Friday, December 31, 2010

Look For The Union Scapegoat Label

Via Memeorandum I see that John Hindraker has declared war on public employee unions.

For the large majority of our history, public employee unions have been illegal. It is only since the 1960s and 1970s that they have been allowed. Currently, they are legal in roughly half the states. The United States has carried on a four-decade experiment in legalization, and the results are in: public employee unions are a cancer on our country.

I'd argue that Hindraker probably decided to forgo pluralizing "employee" and omitted the word "and" after it as an editorial change in that last sentence, because that's what would really float his boat.

Public employee unions flourish because government is, by its nature, a monopoly. Thus, there is no need for unionized government units to compete against non-unionized units. Moreover, public officials who negotiate with public employee unions generally lack the same incentives that private employers have to keep costs down. The result has been a fiscal disaster, with numerous states and municipalities now going over the waterfall of bankruptcy.


Correlation does not equal causation.  "Government is a monopoly" is also silly.  And since private sector unions are being broken up all across America and have been for decades now, the endpoint of Hindraker's logic is of course no unions at all and the end of collective bargaining, period.

But here's the really fun part.

Meanwhile, public employee unions have become perhaps the dominant force in our political life. They extract dues from their members which go to fund the candidacies of politicians who will pay public employees even more money. The unions' ill-gotten clout has created a vicious cycle; at the same time that government units are going broke, public employees are now far better paid than their private sector counterparts, while enjoying better benefits and ridiculous job security.

Raise your hand if you believe that unions control the country.  Let's take a look at the latest Labor Department union stats for 2009:

In 2009, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union--was 12.3 percent, essentially unchanged from 12.4 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions declined by 771,000 to 15.3 million, largely reflecting the overall drop in employment due to the recession. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

Even with the number of public employees who are unionized (7.9 million) that still brings the total to just one in eight across the entire country.  That's how far down in membership and power unions have dropped in this country.

And if you think unions are the "dominant force in our political life" one has suffered selective amnesia of how corporate America and particularly the financial, insurance, and medical industries in this country gained massive polticial power over the last decade.  The Citizens United decision in particular favored corporate interests over unions, unless you think the AFL-CIO has more money or political power than Goldman Sachs.

And if Hindraker's statement really is true, then the most important political issue to unions, card check legslation to make it easier to join and form a union, should have passed easily.  It went precisely nowhere, even in a Congress dominated by Rust Belt and New England blue state Democrats with union constituencies and a President from Illinois.  It died in the Senate early.  What dominance can unions have if they can't even get their central legislative effort passed during the short time that the Democrats had 60 seats in the Senate?  On the contrary, that would demonstrate how weak unions are.

No, what Hindraker is doing is putting the blame for state fiscal problems squarely on the backs of public employee unions instead of public officials always making the decision to cut taxes to remain popular.  The magical thinking of cutting taxes not adding to deficits is idiotic and leads to this kind of shoddy, irresponsible scapegoating of public employees.

But that's where we are going into 2011, our hated, vile public employees.

[UPDATE]  Oh yes, and addressing Hindraker's original point, maybe it wasn't a slowdown.

In the last two years, the agency's 6,300-person workforce has been slashed by 400 trash haulers and supervisors and, effective tomorrow, 100 department supervisors are to be demoted and their salaries slashed as an added cost-saving move, the Post reports. 


You cut 6% of the workforce and expect response time to be adequate in a blizzard on a holiday weekend?  How are those cost savings looking now?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Remember this time four years ago, Dec 31, 2006?

You know, back when gas was $2.30 a gallon, your 401(k) and your house were worth more, and unemployment was 4.6%?

You know, back when Republicans still controlled Washington?

I do.

Anonymous said...

Going after Power Line? I think you've bitten off more than you can chew, son. I hope somebody over there is paying attention so you can get a taste of why you shouldn't be messing with the big dogs...

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the blessed days when the GOP called the shots, got us into a war for false causus belli, raised a massive deficit, began the practice of wiretapping citizens and torturing prisoners, and began to undermine the middle class in earnest.

Dick Cheney had shot someone in the face, Scooter Libby was a traitor and the housing bubble hit it's peak, and thank you Republicans for reminding me why it was so good to toss you out in 2006 in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Horseshit.

In total benefits and wages your average government employee makes 50% more than your average private sector employee.

The major reason for that is public employee unions.

If we outlawed those unions and renegotiated every public employee's salary to private sector levels, we would have a surplus in nearly every state and we could cut taxes accordingly, putting more money in EVERYONE'S pockets.

And your rant only addresses unions at the NATIONAL level, not the STATE level. If you had an ounce of common sense, you would know that at the state level, state employees are the single largest state expenditure. That is because of STATE employee unions.

But you're another intellectually bankrupt liberal, what would you know?

Ted said...

I would almost have to think "Zandar" here is a state employee who spends all day on a blog rather than doing work!

Zandar said...

Nice try.

"Policy Matters Ohio said the nine states that don’t allow unions to negotiate wages and benefits for members have budget deficits averaging 16.5 percent of revenue. The 15 states that grant unions full collective-bargaining authority have deficits averaging 16.2 percent of revenue, the group said. "

So states without any public unions still have budget deficits, and on average they are the same if not more than states with strong public unions with full collective bargaining rights.

There goes that theory.

Next troll, step up.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what state you live in, but in CA government employees aren't getting 50% over the private sector. They usually earn less, but do get some extra benefits, which makes it a wash. They also tend to have better education, work longer hours and get less vacation time, unless you count the mandated furloughs as time off, which they sure don't.

No idea why conservative hate American workers like this, save perhaps that it costs them a tiny slice of money which they might have used to buy hair plugs with.

Unknown said...

Keep smacking them on the nose with facts. It pisses them off because all they can do is sputter.

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