Already Under Siege, Labor Unions Face a New Threat From Alaska

After a court ruling allowed public workers who opted out of a union to not pay dues, Alaska’s governor has a new plan that could hobble unions: The workers have to opt in every year.

Comments: 86

  1. Excellent idea. It's about time that the individual citizen is asked first whether he or she wishes to be included in something.

  2. @WeAreWeary The union can simply tell non-paying workers that they will not be included in the negotiations or its results. If the individual doesn't like that, he or she can join and pay dues. This is not rocket science.

  3. @WeAreWeary You know what I would love to see? A follow up interview with Ms. McCollum. Let her opt out, have her refuse virtually all of the advantages she received as a result of union efforts, and see how long it takes - one month, one week, one day? - before she realizes what a mistake she made.

  4. @A In fact, why not take your idea to the limit: Taxes for the local firestation? Why don't we ask each individual citizen if he or she wishes to be included? What about those potholes in front of your home? The wires carrying energy/phone lines? What about the various laws that need to be carried out to insure the economy is working? I assume you have the infrastructure technology experience, the legal acumen, economic knowledge, to be asked about this. What about food safety? Do you care if your clothing is flame retardant? What if you have to sue someone if your washing machine blows up? In fact, why don't you make a list of what the government does for you. See if you can find one second within the 80,000 or so seconds each day when there aren't at least 100 benefits you receive from the government. After you get done with your 8 million point list, get back to us.

  5. Those who don't wish to participate in a union should not be required to pay for it. Nor should they receive any union benefits or wages or contracted employment conditions. Each individual will be free to negotiate their best possible contract with an employer. I'm sure individuals will find corporations most accommodating.

  6. @kirilov Exactly. kirilov. I was going to say that smart businesses would realize they no longer needed to extend pay raises, health care, or pensions to those not covered by the union bargaining and contract. But I suppose it's smarter to let people think they can get something for nothing until unions no longer have enough members. Isn't it.

  7. @kirilov For managers in state government, they already get at least the union benefits, if not better, without having to pay any dues. How is that fair to union members? While I’m all for unions in theory, they are also a pretty big reason why my state has a large unfounded pension liability because some government employees were retiring with close to 100% pay in retirement. I’m a union member, but that certainly doesn’t mean I’m happy with everything they do.

  8. This idea ignores the very real risk that an anti-union employer likely would increase benefits to those who choose to be non-union, at least temporarily, for the purpose of getting rid of the Union. Not many employees would remain as members and keep paying dues if benefits were better for non-members.

  9. The enormous overreach of public employee unions, whose pension plans are bankrupting cities large and small, caused this pendulum swing. Their dues bought the politicians that enacted these ridiculous giveaways and now the chickens are roosting. Tough. In the next life, be smarter with less hubris. Until then however, explain to ALL your members how NONE of them are going to receive anywhere near100% of what they were promised.

  10. @April the Actuary The individual governments underfunding the pension plans are most often the problem. Employees pay a share of their pension. It always seems people rail against unions buying politicians. While that probably happens sometimes, more often it's businesses, corporations and wealthy individuals who get the benefits of huge tax benefits and giveaways.

  11. @April the Actuary What cities, what politicians, what giveaways? You write an inflammatory comment with no facts to support it. It is very easy to scapegoat groups of hard working individuals who bargain collectively. Unions have been responsible for many of the work rules today (40 hr/ot after that, weekends off, paid holiday, sick leave, safe working conditions etc, etc.) Destroy the unions and the middle class no longer exists. Only rich and poor in hatred and conflict.

  12. @April the Actuary OH! The opining! It mean so much to us doesnt it?

  13. Why is it that Republicans have zero knowledge or even a very basic understanding of economic history? Yes, most unions support Democrats. That's because they understand Republicans want to keep them and their working and middle class members hungry. Keeping the workers hungry makes for a much more compliant work force. America was at its most strong economically, with a robust middle class, when unions were strong. That is simply a fact, not open to any sort of "but what about-ism" debate. When unions were strong and not constantly attacked at the state level, workers did well, and THEY BOUGHT STUFF. Stuff like houses, cars, major appliances, relatively expensive items that they could afford because they had the security of unions looking out for their economic interests. Do Republicans believe that 'gig economy' workers with no union, at minimum wage with zero benefits, zero protection in terms of health and safety measures, zero health insurance, having to pay both sides of the Social Security payment (the 7% they normally pay, PLUS the 7% employers normally pay), no vacation or sick days, are going to make the economy hum? Corporate profits and executive pay are at (close to) record highs, worker pay has been stagnant for decades. The fealty to 'shareholder value' and enormous executive bonuses while simultaneously working to make workers powerless and poor is not going to end well.

