This column originally appeared on Townhall.com November 23, 2009.
Kevin Anderson is a junior at Southern Lehigh High School near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is also a longstanding member of Boy Scout Troop 301 in the Lehigh Valley.
Kevin needed to do an Eagle Scout project to complete the requirements for the Eagle Scout rank. He decided to clear a 1,000 foot hiking and biking path at Kimmets Lock Park in east Allentown, completing a missing link in the 165-mile Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Trail. The completed trail would allow visitors to walk along the Lehigh River.
Kevin and his Boy Scout volunteer helpers logged in 250 hours completing the trail project, clearing brush and plants, and removing trash and old tires. The Mayor of Allentown, Ed Pawlowski, told Fox News that Anderson’s work was a “great service to the community.”
But not everyone is happy about the service project. Nick Balzano, President of the local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) threatened the Allentown City Council with legal action for allowing the Boy Scouts to clear the trail. Balzano complained that the city had recently laid off 39 SEUI workers. As a result, Balzano told the City Council that the union would be “looking into the Cub Scout or Boy Scout who did the trails,” adding, “There’s to be no volunteers.”
Balzano complained that the city should have paid some of his 39 laid off workers to do the work in place of the Boy Scout volunteers. He told the Allentown Morning Call that no one except SEIU union members may be allowed to pick up a shovel, plant a flower, or clear a walking path for the city.
The SEIU, of course, is a major cog in the Obama political machine. SEIU President Andy Stern is a frequent White House visitor, ardently pushing the government takeover of health care, which he expects to lead to more unionized health care workers paying dues to his labor empire. The SEIU has also long had ties with ACORN, another major component of the Obama machine.
The union has since apologized for Balzano’s indiscretion. A call to New York City SEIU spokesman Matt Nerzig revealed that Balzano has suddenly decided to resign from the union, and could not be reached. Nerzig insists that the resignation was entirely voluntary and he does not know the reasons Balzano chose to quit. But seven other executives of the SEIU local have now quit as well.
Unfortunately, Balzano’s shocking lack of common sense is all too common in today’s mentally ossified union movement. Imagine the impact on your local small business if the Democrats succeed in implementing their forced unionization schemes such as card check, with Balzano knock-offs imposing soaring costs with similarly rigid union work rules.
The problem with today’s labor unions is that they follow an outdated model arising from the industrialization battles at the end of the 19th century. That model is closer to piracy in aiming to take from others, rather than productive modern capitalism. Basic economics will tell you that any higher wages that unions achieve for their members come at the expense of lower wages for others excluded from the market, with even volunteer labor from Boy Scouts working on their Eagle projects to be rejected.
There would be a role for modern, free market labor unions that approached employers with the proposition, “How could we be more productive so that you can pay us more?” Such unions would be welcomed by employers as promoting good communication and cooperation with the company’s work force, and adding to rather than subtracting from the company’s bottom line and survival prospects.
But unions persist with their pirate model, thinking they can achieve more by taking as much as possible from the employer and the company. That is why union-dominated industries such as steel and now autos have fallen into steep decline. Glenn Beck calls SEIU a “thugocracy,” meaning precisely rule by thugs. That is precisely how SEIU local President Balzano behaved in Allentown.
Hitler had his brown shirts to intimidate and beat up the opposition. Mussolini had his black shirts to do the same. SEUI’s apparel features purple shirts, from which you should interpret that they pursue the same approach. And if Obama’s Democrats have their way, those purple shirts will be coming to a job site near you, asking you ever so politely to sign a little card asking for a union from your employer.