The Jan. 17 front-page article “Manufacturing recovers, but unions are left behind” declared: “The data don’t make clear what, exactly, is driving the decline in union manufacturing jobs even as the industry expands hiring.” In fact, the data give a pretty good idea.

According to the most recent numbers available from the National Labor Relations Board, more than 17,000 workers were fired or disciplined in 2010 because of union activity. A 2009 study by Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, found that 34 percent of union organizing drives see at least one worker fired. Get rid of the union advocate, be sure other workers see what’s happened to him or her, and what do you know: frightened workers, end of organizing drive and, unsurprisingly, a decline in unionized manufacturing jobs. There are no fines, damages or penalties levied against employers who use that tactic. Their worst-case scenario is having to pay back wages to illegally fired workers.

Given employers’ ability to remain free from those pesky negotiations over wages and working conditions, it’s simply a cost of doing business.

David Prosten, Annapolis

The writer is president of Union Communication Services.