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Public Sector Unions' Benign Presence

Wisconsin Teachers Demonstration
This Hapless Teacher
Is No Doubt a Genius

Posted on February 26,2011

Do you recognize out-of-control-elements within our society? An out-of-control-element can wreak havoc with our institutions. Not all out-of-control-elements are obvious. Recognition of such elements gives us awareness and arms us for dealing with them.

Benign appearances are deceiving. Even some plants fit the description as harmful to us but are benign in appearance… A lot of people have found out the hard way that failing to recognize a plant like poison ivy can yield a bad experience. Yes, we must learn to recognize those things that can cause harm. The most benign appearing entities can target your bank account, your psyche, your fun, your family, or you as a person.

A public sector union is a good example of such an entity. Necessary in the beginning, but over the years, public sector unions have morphed into instruments for taking your good will and turning it into political and economic power for liberal politicians.

Politically, we are not monolithic. We run the gamut of being everything from the extreme left to the extreme right with everything in-between. We as a nation cannot afford for either extreme to gain the upper hand. A shift to either extreme will result in chaos or extreme social upheaval for our society. The center struggles to prevail and keep the national political direction from drifting to extremism.

Public sector unions, as we know them now, threaten that political balance by using public funds from taxpayers to promote a liberal agenda. Our unholy alliance with the public sector unions put all of us on the hook to the democrats whether we want to be there or not. At this time I will stress it is not the public employees but the process, which threaten us. Most teachers and public employees just want whatever the market will bear for their labor. Public employees are doing nothing different from their counter-parts in the private sector.

The process that has evolved in the way we deal with public sector unions makes the public sector unions very powerful politically. The unions have learned how to tip labor negotiations with our elected officials in their favor. Collective bargaining with the public sector unions decides the wages, work issues, and other benefits for union members. In return for favorable negotiations, unions help elect sympathetic politicians with campaign donations.

Most people do not mind funding teachers, firefighters, police, and other public employees. In fact, these occupations are well thought of and respected in most communities.

The process in Wisconsin and other states need balance. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin wants to change the way public sector unions negotiate in Wisconsin. The extravagant concessions awarded under the present collective bargaining system have put Wisconsin in financial trouble. The Governor wants the taxpayer to have a larger say in the bargaining process and stop the political patronage by unions. After all, the taxpayers pay the bill.

Governor Walker has asked the state legislature to make several changes with regard to collective bargaining with public sector unions. The larger and more controversial changes will limit the negotiations to wages and benefits. This change may affect the union’s influence on ancillary items such as the defining of tenure, vacation time, sick, funeral leave, length of the workweek, overtime, and processes for employee complaints. Other items in the proposed legislation will require union members to pay a portion of their retirement savings. This would put the public sector employees on par with private sector employees.

One of the most notable changes the governor wants to make is to stop the state from being the collection agency for union dues. This change would allow the union to handle their own finances and stop the transfer of money from the state directly to the unions. Under the current system in Wisconsin, the state withholds the public service employees’ union dues and pays this money directly to the unions.

In turn, part of the member’s dues gets recycled back into the campaign pockets of sympathetic politicians. This process gives the unions, using campaign donations, the ability to choose the politicians they negotiate with, control the negotiations, and leave the taxpayer on the hook for the results. This is not balance. Far-reaching agreements such as retirement benefits can take years before the financial impact of such agreements become notable. By then, it is too late to say “oops.”

The new legislation requires each member to be responsible for paying his or her dues. The union fears that this change will result in a lot of public service employees keeping their money rather than pay it to the unions. At the present, members have no choice in the matter.

It is certain that the public gave rise to the public service unions by being stingy and underpaying their public service employees. Before the advent of public service employees unions, employees could only plead their case weakly as individuals. There is a lot of blame to go around for the current situation, but playing the blame game does nothing to solve the problems faced by many states.

Public service unions have morphed into a creature that harms us economically. In Wisconsin, the taxpaying public acknowledged their problems and elected politicians that would make the necessary changes to reform their system. But the unions will not relinquish their stranglehold without a fight. Hopefully, the voters in Wisconsin will stand strong and serve as a lance for other states in the same predicament.

It would be helpful if nationally, we elected politicians on merit and ideology rather than on how much bacon he/she can deliver. But that is just wishful thinking.

"For myself I am an optimist -- it does not seem to be much use being anything else."
- WINSTON CHURCHILL, speech, Nov. 9, 1954


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Union Story-- Public sector union political processes are detrimental to the general welfare and under-represent the taxpayer. We need private sector unions but must eliminate or reconstitute public sector unions.