Monday, June 5th, 2006 at 6:00 pm
Ever since Reagan fired the air-traffic controllers, unions have faced the most hostile environment of any organization in America. The legal, political and cultural environment has resulted in a decline of union membership from 16% in 1989, to 8% of private sector jobs in 2004. And that’s down from the 1950’s high water mark of 36%. Why and how that happened gives insight into the AFL-CIO/SEIU split we see in labor. Let’s look at the why’s and how’s.
You can’t talk about the legal environment without consulting The Source – the US Constitution. The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Consider how easy it easy to “peaceably assemble” as a church or corporation.
When I was a kid, many found Southern Baptists to be insufficiently conservative. As a result, a Free Will Baptist delegation was invited to discuss a new church in our area. The first cottage prayer meeting was held at our house. Shortly thereafter, property and a building was leased, and voila! – a new church was born. Minimal paperwork, few regulations, no government interference. Easy as falling off a log. Just like the First Amendment says.
A professor of mine formed a Delaware corporation, the sole asset of which was his sailboat. Why? If one of his sailing guests were injured, they could only sue the corporation, not my professor. He recouped the filing and maintenance costs in reduced insurance premiums. To form a corporation, you basically send the right papers to the state, pay the fee and you’re off and running. Easy as falling off a log. The state can’t stop you. And forming a proprietorship is even easier.
Contrast that with forming a union. Opposed by business and government, citizens fought and died for the right to “peaceably assemble” as a union. When’s the last time anybody died forming a church or company?....