It seems the AFL-CIO is so desperate for members, it’s even offering memberships to people who don’t belong to unions. What do these folks get from a membership? No one really knows, but the union bosses at AFL-CIO get more money to fund their progressive political arm. The editors of the Wall Street Journal highlight the ridiculousness of paying to join a union that doesn’t legally represent you.
So as dues-paying membership declines, the AFL-CIO is essentially trying to attract the equivalent of donations from the larger public. Send in whatever “dues” payments the AFL-CIO requires for membership, and in return you get—what exactly? At least if you donate during one of those PBS pledge drives, you get a tote bag and maybe a CD of Yanni at the Acropolis. It isn’t clear what non-union members will get for their cash, other than the pleasure of knowing they’ve helped AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka stay in a better class of hotel. Will he throw in a T-shirt?
The broader union goal here is to mobilize a progressive army to sway politicians in Washington and the 50 state capitals. This trend has been obvious for years at union headquarters, where Mr. Trumka and his predecessors assembled a team with ties to the environmental left, the plaintiffs bar, the racial preference lobbies, feminist groups and others in the modern liberal coalition.
This may increase Mr. Trumka’s clout in Washington, but it also reveals the great contradiction at the heart of the modern labor movement: Its progressive agenda does little or nothing for workers in the private economy and often directly harms them.
The reality is union membership has been falling for decades because the model is outdated in today’s world. As you can see in the charts below, fewer workers are joining unions, and the public sector is the last real holdout in union membership as private sector unions sink further into obscurity.