Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Public Unions

Personally, even though it will probably never happen, I think it should be illegal for public employees to be unionized. For starters, the whole point of unions was to protect workers from "capitalist exploitation", so why do they need protection from the enlightened government that they helped elect. Secondly, in a private corporation there are checks and balances, a company cannot survive without paying enough to recruit qualified workers for their industry, nor can they survive if they pay their workers too much to be competitive. GM stands as an example of this, although they have managed to survive solely through government intervention. In government though, they have an endless supply of money they can simply confiscate from taxpayers to pay their workers, in a weird sort of monopoly power. Anyway, the WSJ, as usual covers this topic well.

In private industries, union workers are subject to the vagaries of the marketplace and economic growth. Thus in 2009 10.1% of private union jobs were eliminated, which was more than twice the 4.4% rate of overall private job losses. On the other hand, government unions offer what is close to lifetime job security and benefits, subject only to gross dereliction of duty. Once a city or state's workers are organized by a union, the jobs almost never go away.

This means government is the main playing field of modern unionism, which explains why the AFL-CIO and SEIU have become advocates for higher taxes and government expansion in cities, states and Washington. Unions once saw their main task as negotiating a bigger share of an individual firm's profits. Now the movement's main goal is securing a larger share of the overall private economy's wealth, which means pitting government employees against middle-class taxpayers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You make some good points here. If not outright banned, public employee unions shouldn't be treated the same as their private sector counterparts. Public employee unions are destroying California. Are they that bad in Washington state?
Public employee unions in Greece and across Europe are threatening to bring down the entire EU. Greece must reduce its deficit but these thugs march in the streets to protest the slightest reduction in their benefits. And Greece is just a preview for Spain, Italy, possibly even France.
Whenever I find myself upset about how out of control our public sector is, I think of Europe.