You all knew that I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines while this whole thing went down and be silent, right? Tonight I write to weigh in on the struggles going on in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana. The bottom line is that the governments in those states are making a stand against the public unions. Of course, the unions are panicking. Facing already dwindling membership in the private sector unions, the public sector unions are kind of where they figured they were safe. But they aren’t. And they shouldn’t be. Look, I don’t have a problem with the concept of a union. But I sure have a problem with what the big unions have become. They are no longer a tool for the protection of vulnerable employees (nor do they need to be). They have become a drain on the American economy and they do more harm than good in many cases. And in order to gain support, they are simply liars about what the situations are and what the consequences are without them. It is time to set the record straight and talk about why the public unions should simply go away…
Public unions are a menace to our economy at this point. Imagine a world of Jurassic Park. We go to the union bosses display and they are no where to be seen. We can hear them roaring in the wilderness out there. So we look away and go about trying to fix the country. But we begin to attack their power source, collective bargaining and forced dues collections, and suddenly we look up and the goat is gone. Nothing but a chain remains. And we become aware of how powerful and dangerous they really are. But they are just one part of the scenery. We also have the Raptors, union protest organizers. Cunning and deceptive. And despite what some will claim, generally violent. Meanwhile the big old Brachiosaurs (the American public) just continue lumbering around looking for leaves and sneezing on unsuspecting little girls.
Wait, does my reference to a movie immediately discount everything I am about to say? Just checking.
Public unions served a purpose at one time. I guess I am OK with that statement. But there is no issue in America that is as clear an indicator of the fact that masses of people will support something simply because their political leadership tells them to. Answer me this, public union supporters: Why exactly are the public unions necessary? To protect the workers from their employers? That is the claim. We need public unions to ensure that the employers don’t take advantage of the workers. Without the unions and collective bargaining, the workers will get screwed over. They will remain underpaid, overworked, and will pay entirely too much for health care coverage and pension benefits. The employers are evil, evil men and the unions are just there to protect public workers from the evil men.
Problem is, the evil men in question… is the government. The same government that the left would have us believe we need massive amounts more of in order to protect the citizens. How does that make any sense? The left would have you believe that government is a benevolent entity. That is why we must entrust them with our health care and our tax money and our environment and our everything. The government is looking out for our best interests. That is why we need more of it. That is the message from the left. Unless you work for the government. Then the government is an evil corporation, waiting to spring its trap on unsuspecting workers. The citizens that the government employs need protection from government. Government is good to the citizens, but bad to its employees. The same people who are looking to screw the workers are looking to save the masses! Am I the only one who sees the massive disconnect here? So which is it? Do we need more government to protect us from corporations or more unions to protect us from government?
And if a free market solution, unions, are the answer to our problems, why do those who support the unions appear to be so opposed to the free market?
Public sector unions were, for the most part, illegal until the 1950’s. Ironically, the first state to legalize collective bargaining for public sector employees was Wisconsin, in 1959. So it is somewhat fitting that Wisconsin was the first site of a battle to reduce the collective bargaining power of public unions. In 2009, public unions for the first time had more members than private sector unions.
At the core of this debate is the idea of collective bargaining. The ability of unions to garner better deals for its members by bargaining as a group rather than individuals. In the private sector, I can almost be OK with such a concept. After all, we know there are some crooked corporations out there (although I maintain they are the exception rather than the rule). In today’s information age, I question the need of even private sector unions. But since government wants to protect the corporations, I can live with unions being the counter-balance for the workers. But the public unions are something I simply do not support for a plethora of reasons.
First and foremost, I feel that the public unions are a drain on the economy with far too much ability to cost the taxpayers significant amounts of money with no recourse. Studies have shown that public sector union members earn as much as 40% more than their private sector counterparts. That is a gigantic difference for doing roughly the same job. And it shows what the powerful public unions have done. The kicker is that it is you and I, the taxpayer, footing the bill for this. But we cannot really do anything to stop it. The taxpayer, you see, has zero ability to rein in public unions. And they have zero ability to do anything about the consequences of public unions until the responsible parties are no longer around. That is the reality of what has happened in Wisconsin.
