In the minds of the left and their union compatriots, unions are a necessary tool to counter corporate America. The left’s storyline is that corporate America is evil, can’t be trusted, and will do bad things to good people if given the chance. That means any tactic is acceptable, and calls for civility only apply to other people.
In Wisconsin there are no companies, only tax payers, the liberal storyline doesn’t fit but that doesn’t stop it from being trotted out. The little guy in this fight are not the unions or their members, but the state taxpayers. Wisconsin voters revolted and elected a republican governor and legislature after being squeezed by the double whammies of taxation and a state that is so uncompetitive that many jobs have simply left. What is on display in Madison is the union fighting to preserve its power, and democrats fighting to preserve their taxpayer funded subsidy.
At one time unions were primarily the domain of the private sector in the US. Union membership peaked between 1945 and 1955 with a little over thirty percent of the work force unionized, mostly employed by private companies. After 1955 union membership steadily declined. By that time many of the safety and worker protections that unions had fought for were enshrined in law. What was left to bargain for was wages, pensions, and control (work rules).
Many unions were relentless in their pursuit of unsustainable wage and benefit packages. The drive for outrageously high wages, even during hard times, seemed to peak in private sector unions during 1980s. During that time former airline leader Eastern went bankrupt primarily because the company couldn’t bring costs down, and the unions would not concede on wages. If unions were set on driving the company that their members worked for into the ground, that was their business, and many Americans wanted nothing to do with it. Private sector union membership declined at an even faster pace.
While overall union membership was down as a percentage of the work force, government employee unions were seeing increased membership. In the private sector, manufacturing jobs were fleeing the rust belt for right to work states, or over seas. Government employees became the magic cure for the anti-competitiveness unionization usually brings to a business. After all, no one competes with the government.
Unions have quickly realized that the best part about unionizing government workers is that they can be on both sides of the bargaining table at the same time. Unions write rules to force the state to collect dues for them and then turn around and use those dues (paid by the tax payer) to try and elect friendly politicians that will cave in to union demands. What do unions want – big government. Big government means more unionized government workers, which means more tax payer money going into union coffers which means more money to spend on politicians that want more government.
Today democrats are almost the exclusive beneficiary of public union largess. Public unions give money, provide organizational support, and even occasionally provide some muscle for democratic politicians or their causes. All of that political action is supported by your tax dollar. In many cases the collection of union dues is done by the state, which helps shift some of the costs of running a union to the tax payer. This well organized political machinery, subsidized by tax payers, may help explain why a very liberal democratic party has done so well when seventy five percent of the country self identifies itself as moderate or conservative.
Just like their private sector compatriots have done, public sector unions have over reached. Instead of bankrupting a company, unions are bankrupting all of us. The people of Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and several other states have reached their limit. Public employee wages and benefits are a big part of the budget shortfalls. Four in five public-sector workers have lifetime pensions. In the private sector only one in five. These future outlays are crushing state and city budgets. The taxpaying public can no longer support a system where government employee benefits outstrip their private sector counter parts or a system where union largess, funded by the taxpayers, begets more government.
The issues in Wisconsin come down to fairness;
- It’s not fair to force workers to join a union and have their dues pay for politically activity that they don’t agree with.
- It’s not fair to have states act as the accounts receivable arm of a union.
- It’s not fair that unions don’t have to periodically prove through a private ballot that their workers still want them.
- It’s not fair to deny the will of the voters by fleeing to another state to prevent the legislature the opportunity to vote on solutions. (Can you imagine the outrage if Republicans had done this during the vote on Obamacare?)
Governor walker is working to try and fix those issues in Wisconsin. The reason his opposition is so pronounced is that the law he is proposing would end the taxpayer subsidy of the democratic party in that state. In a center right country, such legislation would be the death knell of an ultra liberal democratic party if it were to spread to other states.
Unions have a financial incentive to support policies and politicians that are the antithesis of good government and hurt the tax payer. Shouldn’t someone be looking out for the taxpayer? Unions have already agreed to the added contributions to pension and health care costs, which brings the remaining issues into sharp focus. The fight isn’t about employee benefits, the fight is about political power and the continued subsidy of the democratic party by taxpayers.