As we observe the unionized government employee protests in Wisconsin, despite that state's massive $3.1 billion budget shortfall, we should take note that organized labor is often out of touch when it comes to creating solutions and opportunity in the current global economy.
Public sector unions, like the ones on the street in Madison, and private sector unions like the United Autoworkers have a long track record of shortsighted and self-interested actions.
One need only look at the demise of the Detroit automotive industry as an example. Considering what has happened in the Motor City over the last several years, we in the commonwealth should pay attention to UAW President Bob King's recent announcement that his organization will push to unionize "transplant" foreign automakers throughout the American South and Midwest.
On the one hand, it's understandable why the UAW is trying to expand beyond the Detroit Three — it desperately needs a win. It is hemorrhaging members, and more importantly, union dues to keep it alive.
Since peaking at 1.5 million in 1979, the UAW has lost more than three-quarters of its membership. From 2001 to 2009 alone, the union's membership declined by nearly one-half, from just over 700,000 to less than 360,000.
On the other hand, there's very little reason why transplant employees would benefit from joining the UAW.
Most transplant employees have already rejected the unwanted burdens of unionization. The UAW has never succeeded in organizing a major U.S. factory owned by an Asia-based automaker, including repeated failed attempts to unionize Nissan in Smyrna, Tenn., and Honda in Marysville, Ohio. Unable to persuade employees directly, UAW's King has been attacking their employers, professing to "pound" on transplants if they don't agree to his terms.
As the Big Three in Detroit have faltered, it's fair to say the UAW has pounded enough. It's hard to understand how the UAW seeks to win over employee support by tarnishing their employer.
What motivates the UAW to target these plants? Survival, apparently.
In a recent speech to union members and retirees at a conference in Washington, D.C., King admitted that if he doesn't organize transplant factories, the union's survival is at stake.
In his own words, "If we don't organize these transnationals, I don't think there's a long-term future for the UAW — I really don't."
Failed attempts at organizing. Repeated attacks on employers. And now a desperate plea to stay afloat. This is what the UAW offers.
Instead of allowing the Detroit model to be instituted here in Kentucky, it's time we protect Kentucky jobs and join 22 states by making Kentucky a right-to-work state, protecting workers from being forced to join a union or support a union.
After all, we're talking about the livelihood of our neighbors, our communities and our own prosperity.