ETHICS, UNIONS, and UNIONIZATION
[My own well-documented research in this area in preparation of my MBA thesis (Unionization And The Professional; 1970) was done when the movement was active; I have more than a passing knowledge of the subject. A more recent interview with Fred Siegel by Matthew Kaminski (Wall Street Journal, November 26-27, 2011) brings it into sharper focus.]
I’ve long suspected that the rampant liberalism of the 1960s would have toxic effects on our society in the future. The future is now. That being said:
Believe it or else: Our current financial problems are in large part a result of public sector unions. The decline of the blue-collar worker in the ’50s resulted in a decline in general union membership, heralding a decline in union stature and concurrent decline in union power. In order to survive, unions had to look elsewhere for membership. Failing in their attempts to unionize private sector (the economy) professionals and white-collar workers, they turned their efforts to the public sector.
The public sector (public employees at all levels–local, state and federal), became their prime target. Pay was generally less than that of the private sector. By promising increased pay and benefits, unions attracted many in public service, including teachers. By offering solidarity, the power of the larger organization could be put to use in negotiations with employers, in this case government.
Everyone pays the union dues for those in public service. The public sector is financed by taxes. Union dues from its employees (via deduction from their paychecks) provide a steady flow of income from government which can be spent lobbying government to raise taxes to increase benefits to their members. Unions employ their considerable lobbying power (their raison d’être} to influence politicians, who raise the necessary funds via taxation, which provides more money to hire more public employees (and additional votes supporting union-backing politicians), thereby growing and increasing the cost of government. The cycle persists and is a major cause of our current financial crisis.
Union gains always are made at the expense of management–in this case, government. While in the private sector profit is a function of productivity, neither profit nor productivity is a factor in government. With unions, spending is not related to productivity. It is related to the power of their numbers relative to that of their employers–government. To provide the increased benefits promised by unions, taxes must be increased.
Siegel notes that salaries and benefits for city secretaries and bus drivers have outgained those of professionals in the private sector (taxpayers), and their power continues to grow at the expense of those professionals, whose ability to achieve economic independence is curtailed by the taxes they pay. The costs imposed help to drive out the private sector middle class; entitlements widen the wealth gap. He notes as well that union organizers have tapped into the language of the civil rights movement (and political correctness) to present collective bargaining as another “right” (clearly bogus). This has poisoned our economy and helped to precipitate the problems we are experiencing today: “(Unions) are the disease of which they proclaim the cure.”
Unionization initially was the major factor in the economic development of the subprofessional (blue-collar) worker who was being abused by ‘big business’ in the late ’50s. Times have changed, but unions persist. Most professionals consider unionization beneath them, professionalism and unionization being largely incompatible. The professional’s requirement of individual freedom and autonomy is not aligned with the concept of collective bargaining, nor is his authoritative position within his profession enhanced by allowing a union to bargain in his behalf. (In other words, true professionals do not join unions.) Which brings up another point.
I believe that the general ‘dumbing down’ of our population is directly correlated with the rise of public sector unions. The quality of public school education has been deteriorating steadily since the ’60s, and teachers’ unions control public education. Colleges must provide remedial courses to help students learn to read, write, even think and behave, things once an accepted part of secondary, even primary, education.
Teachers protest that they are “stuck in a system that doesn’t treat them as professionals.” (Grading the Teachers by Bill and Melinda Gates in Review, Wall Street Journal, October 22-23, 2011). Well, perhaps they are not professionals. Professionals don’t need unions, and almost all teachers are union members. This article continues: “…we now reward teachers for easy-to-measure proxies…even though there is no evidence that these things help students learn.” These ‘rewards’ come via the union, which rates 98% of their teachers “good” (again, clearly bogus). If teachers would act and perform like professionals without placing a union between them and their employers, their quality would improve and they would be treated as the professionals they would be by their school systems; education would improve. This trend is helped by charter schools, generally opposed by teachers’ unions.
It used to be that secondary education taught students reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, things that taught them to *think*. I suggest that the good old days weren’t so bad…
To solve any problem, it’s first necessary to identify it. I submit that public sector unions place an unnecessary burden on, and are a major source of the current decline of, our society. Unions exist only for themselves and have outlived their usefulness. Out with them.
What do you think?