With the January 19th Democrtic Caucus fast approaching, the largest union in Nevada (the 60,000-member Culinary Workers union) attempted to flex their political muscle by endorsing Barack Obama. One wonders why though, since both Hillary Clinton and Obama have both voiced support for the unions number one policy priority: the so called Employee Free Choice Act.

A masterpiece in Orwellian phraseology, the act would replace the current secret ballot election process in favor of a ‘card check’ system where once union organizers attained the signatures of 50% plus one of the workers at accompany, every worker at the company would forfeit their bargaining rights over conditions and pay to the union. The Heritage Foundation estimates that 105 million workers would be disenfranchised by the measure. Besides the loss in employee autonomy at the expense of union power though, the larger question is whether we really want to try and compete in a 21st century global marketplace with a 20th century labor structure?

In 1975 private sector union membership was at 25%. Today it is at 8%. Government is the last bastion of union strength where 35% of the workforce is unionized. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this is so. When businesses handicapped by inflexible work rules and flat salary structures try to compete with non-unionized business they get killed. And their firms, and the union jobs with them, die. Witness the the decline of US automakers (unionized) and the rise their foreign competitors (most not). Government, however, has no competitor so unions can grow unchecked by market forces.

Self-styled progressives love to claim that unions were a prime mover in the development of the middle class. After examining the evidence soberer minds have concluded otherwise. Judging from the primary results so far, Americans are anxious about their economic security. We should not make their situation worse by allowing misguided nostalgia to dictate our labor laws.