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The Case Against Public Sector Unions

Playing off the ongoing story out of Wisconsin, Professor Bainbridge makes a strong argument against the very existence of public sector labor unions:

In effect, public sector unionism thus means that representatives of the union will often be on both sides of the collective bargaining table. On the one side, the de jure union leaders. On the other side, the bought and paid for politicians. No wonder public sector union wages and benefits are breaking the back of state budgets. They are bargaining with themselves rather than with an arms’-length opponent.

Even if the public’s representatives at the collective bargaining table are not de facto union representatives, the nature of public sector collective bargaining inherently leads to inefficiencies.

(…)

In sum, public sector unionism lacks the economic justifications for private sector unionism. It results in significant distortions of the political process, which have real adverse consequences for the taxpayers. What’s happening in Wisconsin (as ably monitored by University of Wisconsin law professor/blogger Ann Althouse) thus is quite heartening. The efforts by the Governor and the republican legislative caucus to reform public sector collective bargaining rights is an essential step towards fiscal sanity and political democracy.

Bainbridge’s argument isn’t a new one. In fact., it was made more than 70 years ago by Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

Roosevelt’s reign certainly was the bright dawn of modern unionism. The legal and administrative paths that led to 35% of the nation’s workforce eventually unionizing by a mid-1950s peak were laid by Roosevelt.

But only for the private sector. Roosevelt openly opposed bargaining rights for government unions.

“The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

And if you’re the kind of guy who capitalizes “government,” woe betide such obstructionists.

Indeed, for many years, the very idea of public sector workers being able to organize and force the government to bargain with their representatives was largely rejected:

Courts across the nation also generally held that collective bargaining by government workers should be forbidden on the legal grounds of sovereign immunity and unconstitutional delegation of government powers. In 1943, a New York Supreme Court judge held:

To tolerate or recognize any combination of civil service employees of the government as a labor organization or union is not only incompatible with the spirit of democracy, but inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. Nothing is more dangerous to public welfare than to admit that hired servants of the State can dictate to the government the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizen. To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous.

The very nature of many public services — such as policing the streets and putting out fires — gives government a monopoly or near monopoly; striking public employees could therefore hold the public hostage. As long-time New York Times labor reporter A. H. Raskin wrote in 1968: “The community cannot tolerate the notion that it is defenseless at the hands of organized workers to whom it has entrusted responsibility for essential services.”

What changed, of course, was that the relationship between public sector unions and the Democratic Party became increasingly close. Led by people like former New York Mayor Robert Wagner, these unions were increasingly given more power while they, not so coincidentally, became powerful forces to advance Democratic candidates:

Since the public sector unions were granted those rights beginning in the 1960’s they have achieved the virtual ownership, together with the private sector unions, of the Democratic Party.  In the 2010 election cycle, per the Center for Responsive Politics, AFSCME donated 99.5% of contributions to Democrats; The NEA donated 96% and the AFT, 99.7%.

These dues were funneled to Democratic candidates who promised to raise workers salaries and hire more public sector workers-even though statistics show that total compensation for federal and state workers is nearly 50% higher than for private sector employees.

The effect of this incestuous relationship between the public sector unions and the people they’re negotiating with is easy to see. People who work for the government, and earn their living off the taxpayers dime, have direct access during negotiations to the very people they help to put in office and  can hold over their heads the promise of campaign contributions, or the threat that those contributions will be cutoff and given to another candidate. The incentives for the politicians are clear; give in to the union demands and reap the benefits of union contribution and essentially free union “volunteer” labor at election time, or at any time that it might be convenient to sage a protest. The one party that doesn’t have any representation during this process is the taxpayer, and their concerns are largely pushed to the side.

The results are easy to see. Runaway compensation for government workers, benefit packages that are far more generous than anything that exists in the private sector, higher taxes, and higher deficits.  The cycle becomes complete when the taxes go from the taxpayers, to the government, to the paychecks of union members, to union dues, to more campaign contributions for pro-union politicians. Or, at least it continues until the system reaches a breaking point, which is where so many parts of the country are right now. New Jersey, New York, California. Wisconsin. They’re all dealing with the effects of bloated public sector union contracts that threaten to bankrupt the state, and people are finally waking up to the absurdity that we’ve allowed to be created here. Chris Christie and Scott Walker are getting attention because they’re the first politicians in a long time to stand up to these unions and say “no.” Even New York’s new Democratic Governor is getting the message.

