A Word from Wisconsin, and My Fundamental Problem with Unions
By now, all of my readers are likely to be apprised of the situation in Wisconsin, vis-a-vis public sector unions. If not, the brief story is that new governor Scott Walker and the newly Republican state congress are attempting to pass a law outlawing collective bargaining rights for certain public sector workers, except over limited wage increases. Naturally, this has led to much hissing, spitting, and general venomousness.
Because when I want a raise at work, the first thing I do is march on the Capitol…
Everyone knows that we are out of money. Wisconsin is trying to plug a $3+ billion budget shortfall. And everyone knows that the public sector unions are a huge part of the problem. They are institutionalized corruption. First, they collect dues from their members, then they funnel those dues to politicians, then once said politicians are elected, they receive overly generous and completely unsustainable benefits packages, leading to more dues collected, and so on.
That’s why teachers’ union members cannot be fired, even if they have sex with children; that’s also why police union members cannot be fired, even when they drive drunk and beat their wives; that’s also why so-called public safety officers have run up seven-figure legal bills defending civil suits over their abuse of citizens – with no consequences.
But really, it’s all about a “living wage.” Yeah…that’s the ticket. (And for no good reason, the Wisconsin bill excludes the police!)
Much has been made about the nature of public sector unions, as opposed to their private sector brethren, but I don’t see it. Yes, I understand how electing the people you are going to “negotiate” with for your next pay raise is the very definition of a conflict of interest, but that obscures the fundamental problem. In my opinion, there is very little difference.
The reason why I find so little difference between public sector and private sector unions is because neither one operates outside the aegis of the government. Sure, one group gets their overinflated paychecks signed by the state comptroller, and the other group gets their overinflated paychecks signed by a corporate officer, but both groups’ paychecks got overinflated in the same way.
The union labor movement, public and private, has been amazingly thorough in ensconcing themselves in the highest levels of the power elite. And that is exactly why unions are not viable without specific governmental intervention. For example, a majority of states still don’t have right-to-work laws, and thus they allow unions to force membership on anyone unfortunate enough to get a job in a union shop, whether they want to join or not. In this context, it is simply silly to assume that private sector unions are any different than public sector unions. After all, the coercion carries the force of law whether you work for the state or not.
Is there any doubt that Detroit would be better off without such labor laws choking off the auto industry’s competitiveness? Of course there is no doubt – but the private sector unions have Michigan’s government in a stranglehold, and they are not about to loosen up. Neither is this some David vs. Goliath fight. For all the talk about the Chamber of Commerce’s influence on the 2010 elections, the labor movement would prefer you not to know that, when it comes to spending on government lobbying and electioneering, unions are the “big dog,” and it doesn’t matter whether they are public or private.
And the labor movement doesn’t just influence elections – the people they elect often pass laws perpetuating the union’s influence far beyond election day. And they have been hard at work increasing the labor movement’s scope, to the point of absurdity. For example, did you know that in the highly publicized “labor” battle between
millionaires and billionaires NFL players and team owners, federal labor law forced the taxpayers to pick up the bill for this mediation, simply because these overprivileged millionaires belonged to a union? I can think of better uses for my tax dollars, thank you.
Did you know that the government can label a company a “sweatshop” for being non-union and thus prevent it from working on county projects? And to give you an indication of the fairness of the process involved, consider this gem of a quote from your friendly local legislator:
“(Union organizers) would not be sitting there if something wasn’t going on,” Councilman James R. Ellenbogen, D-Banksville, said in announcing his support to an audience filled with union activists and company employees. “This is not a court of law, but I’m a working guy and I believe what they say.”
So slander is totally fine, just as long as you’re “a working guy”? You can call one of the few remaining steel companies in the United States a sweatshop simply because “something’s got to be going on”? And then you have the temerity to wonder why there aren’t any sizeable steel companies in the United States anymore?
Of course, none of this changes the overarching principle. It does not matter whether your union represents government workers or not. Your union exists because of the government. Remove the intervention and you’ve removed the problem.
Then again, that is not an acceptable solution to the labor movement – they like their special privileges, thank you very much. But it would be far more fair to those who are currently on the outside looking in.