Deep in a recent Associated Press article was a telling fact about the supposed big growth in union membership in 2008: Almost all the growth was among government employees, not among private-sector workers.
While unionization of government workers rose from about 36 percent to roughly 37 percent, private-sector unionization was up an insignificant one-tenth of 1 percent: from 7.5 percent in 2007 to 7.6 percent in 2008.
That is an interesting distinction for two reasons. First, government workers providing taxpayer-funded services ought not to be unionized in the first place. And second, the private sector — which represents the overwhelming majority of workers — simply is not rushing to unions.
It’s easy to see why. Americans have watched with disgust as a union representing workers at Detroit’s Big Three automakers repeatedly rejected concessions in their unsustainable contracts. That jeopardized the companies’ solvency, and Chrysler and General Motors ultimately had to be rescued by taxpayers with federal bailout money.
Americans have also seen teachers unions oppose charter schools, vouchers and other effective types of educational choice.
That stubbornness and obstructionism, especially in a weak economy, does not sit well with most people, and it helps explain why workers are not flocking to unions.
It’s also a good reason why Congress should not pass a bill that would undermine employees’ right to vote by secret ballot on whether to unionize their workplaces. The purposely misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act” would deny the free choice of secret ballots, and should be rejected.