Those who don’t believe we need unions anymore should take a turn working in a grocery store.
It doesn’t matter where - cashier, bagger, stock person, meat cutter. The temptation for management to take advantage of employees and run them into the ground usually proves to much to resist in non-union operations. I imagine the same holds true for meat processing, farm workers, and a few other labor intensive industries where there is large turnover and poor base pay.
For other industries? I’m not so sure. Marginally necessary perhaps for worker protection and decent benefits but unions like the UAW have lost sight of the true value of labor. I doubt whether their members would make half as much in wages and benefits in a true socialist economy. Negotiating with government is a lot different than negotiating with companies concerned about a bottom line and public image.
That said, is there any justification for public unions? At one time, perhaps yes. The reason for such outstanding benefits for public employees - at least it was justified to taxpayers this way - was that public workers made so much less than their counterparts in the private sector. This is decidedly not true at the federal level. Federal workers make comparable pay while enjoying 4 times the cash value of benefits.
But not all federal workers are unionized. Only around 30% belong to a union. Pay at the state level is considerably less, with one study showing state and local workers receiving 3.7% less than their counterparts in the private sector. State and local workers are also first in line for pay cuts during budget crisis and last to get a pay raise.
Is there really a necessity for a union to make up this difference? A public union is not bargaining with the government, but rather with the people of that state or locality. Government is a middle man, representing the interests of citizens. Perhaps, as Governor Johnson is doing, unions should be allowed to negotiate issues relating to their pay while leaving pension and health insurance to the legislature. Given the pension bomb that is about to go off across America, it’s probably going to happen anyway.
Public employees have been able to negotiate jaw-dropping pension plans and gold plated health insurance benefits in many states. This is not true in all states, nor is it true that all municipal employees everywhere enjoy undeserved bennies and high pay. Making generalizations about public unions is difficult because there are so many different ways that states and localities approach negotiating with them. Some unions are forbidden from going on strike. Some are statutorily limited in how much of an increase in pay they can ask for.
What has happened in Wisconsin is a clash of extremes. Exaggerated claims on both sides, egged on by outside forces, has created a crisis. Walker is not trying to break the unions (nor will his proposals prevent collective bargaining), while teachers have overreacted to reforms that as government workers, they are going to have to get used to. The calumny that has been directed at the protestors is well deserved in my opninion. Calling Walker and “dictator” or “Hitler” is beyond absurd. They are making themselves a laughingstock, convincing no one while radically harming their cause.
When taxpayers are footing the bill for pensions that are out of whack with those in the private sector, they have a right to ask why those workers can’t contribute more to bring their contributions inline with their own pensions. When workers enjoy tax-payer funded health insurance far beyond what the average citizen can afford, they have a perfect right to demand that those employees pay a little more into the insurance fund. These are hardly unreasonable demands for teachers whose average salary for nine months of work is $46,000 in a state with a very reasonable cost of living. Citizens who make a lot less pay a lot more in to pensions and health insurance plans.
What really bothers many is the sense of entitlement demonstrated by the teachers and other public employee unionists. They don’t like to be reminded who they’re working for. This points up what some are saying about the coming battle over budgets at every level of government. The divide will be between the producers and the dependents - between taxpayers and those who receive direct payments from government.
It will be a splendid little war that will probably determine the fate of the nation.