Tags: labor | day | union | dues | teachers

Unions Are Destined for the Ash Heap of History

Wednesday, 07 Sep 2011 12:20 PM

By Chris Freind

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Oh the guilt. For us unlucky folks not part of organized labor, how can we not feel conscience-smitten? After all, we are taking advantage of that holiday honoring “the working class,” aka Labor Day.

And you would indeed be “lucky” to join a union these days, since only 12 percent of the workforce is unionized, and just 7 percent when you factor out public-sector workers. Far from the heyday when that number was nearly 40 percent.

For the 90 percent who aren't "working people" — meaning they must not work — every day is a holiday. So enjoying Labor Day seems like another way to put the screws to the unions.

But what else is new? Public sector unions have been under attack from dastardly Republicans trying to stave off bankruptcy. The nerve!

That might mean some teachers would pay more than zero towards healthcare. Disregard that, in the private sector, contributing 10 percent towards guaranteed healthcare in a virtually guaranteed job would be a dream, since most pay far more, if having any coverage.

Far “worse,” some Republicans have made it possible for public sector workers to negotiate with their prospective employer individually, with free market incentives allowing for a fair offer, both for employee and “employer” (taxpayers).

The individual could accept or decline, and accountability and efficiencies would increase while unmotivated, bureaucratic sloths would be eliminated.

Sound fair? It is, and it’s called the elimination of collective bargaining, but union leaders have demonized all who support such a plan, opting instead for a system that is completely broke.

And voracious union opposition rears its head at any attempt to replace the antiquated pension plans draining government coffers with 401(k) retirement plans.

So why all the “unfairness” towards the public sector? Because it’s just fun to attack them! So union leaders would have you believe. But the reality is entirely different.

The GOP is not anti-labor. They just happen to be cleaning up the mess, especially in Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin. (Noticeably absent is business-as-usual Pennsylvania).

For decades, unions have been reaping the rewards of (ultimately empty) promises. But those Ponzi-scheme “pay-me-later” deals, made between corrupt union bosses and gutless politicians (from both parties), have now finally come due. It’s time to pay the piper, and kicking the can down the road isn’t an option.

Math doesn’t lie. There is not enough money to continue paying such high wages and, in many cases, extravagant pensions that make Wall Streeters blush with envy. But the system hasn’t changed because millions in union dues (taxpayer money) are allocated to defeat any politician who dares cross the unions.

With the economy in shambles, though, these obligations are unsustainable, and no argument can be made to the contrary.

Is it right? Don’t union members deserve what they were promised?

Not to be callous, but those questions are irrelevant. There is simply not enough money. Unlike the feds, states and municipalities can’t print cash, so governments have to cut back and reform everything, including labor costs.

The alternative is far worse: bankruptcy. And yes, municipalities can and are declaring. From Rhode Island to Alabama, the message is: agree to cuts, or risk losing everything.

Obviously, it’s not fair. Union members worked hard but were promised an unattainable bill of goods by long-gone hacks who don’t have to answer for their irresponsibility. But as Jack Kennedy once said, anyone who believes in fairness is seriously misinformed.

Let’s be clear. Unions are not being targeted. The private sector has experienced greater losses, with battered pensions and higher job loss. That’s not fair, either, but it’s reality.

Instead of battling politicians trying to solve the problem by fighting for monies that aren’t there, union leaders should realize that the rules of the game have changed. Permanently.

Tone down the hype, stop the attacks, and come into the real world. Reforms of the public sector are imminent, and not because of political will or the (mistaken) perception that Republicans are anti-Labor, but because long-ago promises can’t be fulfilled.

Failure to reach common-sense reforms will result in a protracted battle that the unions cannot win, guaranteeing an unnecessary level of pain to union members.

Union bosses are supposed to represent their members’ best interests, so the rank-and-file needs to hold their leaders accountable, which is something they haven’t done well. On three important issues, defeat of NAFTA, defeat of most favored trading status for China, and stemming wage-depressing illegal immigration, union leaders have batted zero.

Only a genuine willingness to work together will resolve the difficult situation facing public unions, states, and taxpayers.

While that will never be a perfect “union,” anything less will result in a Labor Day — with no labor.

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com




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