Union Reforms Are Not Assaults

John Brinkman: President Barack Obama called recent the Wisconsin vote to curb unbridled union power “an assault on unions.”

This is untrue. In fact, public sector unions have been exploiting the American taxpayer for decades while Democrats facilitated this situation. Obama and the Democrats have been fully complicit in this long-term assault and must be called to account.

After exhausting the capacity of current taxpayers to sustain union demands, governments borrowed on the promise of future tax collections. They borrowed so much that their borrowing capacity was exhausted, and the rating agencies downgraded the bonds to “junk.” Some cities, like Vallejo, unable to borrow any more, were driven to bankruptcy.

Now that this “borrow and spend” con game has been exposed, the people have had enough – short-term measures to borrow and pay unsustainable union contracts cannot work anymore.

We need a wholesale revolution. The greed of unions and the self-serving politicians who serve them have taken America to the brink of the abyss – some would say into the abyss. There has been a seismic shift in public perception, and a revulsion at the tone-deaf tactics of government unions.

Political changes in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio etc. were triggered by a need for fiscal sanity, especially regarding pension funding. California is not far behind, with bond ratings impacted and consequent increases in borrowing costs. There was even a pension reform ballot measure in union-dominated town San Francisco, which lost narrowly, but not without extracting a heavy price in union power and prestige, seriously depleting the union treasury and weakening the political machine for upcoming future battles.

Public sector unions have been exposed as powerful vested interests using government processes as their collection and enforcement agents.

Contract negotiators asked only considered the taxpayers could pay, but not whether they should pay, or whether citizens get full value from the public sector and whether it’s the best use of limited resources.

As long as public unions have a monopoly, they have pricing power. Just as corporate monopolies are unconscionable and illegal, labor monopolies are similarly anti-competitive, damaging and unconscionable – and must be ended.

First – Outsource or open non-core government services to bid. There is no reason that government should be managing laundry or meal services, gardening or park maintenance. Its just inefficient and unnecessarily expensive. And this type of outsourcing has been successfully been done by many governments. In some instances, the ex-government employees banded together to bid for the job, and become successful entrepreneurs, performing the job for less. Everyone wins.

Second – Public sector labor negotiations must be held in full public view. No secret deals in smoke-filled rooms where favors get swapped and the taxpayer loses! Let the sunshine in!

Third – {Provide full flexibility in hiring/firing practices. Employers must have the power to be fire employees if they go on strike or fail to perform. Job security for workers equals choicelessness for employers and has shown that it leads to rampant abuse.

For public sector unions to threaten a strike over increased pay and benefits while their employers, the  taxpayers, struggle with reduced income and the unemployment rate hovers at 10 percent, is not just insensitive, but an arrogant abuse of the taxpayer. Their threats just expose how out of touch they are with the reality that the American people face in a globally competitive world.

Power to the people!

FEB. 22, 2011

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