‘Right-to-work’ means freedom and choice – Jeff Jacoby – Townhall Conservative

‘Right-to-work’ means freedom and choice – Jeff Jacoby – Townhall Conservative.

SOON — PERHAPS AS EARLY AS TODAY — Gov. Mitch Daniels will sign legislation making Indiana the nation’s 23rd right-to-work state. Labor unions angrily oppose the change, but their opposition has no legitimate or principled basis.

Labor unions vehemently oppose right-to-work laws. What principled reason can they have for doing so?

State right-to-work laws, authorized by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, are not anti-union. They are pro-choice: They protect workers from being forced to join or pay fees to a labor union as a condition of keeping a job. In non-right-to-work states, employees who work in a “union shop” are compelled to fork over part of each paycheck to a labor organization — even if they want nothing to do with unions, let alone to be represented by one. Laws like the one Indiana is poised to enact simply make union support voluntary. Hoosiers can’t be required to kick back part of their wages to the Republican Party or the Methodist Church or the Animal Liberation Front; the new measure will ensure that they don’t have to give a cut of everything they earn to labor unions, either.

Most Americans regard compulsory unionism as unconscionable. In a new Rasmussen survey, 74 percent of likely voters say non-union workers should not have to pay dues against their will. Once upon a time, labor movement giants like Samuel Gompers, a founder of the American Federation of Labor, agreed. “I want to urge devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty — the principles of voluntarism,” declared Gompers in his last speech to the AFL in 1924. “No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.” Those words can be seen chiseled on Gompers’s memorial in Washington, DC.

But far from rejecting compulsion, Big Labor now fights tooth and nail to defend it. And no wonder: Unions have long since squandered the affection of the American public. In the years right after World War II, more than one-third of the US workforce was unionized; now the union membership rate is just 11.8 percent, and most of those members are government employees. In the productive economy, Americans continue to flee from organized labor. Last year only 6.9 percent of workers at private companies belonged to unions.

So as a matter of by-any-means-necessary expediency, it is easy to understand why Big Labor long ago embraced what liberal scholar Robert Reich (who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor) dubbed “the necessity for coercion.” In order “to maintain themselves,” Reich said in 1985, “unions have got to have some ability to strap their members to the mast.” Or, as Don Corleone might have put it, to make them an offer they can’t refuse.

But is there any ethical reason — any honorable basis — for the union shop?

Great labor leaders once championed freedom and choice. “No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion,” insisted Samuel Gompers, the first and longest-serving president of the American Federation of Labor.

Labor and its allies are ruthless, and usually quite effective, in beating down right-to-work bills. Indiana will be the first state in more than a decade that has succeeded in banning labor contracts that oblige all employees to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. (A similar bill in New Hampshire last year was vetoed by Governor John Lynch.) No-holds-barred vehemence in defense of principle might be understandable. But what legitimate principle are the unions defending?

To hear them tell it, they only object to “free riders.” Labor leaders claim it would be unjust to allow employees to avoid paying for the unions that negotiate benefits on their behalf. “There’s always going to be a certain amount of the population that will take something for free if they can get it for free,” says Nancy Guyott, head of the Indiana AFL-CIO.

That’s not a principle, it’s a shameless pretext. Unions demand monopoly bargaining power — the right to exclusively represent everyone in a workplace — and then insist that each of those workers must pay for the privilege. This is the “principle” of the squeegee-man who aggressively wipes your windshield when you stop at a red light, then demands that you pay for the service he has rendered you.

By the union’s “free-rider” logic, shouldn’t all voters be forced to subscribe to a daily newspaper, since all of them benefit from its journalism? And shouldn’t every company be compelled to support the Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies on behalf of business whether individual firms ask it to or not?

The passion with which Big Labor fights right-to-work helps explain why so many Americans have abandoned unions. The labor movement was born in freedom and choice. That’s not what it stands for anymore.

Port Whine: Big Labor’s Occu-Punks – Michelle Malkin – Townhall Conservative

Port Whine: Big Labor’s Occu-Punks – Michelle Malkin – Townhall Conservative.

