I should probably feign surprise that yet another study, this time from the University of Illinois, has emerged showing that union intimidation not only isn't a problem, but doesn't appear to exist in any measurable quantities. This bit of research -- which was, in part, funded by the AFl-CIO, but uses public records in ways that can be easily reproduced -- examined majority sign-up in the Illinois public sector. In the past six years, 22,000 workers joined unions, and thousands more worked for agencies that managed to repel an organizing campaign. The researchers used Freedom if Information requests to survey the public records from all of those efforts. There was no evidence of union coercion. Ever. The one complaint filed was dismissed for lack of merit. It consisted of "hearsay statements that [UNION X] representatives came to employees’ homes in an effort to obtain signatures on authorization cards." Even if it had been true, it would have been the intimidation tactics favored by Mormons, not the mafia.

That was it. As I said, I should probably feign surprise. But I'm not surprised. There's a sense out there that unions employ big, beefy organizers who wander around glowering at recalcitrant employees. That might have been true at one point. It's not particularly true now. Last month, I met a crack union organizer who works in a Western state. She's about 28, and barely breaks five feet. These days, union organizers tilt toward the young and the college educated. They're former student activists and kids who haven't applied to law school quite yet. They wouldn't know how to let the air out of anything bigger than a bike tire.