  14. I'm not a member of a union, but there are many teachers in my family, beginning with my grandmother and three of her sisters, who were teachers in NY State from 1920 - 1970, and they were very active in seeing that teachers were fairly compensated and retirements were offered for the people who teach your children. Before unions, teachers were paid a pittance, with no expectation of retirement income whatsoever. In rural communities, teachers were expected to live with various families, having insufficient wages to afford their own housing. For years, Gram rode her horse to school, as the cost of an automobile made such a luxury out of reach. In one-room schoolhouses across rural NY state, teachers hauled water and wood to their schools so that their students would have water to drink and wash their hands, and heat in their classrooms. Early in her career, my grandmother was forbidden to marry, but the union fought to change that. Still, the lack of respect for teachers was widespread, and people like my grandmother, an independent professional whose husband abandoned her and her family after the war, fought for many of the rights they have today. That's why I find Ms. McCollum's eagerness to "opt out" of union membership so puzzling. She's fortunate in that many of the challenges teachers faced have been won - thanks to the unions that protected and helped them. Hopefully, she won't lose any ground as Dunleavy trashes unions across the state.

  15. @Chris Wildman She probably took something they did very personally and created a mission out of it.

  16. I'm a very liberal, labor-supporting union member. Our union, SEIU, is expensive and completely worthless. They do not represent members well, and it's rumored that they cut back room deals with major employers to hem in contract demands. If employees had the option to opt in/out every year, or even a choice of unions, perhaps the unions would stop focusing on their own best interests and start putting their members needs first.

  17. @Roberto There is already a process in place for members who are dissatisfied with their union. It's called a decertification election.

  18. @Roberto Do you attend your local's meetings ? Participate and share your view at those meetings ?

  19. Eventually, all public sector labor unions will be severely weakened, or eliminated. That would be a good thing, in my view. NC has the lowest level of unionization in the USA, and that's why it is thriving.

  20. @Jack I'll stick with my union, thanks.

  21. @Jack Life is fine here with our unions, buddy! Speak to your state.

  22. @raynernycz I will stick with my union. I like my eight hour work day and other benefits that unions were instrumental in securing for workers.

  23. Anyone wanting to join any labor union or any other organization, for that matter, should have to make the active choice to belong, at least yearly.

  24. @SR Or they could just opt out once when they want to opt out? One step is more efficient and logical than multiple steps?

  25. @raynernycz Either would be fine, in my view. You should actively need to select to belong to any organization that you would care to join.

  26. If you are the sort of person that wants to share whatever benefits and salary increases are negotiated in a union contract but you do not wish to pay dues...... Perhaps you would be willing to sign Free Rider's Card. which says in part... "I refuse to accept any benefits that will be won by union negotiators with this Union Shop, and I hereby authorize and direct the company to withhold the amount of union-won benefits from my paycheck each week and donate it to charity ." Be sure to sign your name ! Best of luck !

  27. @countykerry a Excellent idea and I would be happy to sign if union officials agreed to no increase in their own salaries and benefits during the time of their tenures.

  28. @SR What union do you belong to currently? What unions have you belonged to in the past?

  29. @SR - My favorite on the flip side of the coin, SR, was when United was in bankruptcy. You know, cutting pay for union members, dumping the employee pensions onto the taxpayers, and then the top executives voted themselves a raise - their explananation? It was stressful working for a company in bankruptcy. So instead, SR, how about corporate officers voted to give all employees the same golden parachute agreements, the same bonuses in money-losing years, and all the rest of the stuff they vote themselves?

  30. The labor movement is an anachronism, dying slowly, barely on life support. Most people have a negative view of them, owing in large part to corruption. The latest casualty is the UAW, once a highly respected labor organization, but now under investigation for criminal activity. It's kind of sad because at one time they served a real need in America and helped hard-working people move up into the middle class. But their day is over. They are close to dead.

