will, in the long run, benefit the rank-and-file members too. Sometimes it’s just wishful thinking.  Keeping the goal simple is a better guarantee that the fiduciary will remain loyal to the beneficiaries’ interests.

One wonders about such things often, in Rhode Island, where the labor unions (particularly government labor unions) seem to be behind every left-wing cause, not only through support but also through funding.  Does every public school teacher in Rhode Island, for example, support the full range of their union’s activities?  The prospect seems… implausible.

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Indeed, this changing attitude — with unions’ seeming to treat labor services as the fundraising mechanism for their real purpose of progressive activism — may be a big contributor to opposition to unions.  It may also be a big factor leading to the Supreme Court’s pending ruling on compulsory union membership.

  • Not What I Was Looking for

    I don’t think your daily dose of union bashing is going to draw much traffic. Let’s spice it up with some Sinclair talk:

    @DanRather 4h4
    News anchors looking into camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, words meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn’t journalism. It’s propaganda. It’s Orwellian. A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses.

    • Justin Katz

      Oh, yes, I’m always open to proclamations about journalism from Dan Rather of Memogate fame.

      • Not What I Was Looking for

        I’ll tell you what, you take Alex Jones and I’ll take Dan Rather and we’ll see who’s closer to reality.

        • Mike678

          No thanks, troll. I’ll take Thomas Sowell and you can keep Rather. Now who is closer to reality?

  • Mike678

    Comprehension is just one of your issues, but I’m glad you understand that you have a problem. Now you just need to work on it. I’d state more but then I’d feel I was picking on the mentally challenged…

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Wasn’t it Dan Rather who gave us the erroneous (some would say made up) story about President Bush’s Air National Guard service?