The issues related to the Wisconsin union protests need to be simplified. There is a tremendous amount of spin taking place when it really boils down to just a couple things. One of them being funding. And let’s not forget this very important fact; the unions protesting all around the country are Public Worker Unions, not Private Worker Unions, like the United Auto Workers Union. While their goals are one and the same, there is a huge difference in how each is funded. Therefore, I’ll present my thoughts on both.
I’m OK with private worker unions. That’s a relationship between the employer and the Union(s). They don’t involve me at all, because I (the taxpayer) don’t pay for the union workers salaries, pensions or benefits. The private unions can collectively bargain all they want with their employer to get higher wages and better benefits. If the unions get their way, it usually results in a more expensive product because the labor required to make the product increases. Therefore, the costs will simply be passed on to the consumer and can ultimately hurt the company, but as least I have choice not to buy their product. For that reason, I personally don’t think it’s wise from a business perspective to work with unions (look at what unions did to the steel, rail or auto industry), but I have no say in how a business runs its company, and shouldn’t. Again, it’s not my money that funds these employees salaries, pensions or health benefits.
However, the Unions that are protesting in Wisconsin are not private unions. They are Public Worker Unions and their money comes from the State. Where does the State get their money? The Taxpayers, and this is where I take issue.
I pay state, city and county taxes for services rendered (police, fire, teachers, state senators, mayor, governor, utilities, snow plows, street lights, parks, etc). I expect those who were hired to perform those jobs, be on the job working, not striking or absent without leave. It’s my taxpayer money that’s paying for those services that I must have.
The public union contract, brought about by collectively bargaining, protects its members from being fired even if they don’t show up for work because they are busy protesting in the streets (as is the case in Wisconsin where the teachers have “called in sick”). The teachers union is essentially holding the State education system hostage, as well as the parents who have to stay home with their kids, until the teachers union gets what it wants. The only people who benefit are the teachers, and they still get paid despite not doing their job. If someone in the private sector decides they don’t want to show up for work, they get fired.
When a company isn’t doing well, there are layoffs. There isn’t a bottomless supply of money funding the private workforce when business isn’t going well. They same can’t be said for the public workers. In some instances, public union workers are protected from layoffs based on the rights they acquired through collectively bargaining. If times are really bad, the state and the city, can simply increase the tax burden on the taxpayers to meet the demands of the Public workers. Worse yet, the State can go into debt to continue funding the unions despite their poor return on services rendered.
In addition to the public union worker salaries, the taxpayers also pays for their medical and pension plans as well. It’s my (taxpayer) money that’s funding their retirement and medical plans. Again, they should not be allowed to collectively bargain and negotiate higher pension payouts and free medical unless I (the taxpayer) approve it. In other words, they should not be allowed to extort the taxpayer by reaching into our pockets and taking more money. Why should the taxpayer pay higher medical costs while also paying the higher medical costs of the public worker? The same goes for pensions. Why should I pay for the public union workers pension in addition to my own retirement plans?
They should pull from their own salary just as the private worker does. I’m essentially paying double and getting half as much, while the public worker is reaping in all the benefits without paying for anything.
If taxes cannot be raised, the states can re-appropriate money from other state funded projects that were voted on by the People, such as road improvements, creating parks and recreation, and other public events to meet the collective bargaining rights of the public union demands. As previously mentioned, the State can also go into debt to meet the monetary demands of the Unions. If either case, decisions like this should be voted on by the taxpayers since it’s their money.
Remember, the state gets its money to pay for the public union salaries, pensions and health benefits through taxation of the People. This is clearly a conflict of interest when the public worker unions can hold the People hostage of services and demand they pay more money for their salaries, health benefits and pensions. So, I believe public unions should not be allowed to collectively bargain against the taxpayer. Federal workers are not allowed to unionize for this very reason. President Regan was forced into a horrible situation when the Air Traffic controllers went on strike and refused to man the towers until their demands were met. Regan ordered them back to work and if within 48 hours they did not return, he would fire them. And that’s just what he did. Some 11,000 of them. Again, it’s clearly a conflict of interest because they can hold vital services hostage, or blackmail the state to get what they want; just as we are seeing in Wisconsin with the teachers.
Another troubling aspect of the public worker unions is that there are states which mandate any person who has a public job must join the union. They are also forced to pay union dues, which can be as much as $300 a month out of their own paychecks. The same is not true in “right to work” states where the employee has the option of joining the union or not. The problem in forcing people into Unions and then forcing them to pay unions dues is that the union dues can be used for political purposes. Remember, taxpayers fund the public worker, who in turn pay dues, who in turn takes those unions dues and donate to a political party of their choosing. I challenge you to do a little homework: Google to see how much public unions donate to the democratic party each year, remembering that the money came from the taxpayers. This is why I believe the Democrats are so supportive of the Unions, because about 90% of the money donated by the public worker unions goes to the democratic party.
OSHA, FLSA and various other Federal and State laws protect workers rights. We don’t need public unions for that purpose anymore. The public unions are simply there for political purposes and power grabs. They extort and hold the public hostage until the state or city caves to their demands. It’s one thing if a private worker union resorts to these tactics, but it’s clearly devastating if a taxpayer funded public worker union does the same thing because no other people or businesses are allowed to perform the same services if the public worker goes on strike.