In an August 8 article, Washington Times chief political correspondent Donald Lambro quoted David Denholm, president of the Public Service Research Foundation (PSRF), who, purporting to interpret poll data, asserted that the current decline in union membership is irreversible. But Lambro did not inform readers that Denholm is far from a disinterested analyst. In fact, he is an antiunion activist, and PSRF is an antiunion group with backing from the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Moreover, Lambro quoted no other labor experts and cited no alternate opinions to challenge Denholm's assertion that union decline could not be stopped.
Lambro noted that a PSRF-funded Zogby International survey of U.S. nonunion workers found that "only one-third of workers want to unionize their workplace, while a 56 percent majority do not." Lambro then borrowed part of a Denholm quote from Zogby's July 22 write-up of the poll: "These survey results seem to indicate that, under present circumstances, no amount of organizing effort would be able to turn around the decline."
Neither Zogby nor PSRF has released the poll itself or the text of the relevant question so there is no way of knowing exactly what was asked. But at least one poll has produced very different results. A poll sponsored by the AFL-CIO in August 2002 asked nonunionized workers, "If an election were held tomorrow to decide whether your workplace would have a union or not, do you think you would definitely vote for forming a union, probably vote for forming a union, probably vote against forming a union, or definitely vote against forming a union?" Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would vote in favor of a union (32 percent definitely, 22 percent probably), while 40 percent said they would vote against a union (26 percent definitely, 14 percent probably).
On its website, PSRF makes no attempt to hide its antiunion agenda. In a section titled, "Find out what drives our organization," PSRF notes that it was founded by a former member of the National Education Association who "realized that what her union ... was doing wasn't in the interests of the students, the teachers or the general public." In addition, in 2004, PSRF received a $50,000 grant from the Bradley Foundation "[t]o support a national survey on public attitudes toward unions." The Bradley Foundation supports a number of other antiunion organizations, including the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Americans for Tax Reform's Alliance for Worker Freedom project.
Denholm also has a personal history of opposing unions. In the introduction to a 1994 article, "Beyond Public Sector Unionism: A Better Way," he wrote that early supporters of government workers' unions "ought to be forgiven for their failure to foresee just how harmful it would be to our nation's governmental institutions." But he added that the "record is clear. It is an unmitigated disaster." In a February 28, 2001, speech to the Society for Human Resource Management, Denholm noted that "employees who are fighting for their freedom against unionizing efforts" tend to succeed, despite a lack of resources. He then lauded the assembled human resources managers for "becoming a 'partner in crime' with your fellow employees in their battle against unionism."
Other news coverage of Denholm and PSRF has provided a more complete picture of their affiliations. A March 25, 2002, Time magazine article that quoted Denholm questioning an effort to unionize Amherst College dormitory monitors accurately identified PSRF as "an antiunion group." Similarly, a March 11, 2002, Sacramento Bee article noted that Denholm is "a self-described anti-union watchdog." According to the Bee, Denholm charged that "unions are now using their considerable muscle to oppose anything that will cut government size, such as tax breaks and tax reductions. Instead, unions favor tax hikes that will increase the size of government."
From Lambro's August 8 Washington Times article:
In another setback for unions, who have long been a pivotal voter constituency for the Democrats, a national survey of nonunion workers by independent pollster John Zogby found that only one-third of workers want to unionize their workplace, while a 56 percent majority do not.
With union membership in the midst of a sharp downturn, "these survey results seem to indicate that, under present circumstances, no amount of organizing effort would be able to turn around the decline," said David Denholm, president of the Public Service Research Foundation, which funded the poll.