July 17, 2005

It Won't Work

I am the son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers. Dad was active and outspoken in the civil rights movement in the 1960's, a truly noble cause that rightfully sought to extend the principles of America to all citizens.

In contrast, an article entitled Labor and Religion Reunite: The AFL-CIO is sending forth seminary students to shore up the waning clout of unions by reviving the connection with a traditional ally highlights a pale imitation of that historical effort in what is nothing more than a phony attempt to pretty up the self-interest of labor unions and masquerade it as a noble cause:

The office manager pressed forward, glowering, his muscles straining the seams of his pinstriped suit. "I'm asking you to step outside," he said.

The nine men and women who had taken over the lobby of AlliedBarton Security Services did not budge.

Rabbinical student clasped hands with Islamic scholar and Methodist seminarian. Heads bowed, eyes closed, they sang "Amazing Grace." And prayed that the security guards employed here would join the Service Employees International Union.

Struggling to regain power and prestige for the sagging labor movement, the AFL-CIO has hired more than three dozen aspiring ministers, imams, priests and rabbis to spread the gospel of union organizing across the nation this summer.

The program seeks to recreate the historic partnership between faith and labor, an alliance that for nearly a century gave union leaders an aura of moral authority and their cause the stamp of divine righteousness.

As it prepares for a national convention next week in Chicago, the AFL-CIO faces stark challenges: Less than 8% of private-sector workers belong to unions, compared with more than 35% in the 1950s...

Labor leaders are responding with programs to overhaul their image. They want unions to be seen as a dynamic force for social justice, not as a stodgy special interest.

That's where the seminary students come in.

For $300 a week, they're organizing security guards in metropolitan Washington, carpenters in Boston, hotel maids in Chicago, meatpackers in Los Angeles. Some spend their days with the workers, trying to give them courage to mobilize. Others visit local congregations to urge solidarity with the union cause...

Most of the interns can readily quote the religious text that moved them to apply for the labor internship, which is cosponsored by Interfaith Worker Justice, a nonprofit advocacy group...

Historically, religious leaders have been among labor's most steadfast partners...

...the AFL-CIO hopes will spring from the internships, which have been in place for six summers. If quoting the Bible can persuade a fearful maid to join the union, great. But the real goal is to inspire a generation of pastors to put economic justice and, in particular, union-building at the center of their ministry...

The last paragraph defines the key underlying assumption in this effort: It could only work if there was a tangible link between economic justice and union-building.

But, while there will always be some examples of inappropriate management behavior in a sinful world, most people realize this is no longer the 1930's when labor unions served a valuable role in our society.

Now, the labor unions are just another big business albeit with one important difference: They add no economic value and only serve to raise costs, putting certain companies at risk of becoming uncompetitive in an increasingly competitive global economy. That is a strategy for job losses and the reduction in many people's standard of living over time.

Happy talk aside, it won't work. And it won't because either you deal with economic reality or it will deal with you - on its own terms.


Bankrupt pensions, extraordinary healthcare insurance benefits, outrageous demands by private and public sector unions, lousy decision-making by some management teams as well as misguided incentives and marketplace meddling by government have been discussed previously on Anchor Rising:

Public Sector Issues
Misguided Incentives Drive Public Sector Taxation
A Call to Action: Responding to Government Being Neither Well-Meaning Nor Focused on the Public Interest
Bankrupt Public Pensions: A Time Bomb That Will Explode
Why Truly Free Markets & Timely, Transparent Information Are Needed to Protect the Freedom of American Citizens
RI Public Pension Problems
The Cocoon in which Entitled State Employees Live
The Union's Solution for the Future: Get More People in Unions
Bankrupt Public Pensions, Part II
How Public Pensions Make People Well-Off at Taxpayers' Expense
Public and Private Unions
Now Here is a Good Idea
Rhode Island Unions Again Resist True Pension Reform
"Shut Up & Teach"
Paycheck Protection: Allowing You to Keep Your Own Hard-Earned Monies

Private Sector Issues
Government Meddling Creates Marketplace Distortions, Increasing Long-Term Costs
If You Won't Deal With Economic Reality, Then It Will Deal With You
Underfunding Pensions, Public and Private, can Hurt Taxpayers
Why Truly Free Markets & Timely, Transparent Information Are Needed to Protect the Freedom of American Citizens
Outrageous Employee Compensation Liabilities Continue to Haunt General Motors; Will American Taxpayers End Up Paying the Bill?
Why the Big Three Auto Companies Could Easily Fail
Airline Industry: How Government Meddling in Marketplace Costs Taxpayers & Consumers
The Ongoing Squabble Between General Motors & the United Auto Workers Union