  31. @Too Much Too Soon What's kind of sad is that you somehow missed the widely reported recent Gallup poll that found 62% supporting unions, a 15-year high? This leads me to wonder whether this oversight is just garden variety ignorance or an intentional omission. There is indeed corruption in some unions, and it should be ferreted out mercilessly--just as it should be in executive suites, boardrooms, universities, and government offices. But if you think unions are on life support you have another thing coming. And I suspect it's the resurgence of unions in the face of gross and crippling income inequality and the engrossment of undemocratic political power at the top that is the real cause of your faux sadness.

  32. That this article failed to mention the over-arching actions by the Dunleavey administration to hobble state government in Alaska is an opportunity missed. The ferry workers struck, in part, because he attempted to eliminate the entire ferry system, which provides the only connection between dozens of communities in the largely roadless state. His cuts to the University of Alaska resulted in the regents declaring financial exigency and nearly losing accreditation before the governor backed off a little. At present, the republican majority senate is refusing to seat his second attempt at appointing a successor for a senator who passed away. And he is facing a recall, which has broad support throughout the state. Having lost all ability to act legislatively, he is now taking the Trump route of abusing executive power. I expect he will soon resign (saving face from the recall) to fill a post in the cabinet. Perhaps energy secretary?

  33. The land of isolation is alive and well. Get a worker in a corner and deal with him/her. Groups that band together for a fair share of profits are the enemy to management. Imagine your workers as enemies. How progressive in a competitive world! We need to realize our competitive edge is innovation not low wages. The third world has us beat there.

  34. Now, why don't the Supremes and the anti-union forces take it to the logical conclusion? If an employee decides to opt out of union dues, they also opt out of all benefits gained in collective bargaining agreements at that place of work. Wind back the work hours, the overtime pay, the safety regulations, the medical plans - all that stuff. They would then be able to enjoy the savings in union dues, and the lower pay and worse conditions.

  35. Unions help keep up middle class wages. I guess those who voted in Dunleavy do not care about the middle class. They may find out that those middle class consumers are the ones who are helping business stay afloat. Without a strong middle class consumer, business in Alaska will suffer.

  36. The arrogance of Dunleavy and his cronies is astounding, thinking they are the only ones who have read the Janus decision. Did the article mention that the governor is facing a powerful recall initiative? People who opt out of paying union dues should have to negotiate their own wages and benefits package. That being said, I think unions should be constantly working to help their members develop professionally and should hold members to high professional standards.

  37. @K You are right on the money, K. I hear complaints about the unions being difficult when dealing with employees, etc. Oh, but everyone (even lower level managers) love the union when the union-negotiated pay and benefits package works in their favor too!

  38. As a union member and an Alaskan, this article leaves out quite a bit. The biggest issue with opting out of the union is that employees still get the work conditions, benefits, and wages bargained for by the union. In effect, their co-workers are paying for them. If people aren't happy with what their union does for them, they need to get involved, rather than opt out. I'd bet good money that this move was carefully planned by conservative groups intending on making it to the US Supreme Court. Anyone who opts out of paying for their union membership is voting against themselves. Of course, I've never understood union members who vote for candidates that clearly are opposed to unions, workers rights, or government programs that aid citizens. In addition, Dunleavy is facing a serious recall here, for many reasons, enough for an article on it's own merit. As governor, he's following the Koch brothers playbook and is taking us on a path similar to the one that ended in disaster for Kansas. He is widely disliked across the political spectrum here, on the one side for his fiscal policies that are destroying all aspects of Alaskan life and on the other for making, and then breaking, promises about our Permanent Fund.

  39. @LauraW - I worked as a supervisor in a mine years ago and initially like most people in management I was anti-union. Gradually though I realized that the union made my life easier in many ways, in particular I realized that when the union forced the company to abide by some safety standard they were keeping the rock from falling on my head as well as that of the hourly employee.

  40. @LauraW There have been many instances where rank and file pulled the GOP levers in elections: Nixon,Reagan,McCain,Romney, and the guy we have now. For the most part, they voted as bigots, not as good Union people. It is truly sad.

