Stand against public employee union demands in California and Wisconsin


This is the New Corporatism. The Democratic Party, union leaders, the president, the DNC, and socialist activists in this country have totally misread the current situation.

Citizens now face a battle against an entrenched political class made up of government employees, their union leaders, media, the wealthy and politicians that support attempts to shout down reform that will end the public employee union strangle hold on the future of this country!

These unionistas don’t represent more than 10% of working families in the United States, if that. But they want us to pay for their sinecure, healthcare, pensions, and high salaries, when ordinary Americans cannot pay the rent, mortgage, face foreclosure, loss of their own pensions, and cannot pay for food, good education, or healthcare.

It is time to stand against those that would would make the people serve the state and its employees instead of the other way around.

Make every state a right to work state. Enforce fair and secret union elections. Eliminate forcing union members to pay dues that go to political activity instead of workplace negotiations. Eliminate closed shop monopolies nationwide.

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Comments

  1. Wendy Lack says

    As evidenced by this recent Bloomberg report, Jerry “Dr. Frankenstein” B. stands in solid support of of the public employee union monster of his own creation. JB told his public employee union supporters: “I want you to know you’ve got a friend, an ally and a partner as we go forward together.”

    http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2011/04/governor-brown-tells-cheering.html

    Indeed, one is known by the company one keeps. Jerry is no friend of California.

  2. Free my arse says

    The ‘free market’ is never free, nor is the absence of government a means by which to achieve the capitalist utopia that some herein yearn for. If that was the case then Somilia would be the bastion of free markets- oh wait- it is a good example of the type of society that comes from free markets.

    • says

      If what you mean is gangs taking what they want from a defenseless citizenry, whether they be Goldman Sachs banksters running the fed and fdic or the public employee industrial complex, you may be right!

  3. Wendy Lack says

    Debating the meaning of “fairness” is like debating what’s “good.” It may be fun but it’s tough to get any traction. However, if your aim is to optimize resources to gain the best outcome for the most numbers, rely on free markets to do so.

    A free market determines the value of goods and services – and the cost of labor – in the most simple and efficient manner possible. Dynamic free markets self-correct to establish the price at which supply and demand reach equilibrium. Indeed, it’s a beautiful thing – no central planners required.

    Public sector unions – whose dues help to elect sympathetic policymakers who in turn authorize union contracts – interrupt the free market by insulating the government’s business decisions from market reality. In the fairy tale, insulated world of public agencies run by union-bought elected officials, exotic idiosyncrasies develop, such as “longevity pay” and “shift differential” and other pay variations that, for example, in the county of Contra Costa cost $35 million annually.

    Public agencies’ insulation from competition is why public agencies overpay some jobs and underpay others, vis a vis the general labor market. These pay arrangements cause recruitment difficulties and deliver poor value to taxpayers. Overall the public ends up paying an inflated price for government services which may be of inconsistent or substandard quality.

    As FDR observed, unions have no place in government. The current fiscal crisis of state and local governments — characterized by underfunded public pension/benefit systems and fossilized bureaucracies smothered under the weight of inefficient union work rules – is the predictable outcome of introducing unions to government.

    The 50-year-old grand experiment to unionize public employees has failed. Categorically. Don’t take my word for it – just look at the relative economic conditions in right-to-work states.

    Change won’t come easy. Public sector unions are a politically powerful business that won’t go away quietly. But go away they will, at least in some states (though perhaps not likely in progressive California).

    Prediction: We are not witnessing the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning, as per:

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/02/26/coming-soon-to-a-statehouse-ne

  4. Peter Freedman-Doan says

    BGR laments PFD seems to argue “there is no public justice.” I don’t know much about Dahl and only have a vague idea about what you call Corporatism. I do wonder what you think “public justice” is and who gets to define it. There may or may not be something out there called “public justice” but if it is out there, why doesn’t it make itself known so all can bow to it? Will it be self-evident when it makes an appearance? Should we expect it shortly?

    Again I ask, who gets to say what is a teacher’s “fair share” of contributions to retirement and medical care and the like? Do the teachers every get to raise their hands and chime in? If not, how is that fair? Would you ever submit to such a system where somebody else got to decide what’s “fair” for you? Moreover, when they raise their hands, chime in, and convince elected officials to enter into contracts–should those officials be able to simply say, “Sorry, we’re dunderheads. We made a bad deal back then, now just as you are ready to retire, we’d like to change that deal”?

