Friday, February 25, 2011

My Thoughts on Gov't Union Busting

I have written, deleted, and re-written this post several times. I feel that I could be more effective if I could put specifics of FireMan's job, pay, benefits, and union membership, but don't feel comfortable revealing that on here for fear that he in turn have professional issues because of something I wrote. So here is my attempt to address the issue from a broader perspective.


Currently, or recently, there have been union-busting legislation proposed and/or voted on in several states, under the guise of balancing the budget.

The theory goes that because so many public employees are unionized, then state & local governments are running out of money because the employees' unions are forcing them to pay for unreasonable pay & benefits, thus draining the government entities' funds.

Therefore, the theory states, by stripping public unions of their strength in negotiations with their members employers (ie. the state or local gov't), the government entities will have more power and ability to reduce their budgets, thus preventing them from raising taxes on their constituents.

There are a few problems with this theory.

#1 - the assumption that the politicians introducing and/or supporting this bill have nothing but the best interest of their constituents at heart.

^  The fact is that in almost every case this has been introduced, and strongly supported, by Republicans, while Democrats tend to get the lions' share of support from unions. In the states in which this is occuring, this union-busting measure has typically been introduced shortly after a Republican took an office previously held by a Democrat. Almost every version of this bill also includes removal or limits on the unions' abilities to donate to politicial campaigns. Therefore, Republican passage of this bill equals a quick and severe blow to the future campaigns of Democratic candidates.

  ^  Public employees are constituents of said politicians. A very large portion of said constituents. They pay the same taxes. They vote in the same booths.

#2 - the belief that this will balance the budgets of state & local government

 ^  this bill does nothing to get rid of waste. It does nothing to reduce the supposed "unreasonably high" wages & benefits already in place. And in fact, in some states, there is "pork" included in the bill that seems to create more waste, just in a different area

#3 - the belief that unionized public employees are receiving pay & benefits that are vastly greater than citizens in the private sector

I really want to elaborate here, based on my personal knowledge of pay & benefits in our area, but this is where I hesitate to get personal.

I will tell you that to take his dream job as a full-time firefighter, FireMan accepted a nearly 40% cut in pay from his previous private sector job. Forty percent.

His benefits are comparable to what he was receiving at his private sector job, but not above.

I can tell you, that in our area, nearly all firefighters, especially those that are married with children, work second and sometimes third jobs. Not just to keep busy, but to pay bills. Second jobs are the norm.

I will tell you that FireMan's benefits are less than any I have received at any full-time permanent private sector position.

After noticing that many of my Facebook friends are for this union-busting measure, I posted a question on my personal Facebook page. It was, basically: tell me where public employees are getting such awesomely good pay & benefits that you feel okay taking away their negotiation abilities. Just tell me where. Just one example of where this is happening. And what are they getting that is so above-and-beyond.Needless to say, a day-and-a-half later not one person can provide any actual data showing me even one example of where this is occurring. Although I do have a couple of more examples of where it's not occurring, with actual facts to back it up.

I guess what I'm saying is that just because they have a union to support them thru negotiations doesn't necessarily mean that they are requesting outrageous pay & benefits. It means that they need help negotiationg fair & reasonable pay & benefits. And in many cases, less than fair & reasonable.

#4 - sometimes raising taxes is necessary. It just is.

Some of you aren't gonna like to hear this. But I propose that you need a reality check.

Your taxes pay for certain services: fire protection, emergency medical response, police protection, school teachers, waste collection, water provision, animal control, etc. The list goes on & on.

These services have to be paid for. They do. For example, funding a fire department is expensive. It really, really is. The building(s), vehicles, equipment, protective gear, everything. And yes, the cumulative compensation of enough firefighters to make sure an area is adequately staffed.

Just because it costs a lot of money to fund something, doesn't mean it's not worthwile, or that the money isn't being managed properly, or that there is waste to cut. Some things just cost money. They just do.

If you are confident that your state & local government entities have done everything else they possibly could to reduce waste and manage their budgets effectively, the answer is not stripping rights and (the assumption is) pay & benefits from your public servants. It is to raise income. In most cases, this means raising taxes.

But no politician wants to be the one who raises taxes. Especially knowing that many of their constituents may be struggling due to the recent economic problems faced in our country.

So they will avoid raising taxes, even to the detriment of these very constituents. Brown outs at fire stations put your safety at risk. Reducing police forces as crime rises puts your safety at risk. Enlarging class size to reduce classroom staffing in an attempt to save money puts your child's education at risk. The list goes on and on.

The fact is, that if you want services such as fire protection, emergency medical response, police protection, school teachers, waste collection, water provision, animal control, and much more to be provided by your state and local governments, then you have to pay for them. Thru taxes. You just do.

Does it suck? Sometimes. Does the fact that it sucks make it any less necessary? Nope.


And those are, in a very long nutshell, my thoughts on government union busting.


areyoukiddingme said...

In my state, the current issue that people like to jump on is the pension deficit. The general public whines and complains that the problems we have are due to state employees and their generous pension benefits. Ha. The problem is that the state government has not made the payments into the pension fund that it was supposed to, but people are blaming the state employees for being a drain on the budget.

I hope they enjoy it when they have no teachers, no state troopers, no road crews, no prison guards, no DCFS workers, no crime lab, and all the other people who make their lives safer, easier, and all-around livable.

~Deb~ said...

I couldn't have said it better myself! It does suck when taxes get raised but the more we rely on the government to provide services the more is cost's. simple. nice job on the post!

Unknown said...

We are in Wisconsin - in the heat of this discussion. Being married to a FF and being a teacher - you can only imagine. If only people understood...

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