Yes, this is the same elegant creature who screeched about "taking out" Tea Party "son-of-a-bitches" [sic] at a presidential event last year. In case you'd forgotten, both the White House and the DNC conspicuously declined to repudiate his vituperation at the time. Now Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. has taken his anger mismanagement show to CNN, seething about an incipient "civil war" in Michigan:
Jimmy Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Tuesday he expects Michigan unions and lawmakers to break out into "civil war" after the state legislature passed right-to-work bills that would weaken unions' power. "This is just the first round of a battle that's going to divide this state. We're going to have a civil war," Hoffa said on CNN's Newsroom. "What they're doing is basically betraying democracy," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin. "If there's any question here, let's put it on the ballot and let the people of Michigan decide what's good for Michigan." Proponents of the legislation say it gives workers more freedom, while opponents say a less robust union presence will negatively affect workers’ rights. Hoffa also argued that those who don't pay union dues will be considered "free riders,” as they’re getting the same benefits from union representation without the cost.
Don't bother calling; the civility police are off duty these days. Let's address each of Hoffa's points: (1) The "war" statement doesn't sound like a lamentation; it sounds like a threat. Hoffa sounds almost giddy about the division and acrimony, like he's thirsty for more. Based on yesterday's displays of organized labor's appalling thuggery, people would be wise to take him at his word.
(2) On the demand for a ballot initiative, two points. First, Michiganders elect a governor and a state legislature for a reason. It's called "indirect democracy," and it's the form of government upon which the republic was founded. Second, as it happens, Michigan voters actually had an opportunity to enshrine union "rights" in their state constitution just five weeks ago. They overwhelmingly chose not to do so. Bear in mind that this is a state that Barack Obama won fairly comfortably. Is Hoffa aware of these facts?
Democrats are complaining about the speed with which Republicans are acting, but the truth is, organized labor has seen this coming for a while. Stung by the success of Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to limit collective bargaining in Wisconsin -- Walker's actions have resulted in more money, more teachers and better conditions in schools around the state -- they tried to make sure it wouldn't happen again. In Michigan, they pushed what was known as Proposal 2, which would have enshrined union collective bargaining powers in the state constitution. If Proposal 2 had passed, what state GOP lawmakers are doing now would have been literally unconstitutional. But Proposal 2 was decisively defeated on Election Day, 58 percent to 42 percent. The path was clear for Republicans to act.
(3) The irony of a union boss bellyaching about "free-loading" is pretty rich, but the argument itself doesn't stand up. The Michigan law merely stops the coercive practice of making dues-paying membership an enforceable entry requirement simply to work at an organization. And where do all those dues go anyway?
When continually focusing in the media on being “forced” to represent people who don’t pay dues under a right-to-work law, union heads are implying that they spend the vast majority of their money on contract negotiations, representation or other non-political work. That is a myth. For example, according to the most recent federal filings, the Michigan Education Association — the state’s largest labor union — received $122 million and spent $134 million in 2012. They averaged about $800 from each of their 152,000 members. According to union documents, "representational activities" (money spent on bargaining contracts for members) made up only 11 percent of total spending for the union. Meanwhile, spending on “general overhead” (union administration and employee benefits) comprised of 61 percent of the total spending. So MEA members who disagree with the leadership of the union are paying up to 90 percent of their dues, but the union is only spending about a tenth of the dues money representing them.
So just a sliver of the dues actually pay for the activities that (supposedly) directly benefit the workers. The rest is poured into expensive overhead -- union boss salaries, etc -- and political activities. Which brings us to the real reason organized labor has been freaking out over the last few years: Most non-compulsory unions can't survive if people are given a choice. The truth is that a lot of rank-and-file union members look at that 11 percent figure above, and think to themselves, no thanks. Since Wisconsin passed its budget reform law last year, union membership has plummeted. That's not Scott Walker's fault; union members have been empowered to make choices about how they want the money they've earned to be spent, and many have availed themselves of that power. Without mandatory dues, unions have fewer resources. And without brimming coffers, unions have less money to put into the pockets of their political allies. And without funds to purchase political clout, unions become less and less relevant. And as unions become less relevant, the people who've made a lot of money off of that racket for years get very angry and start shrieking about Hitler. Hoffa's statements, while unseemly, are basically an expression of impotent rage. That should be encouraging to taxpayers and workers alike.
UPDATE - If there's to be a civil war in Michigan, shouldn't it be over something genuinely outrageous and unacceptable, such as this?
Detroit public-school eighth graders do even worse in math than they do in reading, according to the Department of Education. While only 7 percent scored highly enough on the department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress test in 2011 to be rated “proficient” or better in reading, only 4 percent scored highly enough to be rated “proficient” or better in math. Statewide in Michigan, only 32 percent of public-school eighth graders scored grade-level proficient or better in reading, and only 31 percent scored grade-level proficient or better in math. 68 percent of Michigan public-school eighth graders are not proficient in reading and 69 percent are not proficient in math.
Totally unrelated side note: Tens of thousands of Michigan public school students missed classes yesterday because their teachers were busy protesting the right to work law.