Public unions make outrageous demands of the politicians who employ them. The politicians know that they cannot agree to lavish wage hikes as this will immediately increase taxes and cause the taxpayers to put that politician out of office the next election cycle. So instead the politicians agrees to lavish pension benefits instead. These are not implemented immediately so there is no immediate tax hike associated with them. And twenty years from now when the tax hikes happen so that we can pay for these pensions, the guilty party is no longer in office. Taxes go up and the taxpayer has zero recourse. They can’t vote out the person responsible.
So a new politician is in place saddled with finding a way to pay for all this nonsense. Their budget is out of whack and they look around and see that the things the union bargained for with the last guy are one of the drivers of all the red ink on the state balance sheet. They move to start restoring the fiscal integrity of the state and the unions lose their frackin mind. Union bosses make outrageous claims and refuse to recognize any realities. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the union bosses. It is their job to represent the workers in the union. It isn’t their job to worry about state balance sheets or to care whether Joe the plumber has to pay higher taxes. I cannot fault the union bosses for doing what they were hired to do. I will never forget an eye-opening statement from the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker: “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” (Shanker was also a member of the Young People’s Socialist League and had another interesting quote: “a lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent”) It tells us all we need to know about how unions see the rest of the public outside of its members.
That is where we are in Wisconsin. Governor Walker is tasked with balancing the budget which includes dealing with the deals that his predecessors made with the public unions. He has attempted to force the unions to acquiesce to a deal that is slightly BETTER than the deal that all federal union employees currently operate under. Yet the unions would have us believe Wisconsin is attempting to force public workers into homeless shelters.
I think that it is high time that the state governments begin to push back and eliminate the public union’s influence. That one of the most fought against ideas is the elimination of automatic dues collection says a ton about where the unions stand at this point. They are petrified of even having a situation evolve where its own members see every paycheck what they are paying and have to make a choice as to whether to pay it or not. I would think if the unions were so beneficial to its members that this wouldn’t be something they would worry about.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of the Republicans either. They are not willing to go far enough to get our country back to where it needs to be economically. If it were up to me we wouldn’t bee looking to slash a percentage of discretionary spending (and discretionary spending only equates to roughly $500 Billion of the federal governments massive 3-4 Trillion dollar budget each year). I would prefer that we look at slashing 50% of the ENTIRE budget. That means entitlement programs and all. But the petty Republicans are not going to be looking at doing that anytime soon. But I digress.
The reality is that public unions have stifled the economy in many states as the states attempt to meet their demands and now face paying for unfunded pensions and benefits. Couple that with the fact that in the public sector, workers don’t face the prospect of losing their job to competition and it becomes more clear that the public unions must be busted. What they have resulted in are economic problems, reduced productivity, and the inability of public leadership to make changes that increase effectiveness or, in some cases, basic competency.
Private sector unions have seen a drastic decline over the last 20 years. Where unions in the private sector once held 30% of the workforce, they now only have 7%. Even in the union “heavy” area of manufacturing, union membership has dropped from 40% to roughly 15%. The private sector unions are struggling for existence because they are now being recognized as both unnecessary and burdensome. That leaves the public sector unions as the last bastion of hope for all those who would have us believe that unions are a necessary thing for the workers of America. With any luck, we will soon see similar results in the ranks of public sector unions. They have for quite some time been little more than a drain on the system, while simultaneously being an instant source of revenue for Democrat politicians (98% of public union money goes to Democrats).
I am interested in hearing the comments from those who would seek to preserve the public unions. Much as I am always interested in hearing the arguments to preserve unions at all. But please don’t bother with pointing out what working conditions were in 1910 as your evidence for the continued existence of unions. This is the information age and those things can’t be hidden in the outlying areas like they were then. And don’t tell me that we need them to protect workers from the government that employs them. Or do tell me that, and then explain to me why I should be turning anything else over to a government that we have to protect workers from. Because if we cannot trust government to take care of its employees, do you really think they are going to work to take care of the rest of us?