The party is over guys, and your days of feeding off the government trough are coming to an end.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. wr says:

    “Your days of feeding off the government trough are over.”

    Tell me, Doug, how much should teachers be paid? Minimum wage? Or is that too much feeding at the public trough?

    What kind of health care should a cop get if he’s injured in the line of duty? Oh, wait, I know — he should die on the street because anything else is “feeding off the public trough.”

    I haven’t seen you calling for the police to stop protecting you from crime, or firefighters to stop keeping your house from burning down. You drive on public roads built by government employees. You work in a legal system run by government employees.

    And yet, to you all these people are freeloaders and parasites. Just scum trying to steal your money.

    You want the services, and you want to make sure you can get them for as close to no cost as possible.

    And while you’re not quite willing to go so far as to say teachers and cops should be drafted and forced to work for your convenience, you’re delighted to strip them of any say in their pay and working conditions.

    Libertarianism isn’t a political philosophy. It’s a psychosis. And this is as despicable a post as I’ve ever seen.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 21

  2. Jack says:

    You know, Doug, it must be nice to live in your world, where you’ve never been abused by your employer, whether it is “public sector” or “private sector”, because BOTH abuse those who work for them.

    Your complete lack of compassion shows you have no clue what real people in the real world have to deal with.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 19

  3. john personna says:

    There are two problems WR. First, the union problem. Second, whether public appreciation for teachers, policemen, and firemen, has overshot their condition.

    It used to be that they were underpaid public servants. Now I see a police couple buying a million dollar home, because you know, they both make overtime.

    How far should cops be appreciated? A second home in the Caymans?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  4. john personna says:

    Reminder from 2007:

    “UNION CITY — Every full-time Union City firefighter earned more than $100,000 last year and the Fire Department accounted for nearly half of all city employees earning six figures, according to city data.”

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/ci_7222696

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. Mac G says:

    The problem is not workers from public unions but that Corporate America has royally screwed over their employees forever 30 years and running. Corporate America with help of their subsidiary called today’s Republican party has turned the peasants on one another to avoid any responsibility. It is what they do best.

    “So, prior to the Reagan Revolution, people in the private sector could tell that teachers, social workers, firefighters, police, and civil servants were getting screwed because they couldn’t collectively negotiate their contracts. But now it looks like they are getting a sweet deal at the taxpayer’s expense. To the degree that that is true, it isn’t because government workers are better off. It’s because everyone else is getting screwed. And why is that? The fact that the power of unions has waned under sustained Republican assault is one of the most important reasons. Obviously, increased global competition is another. ”

    http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2011/2/18/95829/9424

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  6. reid says:

    jp: Too bad Doug doesn’t have your reasonable attitude about the topic. His disdain for unions, government employees, etc. is plain, and it detracts from any valid points. So yes, I see your point, but I also see why wr is irritated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  7. Robert in SF says:

    I don’t think Doug’s point or preference is that public servants (cops, firefighters, teachers, and based on other blog posts and comments to those posts, the military] should not be paid, and paid fairly with reasonable benefits packages.

    I get the impression he feels that the Union Leadership and the you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours attitude doesn’t look out the for the union members or the employers (in this case, the tax payers) best interest. Therefore, there should be unions for public servants.

    The histrionics and hyperbole have got to stop here have got to stop, unless we want this board to degrade itself down to youtube comment level trolling and name calling…. For example, “Runaway compensation for government workers, benefit packages that are far more generous than anything that exists in the private sector, higher taxes, and higher deficits.”…That’s just plain hyperbole right there. Without a single reference or fact to back that up, and without a frame of reference or context, it’s a bold claim with no substance underlying. Just claim something outlandish that sounds good, and those who want to believe will, even without a shred of proof, context, or support.

    Just as your comment took what opinion Doug was expressing and totally skewing it off the charts to say something he never said in this post, at all!

    Neither of these is fair, or indicative of a mature expression of ideas and rationale based on facts.

