April 13, 2011


At an outing a few summers ago, a new acquaintance asked me what I did for a living. I replied that my wife, son, and I had started a small business to design and build laboratory equipment. His response was "if you have a job, thank a union". I have been perplexed by that response ever since and finally decided to look into the matter.

The percentage of private-sector union membership peaked in 1953. Since then it has dropped from 36% to 7% of the current 133 million labor force. Over that same period, American annual domestic production of goods and services (in constant dollars) increased by 6.7X with a 2X increase in our population. The national average wage went up by 13X while the cost of living only went up by 8.2X. My conclusion - today's workers are producing more and are better off financially than 1950's workers.

I'm convinced that unions played a significant role in getting economic justice for many workers from the mid-1800's to the mid-1900's. However, in the last 6 decades, they have played a declining role until they are no longer significant to most of the private-sector workforce.

Unions do seem to have played a big role in gradually changing our nation from one having a population focused on personal achievement to one with almost half of the population focused on entitlements. They did this by using members' dues to get people elected to office who share their ideology.

In the 1950's, public-sector union membership was almost zero. Today 37% of the 22 million public-sector employees pay union dues. Their union then uses some of those dues to get pro-union people elected. While private-sector unions have no say in who their bosses are, public-sector unions do; they make major contributions to election campaigns to help determine the individuals who will be controlling their income and benefits. I believe this is an incestuous relationship that is not in the best interest of our country.

So I do not agree with the person who inspired my quest - I have a job and it has nothing whatsoever to do with any union.

Rex A. Hoover