Despite the Obama administration’s best attempts to prop up failing private sector unions, the percentage of workers who now hold union membership plummeted from 11.8 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2012, reflecting the fact that unionization is obsolete in an era of increasing employment fluidity. The economy of the United States is not the economy of 1950; it is now adaptive and fast moving, with free flow of labor. Unionization of skilled labor is unnecessary in a fully competitive market, where employers compete to pay the best wages for the best talent; in dying industries, unionization is contributing to the bankruptcy of large firms. Workers know that. And they’re acting accordingly, refusing to cut unions a percentage of their paycheck simply so they can ensure long-term employment at a declining company.
Unlike the private sector, however, the public sector continues its uptick in unionization. Without an adverse employer to bargain against, public sector unions are raking it in: they garner union dues by law in many states, use those dues to elect friendly politicians, and then turn around and negotiate friendly contracts with those politicians. Taxpayers foot the bill. This sweet deal means that there are now more public sector workers unionized – 7.3 million – than private sector workers, 7.0 million.
With greater fluidity of labor and capital movement comes greater fluidity of employer movement. That means that heavily unionized states are losing businesses altogether. And that’s not a bad thing. With a decline in labor cost comes a decline in prices, which helps the struggling American consumer. Meanwhile, companies can grow their employment numbers due to a competitive labor market.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).