Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unions and Skinny Dipping

CBS News Clip on Recession Pressure on Teacher's Unions

Economist: Letter in defense of unions

To summarize:

Pro-union argument:
1.  Negotiating wages and benefits is a right.
2.  States are suffering from recession related budget problems - states shouldn't balance their budgets on backs of teachers and firefighters.
3. Workers have accepted lower wages in exchange for their generous benefits - which are now far more generous than those provided in the private sector.

Anti-union argument:
1. Unions are needed when employers have all the negotiating power - but in the public sector, officials are more worried about votes than long term costs.
2. Even if there had not been a recession, states would not be able to afford the promised benefits in the coming years.
3. Comparisons between union and non-union pay need to take into ALL factors including: benefits, schedules (weekends/nights, stress), education level, cost of living per location, and job security. In at least one occupation, teaching, a case could be made that union workers are paid more than their non-union counterparts.

To paraphrase Warren Buffet, you can't tell whose swimming naked until the tide goes out.  The recession has dried up state revenue, i.e. the tide has gone out. This has drawn attention to the states' projected long term budget deficits. It is clear that states cannot afford their long term union obligations unless they substantially raise taxes.

What is needed is a balance of negotiating power. Unions represent their workers, but it is not clear that public officials have represented tax payers. Until now it has been far easier for public officials to get re-elected by agreeing to generous benefits (that payout later) than by reigning in costs (and risking an inconvenient, unpopular strike and losing union votes).

Economist poll: Vote on whether America's public sector unions have too much influence

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