On Wisconsin (Update)

As a rosy-cheeked college frosh, I studied labor history with Professor Roger Keeren.  Keeren, bearded and bespectacled, looked every bit the liberal academic, but it wasn’t until his enthusiasm for the International Workers of the World came across that one realized where his true sympathies lay.  My girlfriend at the time came out of class and announced, “I want to be a Wobbly.”  He was that persuasive.

I wasn’t convinced.  It seemed to me that the concept was flawed over the long haul, as Unions were required to seek perpetually greater benefits for their members or they had no reason to exist.  While they served the needs of workers well in the early days, things had changed over the decades and the imbalance of power wasn’t nearly as imbalanced as it was when Eugene V. Debs ran for president.  Yet Unions showed no interest in shutting their doors, a job well done.

Professor Keeren liked me, I suspect, as he didn’t flunk me for expressing my views.  Needless to say, my position was not embraced.

The problem was both worse, and different, with public sector unions.  While the economic incentives that made private sector unionism theoretically viable, the offsetting clout of strikes and lockouts, meant that both sides had skin in the game, no similar balance could be achieved in the public sphere.

Government exists to serve public needs.  Forget about all the issues surrounding how well it does so, as that doesn’t change the theory.  It can’t tell its unionized employees that if they don’t like their salary and benefits they can go find another government to work for, and then shut the doors.  Yet while public employee strikes are unlawful, they are invariably forgiven as part of the settlement the resolves labor disputes.

Then there’s the political element, which gives public officials an incentive to get along with public employee unions while pretending to talk tough.  They know that the public really can’t live without schools and subways, even though the public hates paying taxes.  The beauty is that the cost of increased public employees salaries and benefits isn’t felt until the next guy is in office, and then he can wash his hands of responsibility blaming his predecessor.

But Governor Scott Walker has drawn a line in the sand, saying that the gravy train has come to an end.  It would be a lot more convincing if he hadn’t exempted friendly unions and targeted unfriendlies, but political purity is hard to find.  In the New York Times, Paul Krugman asserts that Walker’s War isn’t motivated by fiscal conservatism, but a power struggle between the proletariat and the oligarchy.

Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.

Krugman then channels George Orwell, a requirement in such arguments.

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

Now it’s awfully arrogant of me to do what I’m about to do, given that Krugman won the Nobel Prize and I won, well, nothing of consequence, but I’m constrained to do so anyway.  Here goes: Krugman’s wrong.

Regardless of whether public employees have a statutory right to engage in collective bargaining, they still have the right of association.  They can form interest groups, political action committees, to promote their wants.  Even though Walker seeks to end their statutory right to compel the state to bargain collectively with them, that doesn’t preclude the ability to lock arms, walk as one and express their ideas.

The problem is that they won’t.  The problem is that workers pay union dues because they are forced to do so, and expect a quid pro quo in return.  Eliminate ever-higher salaries and benefits from the mix, and the union hall will have a deafening echo.  It all about the money, just as every teacher negotiation employs rhetoric about teaching children until it settles for a 3% salary increase.

The loss of the union voice, Krugman contends, spells the death of democracy and the surrender to oligarchy.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

That’s some false and dangerous reasoning.  Neither the oligarchy, nor the unions, speak for “the interest of middle- and working-class Americans.”  Indeed, they are both out to get what they can from us for their own benefit.  When was the last time a Union negotiated over a pension for all Americans who are pensionless?  When was the last time a Union bargained away their dental plan so working-class Americans outside the union sphere could get a raise?

That’s right, the unions talk the good talk, but they walk for the benefit of their own.  And if you aren’t one of them, then they will burn your interests in a flash without the slightest remorse.  That’s how unions continue to exist.

When it comes to undue influence over government, conflicting with our populist notion of one man, one vote, there is nothing less democratic than public sector unionism.  They get to force the government to sit down and bargain with them, enter into a contract and hold them to it, law (that applies to everyone else) be damned.  You try it.  Call the governor and demand that he sit down and bargain with you.

The argument is that public employees have a greater stake, since their salary and benefits are on the line, that entitles them to a louder voice then other citizens and taxpayers.  There’s merit to this argument, that some pigs are more equal than others (see, I can channel Orwell too).

But that doesn’t necessarily translate into giving them the right to compel the government to bargain in good faith with their collective representative.  Without this right, public sector employees can still have their voice, astounding monetary and voting influence by joining together for their mutual benefit and funding the election campaigns of their heroes and promoting their cause.  If, that is, they found common ground aside from how big their next paycheck would be.

And what of the Oligarchs, left to control our thoughts by tossing money at politicians without any countervailing interest group to throw money at the other team?  They may still be enjoying their Citizens United rights to buy government, but there are still more of us than them.  The solution is to rid ourselves of undue influence rather than have two masters rending the fabric of politics apart to our detriment.  The solution is for the public to take responsibility for our democracy rather than expect unions to serve our interest by counterbalancing the oligarchy.

Neither the unions nor the oligarchy loves us.  We need to stand up for ourselves, to whatever end that might be, and stop waiting for Superman.

Update: In light of the comments below, much of which is either illogical, purely subjective or based of false allegations of fact, this video via  Nick Gillespie and  Radley Balko from Reason seems enlightening.

For those whose reaction is that you disagree, or as one twit put it, I  undervalue the worth of unions as a counterbalance to corporate and oligarchical influence, this post reflects my point of view of the value of public sector unionism.  To the extent you think differently, you’re allowed.  I have no expectation that I would persuade you otherwise as this is a matter of religious-like faith that defies reason.

But then, why would you expect me to suddenly have an epiphany that unionism is a “universal right,” an assertion that makes me chuckle every time I think of it, merely because some unknown person on the internet screams, “but you’re WRONG!!!” Hey, I didn’t go to your house to read your thoughts; you came here.  Nobody put a gun to your head and demanded you read what Greenfield writes, or else.

So yes, I get that others disagree with me.  You’re allowed, but you can’t manufacture facts to support your position.  And if your argument is that I (and anyone else who disagrees with you) am evil, then you should expect to treated like the nutjob you are.  To those of you who demand that I meet your approval, whether in my substance or my manner of dealing with comments, take a hike.  You are not the center of my world (or anyone else’s except your own).  It’s time someone told you this.

If this doesn’t meet with your approval, so what?

42 thoughts on “On Wisconsin (Update)

  1. Mad Keith Beyond Geezerdome

    “Neither the unions nor the oligarchy loves us.”

    One thing life has taught me is that the oligarchy doesn’t love me to a far greater extent. Another thing I’ve sadly learned is that stupidity is never far away, it’s right here among us. The Birthers and the Tea Pottyers and the 70% believed that Sadam was behind 9-11 would indicate that repeating a lie often enough will convince the American public of anything.

    Therefore, let us outlaw unions and collective bargaining, and turn government over to those who love it the most as long as they’re taxed the least – your loving oligarchy. “And then,” as Dick the Butcher said, “let’s kill all the lawyers.”

  2. Chris

    I think perhaps you should read this: [Edit. Note: Link deleted.]

    And a few other bits of research that are coming out. There is no gravy train. And without unions, public sector employees have no bargaining power. Let’s get real here.

    [Edit. Note: Another link deleted.]

  3. SHG

    If that’s what life has taught you, you should ask for your money back as you’ve clearly been shortchanged. 

  4. SHG

    What part of links are not permitted in comments confuses you?  Your inability to express your thoughts, rather than include links because you believe you’re entitled to do as you please, doesn’t add to either your credibility or thoughtfulness.

  5. Mad Keith Beyond Geezerdome

    Hey, it’s your blog, enjoy yourself. You can even delete the comment if you’d like. I’d prefer that to a petty “[Y]ou’ve clearly been shortchanged,” as though disagreeing with you constituted some great failing on my part.

