State of the Unions
Patrick F. Cannon
Trade, craft, professional and industrial unions have done much to improve the incomes and working conditions of their members. It was a long struggle that began before the turn of the 20th Century, when workers were largely at the mercy of their employers. Through their efforts – and yes, suffering – we now have laws governing wages, hours and working conditions. Many of my relatives were union members; when I was younger, I myself belonged to two.
And I support the right of employees to form new unions; indeed, this right is enshrined in the law. And reluctantly, I support these unions right to support causes and political candidates so long as corporations have this same right. It’s not my money (at least directly), so it’s none of my business. It is, however, my business when this support is paid for with my money clearly and directly, i.e., when it is spent by public employee unions.
Frankly, I wish public employee unions had never been permitted, but, as they say, that train has left the station and it ain’t coming back. But I wonder why they should use my money to support political parties and candidates I oppose. In Illinois, those candidates are Democrats. Now, I do vote for some Democrats on the Federal level, but do my best to vote for Republicans locally. Why? Simply because the Illinois Democrats have formed an unholy alliance with the public employee unions.
It works this way: The unions provide money and bodies to Democrats; in return, the governor and legislators don’t do anything to diminish in any way the great deals they’ve given the unions over many years. One example is the pension debt. In the last year, it increased by $7 billion, and now stands at $144.4 billion. And despite the annual budget crisis – exacerbated by the pandemic – Governor Pritzker has not laid off a single state employee; or even asked them to take a slight pay cut or a few furlough days. This in a state that had unemployment spike to 16 percent! Shared sacrifice? You gotta be kidding!
Again, the public employee unions aren’t going away, but I believe they should not be permitted to donate money or time to political parties or candidates. This one step would instantly eliminate one road block to true fiscal reform in Illinois (and other states where public employee unions wield similar power).
It’s true that the Supreme Court has said that union members need not pay that portion of their dues that supports political causes or candidates. That’s, frankly, little more than a chimera. Let me put it simply: I don’t want my tax dollars to pay public employees whose union dues is used to support candidates I oppose (or even those I support). In essence, they are using my dough to get more of my dough. How can that be right?
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon