Liberty VS Union Power

TV news continuous to regale us with video of Wisconsin’s Democratic State Representatives on the floor of the state Assembly screaming “shame! shame!” at their Republican colleagues after the state Assembly voted to pass Governor Walker’s finance bill.   For two weeks the establishment media has supported the protesters and their vitriolic denunciation of Walker and the Republicans, comparing them to Nazis, terrorists, etc.  So what’s this all about?

The chart explains why the Wisconsin labor union issue is so important to the national Democratic Party.  Membership in unions, the Party’s number one source of money, has been shrinking for decades and could all but disappear from the private sector.   Only in the public sector are unions still strong.

Since the Seventies the Democratic Party and public employee unions have had a symbiotic relationship with no equivalent on the Republican side.  The unions donate a portion of membership dues to ensure the continuous re-election of Democrats, who ensure the continuous expansion of government, creating more union jobs which then generate more dues revenue, and even larger campaign donations in return.

Most of the media support the party line that the hysterical protests have something to do with “fundamental rights” of hapless, hard pressed teachers and state employees.  But the real crisis is the potential loss of campaign money and with it the progressive dream of continuously expanding, ever more authoritarian government.

Public employees in Wisconsin and across the nation enjoy higher wages and far more generous benefits than employees in comparable private sector jobs.  In addition, public employees are protected by civil service laws that ensure greater job security than anyone in the private sector would expect.   Civil Service law is independent of, and not dependent upon unions.

Under existing Wisconsin law labor unions now “collectively bargain” with state, county and city officials to develop contracts that establish the wages, benefits and working conditions of state, county and city employees.  When those officials owe their jobs to campaign funding by the unions everyone sits on the same time of the bargaining table and the system screams conflict of interest.

A union’s power to represent and bind employees to the contract it negotiates and to force them to pay dues via payroll deduction stems from an election wherein a majority of employees voted to “certify” it as their representative.  In Wisconsin, those elections were held decades ago, binding then current and all future employees unless/until a majority sign a petition calling for a new election.  Of course the union applies coercive pressure to discourage anyone from circulating or signing petitions.

Governor Walker’s bill now goes to the Senate for a vote, whenever the Democratic Senators who have fled the state finally return.  If passed by the Senate it will:

  • Reduce employees’ take-home pay by requiring them to contribute more of the cost of their retirement and health insurance benefits.
  • Restrict collective bargaining only to a percentage of base wage no greater than the increase in the consumer price index.  So, if there was 3% inflation last year the largest wage increase the new law would allow the union and the state/county/city employers to negotiate would be 3%.  Benefits and working conditions would not be subject to collective bargaining.
  • End the practice of forcing employees to pay union dues via payroll deduction.  Dues payment would become voluntary.
  • Require an annual re-certification election in each bargaining unit, beginning this year.  The union will not continue in power without a yes vote from a majority of the employees in the bargaining unit.

It seems very unlikely that the unions could survive these restrictions.  Virtually all the people who voted in the original certification elections have already retired or died.  Current employees had no choice.  The unions are unlikely to win re-certification elections without the power to bargain for ever more generous benefits and wage increases.  People are not going to voluntarily pay the dues unions have always had to collect by forced payroll deduction

The Democratic-union-media side of the argument is that Governor Walker’s real agenda is union busting.  That’s true as far as it goes.  The rest of the truth is that the union-Democratic Party alliance exists to concentrate wealth and power in federal and state governments resulting in less individual liberty and greater economic misery.

1 Comment so far

  1. Public Union Membership in Numbers on February 27th, 2011

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