    Which I could understand from your point of view. It’s been a HUGE cash saver from my point of view.

  6. Chris

    Didn’t see the note at the left, and I’m sure you saw the links anyway and should read them. It’s not like I was linking to my own blog or something — chill out. I do apologize and won’t make the mistake again. (What part of ‘keep it civil and respectful’ don’t you understand would be an appropriate response here…)

    It’s not a lack of thoughtfulness to point someone to a study (or an analysis of a study). In fact, it is oftentimes more thoughtful to defer to an expert. What I was saying is that perhaps you should educate yourself on this topic before going off on it when it is not in your area of expertise.

    From the Economic Policy Institute (who, I would believe, are more knowledgeable on this than either of us, which is why I was trying to link to commentary on this study):

    ‘In Wisconsin, which has become a focal point in this debate, public servants already take a pretty hefty pay cut just for the opportunity to serve their communities (Keefe 2010). The figure below shows that when comparing the total compensation (which includes non-wage benefits such as health care and pensions) of workers with similar education, public-sector workers consistently make less than their private–sector peers. Workers with a bachelor’s degree or more—which constitute nearly 60% of the state and local workforce in Wisconsin—are compensated between $20,000 less (if they just have a bachelor’s degree) to over $82,000 a year less (if they have a professional degree, such as in law or medicine)…

    It is necessary for making true apples-to-apples comparisons to control for worker characteristics such as education in order to best measure a worker’s potential earnings in a different sector or industry. Controlling for a larger range of earnings predictors—including not just education but also age, experience, gender, race, etc., Wisconsin public-sector workers face an annual compensation penalty of 11%. Adjusting for the slightly fewer hours worked per week on average, these public workers still face a compensation penalty of 5% for choosing to work in the public sector.’

  7. SHG

    As a courtesy, and because I like your pseudonym, I’ll explain further.

    Did you suspect that people reading this post wondered silently, “I wonder what Mad Keith  Beyond Geezerdome would prefer?”  If you did, then you’re just another narcissistic buffoon.  If not, then you might have considered providing a reason why you think that it’s better to be screwed by Unions as well as the Oligarchy than just the Oligarchy. 

    Your statement that Walker is “outlawing unions” is nonsensical. He seeks to eliminate the stautory requirement to negotiate with unions, a creature of the state in the first place and one that elevates unions above all other citizens.  Your statement that doing so would turn over government to “who love it the most as long as they’re taxed the least – your loving oligarchy,” ignores the fact that we still get to vote.  You can think people are too stupid and democracy is worthless, but I would rather put stock in democracy than unions to safeguard my welfare.  You can differ.  So what?

    As for deleting your comment, I always have the ability.  While your approval is appreciated, it’s not necessary.

  8. SHG

    See, you can make your point without using links.  But your point, the efficacy of unionism, isn’t the point of this post.  However, the Economist article is hardly an apples to apples comparison, but a propaganda piece. The comparisons are nonsence, and it fails to account for 20 and out pensions, significantly less time at work, job security and the fact that incompetents can hold their positions forever provided they don’t molest children.  Too much.

    Don’t suppose because you read something in a magazine that it makes the author an expert. And even so, experts differ. We just tend to pick the person we agree with as the best expert.

    As for chilling out, you’re a guest in my house. I make the rules. You abide them or go elsewhere.

  9. abc

    It isn’t just about money. It is also about job protection.

    At a previous public service job, I reported something that could potentially have harmed patients. Because I was in a union, it took years for them to force me out. A colleague at the same institution was not in a union. When she uncovered similar concerns, she was gone in a matter of days. No protection.

    I think unions are a good idea in any case, but public employees definitely need protection in order to reveal problems (relatively) safely.

  10. Chris

    Did you read my post? The quote from above is from a think tank (Economic Policy Institute), not The Economist. I don’t disagree that unions can and do make harmful choices because of perverse incentives associated with their very existence. That’s understood. The point is that doing away with collective bargaining power wholesale destroys ANY bargaining power for public employees who already get the bad end of the stick compared to their peers in private employment. That is what the data, and not just some speculation, shows. Just like the government can’t shut the doors on them, the employees don’t have another government to go to.

