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  • Government Unions vs Middle Class Jobs

    In the Sunday New York Times, Paul Krugman argued that the only way to “restore the middle-class society we used to have” is by shoring up collective bargaining rights for unions—”so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages.”

    The same day, a Washington Post op-ed went further, claiming that “public workers’ pay, benefits, and bargaining rights” are not “what is really at stake” in the Wisconsin fight. No, the authors argued, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is waging war on the middle class by trying to bust unions that “want to make good middle-class jobs the norm.”

    Are these papers so out of touch that they think anyone opposes “good middle-class jobs” for Americans? They have at least been taken in by the idea that unions’ greatest concern is for the jobs of their members. That is simply untrue.

    Again and again over the last few years, unions have allowed their members to be laid off when concessions of benefits could have saved jobs. Last July, the city of Oakland, CA was forced to lay off 80 police officers because the police union would not concede benefits that were busting the city’s budget: The union could have saved those jobs, and it didn’t.

    The city of Plainfield, NJ is wasting time and money in a protracted fight with seven local unions that have been holding their ground since November. The city is trying to find an alternative to a third round of budget-related layoffs, but the unions aren’t nearly so concerned about those jobs.

    This is not a new trend, as 2009 was a banner year for unions’ indifference toward their own members’ job security. Gov. David Paterson (D) was forced to lay off 8,900 New York State employees—about 4 percent of that workforce—because unions refused even to consider renegotiating contracts. Mayor Richard Daley (D) of Chicago had to lay off hundreds of city employees because the Teamsters and AFSCME rejected a compromise that would have saved those jobs.

    Standard procedure for public unions is to give not an inch in the face of a budget shortfall, and accept the layoffs that result. The tactic seems irrational until it is remembered that layoffs (like everything else in the union world) are done by seniority, which means that almost everyone in a union knows he is safe from a coming round of cuts. The least senior members who will lose their jobs are the lowest-compensated anyway, meaning they have no sway within their union or at the negotiating table.

    In 2009 when the Bethlehem, NY teachers’ union did accept a compromise to save its members’ jobs, the district’s superintendent of schools said, “The fact that people are meeting at a table … I know my colleagues in other districts are envious of that.” More common are hard-line demands for extra cash no matter the circumstances—and if that means raising taxes on middle-class Americans, so be it.

    Kenneth Spence is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to Government Unions vs Middle Class Jobs

    1. Bobbie says:

      we'll negotiate when we tell you we'll negotiate. we want what we told you we want. nothing less. whatever it takes lay em off so we get what we want, we've narrowed all minds of our members to know they deserve what we tell them they deserve. cause we're union strong and our thruggery proves it.

      Get rid of the government unions. they're corrupt, irrational and non-negotiable. They display no professionalism yet are paid as if. Get the dead beat unions out, we need productivity not their wastes of time and threats of strikes costing tax payers even more. INEFFICIENCY IS UNNECESSARY!

    2. Shawn-Madison, WI says:

      My brother is one of the state workers in WI who will be affected by this. I'm amazed by the "The sky is Falling" mentality of union workers. They honestly believe (brainwashed by the unions, maybe?) that if unions fail, all of the rights protecting all workers will be rescinded and we'll all go back to the days of sweatshops – no insurance, working 20 hour days for $1/hour. We've given the unions this power over a portion of the Americna people and it's time we take that power back away from them.

    3. R Holland, Chandler, says:

      If the unions leave the public sector jobs, it will save thousands maybe even millions of middle class jobs. Otherwise states, counties and cities will have to lay off workers.

    4. Norma in Nebraska says:

      And our President just "MANDATED" from on high that the TSA workers are now union!!! This guy just doesn't get it OR he is looking for a lot of $$$$ for his campaign for 2012 which starts RIGHT NOW!!!

      It is interesting to me that with all the is wrong in our country, the Democrats and especially the President are already in campaign mode! I do hope he comes up with a new story line because the American people are all "hope and change'd" out by now!!! I assume his strategy with include the word "investment" in every other sentence.

      BUT you can bet your bottom dollar that the campaign committee already is revving up their base with emails and requests for $3 to $5 donations, and the unions will be out in full force to re-elect him . . . . . . UNLESS . . . . .

    5. Al Smith says:

      Do you remember when 61,000 Union Workers were laid off in Seattle in the 70'. Did any of the High Payed Union Bosses get terminated Hell-No, They lived on to strike Boeing every three years and it goes on and on. When they needed unions the unions were here but they became a way for the leaders to protect themselves not the guy who busts his butt and let the seniority guys skate, it should be on merit. You know, what have you done for me today is a good thought that an OWNER can ask.

