If you are a member of a Union then you can consider yourself someone that is easily fooled. You bought the story that joining a Union would provide for a better life for you and your family and provide long term security. That used to be true when the US was the only game in town with regard to manufacturing but that is no longer the case. Let me show how Liberals exploit the easily fooled Union members to win their votes.
There was a post at ThinkProgress showing a graph that the authors claims to prove a correlation between declining share of national income for the Middle Class with declining Union membership. At first glance, the apparent correlation is startling but since I’m not a member of the ‘easily fooled’ sect, I peered deeper into the data. There are actually two problems with this graph – the first problem reveals how quickly people can be fooled who don’t understand Math and the second problem shows what is really correlated with declining Union Membership.
Axes of Evil
You’ll notice something interesting about this graph – it has 2 sets of Y-axes. This is done quite a lot and is very useful to show correlation between two variables that have different units (i.e. psi vs. temperature). But that is not the case with this data – both sets of data show percentages (percent of population that has union membership and percent of national income). So why did the authors need two axes? You’ll notice that the range of the Union membership axis is 30 percentage points and the range of the Middle Class income is 12 percentage points. When you change the ranges of axes you can squash or stretch the data by changing its slope and this is not a fair way to compare two data sets. What would happen if you graphed this same data but kept the y axis ranges the same for both data sets? I don’t have access to the real data but since both sets are fairly linear I took the percentages in 1967 and 2009 and used that to draw a line for each graph. I then kept the Union Membership range the same (0-30%) and changed the range on the Middle Class Income to equal the 30 percentage point range (40-70%). You can now see what the graph looks like:
True, both lines are going down but they are tracking at different rates (slopes) so maybe there is another variable at play here and correlations isn’t as tight as the original graph. What else would cause Union Membership to decline?
An Inconvenient Truth for Unions
Over this same timeframe (1970 – 2009) the rest of the world increased their manufacturing industry and we saw US companies move manufacturing to foreign countries. Could this correlate better with the Middle Class share of National Income? It makes sense because a lot of Middle Class Americans work in manufacturing facilities. I went to this site to obtain the data for US MFG as a percent of GDP and graphed this data and compared it to the Middle Class share of Nation Income. The slopes were closer to each other and we might conclude that this is another contributing factor to the declining Middle Class share of national income. See the graph below:
But something popped out when I looked at the Manufacturing data and the Union membership data. They looked like they were almost the same data. So I graphed those two sets of data and I knew I was on to something because in this case I didn’t need to adjust the ranges of Manufacturing as percent of GDP to match the Union membership – they both graphed fairly with 0-30%. The graph is shown below:
Now that shows a very tight correlation and makes perfect sense. Moving more manufacturing jobs (many of which were from Union plants) to foreign countries would cause a drop in Union membership since a majority of Union jobs are related to Manufacturing. Now this brings up an inconvenient truth for the Unions to absorb. High labor rates in Union facilities incentivize companies to seek lower cost manufacturing locations and when companies shut down US manufacturing facilities, Union membership declines. Lower Union membership will reduce the Union influence which also decreases future Union membership – It’s a death spiral. The Union’s insistance on over-priced wages and benefits started this cycle of destruction that they are seeing among their rand and file. Union membership is declining not because of external forces but because of their own greedy practices of the past. This is a bitter pill for the Union crowd to swallow.
The fact remains that Middle Class share of the National Income has declined and this is troubling. Moving manufacturing out of the US is very likely a major driver in declining Middle Class share of the national income and we should investigate that further and look for ways to rectify that. High Corporate tax rates, increased regulation, predatory tactics of the NLRB and Union thug activity should all be addressed if we ever hope to restore America as a leader in Manufacturing. All of this and more should be on the table but thinking that increasing Union membership will increase the Middle Class share of National Income and increase US Manufacturing as a percent of GDP is foolish.