“Labor Day:” Doing Soviet Better Than the Soviets

Well, I guess there’s at least one thing to
celebrate as concerns “the labor movement” in the United States.
And one thing to bemoan. Both shown in the following graph, and
I’ll leave it for you to determine which is which.

Union Density graph
Union Density

What to conclude, except
that with quasi market-driven private sector
union membership at an all time low—and getting lower all the
time—the vast majority of employees find that they do better on
their own than having their employment contract dictated by an
association of fellow employees to whom they have to pay hefty

And, what else to
conclude, but that in the Soviet sector of the
“economy,” employees really like their unions and the lavish
retirement benefits that come at your expense? And that they’re
more than happy to always support the candidate that promises them
more of your money?

It’s an interesting graph,
though. One might speculate that what really happened was a rush to
get Soviet sector unions going in the early
70s as a way to counteract the decline in private sector membership
and of course, the political influence that goes with it. The total
number of Soviet sector employees in unions
now outnumbers those in the private sector.

the other hand, the U.S. private sector is still larger than the
U.S. Soviet sector, so this still
represents an absolute drop in union membership. As reported in The
New York Times earlier this year, “Share of the Work Force in a Union
Falls to a 97-Year Low, 11.3%.”

The long decline in the number of
American workers belonging to labor unions accelerated sharply last
year, according to data reported on Wednesday, sending the
unionization rate to its lowest level in close to a

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the
total number of union members fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3
million, even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4
million. The percentage of workers in unions fell to 11.3 percent,
down from 11.8 percent in 2011, the bureau found in its annual
report on union membership. That brought unionization to its lowest
level since 1916, when it was 11.2 percent, according to a study by
two Rutgers economists, Leo Troy and Neil Sheflin.

Leave it to “labor specialists” to
deliver the laf worthy, though:

Labor specialists cited several reasons for the steep
one-year decline in union membership. Among the factors were new
laws that rolled back the power of unions in Wisconsin, Indiana and
other states, the continued expansion by manufacturers like Boeing
and Volkswagen in nonunion states and the growth of sectors like
retail and restaurants, where unions have little

How about check
with a “business specialist,” where you might actually get an
unambiguous reason that actually makes sense:
unions are fucking uncompetitive,
And that’s why they’ve migrated
to the Soviet sector, where competitiveness is
never an issue.

Yea, duh. Here’s David Griswold with

The story
spun by labor leaders is that foreign competition has caused
manufacturing and other, more unionized sectors of the economy to
shrink, shifting the weight of our economy to less-unionized
service sectors.

The reality is more sobering
for the union movement. The decline in union density in the United
States has not been driven by a shift of employment from unionized
sectors to non-unionized sectors, but by a broad economy-wide
decline of unionization across sectors and regions. Private-sector
unionization rates have fallen in virtually every manufacturing
sector and most service sectors in the past three decades and
across all regions of the country.

weight of evidence indicates that, for most firms in most sectors,
unionization leaves companies less able to compete
The core problem is that unions cause
compensation to rise faster than productivity, eroding profits
while at the same time reducing the ability of firms to remain
price-competitive. The result over time is that unionized firms
have tended to lose market share to nonunionized firms, in domestic
as well as international markets.

And what was I just saying above, about how you pay all
the lavish benefits for those in the Soviet

Unions have been able
to thrive in the public sector because governments, by definition,
exercise monopoly power to raise revenue. Public employee unions
can demand higher pay and ever more generous benefits, knowing
their employers can simply pass costs on to captive taxpayers. As a
result of those divergent trends, 2009 marked the first time ever
in the United States that union members in the public sector
outnumbered those in the private sector.

Now, go do a little research on the
root cause of every single municipal and
state-level budget crisis from sea to shining sea. Do it. You’ll
find fucking insane, lifetime pension benefits as the absolute
direct cause, and it’s getting worse by the hour, day, week and
month as more and more people go from the “work” force to the
retirement [d]oles.

More lafs from the NYT

Union membership
showed sharp drops in Wisconsin, which passed a law in 2011 curbing
the collective bargaining rights of many public employees, and in
Indiana, which enacted a right-to-work law last February that may
have prompted many workers to drop their union

Such laws prohibit requiring
employees at unionized workplaces to pay union dues or fees. The
bureau’s report showed that union membership fell by 13 percent
last year in Wisconsin and by 18 percent in Indiana — both
unusually large numbers for a single year.

