Mallory Factor is a Forbes columnist, senior editor of “Money and Politics” for The Street.com and professor of international politics and American government at The Citadel. Formerly chairman of the New York Public Asset Fund and member of the board of governors of the New York State Banking Department, he co-founded the Monday Meeting, an elite confab of intellectuals, financiers, journalists and politicians that gets together to confer about the pressing issues of the day. His new bestseller, “Shadowbosses,” shines the light on how “government unions control America and rob taxpayers blind.” You can find out more about Mr. Factor’s work at: malloryfactor.com.
Decker: Your new book is called “Shadowbosses.” What does that term mean in general and how does it apply to national politics?
Factor: In our own lives, our shadowbosses are the people we really work for, the people who hold us accountable for the decisions we make in our lives. Unfortunately, as I found while writing this book, for many of our political leaders, their shadowbosses are the government-employee union bosses. The shadowbosses are there to pat politicians on the back when they support the union agenda, and to tear them down if they act against those interests. Our government is no longer run by “We, the People.” It’s run by government-employee union bosses who spend billions on politics and expect their client politicians to do their bidding. These shadowbosses dictate which legislation to support, how much workers should be paid and what the future of our country should look like. It is time for the American people to ask our politicians who their shadowbosses are: the government-employee union bosses or the American people?
Decker: How are shadowbosses relevant to our out-of-control bureaucracy? What is their effect on policy?
Factor: The shadowbosses drive government spending. When our governments make outrageous concessions to the unions, our government becomes immensely bigger and more expensive. The government-employee unions don’t bankrupt our government like private-sector unions drive some private corporations out of business. The American taxpayers are on the hook. We show that union-supported politicians deliver votes that grow the number of government employees and their compensation, making our government ever more bloated and inefficient. These same politicians also tend to cast other liberal votes: anti-business votes, anti-Second Amendment votes and anti-family-values votes. This means union dues are used to support policies that go against the views of rank-and-file union members. The data show union members are more conservative than their union bosses and are given very little information about how their dues are spent.
Decker: The political power of labor unions is based on corruption and thuggery. What kinds of intimidation techniques have the public-sector unions used to extend their stranglehold on the government workforce?
Factor: As we just saw in Wisconsin, threats, intimidation, violence and attempts to sabotage the political process are still very much in the union arsenal. Strikes and work slowdowns of teachers and other vital government workers are used regularly to intimidate communities into giving in to union demands, even in jurisdictions where strikes of government workers are illegal. But these days, government-employee unions use money — more than crowbars — to intimidate politicians into voting to preserve and grow their dues empire. These government unions keep careful track of whether politicians they support deliver for them, and they reward their loyal friends and punish their enemies. Outright violence is still very much with us though and happens three times as often in non-right-to-work states as in right-to-work states.
Decker: When you get down to it, this is all about cash, isn’t it? Money means control. What kind of bucks are in play in this racket, and where does this fortune go? How would you characterize the relationship between Big Labor and the Democratic Party?
Factor: Unions collect at least $14 billion in dues annually and only spend 20 to 30 percent of the take on representing workers, by their own accounts. A substantial amount of the remaining money is spent on political organizing and activity. People think that the labor movement is a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, but they’re wrong. Today’s Democratic Party is a subsidiary of the labor movement. Government-employee unions literally fund the Democratic Party and put most Democratic politicians in office. Unions support Democrats almost 100 percent. In 2010, for instance, more than 94 percent of union political money went to Democrats, even though around 40 percent of union households generally vote Republican.
It wasn’t always this way. Republicans and Democrats used to agree that collective bargaining for government employees is harmful to our nation. Even union officials thought government-employee unions were bad. George Meany, the former head of the AFL-CIO, actually said, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” Then Democratic politicians realized they could use government-employee unions as a piggybank for their election campaigns. In “Shadowbosses,” we show how unions got President Kennedy in 1962 to sign Executive Order 10988 to extend exclusive union representation to federal workers. Since then, government-employee unions have taken over the union movement and our federal, state and local governments.
Decker: What needs to be done to cut off this hidden hand that exerts so much dirty influence in the halls of power?
Factor: The ultimate goal is to give American workers their freedom back. Workers must have the freedom to sell their own labor without compelling them to pay tribute to unions to keep their jobs. If workers are in a union, we must give them the right to a secret-ballot vote on a regular basis on whether to have a union represent their workplace. When given the freedom to choose in Wisconsin, over half of unionized workers chose not to be part of a union. If all workers were given freedom to choose whether or not to join a union, government-employee unions would have far less cash to influence our political process and control our government.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, 2011).