    6. George Colgrove, VA says:

      We the taxpayers and the private sector (if you belong to both) are loosing to the greed and self centered (natural) nature of the federal workforce and some state/local public workers.

      How many years did these goons try to convive us that corporate CEO's were greedy. Their total take since 1980 (the so called era of greed) pales to the single year take (above what the average private sector worker gets for income) that the greedy public sector employess takes. At least a CEO actually provides something a customer wants. No one has a choice on what a public sector employee does.

      As far as greed goes today, do as the liberal journalist (Woodward) said, follow the money. We are loosing CEO's in droves, but the quicly growing highly overpaid feds are taking more than any other sector. The greed is with the feds!

    7. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      I do not pretend that Unions represent their Members' Interests. I heard it on CSPAN from the Union Leader's mouths, they got into the Union Movement because they wanted to use Union Power for Social Justice! Look at how they betrayed the Private Sector, destroyed millions of American Jobs! Hell! Ironically, Sweeney got the Medal Of Freedom for destroying American Jobs!

      The Unions love to destroy jobs! That is what they do best! As they destroy State Governments (Bankruptcy is destruction) you have to be kidding when you say it has anything to do with the benefit of the Union Members! They will all lose their jobs when the States go Bankrupt, when we are all Communist there will be no place for Unions anyway!

      This is all about American Sovereignty! The Communists behind the Unions want Totalitarian Government, and that is everything to them! The marchers at the Wisconsin Capital are dupes! or criminals. Judging from how they damaged the Capital Building? They are just criminals!

    8. Norm Larson s.Beloit says:

      Leon Lundquist said it correctly – Unions destroy jobs. Remember the train unions requiring coal tenders for years while trains were running on diesel fuel ? How about our area, fighting with the fire dept union,requiring three firemen on a truck for all calls when it has been proven over and over two firemen are all that is needed and is as safe.

      Teachers work ? nine months ? of the year yet make more than a NON-UNION person working twelve months.

      And then there is the lucrative retirement and medical benefits while working and after retirement. It's all about protecting the non-producers and malingerers and big Union bosses.

      If the Union doesn't get their way (ex. Wis) they protest, picket,slander,threaten,

      try to intimidate, buy off, oh yes let us not forget MEDIATORS.

      I was a union member for ten years and I did my job the best that I could and paid my monthly dues – to protect the habitual tardy, absent unproductive "fellow union member."

      Do your job you were hired for or hit the door if they want you to work !

    9. Matthew Lewis says:

      Get rid of the unions? Why not change the the name of this country while your at it! You do know that the name of this country starts with the word UNITED! What a joke you people are. Most of the people that bash unions are business owners that don't want to pay a decent wage and do not have a safe working environment. Here is a little quote from a past fellow Republican of yours. You may have heard of him. His name was Abraham Lincon and he said "Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much higher consideration." Im tired of these companys trying to get rich off the fruit of our labor. They want big profits but don't want to pay the workers crap. In a country that has no health plan for the American people, my union, Local 399 out of Chicago,IL has made sure that i am able to support my family with a good wage and a health plan. You people want to start a civil war? Fine, let's do it. United States my ass! Why do you think these big companys are moving to India, Mexico, and other places in the world? Because they can get away with paying those people next to nothing, and they don't have to worry about safety. Someone get's hurt on the job, tuff luck. Screw you and your family, we"ll get some other shmoe in here. Our government will give all of these big companys bail out money, but it's not right for the average American to want a decent life for themselves or their family. Again i say, United States of America my ass! Whats minimum wage at theses days, and how much of that is taxed?!

    10. Bobbie says:

      Settle down, Mathew. Private sector unions are a decision of those working that business. Although the government has mandated the private sector minimum wage and regulations regarding safety, their reasons for a union are their own. Government unions, like government itself, is not within the control of those that are obligated to pay. Private unions, none of anybody's business unless it's made to be.

      Government unions have kept to themselves, working behind the backs of the tax payers with enormous salaries that don't reflect the public service. Since it's taken out of control of the private sector, tax dollars (public funding) should always be transparent.

    11. Bobbie says:

      Please stop with the war mongering. Your anxiety for government militant neighborhood task force is showing and I'd like to believe those with the like minded are mature enough to take a walk.

    12. william price says:

      without unions there is no middle class….the business people will never appreciate craftmanship skills fully…they are about the deal, the angle, the sale and there's value in that …but there's also value in the thing they are selling which is what tradesmen make…why should the managers… the schmoozers… the middlemen make so much more…thank god it doesn't wok that way in baseball my friend….i don't pay 50 bucks a ticket to watch some bean counter with an angle ….i pay to watch cliff lee, and jeter and big papi…okay tradesman may not be superstars but they are the essence of what is being bought and sold….they deserve to be valued …and not just at .001% of what the ceo is making!

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