Freedom Foundation

Recent Labor Unrest a Sign of Union Weakness

This Labor Day, the Oregonian Oregon Live featured an article headlined “Labor disputes across Oregon heat up on Labor Day”. It was credited to reporter Jeff Manning, but organized labor leaders wouldn’t have gotten a more sympathetic treatment if they’d written it themselves.

Manning mentions in passing last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. ASFCME, which ended the practice of forced union dues — but only for workers in the public sector.

Janus merely underscores the fact that today’s unions — government unions are the best example — are more about themselves, their growth and their political agenda than they are about the workers. It’s no accident that Manning concedes “most disputes involve public employees,” though most of his examples come from the private sector.

Government unions — awakened from their long slumber by organizations like the Freedom Foundation, which works tirelessly to inform public employees about their newly affirmed rights — have finally figured out that, much to their chagrin, they do have to expend a little energy actually representing workers and not just playing politics on the leftist, unicorn fringe.

Manning’s explanation for the increase in labor unrest is that workers are fed up with “flat wages” and the “false promises of a trickle-down economy.”

More likely, increased labor activity is driven by a jaw clamping down on government unions: The upper jaw being management that, after years of overreach by unions, can no longer afford concessions if it is to provide public service and a lower jaw fueled by worker disgust with high dues (many public employees pay over $1,000 per year) that fund too little representation and too much left-leaning political activity, often contrary to the values of the workers.

Freed from the bondage of unions, which restrict pay and advancement based on seniority rather than competence, workers now find abundant opportunity in an economy where unemployment has shrunk to about 3.6 percent.

Far from being an environment in which “workers feel expendable and easily replaced,” workers — especially those with marketable skills, a strong work ethic or both — have little trouble finding lucrative employment amidst a field of help wanted signs.

Here at the Freedom Foundation, we will continue to inform public employees they have a First Amendment right to free speech and association, and that they no longer must pay dues to a union more concerned with its own welfare and political agenda than it is the workplace concerns of those paying for it all.

Mike Nearman is the Oregon director or the Freedom Foundation. He can be reached at MNearman@FreedomFoundation.com