Government and Private Unions Are Not the Same
Private-sector unions have been losing both membership and power, while government, public-sector unions have been gaining political muscle and membership. In 2009, for the first time in history, there were more members of public-sector unions than private-sector union members, and unionized government workers outnumbered their private-sector counterparts by more than half a million (see chart above).
Jonah Goldberg makes some excellent points in his LA Times editorial today ("Public Unions Must Go") about some critical differences between public- and private-sector unions:
"Traditional, private sector unions were born out of an often bloody adversarial relationship between labor and management. Mine disasters were frequent; hazardous conditions were the norm. In 1907, the Monongah mine explosion claimed the lives of 362 West Virginia miners. Day-to-day life often resembled serfdom, with management controlling vast swaths of the miners' lives. And before unionization and many New Deal-era reforms, Washington had little power to reform conditions by legislation.
Meanwhile, government unions have no such narrative on their side. Do you recall the Great DMV cave-in of 1959? How about the travails of second-grade teachers recounted in Upton Sinclair's famous schoolhouse sequel to "The Jungle"? No? Don't feel bad, because no such horror stories exist.