SHADOWBOSSES: GOVERNMENT UNIONS CONTROL AMERICA AND ROB TAXPAYERS BLIND
By Mallory Factor with Elizabeth Factor
Center Street, $24.99, 336 pages
Mallory and Elizabeth Factor have written an important and powerful new book, "Shadowbosses," that explains the symbiotic relationship between the modern Democratic Party and today's labor unions. One is not possible without the other. Democratic politicians pass laws that give union leaders power over workers, and union leaders use that power to take "dues" money from workers to give to Democratic politicians.
Last year, in 2011, 16.3 million workers who belong to unions (in every sense) had $14 billion taken from them in union dues. Much of that money flowed into political campaigns as cash and to pay "volunteers." Labor unions are the skeleton and muscle of the modern Democratic Party.
Before the federal government passed the Wagner Act in 1935 forcing workers to join unions as a condition of employment, only 8 percent of Americans chose to join unions voluntarily. Thanks to Franklin Roosevelt's legislation giving unions power over workers, once a union was in place, it did not need to ask workers to join. They paid dues or did not work.
Before the creation of government-empowered unions, the Democratic Party was the party of the discredited Confederacy, and from 1860 to 1932, of 15 presidents only two were Democrats: Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. Wilson only won because Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Progressive, splitting the Republican vote.
When Herbert Hoover imposed massive tariffs, hiked the new income tax to 75 percent and spent like Barack Obama, he deepened a recession, and Franklin Roosevelt was able to win the 1932 election. FDR continued Hoover's policies of higher taxes, "stimulus" spending and government regulations. He might have lost the next elections. But FDR created a new extension of government -- labor unions with powers over workers to extract union dues. With government relatively small, those unions were in factories and there was a limit to how high wages and work rules could go without bankrupting businesses. Union power was constrained by its interest in the health of the overall economy.
Over time, unions killed off much of the auto, steel, mining and manufacturing industries in the United States. They went on the prowl, looking for new sources of dues money -- and they found it in government workers: police, fire, teachers and generic bureaucrats.
Today, most union members are paid for with tax dollars. They work for the government. Of the 14.8 million union members in the United States, 7.6 million work for government and only 7.2 million work in the private sector. Only 6.9 percent of private sector workers belong to unions, but fully 37 percent of government workers belong to unions.
Why can President Obama impose expensive regulations on coal miners and steel workers? Because those industries he is damaging are small potatoes compared to the public-sector unions that now fund his campaigns. He doesn't care about unemployed coal miners. They are not paying customers. Most miners now are non-union.
One can understand Mr. Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi after reading "Shadowbosses." Why did Mr. Obama throw billions into "stimulus" spending that made the recession worse? That is easy to understand. The "stimulus" spending programs of almost $1 trillion were largely designed to subsidize state and local government workers who pay dues back to the Democratic Party's structures. Government spending turns into the public funding of Democratic campaign spending, with some taken off the top by the well-paid union bosses.
How could Mr. Obama show such contempt for working Americans when he announced in the midst of massive and growing unemployment that the private sector was "doing fine"? Simple. Mr. Obama sees his political support flowing from more government workers. That was and is his focus.
The General Motors bailout? It was a bailout of the unionized members of the United Auto Workers. Who got screwed? Retired Americans who held bonds. Americans who worked for auto dealers were laid off by the thousands -- they were not dues-paying union members. Salaried workers lost much of their pensions -- but not union members.
Why did Mr. Obama shut down the successful program in Washington, D.C. that allowed a few thousand parents to send their children to private schools of their choice? This attack on black parents and children and their hopes for a better future seemed surprising when it was one of Mr. Obama's first official acts as our nation's first black president. But "Shadowbosses" makes it easier to understand. Those children's lives and futures were nothing to Mr. Obama compared to the cash and political support of the teacher's unions' leadership. One must have priorities. Mr. Obama does, and black children are not dues-paying anything in his world.
The final chapters of "Shadowbosses" offer a glimmer of hope. The 2010 elections showed that Americans have begun to notice that their taxes go to finance government workers who are better paid than they are. The average American worker in the private sector earns in pay, benefits and pension about $60,000 a year. State and local workers get $80,000, and federal workers earn $120,000. Thus, the 19.2 million state and local workers each earn in total compensation $20,000 more than taxpayers -- that is a total overpayment of $384 billion each year. No government service flows from those overpayments.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker passed legislation that stops unions from withholding dues from workers through their pay checks. Now they have to ask workers if they wish to pay for the honor of being a union member. Tens of thousands are voting with their feet. No longer forced to pay, they are telling us what they really think of the union leadership. Indiana became the 23rd state to pass a Right to Work law, allowing all workers the right to say "no" to union dues as a condition of employment.
The tide is turning, slowly. "Shadowbosses" shows how we got into this mess and how America can and must now deconstruct the Frankenstein's monster of compulsory unionism cleverly created by big government to perpetuate big government.
Grover G. Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and co-author of "Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future" (Wiley, 2012).