An Op-Ed Response -- ABC: Media too supportive of labor unions

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Editor’s Note: The Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. contacted Center Maryland and asked for an opportunity to respond to Josh Kurtz's recent column on the Washington Post's war against the Montgomery County's teachers union.

By Mike Henderson

I read with interest Josh Kurtz's piece on the clash between The Post and the Montgomery County Teachers Union until — as I ventured deeper into the story — I discovered Kurtz was actually taking the paper to task and accusing them of acting out of petty jealousy.

I’ve been heartened recently by a handful of opinion pieces – not just in the Washington Post, but there was a very good piece by Joe Klein in Time taking on the New York Teachers Union – where the media criticized labor for overreaching and not acting in the community’s best interests. But those examples are the exception and not the rule. By and large, the media remains a staunch ally of labor unions.

In fact, outside the media and the Democratic Party, labor unions are not very popular, as evidenced by their shrinking market share. There’s no mystery as to the Democrat Party’s devotion to the unions – labor is picking up the tab! More than 95 percent of union PAC money is directed to Democrats. The only union sector to experience any growth the last few years is in the public sector, where they enjoy the protection of the majority party, which, more often than not, is the Democrats. The math is fairly straight-forward: more public sector unions equal more PAC money for Democrats; more democrats equal more legislation that favors unions.

It’s a very symbiotic relationship.

The media’s devotion to the labor movement, however, is less clear. Yes, many reporters, electronic and print alike, happen to be union members. But I think the reason runs deeper. At the end of the day, a pro-labor sympathy is a core tenant of liberalism, which says that left to their own devices, management is going to wring profits out of their workforce, and if they have to sacrifice wages, benefits or even safety, to achieve their goals then so be it. All that stands in their way is the Democratic Party and a crusading press corps.

That mindset had merit in the first half of the last century, before the advent of OSHA and other worker protections that exist to this day. But we are a generation removed from a time when workers could be fired, for example, for having union sympathies or refusing to perform unsafe tasks. Labor will tell you they are out there fighting for the working man and woman, but if you dig below the surface, just a little, you will see they are more interested in protecting their fiethdom than they are with anything else.

Nearly nine out of 10 American workers have chosen not to join a union. It’s not that they don’t know any better, but they are put off by a system that nickels and dimes its members with dues and special assessments and increasingly advocates a political agenda that is far outside the mainstream.

Today’s worker also recoils at collective bargaining agreements that pit management against labor and champions seniority over individual effort. The majority of U.S. workers like the idea of being rewarded for individual performance and going the extra mile. That very concept is an anathema to teacher union leaders who oppose any initiative that introduces the concept of competition or increases teacher accountability. How else do you explain their feverish opposition to Charter Schools or voucher programs?

Is there still a place for labor unions in the American workforce? Perhaps (though the steel and the automotive industry might disagree). But if organized labor is going to be relevant beyond intellectual elites and the Democratic Party, they are going to have to kick out the powerful union bosses who war against management and care more for protecting their power base than they do the rank and file member.

Mike Henderson is president of ABC Baltimore.
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