At The Foundry
This Labor Day marks a milestone in the history of the U.S. union movement. It is the first Labor Day on which a majority of union members in United States work for the government. In January the Department of Labor reported that union membership in government has overtaken that in the private sector. Three times as many union members work in the Post Office as in the entire domestic auto industry. The face of the union movement is not a worker on the assembly line but a clerk at the DMV.
This is a dramatic shift for the union movement. The early trade unionists did not believe that unions had a place in government. They believed the purpose of unions was to redistribute business profits from owners to workers … and the government makes no profits. Not until the 1960s did unionizing government employees become widespread. Now government employees make up 52 percent of all union members.
So what? Why should Americans care if unions are now dominated by workers who get their paychecks from governments, instead of workers who get their paychecks from private firms? There’s one simple reason: private firms face competition; governments don’t.