  41. Do you need health insurance and think your employer should contribute? Thank a union. Do you think 40hours is a reasonable work week? Thank a union. Should you be compensated appropriately for overtime? Thank a union. If you get injured on the job should you be compensated? Thank a union. Do you deserve holiday pay? Thank a union. I could go on and on. Americans need to embrace unions. I truly believe that many people vote against unions because they are envious and jealous of fellow Americans that belong to unions. In my neck of the woods it’s the families that belong to unions that have pools, rv’s, go on yearly vacations, and don’t have to finance their kids braces. But hey, if you want to live paycheck to paycheck, work 60 hours a week, receive absolutely no benefits from your employer, work in unsafe conditions, have no job protections, no cost of living raises then by all means vote against your best interests. Please don’t believe the republican scare tactics, unions are your friend.

  42. An employee should EARN their pay and benefits by demonstrating their value to their employer. Period. The five handouts you note aren’t free and aren’t guaranteed in a free market. One would expect that most of those would be awarded to a first year associate at a white shoe law firm but how many are appropriate for someone putting wheels on Chevys on an assembly line? That is because one is in great demand and holds hundreds of thousands in debt to achieve the knowledge needed for the job and the other only requires a high school diploma.

  43. @Dog Lover Having been a life long union member and elected leader I can attest to your statement about people voting against their best interests. Many people have no idea where all the benefits they take for granted came from. It certainly did not come from the benevolence of the employer. Capitalism may well be the best method to deliver goods and services but it is based on greed and must be tempered by societal pressures, government regulations, and collective bargaining. American are so enamored of individualism that they cannot seem to do anything beyond their own individual needs. Unionism is collectivism, one for all, all for one. I guess that is too much to ask. I firmly believe unions would have never taken root in this country were it not for the robber barons and the Great Depression. The decline of unionism is typical of where we are as a country, too much "me" and not enough "us".

  44. Workers who take the benefits that unions provide without paying dues are called "freeloaders." They are one step up from scabs. When unions are gone and freeloading workers are forced by their lack of bargaining power to return to the oppressed status they held before unions saved them, they will have only themselves to thank. Unfortunately, it is not just the freeloaders who will suffer when their unions die. There is nothing more exemplary of how Trump has succeeded than seeing the extent to which freeloading workers will trade a small benefit now for huge losses in the future. And here I thought humans could see the consequences of their actions. Silly me.

  45. @Barbara8101 Trump's preferred worker is an immigrant who doesn't understand his rights. For him, undocumented immigrant are preferred over legal ones because they are easier to take advantage off and otherwise control.

  46. The idea of having to opt-in each year through a two-step process is absurd. Will workers have to opt-in each year to their health insurance? Will they have to file their direct deposit authorizations each year? Will they have to file a new W4 each year? A new personal information card each year? And confirm each one of these choices by a separate e-mail? Educating workers that they may opt-out of a union is consistent with Janus. Requiring them to opt-in each year runs far afield from Janus' holding, which just invalidated agency fee shop agreements (i.e., financial contributions by employees who are not union members to a union to compensate it for the services that they enjoy as a result of the union's work, like collective bargaining, salaries, and terms and conditions of employment).

  47. @Danny Yes, I get a chance every year to change my company's insurance plan. I also can change my W4 whenever it makes sense to. I can also adjust my direct-deposit anytime I choose. I am allowed to do all these things and do them to my best interest. That being said, no one should be denied the right to terminate their union involvement at-will.

  48. @Danny Everyone I know with good benefits has an open enrollment period each year for health insurance and other benefits, and yes, they have to complete or confirm enrollment each year. It seems like the fairest thing to do would be to have union opt in or opt out at the same time each year.

  49. @Forest Agreed. My point is your selections aren't canceled each year during open enrollment. They continue unless you change them. Same should hold for union selection. If you join, you stay in until you change. If you don't join, you're out unless you change. You shouldn't have to renew each and every year.

  50. This is plain and simple unadulterated union busting.

  51. And apparently workers are too stupid to understand that they're throwing away their own rights and interests. The 1% is really winning this war on labor and it's the laborers who are helping them do it!

  52. @Cindy My sense is that your point of view will clear the way to Donald Trump being reelected in 2020. I had no one to vote for in 2016.

  53. @SR If you are so anti-union, you had Trump.

  54. Abraham Lincoln talked a lot about the Union, his union was a union per the definition - includes everyone - including the president and everyone else. Labor Unions are not unions at all, they're divisions, let's call them labor groups, not unions. Labor groups are divisions with no outside customer to answer to. Their leaders generally sound rather inexperienced as to the understanding of basic market demands (as they yell out their self-proclaimed demands). A business union means we're all in it together, including the president. A business union is the company where you work as a TEAM to make money in order to pay the rent (etc). We should all join the business union where we work (or quit), and forget about our self-proclaimed "union".

