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Unions and Self-Destruction

Is there anything sweeter to behold than those who most strongly champion wrong-headed ideals being hoisted on their own petard?

If there is, I don’t want to know about it.

For years and years, many people have said unions have outgrown their roots, have abandoned their initial ideals, and have turned into self-serving organizations that inflict grave harm on businesses at the expense of their membership. Their traditional supporters have nevertheless defended unions as serving vital functions, but now the worm may be turning.

First up, the Service Employees International Union: This union or unions of a troubled past was recently the target of — all things — a complaint with the Department of Labor over unfair labor practices. The the union finds itself in the awkward position of arguing that it is not a union-busting employer.

Now we have another union champion with union troubles. The Boston Globe has been a financial burden on the New York Times since the Gray Lady bought it back in 1993. Here’s the latest development: “The Times has threatened to shut down the beleaguered broadsheet if the paper’s 13 unions don’t come up with $20 million in concessions by May 1 — including the elimination of lifetime job guarantees.”

Now the unionized Globe employees are howling (anonymously, of course), but with whom are they angry? Not the Times – they’ve known this was coming for a while — but their union, which apparently sat on the Times’s ultimatum instead of calling an emergency meeting to inform the members and allow them to discuss a response.

The Globe has long been a staunch champion of unions. They have tirelessly campaigned on behalf of the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act,” and have never found a union excess they couldn’t whitewash.

Until just now, that is. Now, as it faces massive barrels of red ink while looking at thoroughly feather-bedded employee rolls, lifetime employment contracts, and grossly-overpaid staffers, the Boston Globe finds itself having to live up to the ideals it espoused for others. Facing the threat that it mocked and denied, the stalwart defender of unions must now wrest back concessions from its own unions.



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