It has been interesting to see all these union people jumping up and down and chanting their chants up in Wisconsin.
"What do we want?" ("Fill in the blank!") When do we want it?" ("Now!")
"We are..." ("We are...") "Union!" ("Union!")
It's like watching someone else's religion.
Some of the scenes are like time travel back to the sixties. Guitars. Joan Baez freedom songs. It's really pathetic.
In my column on the subject, "The Unions Have No Clothes," I identify the difference between public sector and private sector unions. With the former, the relationship between management and labor is symbiotic, not adversarial. (1) Unions contribute money for the re-election of their employers (if they're Democrats). (2) The employers don't use their own money to pay their employees. They tax it from other people or they borrow it. I thank George Will for pointing out the difference in his much finer column, "Out of Wisconsin."
The heart of my argument is this.
Margaret Thatcher faced a similar issue when she became British Prime Minister in 1979. ... Thatcher knew she would have to face down the unions over where sovereignty and the locus of democracy lay in Great Britain, in the elected government or in the labor unions. The clash in Wisconsin shows the same question is at issue in America today.
These union people speak about the "fight for democracy," and they compare their fight in Wisconsin to the fight for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. It seems that "democracy" means widespread unionization and consequent union domination of politics. That's what Britain had between WWII and Mrs. Thatcher. It is also the same reasoning that supported the claim of East European communist dictatorships calling themselves "democracies" (like the German Democratic Republic, or communist East Germany). These are the same unions that want to do away with the secret ballot by "card check" legislation that would allow union thugs to approach people--maybe at their homes--with cards for them to sign...no pressure, of course.
The left doesn't see how these obscenely generous public service employee compensation packages are bankrupting government. To them it is not a spending problem, but a revenue problem. Ben Manski of the Liberty Tree Foundation says what seems self-evident to the "soak-the-rich" end of the political spectrum. According to him, everybody--public and private sector--should be able to quit work at 50 and be paid full salary for the rest of their lives. Paying for it should be no problem: raise taxes on the rich and the corporations. It's as simple as that. Lots of money there. Free for the taking.
In light of this, consider how closely tied the White House is to union power. Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, is a weekly advisor to the White House.
This union dominated world of Barack Obama's community organizing dreams is an economic and political nightmare. It's good that we are having it out.
One helpful commenter at the Worldmag column shares four points of difference between public and private sector unions that david Brooks lists in his column:
1. “Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).
2. “Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).
3. “Private sector unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).
4. “Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with. Through gigantic campaign contributions and overall clout, they have enormous influence over who gets elected to bargain with them, especially in state and local races.” (David Brooks, Op-ed, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).
But how many people in the public discussion just talk about "unions" as though these government worker unions weren't a separate species?