    Yes, there are problems with unions, and yes they have gotten some very unfair benefits (like those you mentioned above, and like the police unions you’ve rightfully railed on in past posts). That doesn’t mean you remove the collective bargaining power entirely. It means, if you have genuine bona fides, you find a way to limit the most outrageous benefits while permitting collective bargaining for salaries, some benefits, and pensions.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, in Wisconsin (and in several other states who are trying to file for bankruptcy), public employees were lured in to jobs with low salaries but good pensions. The governments are now reneging on that deal. What can public sector employees do without collective bargaining rights in this situation?

    An intelligent conversation about unions doesn’t involve chucking them out wholesale (or, even worse, as is happening in Wisconsin, busting the unions you don’t like and keeping the ones you do, when the ones you do like — like the police unions — are often the worst perpetrators). The above post is intellectually dishonest when you point out that the Economist piece doesn’t account for ‘significantly less time at work’, but the EPI quote DIRECTLY above your comment does.

    You certainly make the rules, but just remember that you are signing your name to these posts, and you don’t know if the people reading them or the person you are directing them to is someone you know in real life or someone you will encounter in real life who will have a diminished opinion of you based on something you said online. I apologized for not reading the box on the left, it was my mistake. Perhaps you should rethink taking such a heated approach straight out of the gates.

    The bottom line is you make it out as if public employees are riding some sort of gravy train, when, accounting for the variables that most correlate with income potential, they make 5-25% less than their private sector peers. Go look at the EPI study, since I can’t link you here. It has a handy-dandy graph.

    Oh and PS, have you never cited or referred to an article? Doing so does not mean one is unable to make a point without using links. It means that the point is best made by deferring to an expert. Something to think about.

  11. SHG

    Protection of the whistleblower is a sound benefit, but fairly rare.  The flip side is protection of the incompetent, the criminal, the venal. They all take years to get rid of, if at all, as well.  On balance, protecting the whistleblower is the tail wagging a very huge, mean dog.

  12. SHG

    This might strike you as terribly wrong, but this isn’t your soapbox and brevity clearly isn’t your strength.  What you fail to comprehend is that the elimination of bargaining power by public employees may not be a problem at all.  They get the short end of the stick?  So work in the private sector?  No jobs there?  Then take a public sector job.  It doesn’t pay as much as you want. Bummer.

    That’s how life works for everybody outside the public sector.  Your point is that public sector employees should be insulated from the same forces that apply to everyone else.  And no, the study doesn’t show a disparity, but rather a range and choice.  People aren’t working in the public sector out of the kindness of their hearts, but because that’s where the jobs were, or the salary or benefits.  They aren’t crying for the unemployed in the private sector, and they never have. 

    When public sector employees are immune from the economic forces that apply to everyone else, they are free-riding.  They believe it’s their due.  All the private sector unemployed who pay for the annual salary and benefit increases through taxes disagree. 

    And that’s that.  If you think that you have more interesting things to argue, start a blog and argue to your heart’s content, but you’ve used up enough of my bandwidth saying nothing beyond the standard “poor public employees” party line. 

  13. P. Dudek

    Once again, a thought provoking post on Simple Justice. As a voter that was born and raised in Michigan where the Democratic party is controlled by the UNIONS – I must express my strong agreement with the statement above and the post. Big Business including the Big Three (auto companies) ignored their consumers and the environment, while the Unions ignored the interests of their individual members and their fellow Democrats. Why did both sides ignore those of us in the middle?? Because they CAN – power is an amazing motivator and we have handed it to them. So we must now STAND UP!

