My first personal experience with unions thirty years ago was an eye opener. The union campaign against our company was built on lies and intimidation. They got our employees to vote for the union by promising them that they would get the owners to pay 100% of their health insurance cost and that they would be allowed to get all of their money out of the profit sharing plan in a lump sum.
The union never had any intention of pursing those promises and said so directly at the bargaining table. When we refused to give in on dues check-off (requiring management to automatically deduct union dues) the union recommended a strike but our employees refused. They signed a contract without check-off and then just walked away.
Thousands of unions left the closed- shop requirements of the north and moved south. Union membership has showed a consistent decline because their demands were at least partially responsible for either bankrupting or forcing companies to relocate overseas, and management became more enlightened in their employee relations. Our largest American steel company, Nucor, is non union in the majority of its plants.
The only area sustaining the unions is the public sector. Unable to win in a free arena where employees have the free choice to join or not join a union, unions have turned from bullying business owners to bribing government officials with political contributions. Even FDR warned against the dangers of public sector unions.
This battle, currently focused in Wisconsin, is about raw political power. The unions want to continue to bribe elected officials to increase their wages even if it means raising taxes, and the elected officials, almost all Democrats, do not want to give up this source of campaign funds.
It is a delusional suspension of objectivity to compare their cause to the demonstrations in Egypt and the Middle East. The voters have spoken when they elected Walker as governor and his party to control the legislature. The workers should have the freedom NOT to join a union and NOT to have their dues pay for political bribes over their objections. In the Middle East voters are demonstrating to have a voice; in Madison they are demonstrating against the voice of the voters.
Union membership remains in a freefall. The public sector unions are now associated with the greed that was once used to label their adversaries. Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, the unions have destroyed themselves; by reaching for too much power and control they have lost the support of the ultimate funding source, the taxpayer. It is further ironic that the most pro union president in a half century may preside over the biggest reduction in union power of any administration during that same period.