Welder: Big Labor Denies Workers Opportunities

Former UA union member Karl Ludwig: The UA “intentionally excludes potential pipefitters from the labor market to limit supply and drive up prices. Worse yet, the exclusion means less pipefitting work gets done.”
Former UA union member Karl Ludwig: The UA “intentionally excludes potential pipefitters from the labor market to limit supply and drive up prices. Worse yet, the exclusion means less pipefitting work gets done.” (Credit: Don Loos)

Plumbers Union Officials Oppose ‘Growth . . . of Skilled Labor’

For nearly a century now, U.S. employer-employee relations laws have been explicitly designed to rig job markets by granting extraordinary monopoly privileges to a relative handful of union officials.

Yet many well-intentioned people today continue to accept at face value Big Labor claims that the core aim of the union hierarchy is to “protect working Americans.” Until a few years ago, Karl Ludwig accepted those claims himself.

That’s why, roughly six years ago, Mr. Ludwig was excited to submit his application for membership in pipefitters union Local 455, a subsidiary of the United Association (UA/AFL-CIO), a “national pipe-trades union covering pipefitters, steamfitters, plumbers, sprinkler fitters, and others.”

His application was accepted. But just two years later, the 2017 graduate of Anoka Technical College in east-central Minnesota had left the St. Paul, Minn.-based Local 455, “disgruntled, discouraged, and determined to avoid the unjust and injurious UA union system.”

In “A Union View From Inside,” a commentary published by RealClear Policy on June 19, which he polished and finalized with assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Mr. Ludwig explains what went wrong.

Bosses’ Strategy: Limit Union Membership and Exclude Nonmembers From Job Market

From his personal perspective, the key problem with the UA hierarchy is that it doesn’t focus on “improving workers’ skills and negotiating for a higher wage” that reflects the improvement. Instead, UA bosses strive relentlessly to jack up the amount of money that can be extracted from businesses and customers by reducing the number of pipefitters in the job market!

UA-boss opposition to the “growth and advancement of skilled labor” takes several forms, including “intentionally limit[ing] union membership.”

And union bosses’ “beggar-thy-neighbor” mindset unfortunately seeps down to the union rank-and-file in many cases. Mr. Ludwig recalls with dismay how, at union meetings, members would “stand up and demand that fewer people be admitted to the union and granted the opportunities union members profit from.”

Plumbers and other building-trades union bigwigs also routinely seek to diminish the supply of labor and drive up prices through “state license laws, prevailing-wage, and project-labor laws” that make it very difficult if not impossible for union-free workers and businesses to compete for prime projects.

And it’s not just workers who lose the opportunity for gainful employment in the construction industry and union-free contractors who get hurt by these policies of exclusion.

As a consequence of union bosses’ avarice and the public policies that enable them, “less pipefitting work gets done,” and “American industries processing steam, petrochemical, water and other materials suffer from a loss of valuable skilled labor.”

Social, Political, Economic Activism Needed to End UA Officials’ Stranglehold

Despite his unhappiness about monopolistic unionism’s profoundly corrupting influence over his chosen trade in Minnesota and around the country, Karl Ludwig is far from giving up.

But ending the UA elite’s “local and national stranglehold” will require “social, political, and economic activism.”

Big Labor-inspired state laws that hand union bosses inordinate power over state licensing systems, authorize union-only “project labor agreements,” and mandate union-label “prevailing wages” on public workers must be abolished, he writes.

Additionally, Mr. Ludwig urges concerned citizens to “donate to organizations” such as the Right to Work Foundation, “which provides legal aid to both union and non-union workers,” and lobby for the extension of Right to Work protections to all jurisdictions where they are not currently offered.

In his words, “Right to Work laws protect workers from being discriminated against based on their union membership or lack thereof.”

National Right to Work Foundation and Committee President Mark Mix commented:

“Karl Ludwig is to be commended for his refusal to participate in a Big Labor scheme that more or less openly aims to enable union bosses, and certain selected workers, to prosper by denying opportunities to many other workers.

“Of course, there are millions of other workers across America who have different, but also compelling, reasons for not wanting to belong to or bankroll a particular union. And all these diverse workers benefit from Right to Work protections.”

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