    • says

      Peter, you make it sound as if there is some fair negotiation when there is not. Who are public employees negotiating against, really?

      You make it sound like anything that comes out of bargaining between teachers and a pliant legislative board elected largely by teacher union support is valid irregardless of economic realities.

      Then forced arbitration makes unaffordable demands to be even more legitimate.

      It’s common sense that “fair share” would have roots in comparison to all similar work in the same category not just compared only to what other public employees make down in another part of the state.

      According to your lights, there is no way to weed out bad teachers. Your argument demands bad teachers hold the trump card in any discussion about who bad teachers are and how to get rid of them, when parents, as the agent most responsible for a child’s education, should have the sole choice to decide.

      Your argument only makes sense in a statist regime where rights are defined by government or power group instead of a constitution that acknowledges the rights of people and restricts the power of government and its agents, namely government employees.

    • Michael Toth says

      In reference to “fair share”, fair is in the eye of the beholder. When private unions were first formed they were negotiating for things such as “fair” wages, safe working conditions and a regulated work week with overtime pay for work in excess of 40 hours. Demands for health care and pension benefits arose later when workers compared their lagging benefits with those of their management counterparts. Increased benefits were often granted by a desire of corporate management to lower direct wage expenses and to compete for skilled labor.

      When public employee unions were formed, they were attempting to catch up with private workers to receive their “fair share” of wages and benefits for comparable work done by comparably qualified workers. Ironically, the demise of the private sector work force has now turned the tables and placed some, but not all, public employees in a relatively advantaged position.

      For anti-union proponents, Wal-Mart’s employment practices constitute the new standard of fairness. Some corporate executives would go even further and now define “fair” wages and benefits by an oversees work force that includes many workers willing to accept low wages and poor conditions in order to subsist. I view neither of those standards to be fair.

      Union negotiations allow workers and business managers to juxtapose their competing versions of fairness in the context of precedent and current market conditions in order to agree upon a working definition that will apply for the term of a given labor agreement. To the degree that negotiations with public employee unions have become slanted in the direction of workers, reforms are necessary, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  5. Peter Freedman-Doan says

    BGR says “The vast majority of Americans want public employees at local and state level to pay their fair share.”
    If we take that to be true, then
    1) who decides what is a “fair share” and do the public employees get to sit at the table that decides what is “fair”? If so, in what form other than their union do they get to participate? Will a notion of what is “fair” just show up out of the blue without the participation of the public employee unions? Who would you be willing to let make important decisions about what is “fair” for you?
    2) In Wisconsin, as I understand it the unions already have indicated a willingness to make significant wage and benefit compromises, but the attack continues because, not only is money at issue, it is political power. So public employees exercising their 1st amendment rights to seek redress, like so many other organizations (think the small but powerful NRA, or the large and powerful AARP, the Chamber of Commerce etc, etc etc) should have those rights to organize and to influence their fate curtailed because they are successful? Aren’t they simply doing the American thing, “This candidate wants what I want. I’ll give them money, time and my vote.” Jeesh, the Moe article BGR cites makes much of the fact that teachers who live in the district they work in vote at higher than expected rates. My goodness, are we now surprised that citizens (“patriots” as another writer on this blog calls activists) who are “interested” vote their “interests”? Heck what else is democracy for but to allow us to watch over ourselves since letting others do it for us is usually a recipe for trouble (see related debates about who is best equipped to control health care government panels or patriots, who is best equipped to make decisions about education families or “government”).

    • says

      All this negotiation when there is no money left.

      Democracy? So, whether developers or public employee unions, a powerful interest is able to elect its representatives who can raise taxes or define policy or award contracts to reward that interest. So we are back to Robert Dahl (or never left) and there is no public justice and 1+1=3. All that is left is Corporatism where individual rights and political participation are based on what power group one belongs to or affiliates with: union, some industry group, or the social-health-public-safety industrial complex. Gone is any remnant of Constitutional Republic where Public policy concerning debt and taxation is no longer informed by norms of economy, but is reduced to a prize for the highest bidder or best organized and militant mob whether in Madison Wisconsin or Sacramento California.