  55. @Robert Bailey Honest Abe (and the unions, and even their opponents) were, and are talking about voluntary associations. One of the great myths of capitalism is the belief--endlessly reinforced--that people work for others because they want to, not because they're forced to. There's a good reason African Americans refer to their job as a "slave."

  56. @WOID Please notice that I state people work for money in order to pay the rent. One distinction pertaining to a free market versus slavery is the right to quit and walk away. A pretty important distinction. Yes, it may be nearly impossible, financially speaking, to quit and walk away, but a free market beats slavery by a long shot.

  57. Who needs a middle class, anyway?

  58. @George - Obviously not a lot of the people who vote red these days.

  59. "No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing. (no. 104)" Perhaps while attending Misericordia, Gov. Dunleavy missed the lesson on this subject ?

  60. Why the uproar? If a union is seen as worth the expense, then workers will surely want to opt in, right? Are the unions afraid there may be a lack of enthusiasm?

  61. @Stratman Why don't we just make workers show up a half hour early everyday and use the time to fill out forms so they can get paid for the day? Surely everyone would see this a an excellent use of their time.

  62. Excellent idea. We should carry it to the logical conclusion. Whenever anyone has an interaction with the state government (renew driver license, pay taxes, receive an earnings and deduction payroll statement, etc. the person should have an opportunity to change his/her vote for governor.

  63. Good time to point out how bad Dunleavy is. Through a fluke, he ended up governor aided by dark money that was not revealed until after he was appointed. Due to horrendous decisions, his credibility is now toast and diminishing daily (except with Libertarians who myopically focus on the permanent fund -- as is it the only thing that matters; so sad). Dunleavy imposed draconian cuts that lead to compounded disasters for Alaskans this summer, especially those in remote places who rely on the state ferry system they already paid for. Dunleavy's 40% cut to the university system put AK higher education on life-support. That abruptly signaled to potential students that this is not a place to go. I could go on and on, but first I must note that the ONLY sector unaffected by Dunleavy's cuts is oil and gas! Dunleavy is now subject to a citizen's recall led by old-timers from statehood who came out of retirement to remind us what we stand for. Thank you, old-timers. Yeah, we know it's not that long ago -1959.

  64. Dunleavy was a teacher, and a principal, and a superintendent of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. Most media simply refer to him as having been a teacher. He was also an elected school board member in the Mat-Su Borough. I think you'll find his concerns about unions from the other positions he held

  65. As a retired civil servant who has largely benefited from union membership I agree that members should have the option to opt out and not pay membership fees. However that should mean that they are not accorded the seniority protections in the face of layoffs; not automatically receive pay increases negotiated during new contracts.; fringe benefits such as eductional reimbursements or union protections from potential grievences with management.

  66. @gm So, you (and the others who have "recommended" your comment) want to ride along for free on what the dues-paying union members have negotiated for; is that it?

  67. @gm Sorry, I realize that I misread your comment.

  68. Organized labor should get out of the "union" business and into the "labor pool" business. Instead of taking jobs with an "employer", let the workers be hired directly by the union, which then would sign an exclusive contract to supply all labor to the employer. Let the union write paychecks, collect taxes, and provide health insurance, while the "employer" concentrates on what they do best, which currently does not include taking care of the workers.

  69. The dwindling size of labor unions has sapped the political power of workers and ceded power to corporations and the right wing. We need broad based unions, not organized by industry or economic sector, that anyone can join. Unions need to represent 40 to 50 percent of the population, not 10 percent. A broad-based union with 40 to 50% participation on a population basis would have enormous political power (think AARP) and would always have the threat of a general strike. The failure of unions to change their organizing model is a national tragedy that has turned the US into an undemocratic, right wing plutocracy. If the AARP can enroll a large percentage of the older population, why can't a broad-based union (or similar organization) that represents the interests of all people who work for a living?

  70. Why is it still hip to kill unions? Will America eventually become a massive series of gated citadels, where the wealthy pay 15 percent taxes while the workers toil and starve outside?

  71. Workers want to benefit from labor negotiations but they don’t want to pay for it. I want to live in America but I don’t want to pay taxes.