    BTW, I am not saying Doug is wrong, but as many of these political topics are hot based on what’s in the news, and I am not as politically experienced as some, I can only say that I don’t know of any evidence as of yet to support from my regular sources. Only that he doesn’t support it at all in this post, and in a world of Google, hyperlinks, and copy/paste, it should have been easy to do…he just didn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    Frankly, I think this is largely a red herring. The real problem is rising healthcare costs not public employee unions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  9. Robert in SF says:

    Oh and correction: in the 2nd paragraph, that should say : “Therefore, there should not be unions for public servants.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Jack says:

    Of course, one should remember, the Bar Association is in no way a Union affecting the “public sector”, is it, Doug? Despite the fact that the courts are public, yet one cannot practice law without the blessing of the Bar…

    Hypocrite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  11. Axel Edgren says:

    Koch Industries pay thousands of dollars to Walker during his campaign.

    Walker limits corporate taxes and environmental regulations after getting elected and now goes after the unions.

    Doug’s response? “Them effing unions are a menuss!”

    Just shut up. Just please shut up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  12. wr says:

    JP — You “see a cop couple” buying a million dollar house, and that’s an indictment of every public sector union in the country.

    And yet all those corporate CEOs looting their companies of hundreds of millions of dollars a year — they’re just bad apples. Corporations are all good.

    This is the right wing game. An anecdote that smears your enemy describes all. An anecdote that makes your team look bad is an individual instance with no broader meaning.

    By the way, the median income in Union City for 2007, according to Wikipedia, was $84,000. Which puts those $100,000 a year firefighters smack in the middle class.

    How much would you like them to be paid? Minimum wage?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  13. wr says:

    By the way, JP, there are most definitely NOT two problems. The corporate funded right wing medial (Fox, talk radio, etc.) has been demonizing teachers and other public employees for years in preparation to go after their unions.

    As for how much cops should be appreciated, I’d say they should get what they can negotiate, like anyone else. Which they can’t do if they don’t have a union.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  14. john personna says:

    Are you worked up wr, or just an idiot?

    Of course my point example doesn’t mean that all public employees in the country, or all cops, are over-compensated. It just means that some are.

    What, you really think that all cops need a raise, even my friends with the million dollar home?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Dave Schuler is, as usual, gracious and discreet in labeling this a red herring.

    I won’t be. I think Doug is having a meltdown because his own beliefs have been subjected to the same kind of critical scrutiny he so ably displays in so many topics. This is a desperate and frankly embarrassing statement of faith by a libertarian who seems less than able to rationalize his own beliefs. Doubling down once you see the dice have turned against you.

    The result is inevitable: libertarianism exposed tio the light always wilts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  16. john personna says:

    “As for how much cops should be appreciated, I’d say they should get what they can negotiate, like anyone else. Which they can’t do if they don’t have a union.”

    I did OK as an engineer, without a union. Of course, I don’t live in a million dollar home.

    Not having that public employee pension to fall back on, I was forced to put more into investments, and less into the old principal residence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. john personna says:

    No Michael,

    Doug may have an extreme and foolish position, but he has successfully baited the hook for anyone with an equal and opposite extreme and foolish position.

    I mean, don’t all firefighters deserve a raise? Come on …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  18. wr says:

    No, JP. You were using those “rich” cops as a justification to destroy public employee unions.

    And yes, I am worked up. Because after hearing Teabaggers whine for two years about how the evil government is taking away their freedom, now that a state government actually is stripping away one of the basic rights of its citizens, the right wing is cheering this tyrannical move.

    Worked up? I’m enraged.

    The good news is, I’m not alone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  19. wr says:

    JP — who here has said all firefighters deserve a raise?

    Who here has advocated for raising public employee salaries at this moment?

    No one.

    The unions in Wisconsin have agreed to all of Walker’s proposed cuts.

    He’s refused. Because this isn’t about budgeting. It’s about breaking the unions.

    By the way, if you had belonged to a union, maybe you would have had retirement benefits, too. Almost everybody used to, before the right’s thirty-year union-busting campaign went into full force. Now almost nobody has a pension, but CEO salaries have gone from 20 times the average worker’s to 500 times or more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  20. john personna says:

    I think unions for public employees are a kind of double-dipping for representation.

    Out here in California, the unions negotiate for benefits, and then they put more benefits on the ballot under the initiative process.

    They get negotiated AND political raises.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. john personna says:

    I think it is sufficient that public employee wages be set through the political process.

