I live in Colorado, where the very pleasant, personally appealing Mark Udall is running as a Democrat for the Senate while supporting a very unpleasant, unappealing plan to help subvert precious American principles and exploit workers.
His race against Republican Bob Schaffer is an important one that that could help give the Democratic party congressional control of a kind enabling it to do pretty much as it pleases, and there is no doubt about one objective. It’s to breathe new life into the near-corpse of unionism, to resuscitate a deservedly moribund movement that cannot do enough favors for a certain political party that then does favors in return.
Unions have done favors for Udall on the order of $1 million in campaign contributions during his years as a House representative, it has been reported. Maybe, however, it’s his own ideological fantasies that are more nearly causing him to speak out on behalf of something oxymoronically called the Employee Free Choice Act.
There is nothing free about it. It’s nothing less than a way of coercing unwilling workers into forming unions that will then take money out of their pockets whether they like it or not and do heaven knows what with it.
Chiefly what the legislation aspires to accomplish is the end of secret ballots in elections to certify unions by relying solely on a system of publicly signing cards that subject voters to pressure from peers and brow-beating union organizers. It simultaneously restricts the speech of employers, thereby keeping any debate from being much of a debate.
When someone like Udall says that, well, all of this is needed to balance things, to make up for advantages businesses have, you want to scream to him that this is the talk of the tyrant, always willing to circumvent liberty and make things worse for people in the name of rescuing them.
The truth is that unionizing advantages have long resided under law not with businesses, but with the unions themselves. I began to realize as much in my 20s, when I went to work for a newspaper in Albany, N.Y., and found I had no choice but to join a union and have my dues automatically taken from my paycheck. What I got in return were union representatives that repeatedly bumbled negotiations with the company and additional assessments when a newspaper across the continent went on strike.
There’s a mythology about unions that really ought to be tossed out the window. Yes, it’s true that they helped effect needed workplace reforms in the early days of industrialism and that members were sometimes subjected to terrible, even murderous treatment, but those days are long gone, and there’s another side.
Unions happen to have a history of corruption and cheating workers, of ties to organized crime, of extreme leftism, of ugly racism, of destabilizing the economy with strikes based on financial misapprehensions, of stifling innovation with ridiculous rules, of crippling companies and even putting them out of business for no good reason.
Meanwhile, federal and state laws have stepped in with a wide array of worker protections, and most companies on their own recognize the need of fair, decent treatment of those who produce their profits. It’s no accident that union membership in the private sector has fallen to something like 7.4 percent.
The public has looked at the Democratic-controlled Congress and found it wanting, giving it an approval rating of just 9 percent, way, way below the approval rating of our historically unpopular president. Let the Democrats extend their control as expected, and put a Democrat in the White House at the same time, and that approval rating could drop still further.
My advice is not to be too quick in figuring your representatives in Congress are exceptions to the rule of irresponsibility. Wherever you happen to live, look closely at what candidates of both parties are actually proposing, not just the rhetoric about golden days being right around the corner if you vote for them. Pay attention, for one thing, to their stand on forcing unions back into the forefront of American life. I have, and I can promise that the information will influence my vote.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)