Bring Federal Labor Law Into The 21st Century

A New York Times headline in January told the story: "Union membership in U.S. fell to 70-year low last year." The actual numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were even more dismal than suggested by the headline: Whereas at its peak in the mid-1950s, nearly 40 percent of all employed Americans were union members, by 2010, it had fallen to a mere 11.9 percent, counting both public- and private-sector employment. In the private sector alone, a mere 6.9 percent of all workers were unionized, the lowest in more than a century. Also notable here is that in 2009, for the first time ever, more than half of all union workers were employed by tax-funded local, state or federal governments rather than profit-driven private businesses.

These trends became evident at the same time that union leaders had unlimited access to what were most likely their most sympathetic president and Congress ever, in great part because the labor chieftains spent nearly half a billion dollars on behalf of Democratic incumbents and candidates in the 2006 and 2008 elections. With President Obama and a Democratic Congress, unions appeared certain to get their No. 1 legislative priority -- card check, which would have abolished secret ballots in workplace organizing elections. With card check as law and Obama putting labor favorites in all the key positions at the Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board, surely the decline in union membership would be reversed.

Instead, card check is a dead letter, and about all that labor has left is a bunch of Obama appointees who are determined to grab as much power as possible via the federal bureaucracy. Nowhere is this more evident than at NLRB, where board member and former union lawyer Craig Becker has pushed the union regulatory agenda to radical new extremes.

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