    If you want to change Wisconsin wages, elect a new government. Though I tell ya, if enough teachers start pulling up stakes and moving to Minnesota, raises would come.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug: When FDR was president the army was segregated, abortion illegal, and Jews and blacks barred from many hotels. I’ve long said Doug’s essential goal is to return the US the twenties or earlier and he provides yet more prima facie evidence for it with every comment. It’s all rather ugly actually wth the rather language. I’m certainly not blind to the abuses of power by public sector unions, the worst offenders in my opinion are the police because their selfishness often extends to matters outside the strictly economic, but this is a long way from believing that they should be denied the freedom to bargain collectively. Doug spend a lot of time talking about freedom but in reality he thinks freedom should be doled out to only those he approves of. Essentially in fact he’s an authoritarian as are most Republicans. Henry Clay Frick would thoroughly approve of hiim. Personally I think situation is going to turn into a huge over reach for Walker and his fellow idealogues in WI but only time will tell. In the meantime it’s interesting that Doug has demonstrated exactly how he REALLY feels.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 16:14

    This is no taking place in CA !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. superdestroyer says:

    WR,

    I do not remember collective bargaining rights mentioned in the Consitution. What articles gives the public sector union the right to extort benefits out of the tax payers. Even when the taxpayers elected people who want to end the extortion, the public sector union still seems to get its way on everything.

    At least if a corporation is bad, I can walk away from them. However, I cannot get away from a government that is more interested in paying off the public sector unions instead of helping the private sector.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. john personna says:

    “This is no taking place in CA ”

    I understand, and even here public employee compensation is very uneven, city to city.

    I don’t think that all public employees here are overcompensated, but some are. They have the best of all worlds: high salary, job security, great benefits, full retirement.

    No one outside of government has that anymore. Defined benefits retirement plans? What are those again?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    I do not remember collective bargaining rights mentioned in the Consitution.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Actually, it looks to me as if public employee unions have a specific right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  27. john personna says:

    michael, didn’t I hear that there were some states that don’t have collective bargaining for public employees but do have voluntary associations to lobby for those employees?

    Those voluntary associations would satisfy your constitutional freedom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Wiley Stoner says:

    BJ, how does that relate to whether or not public employees should be able to organize against the public interest? The leaches which make up union leadership have found new suckers to support their lavish life style. Say what you want about CEOs and such, they have skin in the game. Public employee unions were never necessary as workers in the public sector were never abused. Now they make demands, those who they helped elect negotiate and pass legislation beneficial to that union leadership. How much do you think that scum bag Trumka makes? He produces nothing. You quite folks who comment her are often on the wrong side of issues. The public is tired of paying for services they either do not want, need or cannot afford. If work in the public sector does not pay enough, get a different job.
    I like the way unions treat their members. Instead of everyone losing a little, they prefer layoffs hoping the lack of service will blackmail the public into paying. I think they should be investigated and jailed. The ones in Wisconsin who failed to go to work, as the law states, the protested instead. They should lose their jobs and the doctors who aided and abedded them should lose their medical licenses.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. Davebo says:

    Public Employee Unions are the new welfare queen driving a Cadillac.

    A near unprecedented recession has put states like WI in a fiscal bind. It happens and it has to be dealt with. Idiotic ideas like decertify the union or eliminating it’s ability to collectively bargain for benefits won’t do the trick.

    And now somehow these unions have incredible powers no private sector union has? You’ve got to be kidding me. Politicians are beholden for the most part to the voters just as board members of GE are beholden to the share holders.

    The union is the only one in this situation that has been willing to negotiate. This includes wage and benefit cuts. But that’s not enough. They need to cede their right to negotiate at all.

    (Snark about Doug jumping the shark yet again omitted since it’s fairly obvious)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Davebo says:

    They have the best of all worlds: high salary, job security, great benefits, full retirement.

    No one outside of government has that anymore.

    So rather than see that as a problem we should snuff out anyone else with such benefits? Talk about the silent bigotry of low expectations!

    1. We are the richest nation on the planet.

    2. We’ve seen and it’s been documented here in response to another of Doug’s inane posts that both income and wealth have been vastly disparate between the top 15% and the bottom 85%.

    3. Union membership is almost non existent in large portions of the country. These same portions of the country have experienced stagnant if not negative income growth.

    You can turn on public employee unions if that helps. But Bob down the street has other issues to deal with and may not feel the same envy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Brummagem Joe says:

    Wiley Stoner says:
    Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 16:54
    BJ, how does that relate to whether or not public employees should be able to organize against the public interest?