    The folks in the middle get lost in this tug of war of power. I try to stand up and often, and also for others that are not able to do so due to disability or age. But honestly, I am waiting for both SUPERMAN and JOHN GALT to come and lead the way to a better middle ground for all. Where are they??? Those that are waiting for Superman must reach out to those that want to know “Who is Jon Galt?” And vice versa – so?? What will you do to bridge the gap?? I know I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one, right??? Right????????

  14. Chris

    How’s this for brevity: You’re seriously going to argue that teachers have private sector options and that they choose to teach for the pay and benefits?

  15. SHG

    If you don’t mind, first a cute story. Back in the 70s, I was invited by Owen Beiber, then a local president with the United Auto Workers, to their retreat at Black Lake, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula.  It was quite a place, except that I noticed the sheets we were sleeping on were made by J.P. Stevens, a notorious union buster.  I pointed this out to the assembly, and wondered whether the UAW was only concerned about its own members, or workers elsewhere.  I was never invited back to Black Lake.

    Patti, there won’t be any Superman or John Galt.  We have the pressures from the mighty and wealthy, and that includes both the Oligarchy and Unions (despite their provocateurs efforts to make poor union members seem so helpless and pitiful), and no champion for the individuals who have no powerful interest group to promote our views.

    And that’s why we learn, we think, we write, we march, we teach, we speak out, we express our positions, and we vote.  We support what we believe and take our hits from those who disagree.  We keep trying because the only other option is to hand over our lives to others to have their way with us.

  16. james

    Then say what you mean and don’t couch in weasle words… that certain people don’t deserve ‘rights’. Specifically, ‘those people’ who are not you.

    At that point, it of course ceases to be ‘a right’ but rather a privilege dolled out by the government to certain people. What an absolutely fantastic road to head down.

  17. SHG

    Much better on the brevity.  Yes, teachers learn an underlying subject(s) that correlates to the performance of an actual function.  Hence the maxim, those who can do. Those who can’t teach.  Unless you’re seriously arguing that teachers have no alternative because they are incompetent to performs any function other than teaching others to perform a function.  Where I live, by the way, the average teacher compensation package is $120,000.  Not too shabby.

    And then there are private schools, charter schools, colleges, universities, and all the assorted educational opportunities that goes along with them.  Some teachers even become lawyers, though most learn quickly what a mistake that was.

    The problem is that you asked the wrong question: If there were no teacher unions, how would we be assured an adequate compensation package to attract competent people to teach.  The answer is found in basis employment economics, that salaries and benefits rise to the level necessary to attract an adequate pool of qualified candidates.  You’re welcome.

  18. Josh King

    Great post, Scott – especially the image of the unions shutting their doors amid congratulations on a job well done. The workplace HAS changed dramatically since the 1930’s, and unions have contributed mightily. But the idea that today’s anemic (outside of government, at least) and power-aggrandizing unions are the only thing preventing a backslide to those days is laughable.

  19. SHG

    Public sector unionism isn’t a right, never was a right, shouldn’t be a right and isn’t a right. Oops, I already said that. Is that clear enough for you?  It always was a privilege, created by government to pander to unions for cash and prizes. 

    It has nothing to do with “those people,” and I have no clue where that comes from or what it refers to.  Everybody doesn’t have a right to do whatever they please.  I don’t. You don’t. They don’t. So if there’s a “those people” around, we’re all a part of them.  Not everything is a right.

  20. SHG

    It’s become a religion, Josh, as some of these less favorable comments reflect.  Hey, I can’t blame people for fighting for their bread and butter, but it doesn’t mean I have to go along with it either.

  21. james

    Collective bargaining is a universal right, in my opinion and several top courts from the western world agree with me. You seek to strip that protection away from a certain group of people, specifically ‘those people’ aka the public sector employees.

    What exactly makes one person less worthy of legal protection than another? Why should only some folks have their rights protected? For a guy who rages, with aplomb and accuracy, on the horrors the government can inflict on the individual, turning around and saying the worker is going to get a fair shake and should go it alone strains credulity.

  22. Chris

    I think this is the underlying problem: you think basic employment economics applies to the public sector and it doesn’t.

