Public unions are like foods that are hazardous to our health. The damage can take years, decades to show up. Once the damage(s) are there, the effects can literally kill us and the same can be said for many unions, especially ones like the SEIU and the AFSCME.
Like Mr. McGurn I live in a state that has been severely damaged economically by public unions and I can easily switch New Jerseystan to Oregonstan or as I like to call my home state, POORegon. Oregon has been crippled by the PERS retirement plan for public employees. PERS has cost the state, county and many cities millions and millions of dollars in bloated retirement benefits. Once in place by law, this system has proven near impossible to reform or change. As I am a state TEMPORARY employee, I have no benefits, no vacation, no sick days, no medical, dental benefits. Yet the SEIU fleeces me for about $20.00 a month of which I get 80% refunded because I opted out of any union 'donations' to their political or otherwise contributions. My dislike of the SEIU would be problem if I were ever to be offered a more permanent position as union membership is REQUIRED for all other classifications of state employment positions. Of course I would relish the chance to be subversive, working inside the SEIU for it's downfall but that remains to be seen. The area union representative and I do not get along at all, imagine that. This is partially because I think state workers must pay a larger share for the benefits they receive and the PERS system is unfair to the residents of Oregon in general, period.
Back to the article at hand by Mr. McGurn. I read this through Imprimis which is put out by Hillsdale College in Michigan. If you are not familiar with Imprimis, or Hillsdale College you should be. You can get it at no cost to you in the mail or by email. Imprimis is a decent publication that takes on some very big issues that our country is now confronting or trying to. Hillsdale College is a bastion of true Conservative values and has thrived quite well without any government funding nor do they offer government backed or funded student loans. You can bet that obama, ayers, bell and similar denizens of the left are not Hillsdale alumni.
Mr.McGurn has done a very credible job of exposing the wreckage from public unions and I will just leave it at that. The article stands on it's own quite well.
What Public Employee Unions are Doing to Our Country
By William McGurn
WILLIAM MCGURN is a vice president for News Corporation and writes the weekly “Main Street” column for the Wall Street Journal. From 2005 to 2008, he served as chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Prior to that he was the chief editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal and spent more than ten years in Europe and Asia for Dow Jones. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including Esquire, the Washington Post, the Spectator of London and the National Catholic Register. He holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in communications from Boston University, and currently serves on the board of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered on February 15, 2012, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Newport Beach, California.
MANY SCHOLARS ARE better versed on the history of public employee unions than I am, but there is one credential I can claim that they cannot: I am a taxpayer in the People’s Republic of New Jerseystan. That makes me an authority on how public sector unions—especially at the state and local level—are thwarting economic growth, strangling the middle class, and generally hijacking the democratic process to serve their own ends rather than the public.
Now in my experience, when one says the words “New Jersey,” people for some reason think it is a laugh line. Perhaps you know us from The Sopranos or Jersey Shore. You might think that such a state has nothing to teach you. If so, you would be very wrong. New Jersey offers something that can profit the entire nation: We are the perfect bad example.
As conservatives, of course, we believe in virtue. We like to point to policies and practices that work—low taxes and light regulation for the economy, a strong national defense to keep us safe from foreign attack, and social policies that favor community over government. These are all valuable. But the bad example has its honored place as well: It’s how we illustrate our warnings.
As parents, for example, selling virtue only takes us so far. To make our point when we see a character trait we don’t care for in our kids, we’re far more likely to say something like, “You don’t want to grow up to be like Uncle Bob, do you?”
This is the reason Governor Chris Christie’s reforms have had such resonance. Almost anywhere he points, he has before him an example of how New Jersey’s bloated public sector is hurting growth, limiting the efficiency of government services, and squeezing middle class families. How many state governors and legislators might be more inclined to do the right thing if before they acted they first said to themselves, “We don’t want to be like New Jersey, do we?”
These days, when conservatives get together to discuss the debilitating role played by government workers, we reassure ourselves with statements by FDR and labor leader Samuel Gompers about the fundamental incompatibilities between a union of private workers working for a private company and a union of government workers laboring for our city, state, or federal governments. We also trace the line of expansion to various events, including John F. Kennedy’s executive order that opened the path for collective bargaining for public employees at the federal level.
I don’t want to rehash that today. Today I want to talk about the situation as we find it, and suggest that the first step toward a cure is to diagnose the illness accurately. This means changing the way we think of public sector unions. And in what I have to say, I will concentrate on public sector unions at the state and local levels.
