- Politics and Social Issues
Public Employee Labor Unions
Public Employee Union Pensions
The Pew Center on the States recently concluded a study about pension, health care, and other retirement benefits that are promised to current and retired State Government Employees across America. The Pew Study found that American States have obligated themselves to future debts totaling $3.35 trillion to pay these benefits. The rub lies in the fact that these State Governments are short $1 trillion to meet these promises. Local Governments and the Federal Government are in the same predicament.
In 2006, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, on his first day in office, rescinded state workers' collective bargaining power. Governor Daniels said: “We have a new privileged class in America. We used to think of government workers as underpaid public servants. Now they are better paid than the people who pay their salaries.”
What happened across the country is that politicians created enormous future debts to public employee unions that translated into votes for them at the time, but placed incredible debt burdens on future citizens—bills that would come due long after the original politicians were out of office or even no longer among the living.
A Brief History of Public Employee Unions
People who work for the taxpayers—public employees of local, state, or federal governments—were prohibited by law from unionizing throughout the history of the United States. Public employees were paid less than private sector workers performing similar tasks but had better job security—their employer could not go out of business as private companies can and do.
Robert Wagner, the Democrat Mayor of New York City in 1958, was the first politician to see people who worked for the public as a large block of voters. Wagner signed an executive order authorizing a public employee union for city workers. This was done outside of what we call democracy, meaning nobody but the mayor, and certainly not the "people," had any say in this decision.
Soon enough, mayors and governors around the country who were Democrats saw the wisdom in this election strategy and followed suit. In 1962, President Kennedy authorized federal employees to unionize for the first time. Kennedy thus created a huge permanent set of voters Democrats could count on to nearly unanimously vote for them. And a huge permanent set of public employee unions that would deduct massive amounts of money from government employee paychecks to be funneled exclusively to the Democratic Party.
It has proved to be a brilliant coup for the Democratic Party. Public employee unions are now the largest campaign contributors in American elections—virtually all to Democrat candidates. Public employee unions have poured millions and millions of dollars into the campaigns of Democrat candidates across the country, but the money comes from all taxpayers, including Republicans and Independents. Essentially, we have people of both parties, and no party, financing the election of one party.
Public employees make far more than private sector workers today, and have incredible benefit packages including gigantic pension plans. A bus driver in Boston makes $70,000 per year and can retire at age 41 with a full pension. Some public employees have been promised retirement pensions of over $100,000 per year.
Some individuals will receive millions of taxpayer dollars before they die. These people might be paid 90 percent of their former exorbitant wages for over fifty years while they go fishing. In the meantime, the taxpayers on the hook for these monies keep working another 20 years or so. 27 million people who belong to public employee unions have been promised lifelong pensions from taxpayers.
Far more pernicious than the public employee wages, benefits and pensions, are the public employee union work rules which directly encourage doing as little work as possible, and make it nearly impossible to fire inept or lazy workers.
Public employee unions have the potential to bankrupt not only the federal government, but countless state and municipal governments that are already in trouble because of these wage, benefit, and pension plans. All because of what was from the beginning and still is today simply a scheme to garner votes for Democrats. Democrats sold our future down the river for political power.
And that is not all. The Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation, a federal government program, has taxpayers on the hook to pay for any and all private union pension programs if a company goes out of business. This is why taxpayers recently paid $100B into the General Motors pension program. This is unsustainable. These socialist ideas have created major economic problems for the United States that could spell our ruin.
How Unions Kill Productivity
To fully understand the problem with unions in general, let's think hypothetically for a few minutes. Let's say Farmer John and his neighbor Farmer Joe both have 100 acres of apples to be picked.
Farmer John runs an advertisement for apple pickers, interviews applicants, and selects the fifty people he thinks best. He tells the fifty people that they will be paid a nickel for each apple they pick; the top five pickers the first week will be named supervisors; any caught sleeping on the job, along with the five who pick the least, will be fired and replaced. The fifty people agree to this contract. This is what unions and their socialist supporters call "exploitation."
Farmer Joe is forced to use union workers. In his case, the union selects the fifty pickers for Farmer Joe, based on their fervent loyalty to the union itself. The union tells Farmer Joe he must pay each worker $150 a day, regardless if they pick one apple or a thousand. Employees may not be fired for any reason, and the first five hired will automatically become his supervisors based solely on seniority.
Now I ask all reasonable people this question: which farm will be more productive? Which will bring in its harvest sooner? Which will leave more apples on the ground to rot? Which farm will be most efficient and profitable, thereby continuing to provide jobs in the future versus the alternative—going out of business and leaving no jobs?
