Why public employees should never be allowed to unionize

Exhibit A:

NY Gov. David Paterson: Public Pension Funds Are About to Implode…And On That Note, I Am Outta Here!

Exhibit B:

NYC Investigating Reports of Work Slowdown During Snow Removal


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8 Responses to Why public employees should never be allowed to unionize

  1. Anonymous Crab says:

    Well, why are the pension funds about to implode? I don’t know New York’s problem, but in New Jersey, governor after governor, from both parties, have been underfunding the state employee pension fund for years, while the public employees kept paying in the appropriate amount via payroll deductions. I don’t see how that’s an argument against public employee unions…

  2. Polymath says:

    The problem is that public employee unions extract unsustainable levels of benefits in labor negotiations, because they are dealing with politicians who want to be popular and have a short time horizon, rather than CEOs who have a bottom line to meet and a market value to maintain and so can be equally tough on the other side of the negotiating table. This asymmetry of interests gives the unions a big advantage and they don’t care if they bankrupt everyone else as long as they get theirs.

    Polticians putting their short-term interests ahead of the long-term interests of the polity is a fundamental problem with democracy, which should be dealt with by minimizing the opportunities for them to do this. Public employee unions over time amass enormous political clout and they are structurally always going to favor increased government spending.

  3. Workshy Joe says:

    Never allowed to unionize?

    I don’t see the problem with voluntary association. Its coercion that’s the problem. Both from the government side and from the workers yelling “scab!”.

  4. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Joe, the problem is that you can’t fire people when they strike. I don’t mind unions, but I support the rights of employers to fire their employees for any reason they want – including going on strike.

    Another issue is that politicians don’t pay the wages out of their own money, they pay it from the taxpayers’ pocket so they will carter to any special interest group that will bring them more votes – including unions.

  5. Polymath says:

    Victor Davis Hanson has a really great column today showing how California is similar to Greece in blaming everyone but themselves:

    Raging Against “Them”

    What happened in California is worse though. The Greeks borrowed and spent too much without the economic base to support it — the Californians had a great economic base and destroyed it with ideological insanity. VDH says:

    Our elites liked the idea of stopping new gas and oil extraction, shutting down the nuclear power industry, freezing state east-west freeways, strangling the mining and timber industries, cutting off water to agriculture in the Central Valley, diverting revenues from fixing roads and bridges to redistributive entitlements, and praising the new multicultural state that would welcome in half the nation’s 11-15 million illegal aliens. Better yet, the red-state-minded “they” (the nasty upper one-percent who stole from the rest of us due to their grasping but superfluous businesses) began to leave at the rate of 3,000 a week, ensuring the state a Senator Barbara Boxer into her nineties.

    Yes, we are proud that we have changed the attitude, lifestyle, and demography of the state, made it “green,”and have the highest paid public employees and the most generous welfare system—and do not have to soil our hands with nasty things like farming, oil production, or nuclear power. And now we are broke. Our infrastructure is crumbling and an embarrassment. My environs is known as “Zimbabwe” or “Appalachia” for its new third-world look that followed from about the highest unemployment and lowest per capita income in the nation. Again, thanks to the deep South, our schools are not quite last in reading and math. So of course, like the Greeks, we are mad at somebody other than ourselves. Californians are desperate for a “them” fix. But who is them? “Them” either left, is leaving, or has been shut down….

    What strikes me is not that leftism does not work, but that when it is indulged and doesn’t work, its beneficiaries scream at the unfairness of it all—in the fashion that a theorist who claimed 2 plus 2 equals 5 blames the construct of mathematics because his equation is not true….

    In short, there is no “them” who wrecked Greece, ruined California, subverted the climate change movement, sidetracked a half century of liberalism to come, or discredited mega-deficit spending.

    “Them” you see is simply a shorthand for “I got what I wanted, and I am mad at someone or something for not allowing the world to become what I think it should have been.”

  6. Doug1 says:

    Workshy Joe–

    I don’t see the problem with voluntary association.

    So you have no problem with cartels then?

    Think it through a little, hun.

    I completely agree that public employee unions should be made illegal. They used to be a few decades ago in most states, localities and the federal government a few decades ago.

    Public employee unions were rare and indeed illegal in America before about 1960.

    The central portion of While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis covers the history of public employee unions, which turn out to be a surprisingly recent phenomenon. Politicians were traditionally opposed to public employees’ right to unionize, strike, or collectively bargain for wage and benefit increases. They saw their constituents as the taxpaying public and did not think that the government was such an abusive employer that unionization was necessary to protect workers. Calvin Coolidge, as governor of Massachhusetts, summarized the feeling of the average politician: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.”

    The result was that public employees were generally paid less than private sector workers, but could not be fired for incompetence or unproductivity and had better benefits, including small pensions that typically started at age 65 or 70 or upon becoming totally disabled.

    All of this was changed in 1958 when an aide to New York Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. suggested that city workers could be a large enough voting bloc to ensure his reelection. Wager signed an executive order authorizing city workers, notably those of the transit system, to unionize and bargain collectively. As the percentage of Americans working for the government grew, other politicians began to see support for public employee unions as a way to get votes. State politicians around the country allowed public employees to unionize shortly after Wagner’s executive order.

    President John F. Kennedy allowed federal government workers to unionize starting in 1962.


  7. Pingback: When can the government ban a product? | Polymath's Blog

  8. The truth is that public workers shouldn’t vote. This would solve the moral hazard. Since net taxpayers pay for public services that civil servants provide, the latter shouldn’t have a say in how they provide services for which they are paid to provide.

    If politicians represented taxpayers only(and civil servants aren’t tax payers), they’d lose votes by caving in to public worker unions.

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