Arizona seems poised to pass a draconian anti-union measure. This, of course, follows in the wake of Wisconsin, Ohio (since repealed via referendum), and, just this week, Indiana.
The paradox in all of these actions is that union density is as low as its been in 75 years. And the ratio of public to private sector unionism is 5:1 (50 years ago, it was 3:1 private to public sector.
But that is a big part of the problem. Public sector unions are supported by tax dollars. When 30% of both the public and private sector workforce were unionized in the late sixties, wage inequality was vastly less than the subsequent 40 years. Private sector union members had a something of a sense of being part of the same project—the same movement—with those in the public sector. Maybe their taxes paid for the salaries of public sector workers, but wages were going up for everybody. And some of that intra-union solidarity is still evident today in higher union states like Ohio and Wisconsin.
But in a low union density state like Arizona, there is less support for paying tax dollars to support public sector unions. It’s no coincidence that the Goldwater Institute is pushing the legislation in Arizona. Barry Goldwater, seen today as almost a cuddly figure compared to contemporary conservatives, was pathologically anti-union, convinced that unions, like Civil Rights legislation, threatened freedom of association. Now that the Soviet Union has fallen, anti-unionism remains one of the most galvanizing issues within the modern conservative movement. Conservatives have been waiting a long time to eviscerate unions. The fact that sometimes it’s hard to find any unions won’t stop them from killing off whatever they can hunt down.