Unions should rethink political strategy in light of pending SCOTUS decision

Despite a historic collapse in the private sector, public sector union labor remains strong, representing about 36 percent of the workforce. That prominence has been under attack from many quarters in recent years as state-level “reforms” seek to whittle away union strength. After hearing oral arguments on Jan. 11 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to join the national legislative and executive thumping of public sector unions.

The case concerns objections from public sector workers who have declined to join unions but who are required to reimburse them for the cost of collective bargaining on their behalf. In a decision expected in June, the court may conclude that such a requirement constitutes a violation of workers’ free expression; union supporters argue that allowing such “free riders” would constitute a crippling blow to public sector unions. However the court decides, organized labor should use this opportunity to reintroduce itself to the American public, which seems no longer to appreciate the necessary role unions play as a counterweight to otherwise unrestrained capital. The increase in economic and political inequity and the decline of the nation’s middle class correlate neatly with the loss of union strength. Revitalizing unions will not be easy, but it must be done.

Advertisement

Unions should reconsider their misinvestments in political campaigns—more than $140 million in 2014 alone—and redirect those considerable resources to the hyper-local, street-level organizing that built Big Labor in the first place. A public relations campaign suitable to our social-mediated times should remind Americans what they owe to organized labor and what they risk losing by its further diminishment.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Ernest Martinson
1 year 8 months ago
Revitalizing unions must be done? By government coercion? Labor and other interests are free to form associations but should not be forced into associations. Correlation does not imply causation regarding the increase in economic inequity along with the decrease in union strength. Government policy as usual is the major cause of inequity. For example, the redistribution of income through taxation and subsidies has a lot to do with economic inequity. The biggest pigs crowd out the smaller at the public trough.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. She is pictured as her husband speaks at Peachtree Academy in Covington, Georgia, in this Feb. 29, 2012, file photo. (CNS photo/Erik S. Lesser, EPA)
23 senators voted against Ms. Gingrich’s confirmation, a departure from previous nominations that faced little opposition.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 16, 2017
Changing churches, confessionals and saints through the centuries
Raymond A. SchrothOctober 16, 2017
It is not technology we should fear. It is ourselves.
Simcha FisherOctober 16, 2017
Catholics Against the Death Penalty-Southern California march during the 2017 Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, Calif., in February. (CNS photo/Andrew Cullen, Reuters)
“We absolutely welcome the pope’s strong statement on this issue; we welcome the moral clarity and the leadership he is showing.”
Kevin ClarkeOctober 16, 2017