Understanding the Union Issue in Wisconsin: Let’s try to understand the difference between Private Unions and Public Unions, and why the State of Wisconsin public workers (and the politicians supporting them) are on the wrong side of the situation.
Let’s deal with this situation in plain English.
Question: What are “Unions?”
Question: What is the difference between so-called “public” and “private” unions?
Question: What, if anything, is problematic about unions?
Let’s begin with unions. Unions are organizations that invite (or sometimes legally require) workers to unite with other workers and union bosses to get business owners to do what they want them to do. That is why it is called “organized labor.” Those workers are required to pay “dues” in order to be represented— and in many states, some workers do not even have a CHOICE whether they will or won’t be a part of the union—it is sometimes required.
Union Bosses are paid by union workers’ dues and, in return, they play hardball with business leaders on a periodic basis to increase workers’ benefits and wages, and to improve their working conditions. This is done by threatening to stop working—or by actually striking. If a strike occurs, the hope is that either the loss of profits for the business or the anger of consumers will force the employers to yield to the union’s demands. The result, historically, is that unions have helped their workers receive greater pay and benefits than they ever could have received without collective bargaining. In fact, some union workers earn pay and benefits that far exceed the education of similar non-union employees. That is why, for example, the average union worker is paid and benefited more (28-34%) than the average non-union worker.
The difference between public and private unions is simple. Private unions are those organizations that represent workers from the private (non-government) business sector. Public unions are those which represent government workers. The difference between the two is that private unions organize labor (workers) against private business owners (stockholders of corporations) who happen to be private citizens.
But public unions organize workers against the “public”—meaning, against the US citizenry! In other words, public labor argues and vigorously works to force the ‘people’ (taxpayers) to pay other fellow taxpayers greater benefits and pay rates under the threat that those workers (fellow citizens) will strike (refuse to work and perform essential services) against their fellow countryman.
What is the problem with public labor unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere? Precisely this—that the government workers hold those who pay them (taxpayers) hostage by refusing to work unless often-egregious labor demands are met. That means that unions may convince government workers that some injustice has taken place at the hands of other citizens (that they are in poor working conditions or that they are receiving poor pay or unjust benefits). In turn, those unions organize working citizens to refuse to perform the essential duties of government that their fellow citizens have paid for (through taxes), including things like teaching our children (teacher’s unions), and performing the many other functions of government agencies and bureaus (DMV, police, fire, etc.). Public unions are insidious because they pit Americans against Americans, and force one group of Americans (taxpayers) to pay and benefit them more “or else.”
Though I agree with the legitimacy of labor unions’ existence in the PRIVATE sector, personally I do not agree with Public Unions. Private businesses can fight it out with union bosses and the business can either hire or fire them or meet labor demands. But on the public side, when public workers (government employees) have the ability to collectively bargain—that means they have the ability to refuse to perform basic functions the tax-paying public has paid dearly for (through already-excessive taxes), and to hold the state or nation and its people hostage.
Finally, the greatest problem of “collective bargaining” (like in Wisconsin’s state capital turmoil today) is this: that the constant threat of all government workers walking off the job if their “collective demands” are not met creates a situation where the public (citizens) are sometimes forced to give in to even unreasonable demands—just so those basic jobs will be done (police, fire, teachers, etc.). What has happened in MANY cases is that states have been forced to offer enormous for-life pensions, incredibly high wages (compared to other similar non-government workers’ education and experience levels), and Cadillac benefit packages THAT ARE UNSUSTAINABLE and that states (like Wisconsin and many others) simply cannot afford.
As a result, by trying to get blood from a turnip, these public unions have sometimes placed states in the position of being functionally insolvent/bankrupt, running up enormous deficits that are GENUINELY UNSUSTAINABLE. Doing this, in my opinion, on the backs of our fellow man and jeopardizing entire state economies that could lead to complete financial collapse, is immoral. That is why I oppose public unions. I believe ‘private’ unions right to exist is legitimate (even though I often disagree with what they do and how they do it). But I disagree with the existence of public sector unions. I do not think they are needed because I trust the taxpaying public to treat government employees right. Also, it is against reason that the employee (public union worker/government employee) would make more in wages and benefits than their employer (the tax-paying American citizen). The fact is that government workers often make more than the people paying them (their bosses/fellow citizens).
Sadly, some public union bosses have rallied employees to take advantage of the situation and make demands that are bankrupting their own states. That is why Wisconsin is working to remove PUBLIC collective bargaining because it inevitably means uncontrollable taxes for corporations and individuals. Those high taxes lead to hostile environments for corporations which drives away business from those states (like has happened in union-strong Detroit and Michigan)– which leads to greater unemployment in the state. Also, public unions hurt non-government workers by forcing them to pay more than their fair share in order to support government workers. Ironically, simple math shows that these union-driven obligations foisted upon taxpayers are unsustainable and that financial collapse is inevitable. The frustrating thing is that, though some public union members may know this, their union bosses have driven them into a frenzy to where the facts don’t matter, and they “want theirs,” regardless of the cost.
[I may not have time or opportunity to respond to individual remarks on this topic. Accept my apologies if I don’t reply to your responses].