Unions Betray Their Historic Constituency

Samuel Gompers organized the American Federation of Labor on November 15, 1881, to advance the cause of the wage-earning men and women of his adopted country, the United States of America. Little more than a century later, his honorable tradition has been abandoned. Today's labor union leaders betray their constituency, putting its interests below their own selfish efforts to sustain their personal power.

Today's unionistas support mass immigration because poor and uneducated immigrants are potential recruits. Never mind that, by opposing the very legislation that would help their traditional constituents, today's union leaders are engaged in a massive double-cross.

The latest example of betrayal is the Service Employees International Union/AFL-CIO lawsuits designed to keep Protect Arizona Now's Proposition 200 off the November 2 ballot or, failing that, prevent counting of ballots until all legal challenges are adjudicated. [Proposition 200 is a citizen initiative of the type allowed in 23 States and will, if passed in November, require proof of citizenship to register to vote, a photo I.D. when voting, and proof of eligibility to receive non-federally mandated public benefits.]

The SEIU and friends have so far brought two specious lawsuits against the Arizona Secretary of State and county officials and have named PAN as "a party in interest." Only PAN's founder, Kathy McKee, actively defended the case, winning at the trial court level and standing ready to oppose the SEIU's expected appeal to the State Supreme Court  [Alien initiative qualifies for ballot By Valerie Richardson   Washington Times August 18, 2004]

Immigration hurts salaried and wage-earning Americans because an increase in the supply of anything [such as labor] reduces its price -- in this case, compensation for labor. The more people who compete for the same job, the less in wages and benefits employers need to offer. This explains why the Arizona Chamber of Commerce is working—with labor unions - to defeat Proposition 200.  Samuel Gompers would have found such an alliance incredible—and outrageous!

In 1924, Gompers wrote to Congress in support of the restrictive immigration act then being considered, and ultimately enacted, saying,

"Every effort to enact immigration legislation must expect to meet a number of hostile forces and, in particular, two hostile forces of considerable strength. One of these is composed of corporation employers who desire to employ physical strength (broad backs) at the lowest possible wage and who prefer a rapidly revolving labor supply at low wages to a regular supply of American wage earners at fair wages. The other is composed of racial groups in the United States who oppose all restrictive legislation because they want the doors left open for an influx of their countrymen regardless of the menace to the people of their adopted country."

There was a patriot!

But in 2001, contemporary labor union leaders ignored Gompers' wisdom in order to espouse mass immigration, including even illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens. AFL-CIO spokeswoman Kathy Roeder let the cat out of the bag by admitting the reason: "We're always looking for opportunities for people to join unions. That's our number one reason for working with immigrants" [cited by Joe Guzzardi, "View from Lodi, CA: Illegals Only Take Jobs that Unemployed Americans Used to Have" on VDARE.com, 2001].

Labor union leaders are desperate for members. Immigration enlarges the labor force and undermines the bargaining power they can marshal for their members. They willfully ignore this. The reality is a stable labor force in a growing economy enhances the power of labor. In 1950 through 1960, after thirty years when immigration averaged 200,000 or less per year, union membership as a percentage of the U.S. labor force was approximately 30%, its highest ever. A shortage of labor not only raises wages and benefits but also gives workers the confidence and power to unionize.

Labor leaders are seduced by the cultural willingness of immigrants to unionize. The strategic question is, with an economy flooded with cheap, willing workers, is unionization possible?

By 1998, after thirty years of record-high and continuously rising immigration, union membership including government workers had fallen to less than 15% of the labor force. Lack of interest in unions did not happen because workers are delighted with their jobs and compensation. Why would it, when where one adult worker used to suffice to support the average middle-class family, two are now needed? And when the lower half of the workforce has not seen an increase in real income since the early 1970s?

The reality today is that workers do not unionize because they realize a competing force of new workers is at their throats. They cannot risk the effort, employer disfavor, and time that unionization entails.

Using methodology developed by Harvard professor George Borjas, Edwin Rubenstein shows that immigration costs working Americans and established immigrants upwards of $302 billion annually in lost jobs and depressed wages. Least educated workers bear the brunt of the loss because their labor force characteristics most closely resemble those of the average, low-educated, weakly English-speaking, immigrants.

But increasingly, high tech knowledge workers are finding themselves displaced by immigrants, who will do their jobs for less.  On occasion Americans have been asked to train their replacements! Andrew Sum and his colleagues at Northeastern University find that immigrants have taken the equivalent of more than 100% of all new jobs created since 2000—that is, more immigrants and fewer native-born Americans are working today than three years ago.

Presidential candidates from both major parties are working overtime to betray average, hard-working, law-abiding Americans. Neither will take a stand against the continuing huge influx of foreign labor. And where are the Unions?  Learning Spanish! What a putrid betrayal of the historic mission of the Unions, to stand up for the wage earning men and women of America!

UP with Protect Arizona Now's Proposition 200!

Virginia Abernethy [email her], Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, is on the Board of Directors of Population-Environment BALANCE and the Board of Directors of Carrying Capacity Network. Her publications include Population Politicsimage 2000, 1993; and Population Pressure and Cultural Adjustmentimage, 2005, 1979; and approximately 100 additional published papers.