      Such a nation deserves what it gets. Debase the currency, as only those who work for the politburo will have leisure or means to a voice in the regime while private sector middle class disappears into clients of welfare state or pariah. As Durant documents, the tyrant comes later.

  6. Michael Toth says

    Surprise! The National Review has a position against unions. My point was that unions have been protectionist and have failed to make reasonable concessions that consider the economic conditions of the times. However, they are not alone in bearing the blame for the budget deficit.

    Republican officials have given vast tax breaks on ideological grounds without first weighing the cost to governments and without taking the necessary steps to pay for the cuts. Governments have indeed failed to meet their pension funding obligations and have occasionally raided pension funds to pay for other governmental programs. Pension fund managers have drunk the Wall Street Kool-Aid and ventured into increasingly risky investment strategies in search of big pay days and big commissions and bonuses. And public officials of every stripe have ducked the big issues of cutting entitlement spending, defense spending on the federal level and criminal justice spending on the state and local levels.

    The continuing villainization of public employees and their unions is wrong.

  7. Michael Toth says

    I have been following the 2011 assault on public employee unions with great interest and have struggled to find an appropriate response to the frenzied debate and demonstrations surrounding the issue. Contrary to the posted comments of BGR (“Is Collective Bargaining Extortion” – 2/10/11), I do not see public employee unions as monopolies or conveyers of Marxist collectivist values having the intent of expropriating the property of employers and negating their Adam Smith bestowed rights. Nor do I view public employee unions as immutable or without the need for reform. I do believe that labor has a legitimate voice in public commerce and that that voice requires the rights to organize, negotiate and even to strike.

    I have experienced the union issue from many sides. My grandfather was a coal miner in western Pennsylvania. He worked in dangerous conditions for little pay, lived in mine owned housing and shopped at a high-priced, mine owned general using company issued script that mine owners paid out to workers instead of money.

    When he was caught speaking to a union organizer, he was fired and thrown out of his home with his family and their meager possessions. The company eventually rehired him, but he had to survive the brutality of the mine labor wars and became an active union member and organizer in the process. The lesson that he taught his children was, “When a company treats you like a slave instead of a worker, you have to do something about it.” Conditions like those occurred in virtually every industry in the country and eventually spawned the American labor movement.

    My father was a skilled welder who worked in a variety of unionized companies. He was variously a member of the United Steel Workers and the United Auto Workers. His union affiliation did not protect him against job losses when companies decided to sell or shut down plants where he worked. Nor did they protect his pension plans that were lost at the time of those closing. It did give him improved wages, work place safety and health insurance. These benefits often came only after a labor strike, during which my dad walked the picket line and scurried for any odd jobs that he could find to support our family. Those were the days that we put cardboard into the soles of our deteriorating shoes, drank Carnation powdered milk and ate lots of casseroles to stretch the family budget.

    While in college, I had a job saved from cronyism by the RCIU; I suffered diminished wages and unfriendly workplace due to the incursion of the URW; and enjoyed good wages as a member of both the URW and USW. While in public administration, I dealt and negotiated with public safety unions and those representing clerical, administrative and service employees. As a private business executive, I staved off efforts by the TEAMSTERS union to organize our truck drivers and dispatchers. In those experiences, I have seen the good and the bad of unions and still believe them to be legitimate institutions that represent the legitimate interests of workers.

    The debate over public employee unions has been politically framed by Republican governors and legislators who have an over arching agenda and ideology. In reality, public employees and their unions have not single handedly bankrupted governments. (In Wisconsin, the precipitating factor in the deficit crisis was the tax cuts granted to businesses, which erased a government surplus and exacerbated the looming short falls.) Most government services are provided directly by employees at a significant cost to taxpayers. While government workers do not determine the need for those services, they have influenced their cost.

    Through union negotiations, the wages and benefits of public employees have continued to rise even as inflation has leveled. While those wages and benefits had been historically below those in the private sector, the transition of general society from manufacturing to service industries has somewhat reversed that trend. (I am uncertain that this holds fast if you strictly compare the qualifications of public and private employees, but it appears to be true overall.) At the beginning, public employee unions came about, because workers wished to close the historical gap and to accrue benefits similar to those in the private sector. Now that private sector employees have lost jobs to international outsourcing, their wage advantage has significantly eroded and their benefits have often disappeared. That is not the fault of public employees.

