Dr. Lopez Misdiagnoses Unions

John Seiler:

In his Sunday column, L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez praises unions — but doesn’t distinguish between private and public unions. He writes:

Neither of my parents went to college, but we always did just fine because my dad had union jobs that paid a living wage. He drove trucks for milk and bread companies, and later worked as a candy and tobacco salesman.

…when I went to San Jose State, my parents paid my tuition and the bulk of my room and board.

For a couple of reasons, I’ve been thinking lately about the union job that paid for my college degree. First, because attacking unions has become a national sport. And second, because I’ve been notified by San Jose State that the school wants to give me an honorary doctorate degree.

But the attacks today area on public employee unions, as in Wisconsin, not private ones. Driving and selling for private companies involved private unions, not public unions. And when Dr. Lopez was growing up and enjoying California’s Golden Age, there was no Dills Act, which Gov. Brown signed in 1978, and which gave collective bargaining to government union employees.

If his father had gone on strike, people could have avoided tobacco or baked their own bread, or have driven to the store to get those things themselves. But with public unions, the government forces a monopoly on us. We don’t have any choice. We’re stuck with them.

Moreover, the public worker unions use their power to “elect our own bosses,” as one union boss put it. They sit on both sides of the bargaining table. They are “labor” and, by electing compliant politicians, they’re also “management.”

Did Dr. Lopez’s father get to elect his own bosses?

That’s why government is broke: Government unions got their bought-and-paid-for politicians to spike pay and pensions.

And the unions help pass wild spending, such as the $5.7 billion in community college bonds that, his own L.A. Times newspaper reported this very day, has turned into a cesspool of “poor planning, frivolous spending and shoddy workmanship.”

Any private company that wasteful and incompetent — such as the private companies his private-union father worked for — would have gone bankrupt long ago.

Now it’s government’s turn to go bankrupt. The day of reckoning, pushed on us by powerful and wasteful government unions, is here.

Dr. Lopez misdiagnosed the state’s fiscal malady.

Feb. 27, 2011


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  1. David
    David 28 February, 2011, 02:02

    Since you believe that it’s wrong for public employees to negotiate with people they played a role in electing, I’m sure you would agree that all corporations and businesses should also be banned from negotiating with the government, because they also are permitted to play a role in electing the public officials who determine whether they will receive government contracts. Right? It’s only logical. Everyone should simply have to take whatever the government decides to give them, without any ability to even discuss the price they would like for their goods and services. Right? Otherwise I might think you are actually advocating taking away the rights of people (union members) just because you disagree with them politically about some things.

    Reply this comment
  2. David from Oceanside
    David from Oceanside 28 February, 2011, 06:57

    America has become a corporatist/fascist union which is in many ways run by the corporations for the benefit of the corporations. An example of this is Obama’s selection of Monsanto shill Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary. A deeper look into the massive federal bureaucracy finds defense, agriculture, and banking lobbyists/executives moving in and out of government.

    That point conceded, how and why is that a defense of a system in which the taxpayer is harmed through violent enforcement, for paying the costs of the rent seeking of public employee unions and self seeking power hungry politicians?

    Reply this comment
  3. ExPFC Wintergreen
    ExPFC Wintergreen 28 February, 2011, 14:02

    Dave in #1 ‘forgets’ that public employee unions have enormous power that private sector unions do not have, simply because they work for government, which is essentially a monopoly. When even giant unions like UAW go on strike, their employers can obviously just hire replacement workers. Even if the company wants to give in to union demands, it can only go so far because competing companies will put them out of business if costs of propduction are too high. Private sector union officials understand this concept well, and concessions are made when that happens (i.e., United Airlines).

    Government unions can force elected officials to raise taxes and pass union-favorable pension and workplace laws to meet the demands made by union officials. Huge difference, and helps explain why the focus of the media is on private sector unions.

    Reply this comment
  4. John Seiler
    John Seiler 28 February, 2011, 14:07

    Corporate power is a major danger. All government subsidies to corporations should be ended.

    But even there, the danger is less than with public employee unions. If Archer-Daniels-Midlands doesn’t get its ethanol subsidies, we’re all better off. But if fireman go on strike, your house could burn down without them coming to put it out.

    In any case, the whole system is so out of whack — not just high government-employee salaries, but subsidies to corporations and other special interests — that governments at all levels are bankrupt. More cuts will be made almost everywhere.

    Reply this comment
  5. David
    David 28 February, 2011, 22:09

    The state and federal budget crisis was not caused by union contracts. It was caused by the massive recession that we are all still struggling to survive. There are other factors too — such as politicians of both parties voting for tax cuts while raising expenditures. But the single most important factor is the recession.

    Reply this comment

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