I don’t blame public unions for all of our troubles, but they have played a significant role in getting us here and I see little from them in helping get us out. For those who will inevitably flock here to cry I am anti-Police or anti-Firefighters, don’t waste your time. I am anything but and I am reminded that we have Troops fighting and dying to protect our country who receive far less compensation than either do.
I also openly admit that in the past, unions have accomplished much good, fighting for and winning safe work places, fair work hours and conditions and reasonable wages from private sector companies. But, somewhere along the way, that was forgotten and far exceeded as business agents convinced union members they were entitled to more and more and gained concessions from companies that were passed along in the way of higher consumer prices. Higher prices that even the union members had to pay, necessitating yet another strike vote for even more compensation which too was passed along in the form of higher prices.
In my personal estimation, a self-defeating vicious circle.
But, somewhere also along the way, unions began figuring out that government workers unionized did not have to negotiate with a company that must remain profitable to stay in business as negotiators seemed to have bottomless pits of money in the form of our taxes paid.
As private sector union membership waned, public sector union membership grew, as even acknowledged by the staunchly left-leaning, pro-union New York Times in a January 2010 article, Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government.
“In its annual report on union membership, the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] undercut the longstanding notion that union members are overwhelmingly blue-collar factory workers. It found that membership fell so fast in the private sector in 2009 that the 7.9 million unionized public-sector workers easily outnumbered those in the private sector, where labor’s ranks shrank to 7.4 million, from 8.2 million in 2008.”
While a later New York Times article makes the claim that “Many Public Employees Will Pay More,” I find the claim hollow and empty when it comes to the public unions in Washington State and Clark County in particular.
With the growing budget deficits, increases in taxes and fees, ever growing unemployment, Clark County remaining the highest in the state at 13%, what real concessions have we struggling taxpayers seen from public employees?
Our illustrious County Commissioners just voted unanimously to pass off yet another 1% increase in property tax for the county general fund, “for health services.” I had the opportunity, along with several other struggling property owners, to testify to the commissioners on our struggles and apparently, our voices went ignored by the 2 Republican, 1 Democrat commission.
In the deal, we are told “the committee voted to have [public union] employees pay higher service costs rather than start taking payroll deductions,” but just what does “service costs” mean? Unless it means county employees begin contributing to their health insurance premiums, that they currently contribute not one dime towards, there is absolutely no relief to struggling homeowners who will pay this increased tax.
Clark County paid $26 Million so far this year alone for health insurance premiums while the 1640 public union employees paid no portion of those premiums. The private sector must pay upwards of 70% of their health insurance premiums.
Then too we read on the decision for public union employees to pay “higher service costs,” “How this is accomplished will depend on the outcome of ongoing [public union] contract negotiations,” by County Administrator Bill Barron.
The city of Kelso, in Cowlitz County just saw their Police Union rejecting a 5% pay cut, which means they will lose 3 Police Officers and 1 Police Clerk. Less Police is not serving the community. And, it must be noted that many in the private sector have received a 100% pay reduction due to being placed on the unemployment rolls.
While the state did reach a tentative agreement with state public unions to have their members pay 12% to 15% contribution to their health insurance premiums, that sum is paltry compared to those of us still struggling in the private sector. Most laughable is seeing that we taxpayers will pay ONLY 85% of their premiums now.
Then too, as the state still faces yet another multi-billion dollar budget deficit, can we forget the outrage expressed by union members over furloughs in the attempt to decrease state spending?
Also not to be forgotten is how we lost a grant in 2008 to our schools because the teachers union in our state couldn’t control the $13.2 Million grant to teachers, the benefactor desiring to handle it directly.
On and on it goes. Example after example could be provided as to how we in the private sector continue to tighten our belts and do without while well paid state workers, public union members, make no or very slight concessions to help weather this deep economic morass we continue in.
Who in government is willing to stand up to these unions? Who will take the bull by the horns and say enough? Obviously the unions will not voluntarily give up a little so all may survive.
Negotiators do not worry about being profitable, they just raise taxes or fees. The public unions pour money in by the droves to defeat common sense approaches that might lower spending, as they did recently in our state against measures to privatize the sale, warehousing and distribution of liquor, currently wholly managed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, who just happens to be filled with public union members stocking shelves and selling liquor in state owned stores at upwards of $15.00 an hour, with generous benefits and pension, on our dime.
I can’t help but recall back in 1979, as Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca was seeking wage and benefit concessions from the United Auto Workers Union and was asked just what could he guarantee members should they make those concessions as he answered rather matter of factly, “THEIR JOBS!”
If public unions are not willing to concede and begin accepting their fair share in this continuing “Great Recession,” they must be broken. They must be decertified. They have become little more than what they were formed to fight, greedy corporations.
Should public union members decide to “walk-off” the job, stage a “sick-in” or otherwise express their unwillingness to help out, with a continuing 13% unemployment in Clark County and nearly 10% statewide, I am sure we would have no problem finding someone willing to fill their positions.