Sunday, February 20, 2011

'Have You or Anyone Close to You Belonged to a Union?'

That's Ezra Klein's "Weekend question":
Almost forgot! Have you or anyone close to you belonged to a union? How did that change your impressions of organized labor in general?
Well, I'll tell ya, Ezra, not only do I belong to a union, but my local faculty association is affiliated with the NEA, which has been flooding my college inbox with crap like this: "Workers are Under Attack: Stand with Educators Fighting for Their Rights!"
Workers across the nation are under attack as governors and state legislatures seek to decimate collective bargaining rights and slash pensions and health care benefits. Wisconsin Governor Walker wants to silence educator voices. He has refused to negotiate with educators, who have repeatedly, publicly stated their willingness to sacrifice for the good of the state and the future of their students. For educators, this fight is not about pay and benefits – it is about the right to be heard.

At the statehouse and online, public school supporters are sending a message that cannot be ignored. As tens of thousands march in solidarity in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Idaho, countless others prepare to fight in other states.
Well, where to begin, Ezra?

Let's start with how does this "change my impressions" of organized labor? That's easy: I'm embarrassed. "Workers" aren't under attack. Perhaps teachers are, to be specific, and that's only if one accepts the NEA's martial language; but as many commentators have pointed out, teachers --- as part of the larger public-sector unionized labor force --- are extremely well-compensated relative to those in the private sector. See, "
Wisconsin and the crisis of public sector pay":
Public employees earn more than their private-sector counterparts. This is true from Washington on down. Federal employees earn an average of $120,000 in pay and benefits, double the private sector average. The disparity is less at the state level, but in Wisconsin the average full-time state employee earns over $70,000 in pay and benefits, about $15,000 more than the average private-sector employee.
More at the link (especially the discussion of public-sector retirement systems).

But staying with Ezra's query, not only are public-sector unions an embarrassment, they're a moral cancer on our society. Just look at the lies evident at that NEA newsletter above. Gov. Walker is not "refusing to negotiate" with educators. In fact, repeatedly over the past few days he's been demanding that labor's Democrat representatives in the state legislature return to the Capitol to perform their duty to the people. Indeed, we're to the point that it's the Democrat-progressives who are risking the livelihoods of state workers. See, "
In Wisconsin Budget Protest, Demonstrators Vow to Stay in Capitol While Democrats Refuse to Return." And of course, some officials --- like fleebagger Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach --- are in bed with organized labor, especially the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the state's AFL-CIO affiliates. This is thug politics in Madison. The voters sent a message to the state government and the Democrat-Labor axis has repudiated it. Not only that, as we've seen over and over, Wisconsin teachers couldn't care less about students. They've abandoned them and many have wrongfully obtained fraudulent doctor's notes so that they don't lose their pay. It's like a Third World kleptocracy, and all backed by the Democratic National Committee and the Obama SEIU-OFA jackboots:

And these creeps are now planning a nationwide shakedown tour. Oh joy. The SEIU will be in Sacramento this week to badger the governor and the state legislature. And while Wisconsin's in the news today, what happens in California will also have dramatic national implications. The Wall Street Journal has a report, "Public-Pension Fight Surfaces in California." The state needs to close a $26.6 billion budget deficit, and yet another governor has proposed sending an initiative to the voters to approve tax increases. These folks just don't get it. Schwarzenegger tried the same thing repeatedly, only to fall flat on his face. The state lays out $6 billion in annual pension expenditures, but organized labor says that pensions shouldn't be on the table:
Several big unions argue that the time isn't right for a pension overhaul, including some that helped block efforts along those lines by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. They worry that union members would have to pay significantly higher costs to fund their pensions, among other things.
Governor Brown wants to increase public employees' contributions and extend retirement age eligibility. Will big labor's street thugs be protesting in Sacramento with Governor Brown-as-Hitler paraphernalia? I'm not holding my breath, given that Gov. Walker's a Republican. Besides, my money's on Gov. Brown caving to the Democrats' neo-communist "solidarity" constituency.

And that brings me back to Ezra Klein. My local faculty union just finished contract negotiations. I work with a number of wonderful people, but among the union as a whole, the degree of pampered privilege and selfishness was stunning. Professors Velvet Pearson, Janét Hund, and Mike Zugates published a letter to the editor at the Long Beach Press-Telegram in December, "
LBCC Shortcomings":
Student success was once an LBCC priority, but the new priority is to fund huge increases in bureaucratic bloat. Students have been turned away because course offerings have been reduced by 12 percent. Part-time teachers have been laid off and full-time teachers have been furloughed, which amounts to a pay cut.
Folks can read the whole thing. The college administration does indeed often behave like royalty, but the faculty union could make little headway, since while resisting administration's efforts to increase employee benefit contributions, workers in the larger Long Beach community were facing double-digit unemployment and teachers at Long Beach Unified were sustaining mass layoffs. After some of my union members Photoshopped College President Eloy Oakley with an ugly caricature (he was lampooned as a liar with reference to former Bill Clinton's Lewinsky scandal), I e-mailed my colleagues a copy of The New Yorker's, "State of the Unions," with this quotation highlighted:
The hostility to labor is most obvious in the attacks on public-sector workers as what Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota’s former governor, calls “exploiters”—cosseted, overpaid bureaucrats whose gold-plated pension and health plans are busting state budgets
It goes without saying that I'm persona non grata at union organizing meetings. I embody the exact ideological opposite of many of the top union activists who fancy themselves at the barricades of the '60s-era social transformations.