    The issue of public employee pensions is something of a red herring. These benefits are generally not pensions in the traditional sense, which private companies granted to employees as a supplement to the benefits that retirees would accrue from Social Security. Instead, public pensions were offered as a mandatory alternative to Social Security by state and local governments that believed that they could provide the benefits more economically than if they participated in the federal system. Public workers pay into their pensions the same way that private employees pay into social security. Their schedule of benefits mirrors that of the federal program with variations from state to state. In most cases, these programs are no more generous than those of their federal counterpart. Most crises in regarding these pensions are the result of governments’ failure to fund their part of the plans.

    Where public employee unions are to blame is in their failure to join in constructive problem solving regarding the severe problems that face all levels of government including the strains on finances. Too often, unions in general and public unions specifically take positions that are extremely protectionist. They fiercely resist concessions, regardless of the circumstances, viewing them as defeats regardless of their merits. They also view negotiations with a scorecard mentality, tallying their wins and losses in an effort to prove to their members that their dues are well invested.

    Mediation and arbitration programs reinforce this view, as mediators slant the process toward employees by assuming that any union acceptance of the status quo is a concession, which they must offset by some improvement accrued to workers. Mediators’ rulings and arbitrator decisions often reflect the intermediaries’ desires to secure an agreement regardless of facts or fairness. This system deserves reform, regardless of employees’ strike ability, in order to insure that negotiations are fair to not only employers and employees, but also to tax payers who foot the bill.

    Instead of gutting public employee unions and the legitimate rights of workers to negotiate for wages, benefits and conditions of work, legislators should focus on reforms to bargaining processes. These must ensure that bargaining is fair for both sides and that governmental entities are permitted determine necessary reductions in work force, interagency consolidations, outsourcing and other legitimate measures when union demands exceed the entities’ ability to meet them.

    • says

      All this negotiation. At the end of the day there is no more money. What you will find are thousands of qualified applicants who will eagerly apply for every single civil service job including medical, public safety, and teaching that offers 20% less in pay, have to pay a real co-pay for benefits, and 401K instead of defined benefit pension.

      Public employees need to prove value and performance just like any worker, but are protected by the negotiations they make with people they have elected.

      The power of public employee support in elections is even greater than incumbency according to new study by Teri Moe because they do control outcomes of elections. That alone is a serious danger to our Constitutional Republic.

  8. says

    Desparate Brian, if you are quoting the unbelievable poll in the NY Times today you are selling phony numbers. While only 12 percent of Americans are in public sector unions and 12 percent the poll you site had over 25%! respondents who was a union member or had public employee in household.

    See 7th paragraph of story NY Times buried

    The sample is skewed. It means you and the NY Times are justr taking drastic action to fabricate news to bolster your losing cause.

    The vast majority of Americans want public employees at local and state level to pay their fair share

  9. Wendy Lack says

    When will we focus on the fact that elected officials are responsible for our current fiscal situation? The current popular uprising isn’t an anti-public employee thing, or even an anti-union thing but, fundamentally, it’s a recognition of the negligence and utter failure of elected officials at all levels of government by engaging in such conduct as:

    – Elected officials accept campaign donations from public employee unions and other labor groups;
    – Elected officials approve public employee labor contracts with insufficient cost analysis or, worse, in deep denial about the affordability of promises made to labor;
    – Elected officials approve Project Labor Agreements to increase the cost of public construction projects and, consequently, pay more to get less;
    – Elected officials authorize spending to benefit friends and support every good-intentioned idea that comes along — and never “sunset” any government program;
    – Elected officials spew “class warfare” rhetoric as a means of hiding in the reeds when the whole mess hits the fan and Average Taxpayers become aware of the electeds’ reckless spending.

    When the balance of power gets this far out of whack, it’s really tough to get the system rebalanced. Elected officials have authorized a public sector labor spending spree over a period of decades and now, across the nation, we are witnessing the inevitable consequence. One cannot blame Joe and Jane Taxpayer for being a tad hot-under-the-collar about government’s irresponsible overspending at their expense, while their kids are subjected to substandard government schooling and the Tax Man takes bigger bites out of their paychecks, year after year. It’s like adding insult to injury to go on a bender and leave someone else to pick up the tab and repair the damage. Sheesh.

