Yet another union is looking to flex its muscles. At Verizon, the execs have taken a hard look at their business. Their wireless division is going gangbusters, but their land line division has been losing money for a while. So they’re looking to cut costs there — and the union that represents the workers in that branch is not happy. They’re on strike.
But they aren’t just content to carry signs and walk picket lines. They’re engaging in other traditional union activiities — threats, terrorizing replacement workers and management, and vandalism. It’s gotten so bad that even the Boston Globe (a liberal bastion, fully owned by the New York Times) is chastising them over it.
Whenever the topic of unions comes up, their defenders always trot out the same talking points. Unions won many hard-won and well-deserved rights for workers. The 40-hour work week is usually the first breached, along with “decent pay for honest work” and a litany of the abuses heaped upon workers by management.
But those stories all tend to be old. Some date back to the 19th century.
Nowadays, unions are far better known for less notable achievements. Such as the long-standing connections between the Teamsters and organized crime. Such as the decision to deny Boeing the legal right to use its new $2-billion-dollar plant in non-union South Carolina because Boeing could have expanded in unionized Washington. Such as cases like these, where the unions make it clear that they have absolutely no problems in doing whatever they have to in order to “punish” companies that resist them.
Or cases like Wisconsin, where the public sector unions had won such concessions over the years that the state was near bankrupted. When the people turned away from the unions, they retaliated — in typical union fashion. They subsidized Democratic lawmakers fleeing the state in order to deny the remaining Senators a quorum. They bused in their mobs and literally occupied the Capitol building, running up hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup and other related costs on the already-strapped state. They organized expensive recall elections against the Republican Senators they thought the most vulnerable.
In the end, they spent at least $30 million in their member’s dues… and achieved absolutely nothing. Oh, they managed to replace two Senators with two more likely to do their bidding, but they needed three to take the Senate — and next week, two Democratic Senators are facing their own recall elections. And the measures taken by Wisconsins’ governor and Senate will stand, and the public sector unions have been stripped of many of their privileges.
By and large, the day of unions has passed. They have achieved their needed goals, and outlasted their usefulness. Recently, it passed that the majority of union members were not in the private sector, but in some kind of government employ.
And it is those public sector unions that are the most dangerous.
The model for unions is simple: in dealings between employers and employees, the employers hold far more power. The employees, by uniting, can consolidate their power and stand a bit more firmly, resulting in a more equitable balance.
That model falls apart in public sector unions. There, the “management” is not the owners of the company, but the representatives of the owners — the people. And the union members are also part owners — but again, by uniting, hold influence out of proportion to their actual numbers. By raising hefty amounts of money and rallying plenty of volunteers for elections, they can, essentially, choose who negotiates with them.
When one side is in charge of both sides of a negotiation, deals can be reached quite easily — and are quite beneficial to that side. Especially in this case — the government officials are quite generous to the unions, who in turn take some of that money and give it back to the officials. And since it isn’t really their money, who cares?
One simple reform would be to ban public sector unions from engaging in any kind of political activity. I’d view that as a compromise position, as I’d like to see public sector unions outlawed entirely, but as the old joke goes, “you don’t eat a pig like that all at once.”
Yeah, I’m pretty much an “enemy” of unions. But let’s be honest — I’m nowhere near the enemy of the unions are as they are themselves. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t do more harm to them than they do as a matter of course.