Beyond the Cusp

March 5, 2011

On Wisconsin, Public Employee Unions, and Taxpayers

Filed under: Politics,Public Employee Unions,Taxes,Wisconsin — qwertster @ 7:31 AM

If there has been one thing that has become clear from the standoff and shenanigans going on in Wisconsin, it is that we need to take back our schools from the teachers’ unions. It may also have pointed out a true vulnerability for allowing government workers at any level from unionizing and being able to use collective bargaining. The weakness is that when these public employee unions bargain, they are not bargaining with those who actually pay their salaries, they are bargaining with the middlemen who simply allocate the taxpayers’ monies. Unlike the private sector unions, where the union bargains with the owners of the factory who have a vested interest in keeping the company profitable partly by limiting the amount paid to employees, there is an adversarial relation with the unions. With public sector unions negotiate with functionaries of the government who spend taxpayer money that comes from taxpayers. These negotiators are chosen by politicians who receive generous contributions from the government employee unions. This situation, in all truth, places absolutely no restrictions on the generosity that the politicians can reward the unions through generous employment packages assuring the continued campaign largess. Instead of an adversarial bargaining situation, there exists an, “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine”, relationship. This leads to ever upward spiraling costs that are now bankrupting our states and all levels of government.

To be honest, finding areas where I agree with FDR is near impossible, but I agree with his position that public employees should never be allowed to have unions and collective bargaining. Even he saw the evils of such an arrangement. Unions originally became necessary near the beginning of the industrial revolution due to the advantage that was being taken against many workers and in some cases where the relation between company owners and their employees bordered on enslavement. This was particularly true of coal mine operations where the company owned your residence and the only available grocery and other needs store was the company store. In worst case scenarios, miners would find themselves indebted to the mine owners thus trapping them for life. Additionally, working conditions in numerous factories and virtually all mining was fraught with danger, often life-threatening danger. The unions did much in making workers’ conditions safer as well as demanding a decent salary.

Unions definitely had their time and place, but the public employ is not one of them. Government salaries and benefit packages need to stay competitive with the public sector salary and benefit packages; otherwise their positions would not get filled. I would actually favor for government at all levels to outsource as much of their work as possible in an open bidding system where the bid price is the final price with the company winning the bid not allowed to have a way of charging government for their cost overruns as long as there was no change to the work-load. Such a system only works if the bid price is the final cost to the taxpayer. We cannot have contractors for government contracts operating as many do currently where a company bids and contracts to pave a section of roadway and half way through the job able to claim cost increases and government ends up paying twice the bid price. Allowing for such would be tantamount to allowing public employee unions where costs always end up higher than the taxpayer can afford. We need to remember that government is established to serve the people, the taxpaying people, not the other way around. Taxpayers fully and rationally expect government to deliver the best service it is able at the best price possible; anything else is wasting our monies.

Beyond the Cusp

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