Sunday, February 27, 2011

Organized Labor Under Attack

Protests in support of unions' rights to collectively bargain spread to nearly every capital in the Union. Spurred by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's attempt to balance a budget drowning in unfunded public pension liability, many high profile governors are attacking the problem with malice aforethought. One protester supporting the public union's position decried Walker's attempts to reign in the liability accrued by a state government as a direct attack on union members' First Amendment rights. Quite a stretch to say the least. The specific issue in Wisconsin revolves around not only asking union members to contribute more to their own health care and retirement accounts but Walker is further angling to take away the public employee's union ability to collectively bargain for wages, hours, benefits, and so on. This is in modern times a touchy subject because in the last 70 years plus we've become attached to government intervention in the name of entitlements.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a tea party favorite and budget hawk. He's choosing to attack the same problem Walker is but without a full frontal assault on the collective bargaining aspect associated with the public unions. Many states are choosing to require state and local workers that are represented by unions to contribute more to their own pensions and health care requirements. This is as it should be. Public service employees that organized by way of a union used to view public service as a calling rather than a way to bolster middle class incomes like private sector unions did. In many instances public workers making their living off of the taxpayer's dime accepted modest wages in trade for acceptable insurance and benefit packages. Now by conservative estimates, public employees earn by way of salary and full benefits nearly 30% more than their private sector counterparts. I have no issue with any American succeeding financially to provide for a family and a future but at some point the golden goose will quit laying the golden eggs. States were bullied by powerful lobbies like the NEA into unfavorable agreements. States without consultation with taxpayers agreed to lucrative wage and benefit packages with public sector unions. States signed contracts and wrote checks the taxpayers' collective bodies couldn't cash. Private sector employees have no such guarantees and rely on the ups and downs of a free market. The exorbitant excesses of public union manipulation of taxpayer coffers is thankfully coming to an end.

I've never been a fan of labor unions for a variety of reasons. I think by its very composition the idea of organized labor encourages mediocrity and a protected means to limit productivity and efficiency. Why excel at what you do when union contracts prevent an employer from removing an unproductive employee by virtue of a labor contract? You no longer have a stake in making your employer as profitable as possible. You're covered. You're protected. You don't have to answer to your employer for less than acceptable work performance. You've got the UNION backing you. It's right there in black and white and that is the end of the story. For years unionized workers have fared better than their private sector counterparts. When President Obama initiated the auto bailout/buyouts of GM and Chrysler the unions received $.55 while private investors received $.10 per dollar of investment. That is government collusion and corruption at its finest and perhaps most visceral. Unions guarantee another calamity without argument. Unions by virtue of their expensive labor agreements drive up the cost of goods sold and solidify the United States as a top candidate for ongoing and perpetual trade deficits. Liberal politicians decry evil capitalists for outsourcing and pursuing engagements free from corrupt union interaction while at the same time accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from perhaps the most powerful liberal lobby in the world.

Organized labor in the private sector isn't going anywhere. I wish it would but beating a dead horse is both unproductive and inefficient. Labor representation in the public sector is a horse of a different color however. There is no way public employees making a living on taxpayer revenue have a right to join a union which by definition intimates the ability to access and distribute taxpayer money without consent of the taxpayer. The government has a right to set the wages and benefits of its employees at what it believes to be an affordable and fair scale. It must occur within the confines of responsibility to the taxpayer first, not the union. The taxpayers deserve an efficient government that spends taxpayer money wisely not at the behest of a union. What if I was forced to join a union to obtain a position I desperately coveted but didn't want my union dues to be funneled to liberal politicians campaign funds? Is that fair? Is that deserved? What if I as a taxpayer am happy to see public service employees make a fair and decent living but in no way support public unions' political viewpoints? Is it fair that my taxes ultimately support liberal causes without my permission and consent? If you can muster a yes you're bordering delusion and a dangerous form of elitism.

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