  72. Modern unions destroy everything they touch. They are an anachronism, a function of a bygone era. And if you need to reach back 50 years or more to find analogies to support them, we’ll, you really have no valid argument against my assertion.

  73. @Randy L Lyft Uber Huffington Report Amazon And setting up fake parameters to protect your position does not make your argument stronger. Times change...people don’t. Collective bargaining is as relevant as ever because there will ALWAYS be one group that will try to exploit another.

  74. Another Republican governor looking to a better future, but only his, and hope for the loving response of the oil companies when he is tossed. Was he drinking oil rather than water in this multi-front assault on Alaskan institution and people?

  75. maybe this is a roadmap to get us new Yorkers from under the burden that the public employee unions have wrought on new York tax payers. the tax cap is a wonderful start.

  76. In Iowa public employees have to vote annually for or against keeping their union representation. The scores are almost always extremely lopsided: 1752 to 21, 68 to 2 , etc. in favor of keeping their union. The state law,recently passed by the Republican legislature, requires that a majority of ELIGLE voters must vote in favor of keeping their union. How about making that the standard for keeping your Republican legislator ? My old union, the UE has responded to this draconian process by using it as an organizing tool. Union membership has actually INCREASED as a result.

  77. @Hugh Tague, it requires a lot of union resources to win these elections and the State is increasing the financial cost to the union to run these elections. Plus, these elections are new. Over time they will kill us. In addition, Iowa no longer allows governments to collect dues for the union and has only one mandatory topic of bargaining, wages. And if you end up in binding arbitration, there is a cap on wages of 3% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. Bargaining over health insurance has been outlawed. Iowa's Republican Party has declared all out war on workers since 2017.

  78. Why do people elect these clowns? Alaska doesn't need a few more super rich offset by thousands of other people barely eking by.

  79. On the face opt-in may seem reasonable but its part of a larger campaign to gut worker protections. We need to counter big corporate market power with workers unions and consumer unions. Remember crushing workers is only one part of the formula the other big part is monopolizing the market. So the future needs Consumer Unions; groups of consumers (think AARP) that aggregate and fight for people.

  80. If unions actually do help their membership, there should be very few who do not choose to opt in. As long as the process is not too onerous, and based on the article it does not seem to be, I see no reason not to allow the workers informed consent when it comes to their rights to join or not join a union.

  81. So being asked to acknowledge a couple of times that you really want to stay in a Union amounts to an affront on Unions? Wow

  82. Our government hates unions because they hobble their ability to control the population and make them compliant to the needs of the businesses that own it. Strong unions give workers some control and raise the living standards of whole communities, not just those of union members. So unions benefit most working people, making them the enemy of a capitalist government. So would a social democracy which must be villainized at every opportunity. Keep your freedoms people but at the cost of losing out to the interests of the rich. Follow the money folks. This started under Reagan and has not abated since his time. Unions benefit the majority at the expense of the wealthy, which are well represented in US government, even if you are not. Making it even sadder is the fact that ordinary Americans vote their own oppressors into office year after year.

  83. As a general rule I believe unions do as much to protect the rights of the unproductive as they do to protect worker's rigts.

  84. @Dave Steffe LOL. Even the unproductive have rights. Okay, not being so dismissive: If businesses don't want to go through the trouble of dealing with unproductive workers, that's on them. Bottom line. If they don't, it must be because profits would suffer, and that's capitalism, baby. Deal with it.

  85. This is the union's fault. Long ago they forgot about taking care of their members, to chase money and power. That is why union membership is below 10% nationwide. Unions now exist as an expensive tax on wages and not much else. The best thing that could happen now is for the existing unions to die off and be replaced by new organizations who actually care about their members.

  86. @Bruce1253 Evidently you've never been in a union job and had management try to shaft you until your union stepped in to help. Unions are, basically, insurance policies against abuse from management. If you're lucky, you pay in to a union and never have to take advantage of that membership to fight management. Part of that "policy" is that its existence usually stops management from even trying funny business, so workers might never realize that and think membership was "an expensive tax on wages and not much else." Not saying all unions are worth the buy-in, but you have to be careful generalizing. And, frankly, the main reason unions are fewer now is that the economy and our laws have made them less and less useful, because corporations are the favored "persons" now. It's the return of the robber barons, with the help of a conservative Supreme Court and all the money in politics.