I recently was privileged to march in the Clermont County Fair parade. The vast majority of the parade marchers and watchers were working people having fun. This was not a country club group; just a friendly group of people.
With so many working people in the county, one wonders why the tenor of debate is so anti-union. One often hears the canard that while unions may bring extra hourly wages to workers, they repossess that extra hourly money as dues. This is just not the case. Neutral research shows that the highest union dues paid in industry (UAW/GM) work out to less than 50 cents ($0.50) an hour (ProCon.org, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) non-profit charity). All other union dues are less.
The average union hourly wage is $2.62 higher than the hourly non-union wage – all hourly wages nation-wide. All things equal, the top union dues take less than $1,040.00/year from a worker’s salary (this is the highest union deduction at the highest union wage level: GM/UAW). Even at that high dues level, the average union member would instantly see an increase of $5,450.00 in wages over his non-union counterpart; representing a net increase (that is, raise less union dues) of $4,410.00 for doing the same job. Maybe working people in Clermont County oppose unions because all that extra money would cause them to pay higher taxes. The average increase income tax burden would be roughly $662. Is prosperity anathema to Clermont working people – or are they misinformed?
Unions stick up for workers and command health benefits. Non-union workers have to rely on their employers’ good will for health insurance, buy it individually (which until the ACA takes full effect, means you pay the highest rate for health insurance, if you can get it), or do without. Apparently Clermont workers don’t like affordable health care either – or have been misled.
Ah! But then unions raise the cost of public projects which means higher taxes. Well, not so fast. Dr. Alan Atalah, PhD, PE, Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs, Bowling Green State University, writing in the International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology Vol. 2 No. 6; October, 2012, analyzed 8.093 bids for Ohio highway work from 2000 through 2007. He found that there was little difference between union and non-union bids cost per square foot. He concluded that (among other things) “Production function studies indicated small overall union impacts on productivity; positive effects where they existed, appear to result from management response to decreased profit expectations and from a natural selection process.” (Don’t ask what that last sentence means, I left academia in the 70’s. The majority of the article is somewhat anti-union, he writes admirably for a disappointed advocate.)
So there it is: unions add little cost to public jobs, despite all the anti-union hype. There is, however, a significant difference for the workers. Unions just cause the pie to be sliced differently. More money to workers less money for owners; not a bad arrangement when you realize that wages have flatlined over the last 30 years. As unions fade inequality is growing. (From the NYTimes) “One major factor contributing to income inequality: stagnant wages. . . . Take Caterpillar, long a symbol of American industry: while it reported record profits last year, it insisted on a six-year wage freeze for many of its blue-collar workers. Wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product…. Overall employee compensation – including health and retirement benefits – has also slipped badly, falling to its lowest share of national income in more than 50 years while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share over that time.”
If Clermont County were Indian Hill writ large, it might make sense for us to suppress unionism. As it is, we are giving 67 percent+ of our votes to people who have every intention of installing a neo-feudal order. Why is this?
Len Harding is a retired consultant, technical writer and historian. He lives in Clermont County.