The average Wisconsin teacher has a better total compensation package than the average Wisconsin taxpayer. After the proposed legislation goes through, the average Wisconsin teacher will still have a better total compensation package than the average Wisconsin taxpayer. If this was 1789, events in Madison would be the equivalent of the French aristocrats taking to the streets, attired in satins, silks and jewels, and armed with pitchforks and pikes, to stridently demand even more from France’s starved and overworked peasantry.
Let’s get serious, though. The issue, of course, isn’t compensation. The average teacher who is taking to the street thinks it is, but the organizers, including Obama, the organizer-in-chief, know what the uproar is really about, and that is a Republican effort to diminish the power of public sector unions.
Currently, unions — all unions, whether public sector or private sector — get to speak to politicians on behalf of their membership, speech that is effected through contributions to politicians who are most likely to pass legislation favorable to union goals. When it comes to the private sector, I don’t have a problem with that. Corporations can and should be able to do that do. If legislation affects a group or entity, it should have a political voice. The same holds true with private sector unions.
When it comes to public sector unions, especially the teachers’ unions, things are different. With regard to teachers’ unions, the unions don’t limit their efforts to wages, benefits and working conditions. Instead, they are deeply involved with politicizing the classrooms to ensure that they raise generations of young people who understand the world through a Leftist filter. And with regard to all public sector unions, the union dues aren’t intended to affect legislation. Instead, they’re essentially being used to bribe the people who write the checks and pay the pensions.
One of the things Wisconsin Republicans want to do is decrease the amount of dues available to public sector unions, money that those unions have traditionally used to buy elections. They’re doing this by proposing a law stating that non-union members in the public sector are not required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. (I’m not sure whether this law would also apply to private sector unions but, for the reasons discussed below, it should.)
Currently, in a unionized business, employees are forced to pay union dues, whether or not they agree with union goals. The reasoning behind this, if I remember my Labor Law class correctly, is that it would be unfair for non-union employees to benefit from the wage and working concessions wrung out of the employer by union members who did pay dues.
How much better it would be to apply the marketplace to union membership. Assuming a perfect union, one that exists only to ensure decent wages and working conditions, if enough people belong to the union, yes, everyone benefits, including the “freeloaders.” In vaccination terms, the latter are getting the benefit of herd immunity.
What invariably happens when the going is good is that more and more people conclude that the status quo is good regardless of their active participation. Parents stop immunizing their children; and employees back off from the unions.
In the disease world, herd immunity vanishes and unvaccinated people fall ill. Seeing the consequences of their actions, people start immunizing again, and the diseases back off. In the union world, employers gain the upper hand, and workers realize that it was a mistake not to pay their dues. Employees start paying their dues again, the union’s power returns, and the balance of power between employer and employee swings back to the center.
Forcing union membership creates a situation in which the union leadership is beholden to nothing and nobody. No matter what the leadership does, no matter the bad deals it strikes or, in the case of the teachers’ unions, the horrid things it does to the classrooms, it keeps going and going and going. Union leadership is like a demented, perverse, evil Energizer Bunny. Our students are held hostage in the classroom, and we are held hostage in the legislature — in significant part because these state supported unions buy elections to ensure politicians who will maintain this twisted status quo.
I often say I hate unions. Thinking about it, though, what I hate is a political system that has given unions unlimited power, freeing them from marketplace constraints. They are the perfect illustration of Lord Acton’s dictum that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Cross-posted at Right Wing News