Unions hoping to strike a blow for Big Labor got a black eye from Black Friday shoppers instead. Empowered by their role in President Obama's re-election earlier this month, union bosses were surprised to learn that for most Americans, sympathy for left-wing economics stops at the superstores' automatic doors.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union had urged employees at Wal-Mart, Target and other nonunion retailers to walk off the job the day after Thanksgiving -- the hottest shopping day of the year -- to protest purportedly inadequate wages and benefits. The plan turned out to be a bust, as walkout participants numbered only in the hundreds nationwide, with little impact on the outlets' bottom line. Tens of millions eschewed labor solidarity for holiday savings.
Union chieftains were among the first supporters President Obama welcomed to the White House after Election Day, but the rank and file looking for love from bargain-seekers after Turkey Day got the cold shoulder. One shopper arriving at a Dallas Wal-Mart at midnight on Black Friday told The Huffington Post she supported the cause of striking workers, but not strongly enough to pass up a deal on a new TV.
Wal-Mart announced at the end of the day that it had set records for shopper traffic at its 3,971 U.S. stores and only about 50 of its 1.3 million employees nationwide had participated in the stunt. By the firm's count, 22 million showed up for the big sales event; that's about 1 out of every 14 Americans.
Holding a union card is no longer the attractive proposition it used to be. In 1983, 17.7 million Americans belonged to unions, but the number had declined to 14.8 million by 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That steep decline doesn't apply to public-sector unions under the Obama administration, where membership reaches 37 percent of the government bureaucracy.
With Mr. Obama ensconced in the Oval Office for four more years, union officials sense an opportunity to reclaim lost glory. Nonunion shops such as Wal-Mart and Target present inviting targets for organized labor, but overreach can be dangerous. Recently, the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union called a strike against Hostess Brands Inc., maker of Twinkies and other iconic snack foods, demanding better wages and benefits. When the company warned that a strike would trigger bankruptcy, the union self-destructively pressed on as if management were bluffing. It wasn't; Hostess shut down last week, throwing more than 18,000 out of work.
Instead of forcing employees to pay monthly dues to fat-cat labor bosses, open shops represent the free market at its best. They employ millions of Americans in jobs with decent pay while ensuring that consumers receive quality products at the lowest prices. As Black Friday demonstrated, when people are free to choose where to shop and work, the human stampede heads toward store entrances, not exits.
It's a sign of the times that unions keep demanding more goodies even when the money has run out. Americans deserve the freedom to enjoy the holidays -- and the shopping -- without being hassled by Grinches from Big Labor.
The Washington Times
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