    How does what relate? Despite it’s downsides I think employees should have the freedom to bargain collectively. You along wiith Doug obviously wish to remove or restrict this freedom thus you are curtailing liberty. Thus in fact like him you are an anti libertarian Authoritarian.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. michael reynolds says:

    JP:

    I’m afraid differentiating between the two is beyond my pay grade. Block-quoting amendments is the limit of my legal abilities. (Although for some reason I develop superpowers when reading a publishing contract.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. MM says:

    In this thread: false dichotomies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Terrye says:

    Doug, that was an excellent post. I should think that it would be obvious to just about anyone that there is something unhealthy about this system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. wr says:

    JP — You want to know why good retirements benefits don’t exist outside of the public sector?

    Because they were stolen by the same scumbags who are now trying to take them away from government employees.

    The scumbags that you are supporting. Because apparently you’ve decided that if anyone has to live in poverty, we must wipe out the entire middle class.

    And of course, you don’t think people should fight to get back what was taken away, just that anyone who has something left should be stripped of it.

    Except the super-rich, of course, who cashed out all those retirement funds.

    You support them. Lovely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  36. Jack says:

    You people should stop trying to distract Doug with the facts.

    Even though he is a member of one of the biggest public sector unions in the nation (the Bar Association), he will continue on his merry path of condemning anyone who isn’t as worthy as he is. Note his immediate response to the supposed “slow down” by unions in NYC during the snowstorm of not clearing the streets quickly enough, followed up by his complete silence when it came out that his facts were wrong, and then calling on commenters who pointed it out of being “off topic” and then saying “let’s wait for the facts” despite HIS not waiting for the facts when he said it was all the fault of the unions.

    I didn’t use the word “hypocrite” lightly in my comment above. Doug has proven that on this topic he IS indeed a hypocrite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. John Peabody says:

    Dang, y’all, if you hate Doug so much, why do you bother to read his articles? It’s doubtful that any one comment will change the mind of anyone. A large number of comments does not equal a mass of people behind you, agreeing with you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I didn’t use the word “hypocrite” lightly in my comment above. Doug has proven that on this topic he IS indeed a hypocrite.”

    Of course he is. What’s the first thing Authoritarian rulers of any stripe (Mussolinii, Stalin, Hitler, Hussein, Mubarak, Pinochet) do when they get hold of power? They shut down the unions. Doug and all the other freedom folk here never stop waffling about freedom but they can’t wait to curtail the freedom of unions to organize and bargain. Ergo they are for curtailing liberty. I don’t dispute that it can sometimes produce bad outcomes but then so can the entire democratic system of government, but that’s no reason why iit should be brought to an end. There is simply no way to reconcile the claim you favor the advance of liberty with a desire to curtail the freedom of workers to bargain over wages and conditions. If there is one perhaps Doug would like to explain it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Brummagem Joe says:

    ‘A large number of comments does not equal a mass of people behind you, agreeing with you”

    Well there were 70,000 directly affected Cheezers out there yesterday agreeing with the anti Doug posiiton. How many natives of WI were those agreeing with Doug able to turn out?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. matt says:

    Davebo : Wisconsin’s financial situation was in excellent shape with the government running a surplus right up till Walker was elected. Walker then issues a series of tax breaks to the rich and well connected people and businesses then acted surprised when those deep cuts resulted in financial problems.. THe unions have accepted all kinds of pay and benefit cuts but Walker refuses to play ball because he wants to destroy the unions themselves..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. Alex Knapp says:

    I fail to see why someone’s right to negotiate their own employment contracts should be diminished simply because they work for a public, rather than private, employer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  42. anjin-san says:

    > Dang, y’all, if you hate Doug so much, why do you bother to read his articles?

    I think Doug is a smart guy and I like reading his posts. I suspect he would be an OK guy to hang out with. That being said, when I see BS, I call it. We have pretty good give and take here, why don’t you hang around for 6 months and then venture an opinion?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. anjin-san says:

    > I should think that it would be obvious to just about anyone that there is something unhealthy about this system.

    Terrye,

    Please show me even a single person who is arguing that reform is not needed in public pay/pensions. Just one will do. Walker’s power play has nothing to do with reform. That is the issues. How big of a cut in pay/benefits have the Republicans in WI voulenteered to take?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. TheColourfield says:

    I wish I was 1/100th of the writer that John Scalzi is but I am not. Given Doug’s posts on unions and taxes over the last couple of days I will offer a link and a quote from that link that pretty much summarizes the “tax is theft” meme.