In any case,
Matthew Yglesias responded to Ezra Klein, and he admits he hasn't got the foggiest idea of what it's like to be a union member on the front lines of the budgetary battles:
I’m generally speaking an out-of-touch pointy headed elite, but as it happens throughout my life my father has been a union member.
Isn't that swell. His dad was in the writers' guild no less, part of the AFL-CIO it seems. Labor battles are a vicarious experience for the left's dumbest blogger, quite unlike Ann Althouse, who's been on the ground in Madison, and who has indicated that she's liable to lose $10,000 in annual income should Gov. Walker's budget be approved:
It really is odd that Wisconsin became ground zero, because we didn’t have the budget disaster that was going on conspicuously in some of the other states. I’m really trying to understand this. Why Wisconsin? A distinctive thing about us is how good our public employees’ benefits are. The cut we — I’m one of them — are being asked to take is severe. (I’m looking at a loss of more than $10,000 a year, myself.) But it’s hard to complain and appear sympathetic, because we’re only being asked to go from paying 0.2 percent of our salary into our pension fund to 5.8 percent, which probably looks astoundingly low to outsiders. We’re being asked to pay more for our health insurance, but the coverage is extremely good, and the annual hit will be about $2,500 ...
"Only being asked ..."

Exactly. These are moderate reforms, which would restore more fiscal accountabilty to the teacher sector in Wisconsin.

So, Ezra, I'd say unions pretty much blow chunks. They're mostly sleazy neo-commies who couldn't give a Flying V for the public good, and in the case of Wisconsin teachers, the children they've been hired to serve.

RELATED: Poor Freddie de Boer, he wants us to feel sorry for him: "What's Before Us."

8 comments:

Tania said...

Actually, my company overwhelmingly rejected unionization.

Wesley 'Whitey Lawful' Mcgranor said...

I got fired from two factory jobs twenty years ago for refusing to join the Union. That leads you to the Temps... We need Missouri to be a Right To Work state.

Donald Douglas said...

I'm glad, Tania. They're job killers and class antagonists.

Sarge Charlie said...

I must admit that in the 70's I was a Teamster for a short period of time. With a friend we circulated a petition to decertify the union, got enough signatures to force a vote but lost the election, without objection from the union my friend and I became salary employees and kissed the union off.

The Vegas Art Guy said...

I have not gotten any of those emails... yet. But we'll see. I hope the NSEA stays out of it...

Yea right.

Reliapundit said...

DD, GREETINGS!

one of my gramps was a founding member of local 3 of the ibew.

he was a member in good standing his whole life.

65 years in the union.

marched with them every labor day.

the union was good to him.

but, he would have made more money if he had put his dues into an ira/401k and been in his own business.

his widow would have been better off. his daughters.

and his grandchildren.

the unions have outlived their need in the usa.

and another thing:

government workers should not be allowed to unionize.

fdr opposed it for good reason.

walkewr is right.

and christie, too.

we need to reign in afscme and the seiu.

we need to break the union-democrat party axis.

the axis of taxes.

we need to do it now.

G-d Bless You and the USA!

ElvenPhoenix said...

I grew up in a union, so to speak. My father was a member of the IBEW, and also a labor organizer. At the age of 12 I recognized some of the negative aspects of the union - but my father (at that time) couldn't. It took him another 10 years and a job in the private sector before he finally "got it". Now he hates them and where he had been a reliable Democrat, he now votes an almost straight Republican ticket.

I have numerous family members involved in the construction unions. I feel sorry for them, as many times they have "drunk the kool-aid", so to speak.

I would never willingly join ANY union. They are unscrupulous, unethical, and immoral at this point. In an earlier age they may have been needed, now they are all about whatever power they can accrue to themselves.

ElvenPhoenix said...

I grew up in a union, so to speak. My father was a member of the IBEW, and also a labor organizer. At the age of 12 I recognized some of the negative aspects of the union - but my father (at that time) couldn't. It took him another 10 years and a job in the private sector before he finally "got it". Now he hates them and where he had been a reliable Democrat, he now votes an almost straight Republican ticket.

I have numerous family members involved in the construction unions. I feel sorry for them, as many times they have "drunk the kool-aid", so to speak.

I would never willingly join ANY union. They are unscrupulous, unethical, and immoral at this point. In an earlier age they may have been needed, now they are all about whatever power they can accrue to themselves.