It’s not that I don’t consider the unionization of federal workers to be an issue. Plainly it is an issue when the teachers unions represent one of the largest blocs of delegates at Democratic conventions, when the largest single campaign contributor in the 2010 elections was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, when union money at the federal level goes at an overwhelming rate to Democratic candidates, and when the Congressional Budget Office tells us that federal employees earn more than their counterparts in the private sector. Nonetheless, I believe that the greater challenge today—to state and city finances, to democratic representation, to the middle class—is at the state and local level. This is partly because state and city unions have the power to negotiate wages and benefits that their counterparts at the federal level largely do not. More fundamentally, it is because we cannot reform at the federal level without correcting a problem that is bringing our cities and states to bankruptcy.
When I say we need to change our understanding, what I mean is that we have to recognize that public sector unions have successfully redefined key relationships in our economic and civic life. In making this argument, I will suggest that the elected politicians who represent us at the negotiating table are not in fact management, that our taxing and spending decisions at the city and state level are in practice decided by our public sector contracts, and that when you put this all together, what emerges is a completely different picture of the modern civil servant. In short, we work for him, not the other way around.
Who is Managing Whom?
Let me start with the relationship between government employee unions and our elected officials. On paper, it is true, mayors and governors sit across the table from city and state workers collectively bargaining for wages and benefits. On paper, this makes them management—representing us, the taxpayers. But in practice, these people often serve more as the employees of unions than as their managers. New Jersey has been telling here. Look at our former governor, Jon Corzine.
You Hillsdale folks are a genteel sort. When you speak about the unions being in bed with the Democratic politicians, you mean it metaphorically. In New Jersey, we take it to Snooki levels: Mr. Corzine once shared a home with the New Jersey leader of the Communication Workers of America, Carla Katz. Back when he was running for governor, he was asked whether that relationship would compromise his ability to represent the taxpayers in negotiations with outfits such as CWA. “As the governor,” Mr. Corzine responded, “you represent eight-and-a-half million people. You don’t represent one union. You don’t represent one person. You represent the people who elected you.”
That’s the way it ought to be. In real life, it turned out that during heated negotiations over a contested CWA contract, Mr. Corzine and Ms. Katz had a long email chain—subsequently published by the Newark Star Ledger, despite the governor’s legal attempts to keep them private—in which she pressed him on the union issues.
But it wasn’t just the CWA. Scarcely six months after he was elected, Governor Corzine appeared before a rally of state workers in Trenton in support of a one percent sales tax designed to bring in revenues to a state hemorrhaging money. Not cutbacks, but a tax. Naturally, Mr. Corzine’s solution was the one the public sector unions wanted: Get the needed revenues by introducing a new tax.
The twist was that there was someone in the New Jersey government who understood the problem—who understood that a new sales tax wouldn’t do much to fix New Jersey’s problems, and that the only way to get a handle on them was to get state workers to start contributing more to their health care and pensions.
These were the pre-Chris Christie days, so the author of this bold proposal was the Senate president, Stephen Sweeney. Mr. Sweeney is not only interesting because he is a prominent and powerful Democrat. He is also interesting because in addition to his political office, he represents the state’s ironworkers. And what Mr. Sweeney proposed for the public sector unions was something private union members such as his ironworkers already paid for. It was also common sense: He knew that if New Jersey didn’t get a handle on its gold-plated pay and benefits for its government employees, it would squeeze out the private sector that hires people such as ironworkers.
If the leader of an ironworkers union could realize that, surely so could a governor who had earlier served as a high-powered executive for Goldman Sachs. But Mr. Corzine was having none of it. Instead, he told the crowd of state workers: “We’re gonna fight for a fair contract.”
The question is, whom was he planning on fighting? Wasn’t he management in these negotiations?
Six months later, Governor Corzine proved this was not simply a slip of the tongue. When workers at Rutgers University were planning to unionize, he turned up at their rally. This was too much even for the liberal Star Ledger, which—in an article entitled “Jon Corzine, Union Rep?”—noted that Mr. Corzine’s appearance at the rally raised the question whether he truly understood that “he represents the ‘management’ side in ongoing contract talks with state employees unions.”
Manifestly, the problem is not that Mr. Corzine and other elected leaders like him—mostly Democrats—do not understand. In fact, they understand all too well that they are the hired help. The public employees they are supposed to manage in effect manage them. The unions provide politicians with campaign funds and volunteers and votes, and the politicians pay for what the unions demand in return with public money.
In New Jersey as elsewhere, most leaders of public sector unions are not sleeping with the politicians who set their salary and benefits. They are, however, doing all they can to install and keep in office those they wish—while fighting hard against the ones they oppose. And until we recognize the real master in this relationship, we will never reform the system. Read the entire article here.
Original source is here.
Read another example of the problem with public unions here.
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