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Union Power - Symptom of What Ails Us

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

Unionized government workers who have taken to the streets to protest moves in Wisconsin and Ohio to limit their power are doing us all a favor.


Our great nation today is sick and badly in need of therapy. The screams and protests of these government union workers should help all Americans identify these public unions as a major symptom of the sickness that is dragging us down and what we need to do to fix it.

America is about freedom – political freedom and economic freedom. Our nation has been a human laboratory which has shown, for all the world to see, that the moral truths that underlie our freedom produce bounty and prosperity.

It has been those moments when we have departed from the blueprint for freedom laid out so clearly in our Declaration of Independence – that our Creator endowed us with certain rights and that men form government to secure and protect those rights – when we have had pain.

The willingness of the founders to tolerate slavery in a country designed to be free produced a legacy of pain which haunts us still today.

Today’s departure is the extent to which we have allowed a culture of force to take hold, limiting our freedom and the natural bounty it produces. The two fronts of this culture of force is the growth of government, where the institution there to protect us is now telling us what to do, and with union power, which goes hand in hand with government power.

Freedom works so well because it automatically connects individuals with the common good. The way individuals improve their own life is through self improvement and better serving others.

The result is that one plus one equals three.

The premise of the culture of force is that individuals improve their lot not through personal responsibility, self improvement and service but by taking what others have through threats, force, and violence. One minus one equals zero.

At the height of World War II, President Roosevelt asked labor leader John L. Lewis to call off a coal miners’ strike that posed a serious threat to our war effort. Lewis’ reply was: “The president of the United States is paid to look after the interest of the nation; I am paid to look after the interests of the coal miners.”

The perverse idea that we can survive as a nation with a culture of force in which what is good for one and what is good for all are at odds with each other has taken its toll on union reality. The percent of the private sector workforce that is unionized is less than a third today of what it was fifty years ago.

But the natural alliance of government monopoly power and union power has grown through government workers’ unions. This perversity too is now tottering as government unions use the force model to enrich themselves at the direct expense of taxpayers to the point of bankrupting us all.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, argues the opposite in a Wall Street Journal opinion column. He extols the culture of force and claims that it is “un-American” to limit the ability of unionized government workers to collectively bargain.

But where does he turn to as his source for the “right” to collectively bargain? Certainly not the American Declaration of Independence. He cites the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yes, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which makes no reference to God. Yes, the United Nations, whose Human Rights Council includes China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and included, until just recently, Libya.

This is the vision of freedom – power, force, and materialism - that inspires today’s union movement.

This is the disease that pretends to be the cure. Fortunately, its days are numbered.

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