Lincoln * Institute

Beth Anne Mumford

Beth Anne Mumford

Pennsylvania State Director,
Americans for Prosperity


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Mumford Op Ed

Unions Have Lost Their Way

by Beth Anne Mumford

Across the nation, union membership is rapidly declining as more and more workers conclude that unions have lost their way.

Once advocates for legitimately constructive reforms like improved working conditions and child labor laws, today ideologically driven unions have turned into little more than political entities, stuffing the coffers of politicians and union bosses at the expense of the workers they are supposed to represent.

Unions are unique in that — unlike corporate PACs and other political organizations — they forcibly remove union dues from the paychecks of their members, the vast majority of whom are middle-class workers. And public sector labor unions often siphon their dues out of workers pockets at taxpayers' expense.

So what are these dues being used for? Political campaign contributions and spending.

In 2012, unions contributed more than $700 million into politics — an enormous increase over the past twenty years — while their membership plummeted to just 11 percent of workers nationwide, a significant decline over the same time period.

Political spending isn't the only place middle class workers' dues are going. A large chunk of those union dues forcibly extracted from union members' paychecks is also padding the pockets of well-paid union executives. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity reported that 472 union bosses made over $250,000 in 2013. The top one hundred bosses took home over $52 million. Meanwhile, many of the same bosses constantly rail against the so-called "one percent," claiming that they stand in solidarity with working class.

In 2014, unions are expected to spend millions of dollars in PA to ensure they maintain their stronghold on the political process. Efforts in the legislature to stop the use of public funds to collect public sector union political dues has stalled even while 81% of Pennsylvanians say they believe union membership should be a choice, not a requirement of employment.

Legislative efforts to reform our property tax system, expand school choice or stop the public pension train wreck, that will undermine our local and state budgets, have failed to advance as public sector unions argue for more of the same.

The irony is clearly not lost on most Americans, as unions' popularity and membership have dwindled. The bureau of labor statistics notes that union membership declined in PA in 2013, following a downward trend seen nationally.

Sadly, without reform in PA, union political spending will continue to increase even as their membership base shrinks, and labor bosses will ask more and more from fewer and fewer workers, who are getting less and less out of their union.

But thankfully, Americans are standing up to union special interests. Policies that expand school choice, increase worker freedoms, reform state public pension programs and other labor reform laws are being passed across the country.

Passing paycheck protection, and limiting the ability of public sector unions to collect political contributions using public funds and from workers who disagree with them, is the first step to enacting better fiscal policies that ensure freedom and prosperity for every Pennsylvanian.

I'm Beth Anne Mumford with Americans for Prosperity PA.

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This commentary was adapted from one originally presented by Americans for Prosperity.