As the United States prepares to enter its 44th year waging a “war on drugs,” more and more Americans have come tounderstand the consequences of this failed policy. But while economists underline theinordinate financial costs and civil rights activists lament over disproportionate arrest rates, Fourth Amendment violations and the human cost of police militarization, there’s a group of drug war casualties that many often neglect: animals.
Shortly after 9 pm on March 9, an Ohio SWAT team executing a no-knock raid,busted down the front door of Susan Smith’s home and tossed inside a flashbang grenade. Susan’s husband, obeying police command, rushed to cage their pit bull, Lulu. But in the panicked frenzy, Lulu managed to break free from her cage and darted around the house, prompting one of the police officers to discharge his weapon. In a split second, Lulu had been shot. The wounded dog then limped out the broken-down door to the front yard, where neighbors say she was shot at least three more times. The reason for the raid? Police suspected that the Smith family had marijuana in the house.
Stories like Lulu’s are tragic to hear, but they highlight an important group of drug war casualties that is often neglected. Most people are so preoccupied by the use of excessive force and the human casualties claimed during drug searches, that they often overlook “man’s best friend,” who often just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Today, a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes, while the number of officers who have been killed by a dog over the past 50 years rests at zero.
Surely, a large factor in the excessive number of shootings is the inadequate training police have in dealing with canines – a pet nearly half of all US households have. But do dogs really pose that big of a threat to police? As Radley Balko pointed out in the Daily Beast back in 2009, “If dangerous dogs are so common, one would expect to find frequent reports of vicious attacks on meter readers, postal workers, firemen, and delivery workers.” Yet this has not been the case.
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Unions are in trouble. Membership is declining, public pension plans are dangerously underfunded, and young workers are not interested in diverting a portion of their paychecks to dues that offer them few benefits in return. Half the states have passed “right to work” legislation that says that workers cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. In the face of these challenges, the union membership rate has fallen to a 100-year low.
Membership rates continue to fall as traditionally unionized industries such as steel and textiles move offshore and younger workers choose the non-union sector. Only 4 percent of employed 16 to 24 year-olds are union members, and the membership rate for workers 25 to 34 years old is less than 10 percent. Union shops tend to value tenure over skill, and merit bonuses are nowhere to be found. Young workers are the first to be fired, even if they are more competent than experienced employees. Workers aged 45 to 64 have the highest union participation rate at 14 percent.
Given the costs of joining a union, it is unsurprising that unionization rates increase with age and few young people clamor to sign up. Younger workers already ask what that FICA tax is doing in their paycheck, and union dues add another 2 percent to 4 percent tax. United Food and Commercial Workers dues range from <href=”#dues”>$19 to $60 a month, according to the union’s website. Initiation fees can add another $50 to $100, the price of a year’s worth of Netflix.
Reasonable people would expect union bosses to reevaluate unpopular policies in an attempt to attract and retain new members. Reasonable people would be mistaken. Rather than competing in the labor market, union bosses favor influencing government policy by doubling down on political donations.
Unions are required to file annual financial and membership data with the Department of Labor, and recently-released LM-2 forms show that unions continue to struggle to gain new members.
United Food & Commercial Workers International Union membership has fallen 4 percent from its peak in 2009, to 1.3 million. Over this same time, employment has risen by 7 percent. Service Employees International Union membership has fallen 2 percent from its peak in 2011, to 1.9 million. AFL-CIO membership has fallen 7 percent from its peak in 2005 to 12.7 million, although membership has risen over the past few years.
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