Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Take on Public Sector Unions

I have no problem with unions per se.  Unions may have killed American manufacturing, but they really only hurt themselves, not consumers, since, in this country, consumers can still choose non-union made goods.  As long as there exists non-unionized competition, whether foreign or domestic, that will always be the case.  It's when unions have no competition, when they are actually the monopolists, that I have a problem, a big problem.  Nowhere in our country does that happen except in the public sector, where we hand over our most vital services--police, fire, education, sanitation--to unions.  Somehow the notion of public service has been turned inside out to instead become public blackmail: "pay us whatever we want or we will let fires burn, let thieves roam, let your children suffer, let garbage pile up on your streets."  Any city or state that is foolish enough to try and cross a public employees' union finds itself terrorized.

Witness the ongoing Chicago teachers' strike, where teachers have rejected raises averaging 16% over the next four years--teachers, who on average, have done a miserable job, Chicago having one of the lowest performing school systems in the country.  This, at a time when millions are unemployed, many with little chance of ever finding a job that even matches their previous salary.  The only reason for this travesty is that the Chicago teachers' union has a monopoly on the provision of public education in the city of Chicago. In a time where just about everyone is struggling, the underperforming Chicago teachers' union has the audacity to demand even more than the generous amount its been offered.  If the rest of us did our jobs as poorly as the teachers, we would be on the street.  And they want more. 

What is the most vital public service of all?  In my mind there is no doubt that it's the military, without which none of the other services would even be possible.  Now imagine a unionized military.  Do you think that would work?  We would never let that happen, yet really, is there any difference conceptually between a unionized military and a unionized police?  Unionized firefighters?  Unionized teachers?  Unionized sanitation workers?  All are vital.  All are handled by the public sector.  Picture the country's safety held hostage to union leaders demanding higher wages--which is what every city, state and town of the country already faces at the hands of its public sector unions.  And that needs to change.

Unions in the private sector eventually have to be reasonable.  Otherwise they kill their golden goose. Public service sector unions have no such limitations. Left unchecked they will and do kill their golden geese.  The financial situation of our our cities, towns and states attests that the process is well under way.  And that is why public sector employees' unions should never have been and should most definitely no longer be permitted. 

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