Scruffy progressive protesters locked themselves together across railroad tracks, blocked traffic and shouted profanities at police on Tuesday in a coordinated “West Coast Port Shutdown.” Truckers lost wages. Shippers lost business. This is what the Occupy Wall Street movement calls “victory.”

Aging Big Labor bosses toasted one another from the sidelines as they declared the “rebirth of the labor movement.” What’s really going on? It’s an old-school power grab by a decrepit union wrapped in self-deluded social media do-goodism.

Peace-loving agitators wielding guitars and iPhones may earnestly believe they stood up to corruption and stood up for workers this week. A socialist website promoted the port shutdown as an expression of “solidarity” for the workers’ “struggle.” One Oakland, Calif., agitator decried “exploitation by capitalism” as the shiftless busily divided their work blockages into what they called — chortle — “shifts.”

In reality, it’s the young Occupiers who are being exploited as human shields for the economy-strangling agenda of the violence-prone International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). These ignorant punks are putting the “front” in “waterfront.”

Few remember now that the left’s three-month-long “Day of Rage” festivities kicked off in September at the Port of Longview, Wash. — a far cry from Goldman Sachs and the rest of New York’s financial district. Unionized longshoremen stormed the port there and took a half-dozen guards hostage. They damaged railroad cars, dumped grain, smashed windows, cut rail brake lines and blocked a train for hours while the ILWU and AFL-CIO cheered them on.

The violence followed a similar outburst in July, when longshoremen tore down a chain link fence on EGT’s private property and blocked railroad tracks to prevent a grain delivery — a clear violation of the 1946 Hobbs Act, which makes it a crime to employ robbery or extortion to impede interstate commerce.

Despite breaking federal law, violating a judicial restraining order and committing systematically planned sabotage and trespassing, most of the union thugs got away with wrist slaps. The ILWU received a $250,000 fine to cover damages from the vandalism — a fine that will be paid with rank-and-file workers’ hard-earned dues money.

So, what’s their beef? No, it’s not about the “right” of unions to “organize.” It’s not about the welfare of the “99 percent.” It’s about one union losing its seven-decade-old grip on West Coast port operations. It’s about six-figure-salaried union suits at the ILWU, established by bloody radical Marxist Harry Bridges, throwing a lawless tantrum against economic efficiency and technological progress.

The ILWU is trying to break the will of EGT Development, a multinational agribusiness that recently built a $200 million grain terminal in Longview. It’s a state-of-the-art facility with unprecedented automation features that will speed unloading, increase shipping capacity and bring in tens of millions of dollars in lease and tax payments alone to the region.

EGT needs a nimble 21st-century workforce. The entitled overlords of the ILWU, who have ruled West Coast ports since the 1930s, are demanding a monopoly on the company’s master control system, control over the work hour structure, excessive mandatory breaks and extortionist man-hour “premiums” to bail out the union’s underfunded pension. “We’ve worked these elevators since 1934, and we’ve always been in that master console,” local ILWU President Dan Coffman told public radio.

EGT refused and instead brought in an outside contractor with a different union to fill about 50 jobs. But the ILWU water-carriers in the Occupy movement don’t care about those workers. Or the American farmers who have been hurt by the port saboteurs. Or the independent non-union truckers who were forced to forgo work in the name of worker empowerment. Trucker Hai Ngo of San Leandro, Calif., told the San Francisco Chronicle: “The Occupy people handed out flyers to us, but never asked what we thought before they planned this. I will lose about $350, and at holiday time that hurts. It’s just a waste of our time and money, and won’t accomplish anything.”

Unfortunately, Ngo and blue-collar workers like him are collateral damage in the ILWU’s ruthless battle for Big Labor survival. Coffman, who has stoked violence for months, vowed earlier this year that “we will fight to the end to secure what is rightfully our turf.”

And now the gasping longshoremen’s union has a whole new set of Occu-tools to do the dirty work for them.

The Employee Rights Act – Orrin Hatch – Townhall Conservative

The Employee Rights Act – Orrin Hatch – Townhall Conservative.