    P.S. to Brian: Check your facts, man. No one can defend elected officials’ negligence in making promises to labor that never had any hope of being fulfilled over the long term. And a society composed of “very rich and very poor” — lacking a middle class — is characteristic of governments that do not recognize individual private property rights; stifle (via regulation) or prohibit free markets; grow the size and scope of government; and seek to redistribute wealth so that everyone is equally poor (except for the ruling elite, including government officials). Sadly, this is the direction in which the U.S. is headed — in direct conflict with the principles on which this nation was founded — which is the core reason for the current popular “tea party” uprising nationwide.

  10. Brian says

    Hey, I have a great idea, let’s fire all of the: Teachers, Cops, Firemen, and other Civil Servants. We will then offer them their jobs back at Walmart Wages with low pay and no benefits. That way they can all truly be welfare queens when they have to file for medi-cal and food stamps.
    This country is on track to having two classes, the very rich and the very poor. Unfortunately, big business is not paying any taxes on income, look at Exxon Mobile has posted the largest profits in US History the last 4 years in a row and through BS Tax loopholes doesn’t pay a dime in income tax. http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/01/ge-exxon-walmart-business-washington-corporate-taxes.html
    Wall Street is great at this shell game, let’s redirect attention away from our own problems and make these teachers look like faceless, nameless union thugs. This issue is not about the money, its 100% politics, eliminate unions and you eliminate or weaken the democratic party. That way all the companys that dodged taxes can spend millions lobbying their agenda.
    The NY Times/CBS recently polled Americans and 60% favored keeping collective bargaining. As a moderate Republican I feel that Pension Reform is a must, and we can definitely shrink the size of our Federal and State Governments, but this “lets throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach is ridiculous.
    Forbes and the Huffington Post both had informative articles regarding the situation in Wisconsin that give another perspective on the issues there.
    http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/02/25/the-wisconsin-lie-exposed-taxpayers-actually-contribute-nothing-to-public-employee-pensions/comment-page-4/#respond
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/25/wisconsin-workers-overpaid_n_828077.html

    • says

      So much for moderate Republicans ready to cave on every issue to liberals. The two societies is indeed a danger, and government policies in addition to demographics beyond its control are critical. Government in charge of “trickle up” economics by creating a favored class of citizen — the public employee and the political power of those unions — is voodoo economics of the worst kind, and a clear danger to a free society.

    • Kris Hunt, CoCoTAX says

      There seems to be a trend of declaring oneself being a Republican in order to advance an unrepublican agenda. However, the point is not your silly one of firing everyone, but actually retaining jobs. The following is from Jeff Adachi, San Francisco Public Defender and a progressive who sees the impact of unsustainable pensions and healthcare:

      “This year, taxpayers spent one out of every six tax dollars – nearly a billion dollars — on city employee benefits. Within five years, that number is expected to double.Over the next twelve months, the city’s benefits costs for city employees will soar by $100 million more, while the city’s unfunded liability for city employee health care costs will grow to $4.32 billion. At the same time, the City faces a $400 million deficit. These benefits costs will continue to climb, consuming scarce funding to support education, law enforcement, parks and recreation programs, public health and other basic services.”

      Again, it is not anti-union to want to be fiscally viable.

  11. Wendy Lack says

    Even the Grandaddy of the modern progressive movement wouldn’t approve of the conduct of Wisconsin’s public employees, let alone the runaway state legislators:

    “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

    Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable . . . .”

    - Excerpt from a letter written August 16, 1937 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  12. Richard S. Colman says

    Badly needed are three reforms. First, government must put a limit on spending. A law or constitutional amendment may be needed. Second, there must be a limit on taxation. Third, employers should not be involved in deducting union dues from an employee’s paycheck. If an employee belongs to a union, let the employee pay his dues directly to the union. Being a union member should be no different from being a member of the Rotary Club. Dues for the Rotary Club are not withheld from employee’s paycheck.

    Richard Colman
    Orinda, CA
    Feb. 28, 2011