    “I really don’t know what you do about the “taxes are theft” crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires. Sorry, guys. I know you all thought you were going to be one of those paying a nickel for your cigarettes in Galt Gulch. That’ll be a fine last thought for you as the starving remnants of the society of takers closes in with their flensing tools.”

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/09/26/tax-frenzies-and-how-to-hose-them-down/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. michael reynolds says:

    Alex:

    Exactly my reaction.

    Because you’re a teacher you don’t have the right to peaceably assemble with other teachers and ask your employer for a raise? American citizens who don’t have the right to ask for a raise?

    Why? I haven’t seen a rational answer yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  46. Alex Knapp says:

    Michael:

    I want to live on the parallel Earth where our problem is that teachers are being paid too much…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  47. Jay says:

    I fail to see why someone’s right to negotiate their own employment contracts should be diminished simply because they work for a public, rather than private, employer.

    It’s simple. Their salaries are paid for by tax dollars which come from the taxpayers.

    It’s not easy to see the glaring conflict here. Public workers in a union are paid by tax dollars. Those same dollars are then used to collect (mandatory) dues which are then used by the unions as nothing more than a slush fund for political activity and donations to left wing causes. Those same government workers then have access to the very politicians they donate to in order to “negotiate” their salaries and benefits (all the while holding campaign contributions over their heads).

    Who is there to represent the taxpayer who is footing the bill for all of this?

    Nobody is eliminating their “right” to ask their employers for a raise by eliminating collective bargaining. They’re just no longer going to be able to utilize tax dollars to leverage their position to acquire more tax dollars.

    It has taken a long time for the public to wise up to this nonsense and it’s finally starting to come to an end.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  48. Gulliver says:

    The left is whining that they’re special again – so what’s new? Public employees don’t deserve anymore than anyone else when it comes to adjusting to economic hardship. It is a very very simple formula – when tax revenues are drastically reduced, tax expenditures should adjust as long as services critical to general welfare and safety are not unduly impacted. The citizens of Wisconsin know that the general welfare and safety of their society has nothing to do with the union’s complaints.

    The unions find themselves in the very strange position of claiming to be the working man’s voice while being in opposition to the desires of the average working man in Wisconsin. Kabuki anyone…?

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  49. Jay says:

    I meant to say that “It’s not HARD to see the glaring conflict here.”

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  50. Alex Knapp says:

    Jay,

    if we keep the same logic, does that mean that any company that does business with the government should be forbidden from lobbying the government?

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  51. anjin-san says:

    > “I really don’t know what you do about the “taxes are theft” crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires

    Read “Coventry” by Robert A. Heinlein. Apparently none of them have. Guess they all stopped at Starship Troopers and just assumed Heinlein was a one-dimensional thinker.

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  52. wr says:

    Jay — Let’s see if I have this right. The government gives, say, GE billions of dollars to build military equipment. These same dollars are then used as a slush fund for political activity and donations to politicians who hand out contracts. These same corporate chiefs then have access to the same politicians who buy planes from them.

    Who is there to represent the taxpayer who is footing the bill for all this?

    Yes, I can see why it’s imperative to impoverish the middle class.

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  53. Herb says:

    “The party is over guys, and your days of feeding off the government trough are coming to an end.”

    Wow, your bias is showing BIG TIME. These are working people you’re talking about. They’re not feeding off their employers trough. They are being compensated for services rendered.

    You think they’re getting paid too much? Think they’re getting too many sweetheart benefits? Worried about their ability to extract ever more money and bennies from Joe Taxpayer? Awesome. You’re fully capable of making that case.

    But when you so blithely dismiss workers as trough-feeding moochers based only on their employer, it kind of undermines any intelligent thing you may say on the subject.

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  54. Vic says:

    Many normally anti-government people are suddenly very sympathetic to a state law taking away the right of some workers to use collective bargaining.

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  55. An Interested Party says:

    “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

    Well hell, that makes them appear to have common ground with many conservatives, who seem to want to do away with whole chunks of government…

    And the governor’s own actions in Wisconsin show that this is about far more than a budget battle…notice which unions he’s going after…here’s a hint, not the ones that supported his election…fancy, that…

    “if we keep the same logic, does that mean that any company that does business with the government should be forbidden from lobbying the government?”