Note: Co-authored by Rep. Tim Scott
America’s laws have long recognized the need to protect workers from abuse. In 1935, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which ensured that employees would have the right join a union ­ or to refrain from doing so — free of harassment or intimidation.
In 1959, after a numerous hearings examining corruption within the labor movement, Congress passed the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in an effort to bolster self-governance, transparency, and democracy within unions.
But, since that time, progress for workers’ rights has stalled.
As Big Labor and employers continue their ongoing power struggles, the rights of individual workers are far too often lost in the shuffle.  And, as we’ve seen under the Obama Administration, legal protections for workers who may oppose unionization can be easily swept aside by ideological bureaucrats.  
For these reasons, we’ve introduced the Employee Rights Act, a bicameral, pro-worker piece of legislation to bolster democracy in the workplace.
First, the Employee Rights Act will require a secret ballot vote in all union elections.  
According to the National Labor Relations Board, nearly 40 percent of all unions certified in 2009 did not have to go through an election. Presumably, most of these unions were certified through a combination of card checks and decisions by employers to accept the union without demanding a vote.  
Over the years, we’ve all heard the troubling accounts of unions obtaining signatures through deception and intimidation.  And, we’ve all heard about union organizing campaigns and boycotts that have all but forced employers to give up their right to demand a secret ballot vote.  Under the Employee Rights Act, that right will belong to the employees, and it will be guaranteed.  
While requiring these votes is important, it is only the first step in restoring democracy in America’s workforce.  The vast majority of current union members ­ more than 90 percent according to some estimates ­ never had an opportunity to vote for their union, neither by card nor by ballot.  They simply accepted jobs at workplaces that were already unionized and, in many cases, they were forced to begin paying dues as a condition of employment.
The Employee Rights Act will give millions of workers their first opportunity to vote on whether to be part of a union.  Under the bill, instead of a one-time vote followed by mandatory union representation in near-perpetuity, unions will stand for reelection by secret ballot every three years.  
In addition, the Employee Rights Act will prevent any union from ordering a strike unless it first obtains the consent of a majority of employees through a secret ballot vote.  If we’re serious about ensuring democracy in the workplace, we must allow employees to have a say before their union can force them into unemployment and possible replacement.
Furthermore, the bill would give employees more control over how their union dues are spent.  Exit polls continually show that union members are almost evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans at the ballot box.  Yet, more than 90 percent of Big Labor’s political contributions go to Democrats.
Under the Employee Rights Act, a union will have to obtain an employee’s written consent before using their dues for any purpose unrelated to the union’s collective bargaining functions, including political contributions
or expenditures.   
These are not radical ideas, they are simply common sense.  And, not surprisingly, they are very popular with the public.  According to a poll conducted earlier this year by the Opinion Research Corporation, these and other proposals contained in the Employee Rights Act are supported by no less than 60 percent of Americans and most of them by more than 75 percent.
America is in the midst of a fierce debate over the role of labor unions in our economy.  While this debate is important, it should not stop us from working together to take affirmative steps to protect the rights of individual workers.  The Employee Rights Act would do just that.

Morning Bell:A Jobless Labor Day – The Foundry

Morning Bell:A Jobless Labor Day. – The Foundry

Mike Brownfield

Job seekers talk to employers at a south Los Angeles job fair.

Job-seekers (L) talk to employers (R) during an outdoor job fair at the Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles August. 31, 2011.

For 14 million unemployed Americans and their families, this Labor Day will not be a happy one. Instead of enjoying a day off of work, they’re suffering a disturbing trend under the Obama economy: Jobs are not being created, the unemployment rate has not improved, and the economy is at a near standstill. Even worse, the labor market’s stall might be turning into a decline.

And today, in Detroit—which in July had the highest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in the country—President Obama is due to stand with labor presidents including the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka, Teamsters’ James P. Hoffa, and the UAW’s Bob King to tout his bailout of the auto industry and his yet-to-be-disclosed plan to turn the economy around.

The Big Labor backdrop is ironic but not surprising. The union movement has helped lead to the staggering loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States, and the demands it has made on employers and governments help create the very conditions leading to the tragic unemployment in Detroit and across the country. But they are strong political allies of the President—having spent $1.1 billion on politics and lobbying in the last election cycle—and they continue to hold a prominent seat at the table.

