POLITICS

Union leaders: The way to revive the economy is to make unions more powerful

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Karla Swift, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, have a joint column in the Detroit Free Press today on how to revive the economy. Believe it or not, their solution is to invest more money in projects that would benefit unions:

Our vision is different. It offers a solid program for a bright future. We can rebuild a healthy economy by reconnecting wages to productivity. The best way to do that is by protecting the right of working people to organize and bargain collectively through a union on the job.

The time for action is now. Our economy is sagging. To turn this slowdown into growth will require ambitious workforce training and huge investments in basic research in emerging technologies. We’ll need to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges and airports. We’ll need to restore U.S. manufacturing by reforming our trade policies. We need to end tax incentives for outsourcing and give states the financial help to hire back teachers, first responders and other public service workers.

Trumka and Swift no doubt sincerely believe these are the fixes the economy needs, but it is worth noting that these changes would also expand their organizations and make them more powerful, often at taxpayer expense.

“Workforce training and huge investments in basic research” is another way of saying “spending taxpayer money on favored industries.”  The infrastructure projects the column touts will most likely be unionized projects. The trade policy reforms pushed would protect unionized domestic industries  from competition on wages. The outsourcing provision would also protect union jobs. Finally, giving money to the states “to hire back teachers, first responders and other public service workers” would preserve public sector union jobs, now the majority of unionized jobs in America.

It’s hard to begrudge anyone who leads an organization from trying to advance that organization’s interests – that is what leaders are supposed to do. But people should also know when they are conflating the nation’s interests with their own.

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