The big industrial unions have evaporated from America along with the big industries that paid for them; the recent UAW fizzle in Tennessee only underlines the decline. Three monuments presently recall the era of industrial unions: The cadre of comfortably retired union workers, resting upon pensions and healthcare that no U.S. workers are likely to see again, the remains of the city of Detroit, a dessicated remnant of the once fecund metropolis that symbolizes American unionism and of course, the fizzie. American industrial unionism went out with a whimper; it was unaffordable and none will pay for it anymore.
The next phase of this tale is taking place in government, the natural refuge of expelled unions foreclosed from industry. The unions were able to work their industrial protection racket upon industry by buying the Democrats; as they lost their victims in industry, they found a welcome refuge in public employment, driving government workers’ earnings from below to well above those in the private sector. The 401k has replaced pensions everywhere but government; pensions simply cost too much. Government’s inflationary economic policies magnify the problem.
Those ‘underfunded’ pensions are a large segment of Detroit’s’ bankruptcy and are equally a millstone about the necks of many local governments. And the public employee unions are not the wimps remaining in industry; they have bought politicians and they expect results from their purchases. American workers are watching jobs disappear and living standards shrink but public workers are seeing hiring and still expect regular, if smaller, raises these days, especially in school systems. But there is Detroit.
Detroit, San Bernardino, Stockton and a few others have gone under; New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are facing similar conundrums as are a number of states. California, a Democrat stronghold, has raised taxes to hold off the piper and has shifted from immigration to exodus of taxpayers. The remaining bastion of Big Unionism is balancing on the same verge that has done for its industrial predecessor. But the Democrats weren’t running industry so it simply got up and left. Governments have trouble doing that; all they can do is stick it to the taxpayers. And the unionfolk are starting to notice that they are also, those taxpayers.
The next round is not set to be very nice, but it seems likely to be interesting. Strikingly so.