    Exactly right…I notice that many who are whining about this “inappropriate” relationship between public-sector unions and the government don’t seem to mind as much a similar relationship between corporations and the government…oh that’s right! Such a relationship can’t be tampered with as the Supreme Court tells us that is “free speech”…

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  56. anjin-san says:

    > “The party is over guys, and your days of feeding off the government trough are coming to an end.”

    Really? The endless gravy train for defense contractors and billion dollar tax breaks for oil companies are coming to an end?

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  57. TheColourfield says:

    @anjin,

    Thanks for the reference, will check it out.

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  58. Jay Tea says:

    If you want to change Wisconsin wages, elect a new government.

    THEY DID. Last November. Then the surviving Democrats in the Senate fled the state to deny the newly-elected Republican governor and Republican legislative majority the ability to do anything. They essentially shut down the government because the majority actually intended to do things the Democrats didn’t like.

    J.

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  59. john personna says:

    wr, was there really ever a time when the majority of Americans were on defined benefit retirement plans? I know corporate workers (of both collars) had them for a while, but I don’t think corporate workers were ever a majority.

    This actually strikes at the public employees question. They tend to compare themselves against a rather select group of private employees, and choose parity to those.

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  60. john personna says:

    BTW, a fundamental problem with defined benefit plans might be that they don’t actually work, long term, and that’s why they’ve dropped away.

    You need a company in the upside-down pyramid growth phase, with many more workers each year, to support defined benefits for older workers. It is, a bit of a ponzi scheme.

    What did it get to? Were there reports that $4000 of cost in each GM car was retirement benefits for its workers? That’s where the pyramid scheme leads.

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  61. john personna says:

    “I fail to see why someone’s right to negotiate their own employment contracts should be diminished simply because they work for a public, rather than private, employer.”

    As long as you make it illegal to pass wage increases separately, through the political process. Especially not through ballot initiatives.

    Because otherwise you are giving these public employees a special benefit. They reap both political and negotiated increases.

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  62. The Case Against Public Sector Unions…

    [...]To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous. …. I g…

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  63. jbc says:

    Workers having a voice at work (whether public or private) through unions is not the cause of state deficits. Just look at a recent map posted by OTB http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/public-employee-bargaining-rights/
    It lists five states (TX, GA, SC,NC and VA) where collective bargaining is “explicitly illegal” for public employees. Each of those states have huge projected deficits as well as most states (TX:$13.4 billion 31.5%; GA:$1.7 billion 10.3%; SC: $877 million 17.4%; NC: $3.8 billion 20.0%; VA: $2.3 billion 14.8%). The GOP is simply using the recession that was caused by Wall Street greed not worker rights, as a phony excuse to attack unions and the working middle class they represent. The GOP is executing a power grab at the behest of the Koch brothers and the uber wealthy (that fund their campaigns) who want to destroy any obstacles to their unprecedented accumulation of wealth. Shame on them. Wake up America. Power to the people.

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  64. john personna says:

    Do teachers starve in TX, GA, SC,NC and VA?

    This cuts both ways. If collective bargaining isn’t such a big deal, then it isn’t such a big deal to defend.

    from Adam Ozimek, via marginal revolution: “The regression coefficients on page 8 of the report show that the union wage premium is between 15% to 16%, while the public sector wage discount is around 11%, meaning unionized public sector employees are paid 4% to 5% wage premium.”

    That seems a small difference, though perhaps with the increased job security, it is still a bit of a net win for the unionized public workers. Higher wages and better security than the private sector.

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  65. [...] Isn’t it the job of the public servants elected by the people to decide the proper staffing and funding levels for such important government employees as firemen and police? How then can the union trump decisions made by the lawful representatives of the people? Isn’t that immoral and wrong? Amplify’d from http://www.outsidethebeltway.com [...]

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  66. [...] stands resolute in his plan to balance the budget not only this year, but also for the future. Gold plated union pensions and contracts negotiated through an incestuously corrupt process threaten to bankrupt the state in the near future, and have created a $137 million deficit this [...]

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  67. [...] stands resolute in his plan to balance the budget not only this year, but also for the future. Gold plated union pensions and contracts negotiated through an incestuously corrupt process threaten to bankrupt the state in the near future, and have created a $137 million deficit this [...]

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  68. [...] you can come up with as to why there is a need for unions in public sector? Better try harder. The Case Against Public Sector Unions "The party is over guys, and your days of feeding off the government trough are coming to an [...]

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