    Anecdotal evidence (especially if you live in New York) about teacher compensation is worthless.

    Depending on the state, teachers don’t just learn a discipline but also are required to have a professional qualification. There is a choice involved here, and I think it is incredibly misguided to tell those people who want to teach that they just have to deal with whatever comes their way with no bargaining power and limited, if any, professional alternative. Your bit about alternatives, aside from private and charter schools (which are MUCH smaller hiring sources) required career changes. That’s absurd.

    Your argument is also circular. It both rests on and seeks to prove the assumption that teachers are incompetent to do anything else (while trying to pillory that assumption simultaneously) and thus aren’t becoming teachers out of any sense of duty or passion. That’s a pretty broad and insulting assumption.

    By the way, to answer your ‘right’ question:

    ‘Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:

    South Carolina – 50th
    North Carolina – 49th
    Georgia – 48th
    Texas – 47th
    Virginia – 44th’

    Check out their average salaries as well, and the various other metrics, all available with a quick Google search. They are definitely not the top 5. ‘You’re welcome’. Statistics and research are always welcome over baseless speculation.

  23. Chris

    I apologize for not including this in the last post, but: The question should be ‘If there were no teacher unions, WOULD we be assured an adequate compensation package to attract competent people to teach?’

    The answer, as evidenced by those five states, is a resounding ‘No’.

  24. james

    Liberalism has nothing to do with unionism. You are not a traitor, so get off the cross we need the wood for placards.

    To borrow a phrase from another great warrior-poet, ‘You sir, are a freedom taker’.

  25. SHG

    There is a choice involved here, and I think it is incredibly misguided to tell those people who want to teach that they just have to deal with whatever comes their way with no bargaining power and limited, if any, professional alternative.

    You mean like everybody else does?  Horrors, they aren’t guaranteed a job doing what they really want to do.  Outrageous1

    As for the ACT/SAT results, I come up with some different stats for 2010 via the College Board: 

    43Nevada496501473147043%

    .

    44Delaware493495481146971%

    .

    45Texas484505473146253%

    .

    46New York484499478146185%

    .

    47Hawaii483505470145858%

    .

    48Georgia488490475145374%

    .

    49South Carolina484495468144766%

    .

    50District of Columbia474464466140476%

    .

    51Maine468467454138992%

    Epic fail.

  26. SHG

    You mean liberalism isn’t “a universal right, in [your] opinion and several top courts from the western world agree with [you].”

    Sorry, but that’s a classic and I’m gonna use that whenever someone asserts the existence of whatever they like becoming a “universal right.”  Sorry, I just can’t stop laughing about it.

  27. Eric L. Mayer

    Once upon a time, I think I’d be giddy to be a part of a union seeking to create reasonable environments and compensation for habitually tread-upon workers, and I’ve always admired EV Debs for the work he did in those times.

    Now, it’s merely business (unions) trying to compete with business (business). With the average worker represented collectively by Roman-numeral pawns on a Risk board.

    Personally, I think Wisconsin’s plight is much more fundamental, and best described in verse:

    “My name is Yon Yonson,
    I come from Wisconsin
    I work in a lumber mill there
    All the people I meet
    As I walk down the street
    Ask me how in the heck I got there
    So I tell them: My name is Yon Yonson…”

    And it goes on and on and on…

  28. David

    Personally, Wisconsin’s efforts to take away the ability of public employee unions to collectively bargain wage, benefit, and disciplinary policies seems nothing more than politics since police unions were excluded from the list of unions affected.

    Of course, from my point of view, backed by any examination of public employee earnings records, police unions cost governments more in wages, pensions, and litigation than any of the other unions, so it’s odd that they would be excluded if this were a true “cost cutting” measure as those unions cost the most overall.

    But, hey, that’s just my humble opinion. Otherwise I do think that public employee unions have grown a bit too powerful and a little pruning of that power wouldn’t hurt.