Ha ha ha. Well, that kinda exposes the
gig for what it is, eh? So let’s get this straight. Before,
employees valued having their jobs more than their requirement to
be a union member and pay union dues as a condition of employment.
But as soon as that condition is lifted, you see how valuable their
union membership was to them at the level of dues they had to
pay. I’m sure it completely escapes the notice of union
bosses, that when someone isn’t willing to buy your product or
service voluntarily, then you generally either have to offer more
product/service at that price, or lower the price for the existing
product/service to what people are willing to pay. …But, I’m sure
unions have never been mistaken for stalwarts of competitive,
market driven dynamics anyway, so we’re still well on the safe

Well OK then. Union membership at an
all-time low, states and municipalities going broke across the land
as a result of decades of hugely over obligating the taxpayers to
pay pension benefits.

I guess there is
something to celebrate, after all. So
Happy Labor Day!

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Joseph Fetz on September 2, 2013 at 14:00

    Excellent article, Richard! I actually began to write an article on similar lines this morning, but then I ran across this and decided that you did a well enough job of it.

  2. Richard Nikoley on September 2, 2013 at 14:15

    Thanks Joseph. Sorry to steal thunder.

  3. Joseph Fetz on September 2, 2013 at 14:37

    No problem at all, I was procrastinating on it anyway. Later when I got back to it and was doing a little searching this popped up. So I decided to just share this instead. You saved me the disutility of labor, so I instead spent that time enjoying a glass of scotch and a Padrón cigar. Thanks!

    Probably the only real thing that I would have added is the concept of net taxpayers vs net tax consumers, as well as rent-seeking. But really, those ideas are already implied in this piece, at least for anybody that knows economics (i.e. those ideas would pop into their head as they read this).

  4. Gordon Shannon on September 2, 2013 at 15:40

    I do much prefer the use of “Soviet” to “public.” It’s more honest. Contains all relevant structural content of the term “public” with the welcome addition of appropriate pejorative content.

  5. Bobert on September 2, 2013 at 16:11

    Is it the actual pay or the “compensation” in the form of free medical care for life? A covered procedure to extend life by a few months can cost what the person might have made their entire life at that job, inflation adjusted. Notice what was nonexistent 50 years ago.

  6. marie on September 2, 2013 at 16:46

    Richard, “one might speculate that what really happened was a rush…in the 70s…”
    That’s a near vertical rise, starting sharply (discontinuously) in ~1976. Do you happen know if some event occurred then or maybe some legislation was enacted? Just curious.
    Also, what is your take on the causes of the rise in membership in the first half of the previous century?

  7. Richard Nikoley on September 2, 2013 at 17:03


    Combo of both, because to be politically relevant, you have to cover all bases. I’m most familiar with CA. My wife, who just completed 30 years but is still below official retirement age could take the “30 & out” deal now. This, at 52, would give her almost 70% of her highest pay for the rest of her life, plus the other stuff like med. She stays in a few more years, it rapidly goes up to 90%.

    We’re talking ’bout CA. We’re talking very near 100k.

    It’s unsustainable and people I talk to finally seem to be getting a clue.


    Thanks for an easy question. The cause is that rather than just being business competitors, they looked at what kind of deal the church gets with the state and media, and signed right up to complete the Holy Trinity.

  8. marie on September 2, 2013 at 17:13

    it’s them easy questions that often don’t get asked, eh? 😉
    Meanwhile….Holy Tetrarchy? 😀

  9. LeonRover on September 3, 2013 at 00:31

    Hmm, I guess Hagia Tetrarchia is an advance on Hagia Triásarchia – or was it Trierarchia?

    Was Sophia co-opted to complete the Tetrarchia – maybe not , more likely to have been Salomé.

    or even: ): ):


  10. Bucket on September 3, 2013 at 10:40

    We celebrated Labor Day by eating Mexican Food!

  11. marie on September 3, 2013 at 10:48

    yes, the conflict of the ages, Wisdom vs Temptation…;)

  12. Joshua on September 3, 2013 at 10:56

    I think the only thing wrong with unions is that they can essentially become government protected labor monopolists. Take away their government sponsored monopoly powers, and they become a lot less dysfunctional. Why shouldn’t an employer have the choice of 1) union X, 2) union Y, or 3)individual workers?

  13. Richard Nikoley on September 3, 2013 at 12:34


    Exactly. It is not the association aspect I have trouble with at all, or solidarity. Those are perfectly valid.

  14. Democracy, Labor, Unions: An Exercise in Fucktards, Plebeians, and Noobs | Anarchy Begins At Home on September 1, 2014 at 14:12

    […] “Labor Day:” Doing Soviet Better Than the Soviets. Note the charts that show how private sector labor unionism is a pathetic limp dick, compared to how the public-sector has a far more effective hardon for looting from you until your great, great, great, great grandkids pay the bill you voted for them to pay and not you. […]

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