Labor

Union Officials Spend Too Much Time Politicking at Membership’s Expense, Poll Says

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71% believe that economy has been harmed by organized labor’s agenda

2010 voters have more faith and confidence in business owners to recharge the economy than they do in the leadership of organized labor, according to a survey from Public Opinion Strategies. Moreover, the poll points to a growing concern on the part of voters that union officials spend too much time on politics and not enough on the concerns and interests of their members.

The survey, which included 1,000 participants, probed into the perceptions voters have of business and organized labor. A clear majority said union activities undermine the economy and that the views of union leadership are not representative of the rank and file membership.

There is no escaping the concern voters have over prevailing economic conditions and how this relates back to union influence.

In fact, mid-term election voters think unions should focus on their members,” a POS press release explained. “Voters provide resounding agreement to the idea that “unions should place a higher priority on meeting the day to day needs of their members, rather than trying to affect the outcome of elections.” Fully 85% agree with this view and two-thirds (66%) strongly agree). Only 13% disagree. Two-thirds (66%) of 2010 voters who identify themselves as supporters of labor unions agree that unions should focus on the day to day needs of members, rather than on elections. In addition, 91% of Republicans, 92% of Independents and 76% of Democrats agree with this view as well. This may in part be due to the fact that voters do not perceive national union leaders as “representative of average union members.” More than three-in-five voters (63%) agree with this statement, while just 28% disagree. Four-in-ten union supporters (42%) also agree with this view.”

Poll results were also dismissive of union endorsements, which did not have a decisive impact on voters. By contrast, small business owners and business leaders were viewed quite favorably.

“When it comes to recommending the right things to improve the economy, voters are much more likely to have confidence in small business owners and business leaders than in labor union leaders,” POS concluded.

“The disparity in the levels of confidence to recommend the best actions for the economy is striking, because it is so widespread. Across every region of the country, with men and women, with all age groups and all income levels, voters express greater confidence in small business and business leaders than in labor union leaders. The 18% of voters who identified themselves as supports of labor unions are the ONLY sub-group among which confidence in union leaders exceeded that in business leaders or small business owners (88%, 66% and 85% great deal/fair amount of confidence, respectively).”

The lesson here for newly elected members of Congress is to resist costly legislative measures favored by organized labor, a top official with the Chamber of Commerce warned.

“Whether on bills like card check or regulatory mandates from the National Labor Relations Board, voters will hold new members accountable for supporting any action that hampers economic recovery,” said Glenn Spencer, executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative. “Voters’ message is clear: you will get no free pass on job-killing labor mandates.”

Although the electorate credits unions for improvements made to working conditions in the past, there is a now sense that their influence has become unbalanced and counterproductive, according the poll.

“In fact, seven-in-ten voters say that despite their positive impact in the past, unions contributed to our economic problems as a nation,” the release says. “Fully 71% of voters who participated in the election agree with a statement that says that “Unions have played a vital role in promoting safety and a good quality of life for many American workers. But, unions also tilted the system so far in their favor that it has contributed to our economic problems.” Nearly half (48%) strongly agree with this view, and only 25% disagree.”

Louisiana and other “Right to Work” states are partially protected from coercive membership drives that are routinely applied in areas of the country that are more unionized. An individual living in Louisiana cannot be denied the right to work because of membership or non-membership in a labor union thanks to the 1976 law passed by the state legislature. An employer cannot require employees to become or remain members of a labor union, or require that dues or fees be paid to a union or labor organization as a condition of employment.

The state’s work force totals nearly two million people including about 200,000 manufacturing workers, according to government figures.

Kevin Mooney is the investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy.