So what’s wrong with public unions?

By Jack E. Lohman

I am not a union member and not privy to all the details. I’m just the guy that pays the bill.

The main complaint I am hearing boils down to one thing: unions for private workers are part of our free market system, and overly aggressive demands can send their jobs to another state or country.

But an overly aggressive public union increases taxes for an unwilling and in most cases a non-wealthy public. And demanding smaller class sizes simply increases the number of teachers … and union members and union dues … and the only winners are the salaries of union bosses. Education value is not enhanced.

Thus authorities and the public are held captive, and it’s often a monopoly that not even all of the union members support. Many want their value increased, yet are seeing the reverse occur.

However, IF we are balancing the budget on the backs of public workers, that is wrong. But IF they are excessively paid they are part of the problem. We need the answer.

I simply don’t know whether teachers are overpaid or underpaid, and I doubt our politicians do either. But the Governor has the authority to call for a study by our non-partisan Government Accountability Board or Fiscal Bureau. He should use that authority and get to the bottom of it — if he really wants the answer, which I don’t think he does — and give the public facts rather than just rhetoric.

If it is found that teachers are underpaid, as they claim, let’s be fair and increase their wages. But if they are already overpaid let’s equalize them with private wages. Problem solved.

It doesn’t help that in some states bad teachers are simply put into a do-nothing “green room” with full pay. Even sexual predators have tenure and can’t be fired. And advancement and pay is based on seniority rather than personal capability, hard work and dedication.

Some unions have made themselves very unattractive partners. It’s bad enough to have competitors, but when they work for your own company it is disheartening.

However, we must protect private unions with all of our might. We indeed have executives who are more dedicated to profits and shareholders and everything they can squeeze out of workers goes to (their) bottom line. Corporate law, too, should be reformed to give shareholders (which in many cases are worker retirement plans) more power to adjust rules and management.

Yes, some of their arguments are valid; private unions have indeed increased even non-union salaries. But I worry that this (combined) has increased the gap between ours and foreign wages.

Public union members can indeed be protected.

Clearly state governments can pass laws that equalize public pay with private pay, controlled for education. Pay need not be any higher or lower than their private counterparts, thus employees are well protected.

But as well, we should do away with private retirement plans unless they are guaranteed by insurance, in the event the company goes bankrupt. And we must eliminate unneeded and inefficient state departments.

On the subject of schools, I think we best start looking at futuristic solutions. Limited class sizes must give way to reduced school attendance and more on-line learning, perhaps two days per week. Kids absolutely must get better at dealing with computers, and those without can go to the library.

When I hear Walker say the words “We’re broke!” I keep recalling the $137 million in tax breaks he gave away in January. I’d sure feel better if he were not on the payroll of corporations.

And I keep hearing “We can’t afford it!” Dammit, let’s increase taxes progressively and then correct the corrupt political system that causes high costs!!! Then we can reduce them further than we increased them!

6 Responses to So what’s wrong with public unions?

  1. Jim Crabbe says:

    Campaign finance reform is the only answer, however, since most in Congress depend upon the largess of corporations for their campaign funding they are unwilling to vote for reform. It’s a vicious circle. One that takes a lot of guts to break. Do we have any congressmen willing to take up the torch?

  2. Yea, I agree. The Fair Elections Now Act is a very strong bill, but that of course makes its passage more difficult. Click on the Supporters tab. My congressman (Sensenbrenner) is a total leaker on this because he rips off the system as is. He certainly doesn’t want to change it.

    Right now the unions in Madison are fighting for their jobs, which is exactly what Republican politicians want them to be doing. All while the real problem that created the budget crisis is not being discussed, and they are laughing all the way to the bank.

    I believe the Dems and unions must redirect their ire if they are going to win long term. We must get all organizations thinking cash bribes, or this is just one of many small fires.

  3. Ann says:

    “Futuristic solutions” for schooling such as more online learning ignore the fact that there’s really no substitute for human teacher. Someone has to be there, in person, to help the kids pay attention, explain and demonstrate difficult subjects, and keep the kids engaged. That can’t be done any other way, even over live video links.

    Anecdotally, I can say that the people that I know who went to alternative schools such as montessori or waldorf schools with small class sizes turned out to be the most intelligent and interesting adults I know – because they were encouraged to self-educate. I admire them.

  4. Ken Hodges says:

    Please do not forget that it was said on Fox News that this was all about stopping Obama, which is fine if they do not agree with him. I cannot accept them doing this on the backs of public workers, I simply can’t.

  5. Merv says:

    Hey Lohman I am a centrist conservative and I find myself agreeing with you on getting Corporations, Unions, Billionaires like the Kochs (Repubs) and Geo Soros-(Dems). Take it back to public donations not exceeding $100 and no personal contributions of their own. (Keep in mind, many seeking election are very wealthy0 one misconception you have….the $137M is an incentive via a credit… money spent. Check it out. You dont need to embarass yourself. Here’s another way to balance our sad deficit…increase sales tax by 2 cents….Fair for EVERYONE. Then lock it up for bi-partisan approved budget items.

  6. As I understand it, Merv, is that the credit is given to companies that add personnel and that credit lasts two years and equals perhaps $500 per added employee. Yawn! Doesn’t do a damned thing to increase demand, which is the only thing that adds jobs, because that has been trashed over the years by politicians rewarding companies who sent our jobs to India and China.

    Problem with a sales tax or value-added tax (or even tariffs) is that it is regressive, affecting lower income folks much more than the wealthy.

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