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Big Labor: Conquering Zeros

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Unions have been demanding a $15 minimum wage. But when passed, they turn around and seek an exemption for union businesses, effectively denying their members the fruits of their victory. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, a member of the 1,200-strong California Federation of Labor, recently did just that. It led a fight for a citywide $15 minimum wage—while vehemently opposing an exemption for non-profits and small businesses.  Immediately after the legislation was passed, however, they began lobbying for an exemption for unionized businesses.  

This was too much for even the union-friendly Los Angeles Times, which captioned its editorial on the subject, “L.A. Labor Leader’s Hypocrisy on Minimum Wage.” In its defense, the Federation disclosed that its hypocrisy was not limited to Los Angeles County, that this is simply a standard exemption in minimum wage laws passed by California cities at the behest of the labor movement.

This is not just hypocritical—it makes government complicit in Mafia-type shakedowns of non-union employers. Labor bosses throw workers and their “living wage” under the proverbial bus in order to force non-union businesses into unionizing (it’s cheaper to unionize than pay $15 an hour). Unionizing ever more companies—and bringing in more union dues to support an oversized union bureaucracy and give millions to sympathetic candidates—is the real endgame.

Sadly, these kind of deceitful tactics have become the norm for the labor movement.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) funds “Fight for Fifteen” and similar campaigns throughout the country. But at UFCW-organized businesses, employees are paid significantly less under UFCW contracts. According to a study conducted by the Manhattan Institute, a typical UFCW contract with The Kroger Company pays cashiers from $7.25 to $10.00 a hour, depending on age and length of time on the job. Managers make from $11.05 to $13.80 an hour.

The UFCW also bankrolled the acronym-challenged shell group, OURWalmart (a.k.a. the Organization United for Respect at Walmart), which targeted the United States’ largest and most successful retailer for unionization. Its five-year long effort has been spectacularly unsuccessful for one reason: it failed to gain the support of Walmart employees. Nevertheless, it consistently claims it was and is on the cusp of victory.

Now, disenfranchised by UFCW, OURWalmart re-launched itself trumpeting the fact that it has 60,000 “participants” engaged on its Facebook page. Anyone involved in organizing large groups of people understands the meaninglessness of this statement. “Participants” does not mean Walmart employees—which effectively defeats the purpose of the organization altogether.

Think of it this way: the labor movement routinely provides thousands of foot soldiers on a moment’s notice to campaign for Democratic candidates during election time. 60,000 Facebook participants is a pathetic statistic, especially when considering the size and scope of the outreach capabilities of OURWalmart’s new godfather—the AFL-CIO.  

What’s worse is the political “pay to play” between unions and Democrats. Every election cycle, unions spend hundred of millions of their members’ hard-earned money via union dues supporting Democratic candidates. Fearful of losing one of their biggest sources of campaign funds, these candidates, once elected, will do anything to support the unions’ efforts to expand their membership. As former Governor and Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean says, “labor unions are super PACs…super PACs that Democrats like.”

Nobody has received more largess from unions than President Obama—more than a billion dollars over his two campaigns—and no one has returned so much in kind. Most blatantly, President Obama sought to pack the NLRB with unconstitutional recess appointments, which were unanimously set aside by an incredulous Supreme Court.

So what did he do next? He threw the unions a life preserver of course, by breaking with a 70-year-old, bi-partisan tradition that strongly discourages appointing active members of organized labor to the NLRB. The militant partisanship of these NLRB board members has led to an array of new rules that undermine worker and employer rights.—all for the benefit of Big Labor.

For example, the Board’s “ambush election” measure seeks to muzzle employers prior to an election and deny workers their right to hear the other side of the union story. It also denies them the opportunity to validate the promises a union may make to get their votes.

Finally, in order to make union organizing easier, the Obama NLRB redefined who is an “employer” that should be subject to union organizing. Incredibly, now the “employer” can include all other employers that provide the principal employer with a service.  For example, if you own a construction company you can be held accountable for the labor practices of your contractors.

Enough is enough.  Times have changed.  Globalization, the desire of modern workers to have a more cooperative relationship with their employer, the increased sensitivity of employers to the needs of their employees, and federal and state laws protecting workers have reduced workers’ desire for union representation. Instead of recognizing these realities and satisfying itself with a reduced role in the workplace, the labor movement is seeking to force itself on workers through dishonesty and intimidation.

It’s time to hold these bad actors to account, for the sake of job creators, workers, and our economy.


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