Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Opposition To Government Unions

Generally speaking, I support labor unions. They have their issues, and don't always fulfill their purpose as they should, but still, throughout history their overall effect on the lives of middle class citizens has been more positive than negative.

I am a United Steel Worker. Seems kinda strange on the surface, as I work with paper within the paper industry, and the only steel involved in my job is in the toe caps of my boots. Oh, and razor blades. I use lots of those. But how a paper worker got to be labeled as a steel worker is another topic for another time.

At contract time, there is a lot more that goes into negotiating a wage and benefits package than simply demanding it and threatening to strike if we don't get our way. There are other pressures, external forces beyond the control of management or labor, that put downward pressure on wages. Market forces are tough and factories can close or move overseas. In California, they can also just as easily move to Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

In short: my hour of labor must produce enough wealth before somebody else can cover the wages and benefits that I demand. Naturally, I think that I am worth a whole lot more than that, but the market does a pretty good job of telling me otherwise.
If my labor is priced too highly, free purchasers are likely to choose another labor source from which to buy from.

This is a proper situation for a union to function in: free economic associations where the customer makes the ultimate decision on the valued combination of labor and product.

Anything else, like in the case of unionized government workers, is not a free market practice and can only lead to disaster if left unchecked, like we are seeing now, and have seen coming for a long time, at the state and local government levels.

Government workers operate within a monopoly where they can use the political process to choose who sits across the negotiating table with them. (And it cuts across party lines. Don't believe me? Take a look at Orange County, it's GOP domination at all levels, and the thick gravy obscenely ladled upon some of it's union workers.)
In my industry, any union bosses attempting to buy off the other side would get some prison time for their efforts. Government unions do this same thing every day, as an accepted manner of negotiating practice, all out in the open, and it's perfectly legal. This is as much the fault of the politicians who enjoy the buy offs and wouldn't dream of passing legislation to the contrary.

(Organized labor loves to rail against 'crony capitalism' in defense of the 'working families', but fails to recognise it's own sin.)

In my eyes, it's not much different than organized crime. It shouldn't be allowed to continue and any contracts that currently exist should be nullified as they were not negotiated in good faith.


W.B. Picklesworth said...

Hear Hear! (Or is it Here Here?)

RW said...


RW said...

Does "free economic association" mean an open marketplace, as in "marketplace of ideas" or are you saying "free economic association" falls directly under the first amendment as defined by the supreme court in the same manner than humans may have freedom of social association as insinuated in the concept of free speech?

When you say "Government workers operate within a monopoly where they can use the political process to choose who sits across the negotiating table with them" does this mean there is no alternative to the people at the table other than who the government workers choose? Because if there are alternatives then it isn't a "monopoly" and if there are no alternatives what happened to the votes of people who aren't government workers? It would seem to me that the voters in Wisconsin have certainly broken that "monopoly" - if indeed there ever was one.

And are you saying that you want to strike down an entire class of contracts without any detailed review of what they actually SAY simply on the suspicion that all the people the gvt. workers have negotiated with are in their pocket? Without having to actually prove that's the case?

Brian said...

"Government workers operate within a monopoly where they can use the political process to choose who sits across the negotiating table with them."

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by a monopoly here. There is still a market for labor in government jobs, with people competing to fill them and other sectors looking to employ qualified workers. (There aren't that many job descriptions that exist exclusively within government, other than the military. And even there, there are managers, engineers, medical personnel, cooks, etc.)

Moreover, the way you've framed it here, you make it sound as though "government workers" constitute a homogeneous interest group with the power to sway the political process to their liking, over the objections of anyone else. They certainly have the power to influence policy, but it isn't as though there aren't competing interests with a seat at the table (i.e., every other taxpayer.)

Do you really think that because someone happens to be employed by the state, they forfeit any right to negotiate collectively for the best compensation that the labor market will bear?

I think Foxfier's comments regarding right to work in the last thread were dead-on. I agree completely that no union should have the power to compel people to join it. But I don't see how banning them outright is any less coercive. And from a consequentialist point of view, I don't see how hamstringing public sector employees' ability to negotiate their terms of employment results in anything other than a race to the bottom. If this were a minarchist libertopia where the private sector handled all but "night watchman" functions of the state, I suppose that wouldn't be a problem. But that isn't what we have, and there is no reason to expect that we ever will.

Brian said...

Oooh, Bob and I are simul-posting...

Gino said...

you too are gonna make me work my way through this arent you? just because you can, i'm sure.

clarifications coming...

RW said...

Okay. But I think this is about Wisconsin. In which case I'm not sure where it's going. The gvt. workers there (firemen, police officers and teachers, mostly) have already said they'll reduce their pensions and benefits because they understand the economy is gone south; but the governor wants them to give up their right to collectively bargain. Walker (the gov.) has another agenda besides just balancing a budget, and I just wish he - and his sycophants on the Right - would have the balls to admit it... instead of couching it in these glorious philosophically righteous bullshitisms.

Gino said...

wisconsin is a current headline grabber, bring the issue to the fore, but no, i'm not talking about WI itself, and wasnt intending on addressing it specifically in this post because i'm not 100% sure about all things in play. i trust the union to speak the truth about as much as i trust the policos: they both exagerate to their own benefit.

i suspect, though, thats its not about bargaining at all, and more about who gets control of the dues money.

RW said...

The union covering the state workers in WI has said they'll give on health benefits, pay, and retirement contributions. They'll give in on everything but the right to free association. Nothing in there about dues. Do they allow people NOT be belong to the union - probably not, but don't know for certain. I think the 'all or nothing' Tea Party governor is showing us just what it's like if hockey moms... and dads... run the government.

Otherwise known as stubborn and wrong.

Vanesa Littlecrow W. said...

This is excellent Gino!

Gino said...

RW and Brian dont think so, and want to pick on me. >:(