It follows, then, that President Obama continues to put the institutional interests of unions ahead of America’s economic well-being. In a new paper, Heritage’s Rea Hederman and James Sherk explain that the latest example comes from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which issued several rulings recently undermining employer and employee rights: snap elections, restricting secret ballot elections, and a new rule that allows unions to cherry-pick which workers get to vote on unionizing. All these rules are designed to facilitate organizing companies whose workers are unenthusiastic about unions.

Private-sector workers have a right to unionize, of course. Management gets the union it deserves. But unionization has economic costs, as Sherk and Hederman write:

Unions make businesses less competitive and discourage investment. This reduces job growth. Studies show that jobs fall by 5–10 percent at newly organized firms. Going forward, employment grows by three to four percentage points more slowly at unionized businesses than at otherwise identical non-union companies.

The result can be felt in places like the Motor City as unionized manufacturing employment plummets. Since 2005, GM shed half of its unionized workforce. Nationwide, unionized manufacturing employment fell by 80 percent between 1977 and 2010, while non-union manufacturing employment decreased by 6 percent over that same time period. Unions are feeling the effects, with membership falling by over 600,000 workers in 2010 alone. If workers are happy without a union, the government should not foist one on them.

Sherk explains why unions are on the decline:

Union membership has fallen because traditional collective bargaining does not appeal to most workers. Polls show that only one in 10 non-union workers wants to organize. This makes sense: in the competitive private sector, unions can do little to raise their members’ pay. Additionally, most workers like their jobs and believe they are on the same side as their employers.

Fortunately, Big Labor doesn’t have to be the only game in town. Workers want a say in their workplace, but they’re becoming increasingly aware of unions’ limitations. Private-sector unions have little power to raise their members’ wages, while employers have learned that respecting their employees makes good business sense. That is why large majorities of workers say they are satisfied with their jobs and their bosses.

Unions, though, aren’t going to go down without a fight. That’s why they’re lobbying the Obama Administration to protect their interests. Unfortunately, the President is obliging, whether it’s by changing the rules of the game to make unionization easier, preventing private employers from locating in right-to-work states—as the NLRB is doing with Boeing case in South Carolina—or pushing for more government spending on infrastructure projects that employ primarily union members (while leaving the rest of the economy in the lurch).

Meanwhile, Americans are suffering from the President’s decision to satisfy unions before reducing unemployment, all while there are more signs of a declining labor market than there are of a recovery. There are things Congress and the President can and should do to improve the business climate, such as repealing Obamacare, opening the door to domestic energy production, preventing harmful regulations, passing pending free trade agreements, and reining in the NLRB. Labor Day 2012 can be brighter than today, but Congress and the President must choose the right path to help get us there.

Quick Hits:

NUGENT: Laborious Day, 2011 – Washington Times

Nugent in concert

Image via Wikipedia

NUGENT: Laborious Day, 2011 – Washington Times.

Unions are no bargain for Americans

By Ted NugentThe Washington Times

With 1 in 5 men not working and collecting unemployment benefits and who knows how many other Americans working for less pay than before, Labor Day 2011 should be called Unemployment and Underemployment Day.

The real purpose of Labor Day is a day for the Democratic Party to celebrate. Labor unions and their members are solidly in the Democratic camp. At every Democratic campaign rally, Big Labor is there.

The National teachers union (NEA), one of the nation’s largest unions, is a rock-solid supporter of the Democratic Party, as is every other large union. The NEA cares more about maintaining taxpayer-provided benefits for its members than ensuring our kids get a world-class education. On the NEA’s watch, test scores have plummeted and dropout rates have skyrocketed.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has been a solid supporter of the Democratic Party for decades and has had automobile management under its thumb. The end result: Automotive plants have closed all around country. What was once the envy of the world, the American automobile industry has been totaled.

Al Capone-wannabe Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-See-I’m-Sleeping, has been recently grumbling about giving less money to the Democratic Party because the party has not given labor unions everything they want. Mr. Trumka knows, however, that when push comes to shove, the AFL-CIO will provide Democrats with stacks of cash as they always have.

