The American labor union movement announces an major agreement that removes some of the barriers to the blending of private and public sector unions.
AFL-CIO and NEA Solidarity A historic agreement provides new ways for the 2.8 million members of the National Education Association (NEA) and the more than 9 million members of AFL-CIO unions to work together to strengthen and unify the union movement and meet the needs of working families. The new AFL-CIO/NEA Solidarity Partnership agreement, approved by the AFL-CIO Executive Council Feb. 27, 2006, allows local affiliates of the NEA to affiliate with the national AFL-CIO and join the AFL-CIO at the local and state levels.The AFL-CIO terms this is a historic moment and it may be in the same quiet way that the tide quietly stops rising and begins to flow in a different direction. The Education Intelligence Communiqué comments on the minutia of the agreements and on the larger picture of the changing nature of union control and influence in America. The big picture starts with the 2001 Bureau of Labor Statistics annual report.
“the percentage of American workers belonging to unions fell to 13.5 percent, its lowest share since World War II. Not only did the percentage decline, but the absolute number of union members fell by 200,000, even while the economy boomed.”While the decline in overall union membership is widely recognized, the grip of unionism on the government is underappreciated.
The most unionized sector of the entire U.S. economy (at 43.2 percent) is local government -- a category that includes police officers, firefighters, and, of course, public school employees. Though the released BLS data do not separate these occupations, a reasonable estimate of the percentage of local public school employees who belong to unions is somewhere in the 70-80 percent range.Unions exist for one purpose which is to protect the income of the members. Unions are faltering in the free exchange private sector economy and thriving in the demand tax public sector.
Should present trends continue, we will see in our lifetimes the total number of public sector union members overtake the total number of private sector union members. We may also see a labor force in which public school employees are the only growth sector in union membership. The implications of such a trend are enormous. First, we will have a private sector almost devoid of unions, being regulated by a large plurality of unionized government employees, whose unions’ membership growth will be directly tied to the size of government itself.If the conservative movement is sincere in the desire for reducing the size and economic burden of government, then it must move to restrict the spreading influence of unionized public employment. The AFL-CIO is offering itself to the Teachers Unions because they realize those tax funded unions are the best chance for preserving the private sector labor union movement.