Monday, July 25, 2005

Big Labor Shrinks A Tad

It seems that the AFL-CIO is going to lose a bit of power. Numerous union organizations, including the teamsters, and various service employees unions are departing the AFL-CIO.

It's easy to see why. Union members used to be one out of every three private sector employees. Now they are less than 8%. Any number of things would have caused it, but chief among the issues are that the unions have become anachronisms. They have been unable to protect workers from the vast workplace changes that have taken place over the past twenty years, but have continued to exact dues with fewer and fewer results.

Their president, John Sweeny, has become more of a hack for the Democrats than an advocate for the people whose money he takes but for whom he produces few results. Sure, the minimum wage may get boosted, but then certain folks get laid off because the costs of employment go with it.

The splinter groups will try to rival the power of the AFL-CIO to create some competition, but I think that this will only hasten both of their deaths. Labor unions were highly relevant when the manufacturing sector was heavily labor dependent. Today, automated factories have done away with the need for as much in the way of human labor. Make no mistake, the need exists, but not to the extent that it once did.

Despite the fact that they have become largely political organizations, and one of the chief financiers of the Democrats, labor unions have done much good in the 19th and 20th centuries. They increased our standard of living by demanding higher wages for the people that made corporate profits possible. As a result, businesses are remiss not to reward employees with decent salaries and benefits packages. And those employees spend that money, keeping the economy fired. Also, we owe them the two-day weekend. Things which we take for granted now were things that the unions fought to provide.

But it seems that the Jurassic period is ending, and the AFL-CIO dinosaur may be about to prepare itself for fossilization. Good luck to those who seek to adapt organized labor to the peculiarities of the 21st century. And good riddance to an organization that lost its direction and purpose.

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