While I think they have been rendered irrelevant, I have no objections to private sector unions as long as they are entirely voluntary. However, I do have very strong objections to public sector unions, and the thuggish, nazi-like temper tantrums of some of our unionized government bureaucrats during the supposed government shutdown has firmly reinforced those objections.
The idea that one group of citizens–government employees–“needs” a labor union to negotiate with another group of citizens–essentially, their neighbors–is appalling. Just who do government unions think is the “management” that’s going to be getting rich by “exploiting” their labor”? The “management”, obviously, are their fellow citizens, “we, the people,” who have every right to determine not only how much we want to pay for any given service, but whether or not, beyond what is specified in federal and state constitutions and municipal charters, we want a particular service at all.
Even FDR opposed public sector unions, noting that the main problem with government unions is that CITIZENS WORKING FOR GOVERNMENT are still citizens with the same voting rights as every other citizen—in other words, government employees ARE BOTH MANAGEMENT AND LABOR. If even FDR could see–and warn against–the corrupting influence of public sector unions on our governments and political process, I don’t understand how any government union can even pretend to claim legitimacy, let alone rationalize their outrageous claims on the public purse.
And, there are any number of studies showing that public sector employees are better—and usually much compensated (pay and benefits) than a majority of private sector workers that are being taxed to pay them. This includes public school teachers.*(1)
But, if you don’t want to rely on someone else’s study, thanks to the internet it’s not that hard to do your own research. I’ve been tracking the wage data for private and public sector employees (federal, state, and local) for my state and county since 2002. Charting this data, it’s easy to see that government wages alone (not including benefits) at all levels are anywhere from a little better (usually at the local level in rural areas) to much better compensated (federal level) than private sector employees. (The data I track is from the Colorado Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which reports only Average Weekly Wages, and does not include benefits.) Creating some simple line grafts, it’s also easy to see the steady increases in government wages vs. stagnant or declining private sector wages. (One of the things I found interesting was the sharp increase in state employee wages following the election of a Democratic governor in 2006.)
When I served on my local city council, I frequently heard comments from city employees and citizens that clearly revealed that think about the compensation for a particular job they think in terms of how much it pays, not how much it costs. In my city, an employee “making” $30,000 a year cost the city a little over $50,000 once all their benefits were included. When government employees want a raise, they talk only about how much they “make”—or don’t make—never how much they are costing the taxpayers. *(2)
Modern U.S. law has rendered private sector labor unions obsolete. Having served their purpose, we are no longer in danger of finding seven-year-olds working 12-hour shifts in sweatshops for pennies a day. On the other hand, public sector employee unions should never have been agreed to in the first place.
Again, the idea that one group of citizens has a “right” to use their vote to not only express their political preferences but to dictate to their “fellow” citizens–through elected officials who are supposed to represent all of us–their own wages and terms of employment simply means that “some citizens are more equal than others.”
(1) According to a March 26, 2012 article by Motley Fool writer Dawn Kawamoto, the Spectrum Group’s Millionaire Corner recently issued a report about the number of households in the U.S. with net assets between $1 million and $5 million EXCLUDING their primary residence. Broken down by occupation, EDUCATORS ACCOUNT FOR 12% OF MILLIONAIRE HOUSEHOLDS, second only to “Managers” at 17%, and followed by “Sr. Corporate Executives” at 7%. “Business Owners” account for 6%, while lawyers tied doctors/dentists at 2%.
In all fairness, the article notes that most educators are living in dual-income households, while those in “ultra-demanding” jobs like doctors and lawyers are usually the sole source of income. Also, as the category description is just “educators” I’m sure this includes all educators, not just K-12 public school teachers. The article also notes that age plays a role, as the average age of U.S. millionaires is 63, noting that at retirement “the payout may be less” for the doctors, lawyers, etc. than for educators.
(2) My favorite example of the incoherence of typical government employee thinking was provided by the local school district: A few years before I was elected to city council, the school district passed a tax increase; a year later teachers were complaining that they needed a raise because their property taxes went up! Given their inability to see cause and effect, is it any wonder they cannot see their own incompetence as the cause of widespread academic failures of our government [aka, public] schools.