Why are Americans so hostile to labor unions?

Thomas Brown
4 min readMay 4, 2018

Doesn’t it seem that Americans have a special type of anger towards labor unions? Seeing as only 10% of us work with unions, how can so many Americans have such negative attitudes towards an institution most of us have likely never even dealt with? When I travel overseas and meet European conservatives and libertarians, they have much less antipathy towards unions; they don’t like unions either but do not spit as much venom about them as Americans. Why is it that Americans are so hostile to labor unions?

Americans have had a unique historical experience with labor unions.

As far as I can tell, there is no equivalent to Jimmy Hoffa in Europe. Labor unions have a well-deserved reputation in this country as violent and corrupt. For much of the 20th century many of them were violent and functioned as a de facto mob front, some of them still do. In certain industries, labor unions are referred to as ‘classically corrupt,’ looking out for their own personal profits instead of the good of their membership, literally selling their integrity to industry bosses. At the expense of the actual workers.

Unions joined the great Baby Boomer lie, encouraging people to believe that the prosperous Mayberry, USA of the 1950s and 60s was the new normal. Get a job, work 25 years, retire on a generous pension. (That post-war world was the aberration, not the norm, and to be fair to unions -and politicians- it was common belief that it would last.)

In many cases they deliberately sold their membership bullshit, knowing full well that entire industries were fleeing or evolving and that union bargaining power was in-fact contributing to the demise, escape, or switch to automation of many industries. Sometimes because of shortsightedness, sometimes due to corruption, sometimes out of political blindness; but the guys depending on that steady paycheck and pension don’t care about why. They only know they got screwed.

(We’re actually screwing over two generations right now with an evolved version of that lie…