This thirty second video will show you everything that is wrong with public sector unions.
The budget debate in Wisconsin has forced a long-overdue discussion about public sector unions. Always a questionable proposition, unionization of the public sector, for a period, seemed a luxury we could afford. Yeah, public workers had job security and great benefits, but their pay was lower, so it seemed a fair trade-off. Over the last couple decades that implicit understanding was upended...public sector pay moved much higher and those great benefits were jacked up on steroids. Worse, we've recently learned that the benefits aren't actually 'paid for.' As a result, we face the prospect of far higher taxes to meet these past promises.
At the same time, globalization and the natural forces of competition changed the economic equation for many of us in the private sector. We have had to become more productive, shoulder a greater share of our benefits and assume greater responsibility over our retirement. We've also realized that past politicians' promises about Social Security were checks that couldn't be cashed.
For the past couple of years, we've stayed awake at night wondering whether we would keep our job or whether our employer would stay in business. We saw our take-home pay eroded by higher state and local taxes and higher contributions to our own benefits. We watched in December as politicians of both parties congratulated themselves that they weren't going to take even more of our earnings--well, for at least a couple more years. After that, who knows...
But, that isn't the worst of it.
While we adjusted to this new economic reality--which was largely the result of bad policy decisions by our government--a privileged political class had grown up around us. They felt they should be immune to the pressures we faced. Our national Democrat politicians even maxed out a trillion-dollar credit card from us to funnel money to state and local government workers to absorb them from the shocks we were feeling. It didn't work.
Now, these government workers are being asked to face the same pressures we, the ones paying their salaries, face. No, that isn't quite right. They still don't have to worry about losing their jobs or whether their employer will close its doors. In the case of Wisconsin, they are being asked to pick up part of the tab for their benefits...a tab we in the private sector accepted years ago. In response, they've taken to the streets...while we keep going going to work.
But the talk about pay and benefits misses a crucial point.
The video above shows a representative of the United Healthcare Workers from a budget hearing in California in 2009. She makes it clear that the union got 'democrats' elected and that they [the union] 'have long memories' should the members deign to not support the union demands. If the officials support needed measures to cut spending, the representative will unleash her members to campaign against their reelection. And her threats are all legally sanctioned. And they are paid for by us.
This is the central problem with public sector unions. They get to use taxpayer money to elect their bosses and they get to use taxpayer money to convince their bosses to give them more taxpayer money.
Let's recap where we are:
- We've allowed labor unions to become monopoly personnel providers for many state and local governments
- We force employees to make weekly payments to union leaders
- The union leaders use these payments to hire lobbyists to agitate for more government spending
- The union leaders use these payments to spend millions on campaigns to elect politicians
- The union leaders then negotiate with these politicians to set pay, benefits and work rules for their members
- The politicians know that if they cross the union leaders, their reelection plans are more complicated
- We fund the whole thing
If we can't break this corrupt cycle, no other policy decisions we make will matter. Yes, it is that important.