Let's say I invent a new vacuum cleaner. I want 100 salesmen to go door-to-door and sell the machines. Would I be wiser to hire non-union people that will agree to a contract offering $75 for each machine they sell; or union workers that I must pay $150 per day regardless if they sell five a day or none at all? Which group will sell more vacuum cleaners—those paid on performance (merit) or those guaranteed that each of them will be paid the same regardless of effort, attitude, and talent?
Have Labor Unions Been Good to America?
Unions in America were created to oppose the so-called robber barons—Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, et al. In those days individuals such as these owned their huge companies personally. But public employee unions have no robber baron to oppress them, unless you consider average Americans to be fat cats. And who owns the dreaded corporations today? Nearly all of us do.
Unions take credit for what Henry Ford did when he paid three times the prevailing wage and instituted the five-day-work-week and eight-hour-work-day—before Ford Motor Company was unionized.
America produced 50 percent of the manufactured goods in the whole world in 1955. For the next twenty years, labor unions averaged nearly 500 strikes per year and drove manufacturing out of the country. Workers performing manual labor anyone could do were making as much as doctors and still went on strike against their employers at the urging of unions.
Today only 6.9 percent of private sector employees belong to a union—7.1 million people. For the first time in American history, more public employees belong to a union—7.6 million people (36 percent of government workers).
Public employees are paid 25 percent more for the same work if they belong to a union. Taxpayers pay unionized employee wages while they conduct union business. Teamsters' contracts specifically allow sleeping on the job by public employees.
The Foundation of Labor Unions
The very idea of labor unions comes from the faulty theories of Karl Marx, the father of socialism/communism. From the view of Marx 150 years ago, nearly all Americans would eventually become factory laborers, while a handful of capitalists would own everything.
Marx was wrong in almost all of his predictions. He did not foresee the rise of the middle class in America, the rise of the entrepreneur, the rise of mechanization (taking the place of manual laborers), and the rise of publicly traded stocks.
Rather than all ownership of businesses concentrated in the hands of a few, millions of people came to own their own businesses. Tens of millions of Americans joined the middle class without belonging to a union. Tens of millions of average people own stock in corporations through their retirement plans.
Marx can be forgiven for not having an accurate crystal ball. But his ideas and slogans live on in the rhetoric of unions and their socialist supporters. These ideas make no sense in present day reality and they are the complete opposite of what made America rich—meritocracy.
In a meritocracy, those who are inventive, ingenious, efficient, productive, intelligent, motivated, diligent, responsible, hard working, innovative, and dedicated rise to the top. This system benefits everyone to some extent as it makes for a vastly more productive society that is wealthy, which affords it massive public works and welfare programs.
According to the philosophy of Karl Marx, an Atheist who hated Western Civilization, Capitalism, and Christianity, all working people in America were to join labor unions as the first step to Communism. Once labor unions had a large majority of the populace, they were to then overthrow the American government, banish Free Enterprise, and establish a new Communist America.
What distinguishes Communism from its twin sister Socialism, is that in Socialism the revolution that destroys Capitalism and Individual Freedom is a revolution not led by factory workers but by an elite group of intellectuals who believe in imposing social science and Atheism upon the citizenry. That is why Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, and Hitler all called themselves Socialists. They led no revolution of factory laborers.
Labor unions, by their very nature, are anti-Capitalist, which makes them also anti-Democracy and anti-Individual Freedom. Liberty, Democracy, and Free Enterprise are natural bed-mates. One proof of this is the recent debacle in Wisconsin, in which a law was presented to the legislature and the pro-union anti-Democracy Democrats broke the law by fleeing the state and refusing to vote.
Imagine if every time a vote was scheduled for a city council, county board, state legislature, or in Congress the lawmakers who thought they might lose just ran away and refused to vote. This would be the end of Democracy as nothing would get done and Totalitarianism would have to be imposed. Some imbeciles have hailed these criminal legislators as "heroes of democracy." This shows how moral relativists twist the English language to fool the ignorant who suck on the government teet with their demagoguery: Refusing to participate in the Democracy you were elected to participate in makes you anti-Democracy, not pro-Democracy. Sadly, lying through your teeth and using any and all means to get your way is the calling card of Marxists. See Vladimir Lenin.
The very attributes that separate the wheat from the chaff in a meritocracy are penalized in a unionized populace. The unions protect the worst workers, encourage general sloth, disincentivize the workforce, and make employers and employees adversaries.
A union assumes all workers are equally productive. Anyone who has ever worked can testify that this is the complete opposite of the truth. Human beings are very unequal in their efforts and gifts. To pay them all the same wages regardless of their productivity is an injustice to productive people.
Unionization always raises costs and lowers productivity. With what we all know of human nature, how could it be otherwise? The greatest union ever put into place—the Soviet Union—proved this beyond all doubt.