A liberal reader who is in a position to know (I have to fudge his identity to protect him) says that the conservative Catholic who became a labor union man out of a desire to protect his religious liberty in the workplace is fooling himself:
My perspective is very different than that of your conservative SEIU-member friend. The political departments of unions tend to be the ‘wokest’ spaces in left-of-center politics. There seems to be a pretty massive generational divide, as there is with anything these days, and the 20- and 30-somethings who staff these jobs tend to be further to the left than people who work for Democratic candidates and committees. There’s definitely a lot of cross pollination between the two worlds (after all, unions are effectively an auxiliary of the Democratic Party, perhaps now than ever before), but at D.C. headquarters of any union, you’ll find a subset of true-believers who want to smash capitalism and re-engineer society in a way that the average party hack generally does not.
I’m getting more cynical by the day, but check out the date on that SEIU video [about how SEIU protects its conservative members] you posted –May 24, 2018. That was barely a month before the Janus decision, which reversed a longstanding precedent that said public employee unions could collect bargaining fees from non-members. This was a high-stakes battle, and they were prepared for the conservative justices to drop the hammer on them. Given the timing, that video makes perfect sense as a PR ploy.
When it comes to the type of protection your friend is looking for, I basically see unions coming to the same fork in the road that the ACLU has faced in recent years as younger activists challenge its free speech fundamentalism (see this memo that got a lot of attention last year). A healthy labor movement should see a place for someone like a religious civil servant who’s on the wrong side of a coercive, lefty manager, but I don’t think my old colleagues see it that way. The optimist’s retort is that things are much better in the locals than the D.C. milieu, but I’m not so sure that’s true, especially in public sector unions.
I say this as someone who’s very much supportive of the union movement, especially in an age of unprecedented income and wealth inequality. But unions have an endless list of complicated problems, and at least on these issues, I’m not confident things are headed in a good direction.
Like I said, I know this reader’s name, and what he does for a living. I trust him, even though this is not what I wanted to hear.