Whether it’s the Verizon strike, the Central Park Boathouse or Tavern on the Green, unions wield almost unchecked power in New York. There is some recent good news for New York when it comes to the seeming death grip the unions hold on employers’ throats here. However, there is also some bad news, as is usually the case.
The good news is that union membership is down, to 22.9 percent of the total city workforce from 24.6 percent in January 2009. Despite this, union representation in NY is still the highest of any state in the country and almost double the national average of 11.9 percent.
Some might hypothesize that the floundering economy is the culprit, but this is part of a larger trend where jobs have been decreasing in states with powerful unions and growing in states where unions are less influential. Yes, jobs have been lost, but many are just being relocated to where they can grow without the heavy-handed interference of Big Labor.
If not for the large number of unionized government employees, union representation in NY would be almost non-existent. It is taxpayer dollars, not free enterprise, bolstering the power of unions here. In fact, only 13 percent of the private sector workforce in unionized, while 70 percent of the public sector employees are paying union dues.
Furthermore, a worker rights organization called Workplace Choice just rated the fifty states on how friendly local laws are to workers as opposed to Big Labor, and the results were hardly surprising, but still troubling. New York ranked the worst state in the union for workers’ rights and the state most favorable to big Labor.
In New York, there are no provisions for a worker to opt out of joining a union. There are no paycheck protection laws and no provisions to protect the secret ballot. In fact, card check is dangerously close to becoming the standard, which would essentially provide Big Labor with unlimited power to institute a hostile takeover of any workplace they target.
All of this spells disaster for New York workers in the long run. If this trend continues, any non-service related job that can be done somewhere else will be somewhere else.
Meanwhile, our city and state budget are at crises levels and major cuts are needed, but the unions can’t allow a desperately needed downsizing of unionized government workers or they will begin to experience a downsizing of their unchecked power. Eventually this will come to a head, and which way it goes will determine nothing less than the future of our city and state.
Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.