Unemployment hovers at 8.2 percent, and Gallup says that 18 percent of the U.S. workforce is underemployed.
Yet apparently life locked out from their jobs is going well for the union workers of the American Crystal Sugar Co., whose workers rejected the company’s contract proposal for a third time, continuing an 11-month dispute.
The union was locked out by the company initially to protect its seasonal business from being affected at a critical time during the processing cycle.

Shockingly, the company, consisting of a co-op of sugar beet growers, cannot convince these locked-out workers to take a 14 percent increase in pay over the life of the contract as well as increased pension, leave and vacation benefits.
Instead, the union announced that 63 percent of voters voted against the latest offer.
Meanwhile, the company continues along with new replacement workers, who are happy to have a job, whom President and CEO David Berg calls “enthusiastic and energetic and apparently talented,” adding after a meeting with workers in North Dakota, “I’m very happy with them.”
Yet, with little to no leverage and nearly a year out of work, the union members continue under the illusion that they are not replaceable in rejecting the latest company contract offer.
Speaking of out of touch, last week, the annual meeting of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) revealed a union in deep denial over the meaning of its failed attempt to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and overwhelming defeats in two major local initiatives in the cities of San Diego and San Jose, Calif.
Rather than engaging in a discussion of retrenchment and regrouping, AFSCME leaders offered dazed musings about why the public doesn’t treat each and every one of them as a hero of 9/11.
Incredibly, these public employee union leaders fail to recognize that they are victims of their own past successes, which have saddled taxpayers with the costs of healthcare, salaries and pensions that exceed those received by their counterparts in the private sector.
One would have expected AFSCME to attempt to head its looming doom off at the pass with bold strategies of give-backs to re-establish pay equity and regain the high moral ground that its members think they deserve. Instead, their leaders promise to pursue a full-speed-ahead strategy — directly toward the fiscal cliff facing our nation.
You can identify both the myopic private-sector union leaders taking their members into a personal fiscal abyss, and their public-sector counterparts who can’t figure out that they are, as at least a partial cause of our nation’s debt woes rocking in the corner of their own special place in — The Twilight Zone.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the communications director of Americans for Limited Government and the former public affairs chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Labor.