In further SCOTUS news, today brings word that the 9-person legislative body will hear a case that could potentially make enrollment in unions voluntary for public-sector employees — that is, make all state-level public-sector jobs “right to work.”
This brings to mind the drama in Wisconsin a few years ago. Gov. Scott Walker (R) went union-busting in his first term there, dramatically stripping away almost all the powers of most Wisconsin public-sector unions. The reasons why were venal and unprincipled. One, he and his party wished to defang a traditional Democratic constituency that funnels money to their enemies’ campaigns. And two, he wanted to advertise his anti-labor cred for his future presidential campaign he already had in mind.
The fact that he exempted police and firefighter unions, because they happen to vote the correct way, shows just what kind of “first principles” Walker actually has. This is a man who would glady support black gay illegal-immigrant abortion providers, if they donated to his PACs. He proudly accepts legal bribes and engages in brazen quid pro quo. There is nothing about his actions that are anything but calculated moves to further his own personal ambition, and also to stick it to the middle-class Wisconsinites that he holds in contempt.
So it pains me to admit that no matter how wrong of an individual Scott Walker may be, what he did to the public-sector unions was the right thing. And similarly, I hope the upcoming SCOTUS 5-4 vote goes against the California teacher’s unions.
Private-sector unions organize against the shareholders. Not against the management, mind you, but the shareholders, to try and persuade them to give the workers fair pay and fair benefits. This works in the private sector for two reasons. 1) if the union-bargained wages and benefits go too high, and the company is no longer competitive, the company will downsize or even go under. Therefore, private-sector unions have an incentive to be reasonable, and their members have incentives to care about their work. 2) If you hate private-sector unions, all you have to do is not hold stock in a unionized firm, and you don’t have to deal with them.
Now, public-sector unions are similarly organized against the “shareholders” — meaning regular taxpayers like you and me — and not the management of a city, state or country. This means these unions exist to extract more money, benefits and above all, tenure from the taxpayer. The tenure in particular ensures that government workers often feel zero incentive to do their jobs well, as anyone who’s been to the DMV lately knows. Government leadership is supposed to argue on us taxpayers’ behalf against these unions, but unlike with the private sector, they often feel no particular need to negotiate against them. It’s not the mayor’s money, after all, and besides, the public unions have the muscle to force out anyone in management who displeases them, as very nearly happened repeatedly to Scott Walker.
In addition, it’s not like plebes like you and me can easily opt out of dealing with these public-union employees. The local authorities would not be amused if you stopped paying taxes, for instance. And you are stuck dealing with these tenured, unfireable, sometimes selfish and arrogant and lazy public “servants” (lol!) every day that your kid goes to school, every time you get ticketed or pulled over, every time you take the bus, every time you have to go through the hell of getting your license renewed or get your car out of the impound lot. I suppose you could move to a new state if these people offended you enough — but why should I have to move to a red state just to have a damn dog catcher who has a reason to fear for her job if she sucks at it?
And to liberals who are getting offended by my rant, I would like to remind you that Eric Garner’s killer is still on the streets, employed as a cop by the NYPD, because it would be virtually impossible to fire him. Yes, because of his PBA union. Would you like to be pulled over by him when it’s dark out?
In addition, minority or poor kids get the worst teachers, because their district is not able to fire these teachers due to union tenure — instead, these incompetent and/or uncaring teachers get shunted off to the least desirable schools to “teach” the least advantaged children. Still liking your public sector union? Then I’m guessing you haven’t taken the subway lately!
See, the progressive worldview (to which I subscribe) depends on good governance to provide for the common folk and to counter the corrosive power of wealthy aristocrats and oligarchs. And public-sector union bosses are diametrically opposed to the principles of good governance, seeing instead the government as something to corrupt to enrich themselves. Remember that the 2012 Chicago teacher’s strike was not about that city’s failed schools or poor working conditions. Even pay was a relatively minor point. The main thing they cared about was the city to have no ability to fire or even assess the quality of the district’s worst, most uncaring teachers.
And the largely minority students of Chicago’s schools? They could just go screw.
Now, because Walker is an asshole of the worst kind, his schools and universities are still hurting — but for unrelated reasons. Like his buddy Sam Brownback in Kansas, he keeps slashing state funding for education in order to provide further tax breaks for the only people in Wisconsin he feels deserve them — meaning the wealthy, naturally. Therefore, any benefit to education he may have given by neutering the state’s vicious public-sector unions, was more than offset by his brutal budget cuts. Perhaps he pushed for these cuts because he was appalled by the idea that he might actually, inadvertently make life better for poor and minority students in his schools. The GOP donor class would have collectively fainted. Helping poor, minority kids??? It certainly would have ended his 2016 hopes!
But that doesn’t change the fact that something has to be done about these public-sector unions that hold taxpayers in such withering contempt. Fund the schools well, pay the teachers well, definitely give big-time raises to the best teachers who deserve them most. But the worst teachers (and the worst bus drivers, and the worst building inspectors) simply have to be put in the unemployment line if we are ever to have a responsive, effective, and yes… progressive government. And this is almost always impossible when the public-sector unions have their way.
Justice Kennedy, I sure hope you are feeling ready to kick ass the day that California teacher union case gets decided. As we all know, your vote is the only one in play.