Mr. Trumka knows that much of the trillion-dollar stimulus package is nothing more than President Obama using our tax dollars to provide artificial employment for union workers. It is a giant, taxpayer-funded payoff for labor unions to vote for Democrats. What a scam.

It’s clearly a conflict of interest when Big Labor provides Democratic candidates with stacks of cash during the campaign season and then once these candidates are elected, labor sits across the table from these officials and “negotiates” with them for raises and increased benefits. This is not competitive bargaining, as there is nothing competitive about it. It is a wholesale fleecing of the taxpayer.

Public-sector employees are the largest block of union members in America, as labor membership in the private sector has been falling for years. Public-sector employees typically enjoy higher pay, more benefits and more time off than private-sector employees. This is unconscionable and is yet another example of the fleecing of the taxpayer by our elected officials and labor unions, which are joined at the hip.

Public-sector employees should be banned from joining a union, paid a wage commensurate with the private sector and provided with the same benefits as their private-sector peers. Only a goon would think otherwise.

The purpose of a business is to make money. In order to make money, businesses need smart, hard-working, competition-driven employees. Businesses compensate the best employees and need to be able to get rid of employees who do not produce. Labor unions work to destroy that time-tested model.

The result of the labor movement has been a disaster. Labor unions have not sustained labor but rather have destroyed it. Unions, labor bosses and negotiators bargained themselves out of jobs through decades of forcing unrealistic and unsustainable wages and benefits on businesses.

There will be parades, pep rallies and speeches on Labor Day. But there is a real feeling in the air among American workers that something has gone terribly wrong. Ultimately, you get what you bargain for – an unemployment check.

Ted Nugent is an American rock ‘n’ roll, sporting and political activist icon. He is the author of “Ted, White and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto” and “God, Guns & Rock AE’N’ Roll” (Regnery Publishing).

SCOTT: Pivoting to jobs, Mr. Obama? – Washington Times

SCOTT: Pivoting to jobs, Mr. Obama? – Washington Times.

Start by not killing them in my district

Rep. Tim Scott

Since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to sue the Boeing Co. for opening a new assembly line in my hometown of North Charleston, S.C., countless people have approached me regarding the situation. I want to share three numbers that go a long way toward showing what is threatening jobs – not just in South Carolina, but across our country.

c $60.7 million: The president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) stated in May 2009, “We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama – $60.7 million to be exact – and we’re proud of it.”

c 6.9 percent: The percentage of our nation’s private-sector work force that belonged to a union in 2010.

c 11,000: The number of direct and indirect jobs the presidentially appointed NLRB is threatening to kill by suing Boeing in a misguided attempt to protect Big Labor.

If you are like me, you look at the numbers above and shake your head. Despite dwindling numbers, Big Labor drives a significant portion of work-force politics and policy decisions in our nation. Labor leaders are able to do so through a well-honed system of influencing workers and requiring many workers to accept membership in a union as a condition of employment, with fees ranging up to $800 annually. This amounts to more than $8 billion in membership dues annually in the private sector alone. Yet only 10 percent of current union employees voted to unionize in their workplace.

Since the era characterized by union boss Johnny Friendly in the 1950s classic film “On the Waterfront,” unions have resorted to various pressure tactics to influence the work force. Today, union leaders continue to seek far-reaching changes in the law to help them keep up the pressure. In fact, union-sponsored card-check legislation sought to eliminate union elections altogether. If a couple of union members could obtain your signature on a piece of paper, it counted as a vote, eliminating the need to hold an actual election. Thankfully, this legislation failed before Congress.

Now, to level the playing field for all workers, I have introduced the Employee Rights Act. This is not anti-union legislation but a mechanism to ensure that all workers have the ability to make their voices and opinions heard.

First and most important, the Employee Rights Act would give employees the right to a federally supervised secret-ballot election when deciding whether or not to join a union, and it would require a majority of all employees represented by the union, regardless of union membership, to approve a collective-bargaining agreement or a strike via a secret-ballot election prior to union leaders ordering one. By mandating secret ballots for these two scenarios, we can protect workers from intimidation and threats, which so often taint the process.