  29. SHG

    Yeah, the omission of police is a major problem with taking Walker too seriously, particularly when poilce tend to endorse conservatives candidates. Plus, they’re really good to have around when the teachers storm the capital.

  30. Mad Keith Beyond Geezerdome

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carried an article headlined “Convicted attorneys are still practicing” in late January. (The ABA Journal noted the story two days later.)

    Last Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supremes reinstated the law license of a convicted felon who took money from disabled clients.

    And you blame unions for “…protection of the incompetent, the criminal, the venal”?

    [sarcasm on] All that without a union! Maybe SHG and his fellow legalesers are smarter than I give them credit for.[end sarcasm]

  31. SHG

    See, that’s what I get for being nice to somebody just because they have a funny pseudonym.  Nice tin foil hat there, Keith, and way to stay on topic.

  32. Ellis

    “The problem is that workers pay union dues because they are forced to do so, and expect a quid pro quo in return.”

    That isn’t true. In most, if not all, cases a public employee union is required to represent the interests of every worker, even those who opt to not join the union or pay union dues.

    “When was the last time a Union negotiated over a pension for all Americans who are pensionless? When was the last time a Union bargained away their dental plan so working-class Americans outside the union sphere could get a raise?”

    Unlike supply-side economics, where the trickle down never happens (to any meaningful degree), the gains that unions have won have benefited the population at large. Things we take for granted, like overtime pay, child labor laws, 40-hour work week, etc. were all won initially by unions and extended to everyone eventually.

    “Neither the unions nor the oligarchy loves us. We need to stand up for ourselves, to whatever end that might be, and stop waiting for Superman.”

    What a crock! One way common people stand up for themselves is form unions, so they can present a united front to entities that are rich and powerful.

    Your whole argument is pathetic and it is exactly what the HAVES in this society want people to say. You may as well just entitle your opinion: Surrender. It’s the adult thing to do.

  33. Mark Draughn

    Great piece, Scott. When a union bargains with a private company, the stockholders can count on the company representatives to look out for their interests (more or less), but when a public employee union bargains with a government run by people they help elect, nobody looks out for the taxpayers.

  34. urban legend

    The fundamental problem with this is that, while full of grand theory, it flies in the face of decades of thousands upon thousands of public employee unions all over the country, year after year, peacefully negotiating mutually acceptable agreements. That’s because the task of these unions is to prevent unfairness — in compensation and treatment — not to keep squeezing more and more out of the public. If Scott had a clue what he is talking about, teachers, nurses, police and firefighters are primarily motivated to provide the public service in the best manner they know how. Sure, they want reasonable compensation and treatment, but please try making the case that the majority of them go into the profession to get rich.

    This is as good example as you will ever find of a solution in search of a problem. Show us where all the labor discord has been in Wisconsin government — or all the teachers being overpaid at $53,000 a year. Why start a civil war unless it’s no less infantile in purpose than pissing liberals off?

  35. Mad Keith Beyond Geezerdome

    Scott, don’t break your arm patting yourself on your “being nice” back. You brought up “protection of the incompetent, the criminal, the venal,” not I. I merely commented on YOUR phrase and its implications.

    So I guess the tin foil – and off topic posting – is really yours.

    xKeith Gumowitz, who is still Mad Beyond Geezerdome

  36. Shawn McManus

    Nice post, Scott.

    And I’ll join with you on calling our Wilson on the failure to include the police unions.

    WRT to the economics of the issue, the following questions come to mind:

    How much do teachers at private schools make in Wisconson? How do their plans rate in comparison?

    What is the long-term cost to the benefits? Will the retirement plan for the $53,000 / year employee consume ever increasing percentages of taxes collected? (That last was Wilson’s question.)

    I have an idea, since we’re all into transparency nowadays and since public employees are included as part of the .gov, why not make the union negotiations public?

  37. pml

    The theory here is exclude the police because you need them to defend you from all the other workers that just lost collective bargining rights.

    Then as soon as things calm down you nail the police unions the same way.

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