To Have or Not to Have—Public Unions

26 Feb

Unions grew out of a need to provide a safe working environment and appropriate wages for employees.  Until unions countered the strength of management, working conditions and wages were horrendous and in many cases down right scandalous.  They provided a much needed balance between the workers and those that hired them.  In fact unions were good and served a good purpose.

A banana split is also good.  But, if the intake of banana splits isn’t controlled they can become insidiously distasteful and very harmful.  Ever heard of the obesity issue?

The point is, too much of a good thing soon becomes a harmful thing.  And when that good thing is not countered effectively with prudence and reason they almost always get out of control.

When unions deal with private industry there is a strong counterbalance to the union’s demands.  If not strenuously resisted, those demands might very well run the business out of business,  or force business to find its employees elsewhere.

Now, about Public Unions:  I often have to look hard to find issues where I agree with President Roosevelt.  But, on the advisability of unionizing public employees, I totally agree with him.  Public employees should not be allowed to unionize.  Here are four reasons why they shouldn’t:

First, their jobs are to serve the public.  In many instances their jobs are to provide critical serves that, if not done, will result in a direct harm to the public, e.g., garbage removal, snow plowing, sewage treatment, police and fire protection.  Now many of these services can be done by the private sector, but most are not.  If they go on strike the public might very well be harmed.

Second, in most cases the governmental bodies for which they work do not allow any competing operations to be established.  And for good reason.  Some things, such as making and enforcing laws must be done by government.  Imagine competing police forces dealing with various crimes.  It would be chaotic.

Third, the organizations the unions bargain with are often not constrained by a “bottom line.”  If these organizations run short of money all they need do is raise taxes.  Thus, they might very well trade off raises with long-term benefits which come back to bite the people they serve sometime years after the politicians leave or are thrown from office.

Finally, the people the unions bargain with are in many cases people the unions have contributed funds, large amount of funds, to get them elected.  In other words we’ll give you some money, but you must see that we get more money sometime in the future.

I’m not anti-union in the true sense of the word, but I am anti-public employee union.  One only needs to look at the many states that are in the throws sever financial disasters brought about by the retirement benefits “bargained” away in years past.

It’s time to make a coarse change, or sea change.  Either remove the unions from public employees, or restrict their bargaining to wages and working conditions only.  As one rather aggressive politician said “never let a crisis go to waist.”  Though he wasn’t thinking in terms of cutting back on the role of government, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.


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