The bill also would require unions to stand for re-election every three years, as opposed to the current system, which all but guarantees the union forever. As proof of how hard it is to remove a union, 593 attempts to do so were processed by the NLRB in 2009 with fewer than half even receiving a vote and many being abandoned because of intimidation by union leaders.

This issue has gained added importance following the NLRB’s recently proposed rule that would allow union elections to be certified in as little as 10 days. Employees deserve more than 10 days to have their future and the future of prospective employees decided. The Employee Rights Act addresses this by requiring at least 40 days for election certification, which is the current average processing time.

Finally, my legislation also would give employees more power over how their dues were spent in support of political parties and advocacy organizations. Despite polls in 2010 showing union membership is 42 percent Republican, 93 percent of union contributions go to Democrats. Employees who don’t want their dues spent on political contributions are forced to undergo an onerous process to receive a refund. The act would change this so employees would need to opt-in in order for their dues to be used in this way.

Every one of these measures has polled at higher than 60 percent favorable this year and would ensure all workers’ voices were heard. We cannot allow Big Labor to drive policy, and we cannot allow more situations like the current NLRB case in South Carolina to occur. This legislation would go a long way toward remedying both.

Rep. Tim Scott is a South Carolina Republican.

The SEIU NLRB Serial Job Killer – John Ransom – Townhall Finance


Image by SS&SS via Flickr

The SEIU NLRB Serial Job Killer – John Ransom – Townhall Finance.

In just another example of the Obama administration making law by fiat, the National Labor Relations Board head Craig Becker is proposing new rules that would shotgun the formation of new union shops in as quick as ten days.

After the defeat of card check at the legislative ballot box, the former SEIU goon is acting creatively in order to implement portions of card check unilaterally.

What would one expect from a guy appointed to his position despite his nomination being rejected by the Senate?

“He never satisfactorily answered a series of questions that I posed to him – failing to reassure me that his years of service to labor unions would not color his decisions at the NLRB,” Senator Orrin Hatch (R.,UT) said in a statement as reported by the Washington Post.

Becker couldn’t answer questions for a number of other Senators either so they scrapped his nomination.

Obama then made a recess appointment of Becker to the NLRB, the presidential equivalent of Enron accounting for political appointees.    

Becker is losing no time now in answering the questions and concerns Hatch and his fellow Senators had.

The answers are about as bad as they feared.

NLRB and Becker have been in the news lately because they’ve attacked Boeing for opening a plant in South Carolina, a state that is less accommodating to union employment but more accommodating to workers and management with project deadlines to keep.

But the attack on Boeing is nothing compared to the attack that Becker and organized labor are going to launch against the rest of us starting today.  

“On July 18, the NLRB is holding a hearing on its proposal to overhaul virtually the entire manner and set of rules by which union-representation elections are conducted in the workplace,” says labor expert Geoffrey Burr in the  Washington Times. “To the surprise of no one who can read federal election donation reports, all of the agency’s changes appear to help union bosses at the expense of everyone else.”

First up is making sure union elections happen quickly. The longer it takes for employees to become informed, the less likely they’ll join a union. Never mind reading the fine print. Nancy Pelosi read the entire Obamacare bill in ten minutes while on the can.

That seemed to work out for her.

As Nancy says, and I paraphrase here: Youse have to be a part of the union before youse can really know what’s in it for youse.

Got it?

For his part, Becker says that by shortening the time employers have to make a case against workers joining a union, the less time employers will have to “intimidate” workers into not joining the union.

“Rep. George Miller (D., Calif.), the committee’s senior Democrat, aligned with labor,” reports the Wall Street Journal “says current rules ‘provide multiple opportunities for bad actors to purposefully delay or stop an election’ that should be allowed.”

Bad actors?

The worst actors on the scene today are unions, not employers.

While the rest of us are trying to jump start the economy, unions are screaming for a larger slice of a smaller pie and wanting us to raise taxes to pay for it all.  

Last week we detailed how union-controlled insurance plans were costing school districts in Wisconsin millions in high premiums because of closed shop rules that prevented competition amongst insurance carriers.

Thousands of teachers in Wisconsin would have lost their jobs had the Wisconsin legislature not acted to curtail the ability of unions to shut down competition in the workplace.

This week’s “NLRB hearing is another sign the administration isn’t listening: American workers want jobs, and American employers want to create them,” says Burr. “The economy can’t grow and employers can’t hire while fending off a government-backed assault by labor bosses.”

So, the war on jobs, waged by the Obama administration, continues.


Any of youse guys listening?

Close the door on public-sector unions – Jeff Jacoby – Townhall Conservative

Close the door on public-sector unions – Jeff Jacoby – Townhall Conservative.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNMENT is almost a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, so there was no chance that a law limiting collective bargaining for municipal employees would resemble the recent laws passed in Wisconsin and Ohio. The measure approved this week by Governor Deval Patrick and the state Legislature will hold down the cost of providing health benefits to teachers, firefighters, and other local workers by modestly curbing their unions’ right to veto changes to employee health plans. For the ultrablue Bay State, that was a notable accomplishment. But it was hardly the “Union Busting, Massachusetts Style,” that a Wall Street Journal headline hopefully predicted back in April.

The new laws in Wisconsin and Ohio prohibit collective bargaining over public-sector pensions and health benefits, and allow government employees to opt out of paying any union dues or fees. The Wisconsin law requires annual re-certification of all public employee unions; in Ohio, negotiated wage increases will have to be approved by voters if they would result in higher taxes. Nothing that sweeping was ever on the table in Massachusetts. Government unions may no longer have quite as much clout on Beacon Hill as they used to, but they still have enough to make Democrats think twice about confronting them.

No surprise, then, that the collective bargaining changes ultimately adopted were watered down significantly from the version approved by the state House of Representatives in April. That House vote reflected public sentiment — a majority of Massachusetts voters believe government unions have too much power — but in the face of union outrage, policymakers quickly promised to protect the unions’ “seat at the table” and “meaningful voice” in setting health benefits for government employees. In April, the head of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO vowed to “fight this thing to the bitter end.” This week, he happily acknowledged that the final language preserved “all we ever wanted, [which] was to have a voice.”

That’s too bad. Ensuring a “voice” for organized labor in government policymaking may sound reasonable, especially when those policies affect government workers. But collective bargaining in the public sector is in reality not reasonable at all. It is emphatically not like bargaining in the private sector, where unions representing labor contend with management representing owners for a share of the profits that labor helps create.

In the public sector, there are no profits to share. There are only taxpayers’ dollars, which neither government employees nor government managers create. As for the taxpayers who do create those dollars, they have no seat at the table when public unions negotiate over wages and benefits. Instead, government sits on both sides, negotiating with itself over how to spend the people’s money.

So unlike their counterparts in the private sector, public-sector unions are rarely constrained by market forces. There are limits to the wages and benefits that labor can demand from private employers. Corporations have to make a profit to stay alive, and both sides know that if costs rise too high, the results may be lost sales, eliminated jobs, or — if worse comes to worst — bankruptcy. Consequently, union negotiators cannot insist on the moon, and corporate managers dare not lose sight of the company’s bottom line.

But that check and balance doesn’t exist in public-sector collective bargaining. Teachers’ or firefighters’ or library workers’ unions don’t have to worry about jeopardizing the government’s profits or driving away its customers: Government agencies can’t go bankrupt, and their “customers” can’t switch to a cheaper brand. So why not insist on the moon? Especially when the government managers on the other side of the table generally have little incentive to keep costs down. After all, if the pay, perks, and pensions of public workers send budgets through the roof, what choice do taxpayers have but to foot the bill?

At bottom, collective bargaining in the public sector is profoundly antidemocratic: It denies voters final say over the public policies they must live under, by forcing their elected representatives to shape those policies in concert with unions. In effect, it transfers to union officials — interested parties not chosen by the people — decision-making authority that they have no legitimate right to. That is why until just a few decades ago, it was universally understood that collective bargaining was incompatible with government employment.

Gradually it is becoming clear that throwing the door open to public-sector unions was a serious and costly mistake. It will take years to undo that mistake, but the process has begun. Even, if ever so slowly, in Massachusetts.