Why Public Employee Unions Are Evil
By John D. Turner
20 Jun 2011

Ok, so maybe they aren’t evil, per se. Still, I really think that they are bad for the country on the whole.

In my opinion (for what it’s worth), as a hate-filled Conservative fascist who is only interested in throwing the poor out in the street and making old folks eat dog food, public employees shouldn’t be allowed to unionize anyway. It is a definite conflict of interest. Public employees; do you want to be in a union? Get a job in the private sector in a unionized job.

Governments only get money from one source – taxing the people. This can be done in many forms; income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, excise taxes, fees (another name for tax), what have you. They all have one thing in common; they take money out of people’s wallets to pay for something else that the government thinks important. There is an upper limit to the amount they can take. The ultimate limit is everything everyone makes. Well before that, a practical limit is reached; people have to eat, for example. Once the limit is reached (ultimate or practical), no matter what “important” and “vital” things the government wants to fund, they can’t because they no longer have the money to do so.

The more money the government needs to pay out to unionized, public sector employees for an ever increasing amount of benefits that the unions extort from public officials, the less there is to run everything else. At some point in time, it becomes too expensive for the government to function and it has to cut back. This is happening in state after state. It happens at the Federal level too.

But, you say, government employees pay taxes too. Doesn’t that help?

Well, yes they do. But there is no way this could ever be a self-sustaining situation. Take a hypothetical employee who pays 20% of his or her income in taxes. It would take five such employees (assuming they all make the same amount) to pay the salary of one employee. And of course, 20% is a high number; most people do not pay that much. Make it 10% and it now takes 10 government employees paying taxes to pay the salary of one government employee. In the real world, self-licking ice cream cones do not work. In common parlance, this is known as a “Ponzi scheme.”

I don’t mind collective bargaining by public sector employees as much when it comes to things like working conditions. But other things that cost an ever increasing amount from the public purse, such as pensions, overly generous health care plans, and other “entitlements” – this I balk at. I mentioned a “conflict of interest.” When unions fund political campaigns for candidates and the candidates, once elected, sweeten the pot for the unions, how is this not a conflict of interest? The left claims this to be so when “big business” makes campaign contributions for Republican candidates; they don’t complain so much when the monies flow to Democrats – but that’s grist for another article.

What’s good for the goose is apparently, once again, not good for the gander. What happened to the term “public servant?” What does that mean these days anyway?

Don’t get me wrong, businesses paying big bucks to political campaigns can lead to corruption too. But there is a difference; while such may lead to granting a contract to a company that otherwise might not get it, this is a temporary situation; it doesn’t become an “entitlement”; payable forever.

Not so when it comes to public sector unions, where benefits, once granted, become entitlements. One only has to look at events in Wisconsin to see this effect in action. Should Wisconsin teachers’ pay part of their own health insurance premiums or should the taxpayers of Wisconsin foot the entire bill? Should Wisconsin teachers’ pay into their pension system at all, or should the taxpayers foot the entire bill? Apparently, according to the unions, the taxpayers are on the hook and, in the name of “fairness”, should remain so. Deals were negotiated and made. It doesn’t matter if the money simply isn’t there to make the payments; just raise taxes on “the rich;” that will take care of everything! Asking teachers to contribute to their own retirement and healthcare would amount to a decrease in their take-home pay – a “pay cut” if you will, and that is just unbearable.

Of course, across the country, millions are out of work in the current miserable economy. They have experienced the “ultimate” pay cut. Guess they are just stupid for not taking a nice, cushy government job instead!

But government employees are U.S. citizens. They have certain rights, guaranteed them by the constitution. How can you say that they shouldn’t be allowed to unionize if they want to? As an answer to that, let’s take a look at a subset of government employees who operate under different rules than the rest of society; the military.

In the military, when you join, you give up certain rights and privileges that are enjoyed by ordinary citizens; your rights to participate in political discourse are curtailed, for example, as are other restrictions on your freedom of speech, your right to keep and bear arms (ironically enough), and incidentally, your “right” to form a union.

I have no problem with this. The U.S. military is an all-volunteer force. You don’t have to join – no one is forcing you to. We who join accept these restrictions; when we leave the military, we get those privileges back.

Public service should be the same, and collective bargaining rights for pay and benefits should be one of the things that are not allowed for those taking the government coin. If you don’t like that, fine, don’t go into a public service job. There is no draft. It is all voluntary. No one is making you take a government job. There are still, and should be, laws regarding redress of grievances; OSHA and whistleblower laws still apply to workplaces, for example. But the ability to buy or coerce benefits from the government purse should not exist.

Private business is different. Businesses can charge more for their good or service to cover the additional costs imposed by unions. This is not the same as raising a tax, because unlike a tax imposed by a government, no one is forcing anyone to purchase the good or service offered by the company.

Of course, union demand could make the goods and services cost so much that they are no longer competitive in the marketplace. This has happened to unionized companies in the past. Then the company either renegotiates with the unions and the unions compromise, or the company goes out of business. If that happens, I guess the people will have to look for another job.

But the point is, companies can go out of business; it is bad for the worker’s involved, but life goes on. We have safety nets in place, such as worker’s compensation, and retraining programs to handle such events. Workers can even move to different cities or states in search of work. It’s a pain, but who knows? Things may even work out better in the long run.

Governments on the other hand, cannot simply “go out of business.” The results are much more disastrous. Massive layoffs as the state tries to get its budget back in balance are just one effect. Of course, layoffs cause more people to be put onto unemployment (which is paid for by the government), and saturate the market for employees. Too many employees chasing too few jobs and we get stagnation of wages. If people are unemployed for too long, not only do their benefits run out, but it becomes even harder to find a job.

It is bad enough if this happens on the state level. If it happens at the federal level it isn’t just disastrous, it’s catastrophic. States cannot print their own money – the federal government can. One solution that countries have implemented to try and stay ahead of their mountain of rising debt is to run their printing presses 24x7. The result of that is to make toilet paper worth more than the money it takes to buy it. Then you really need scientific notation – on the currency itself! Take a look at Zimbabwe for a modern example of what was experienced in Germany under the Weimar Republic. At that point it doesn’t matter what the government has promised you because the promises are worthless.

Bottom line; collective bargaining for pay and benefits for government workers should not be allowed because it is a conflict of interest. It is not analogous to the situation in the private sector, the two are very different.

It would be nice if we could have everything. It would be nice if we had the money to fund everything and everyone could have all the benefits they wanted. But the real world doesn’t work that way. The money has to come from somewhere.

Ultimately all the promises the government has made to you become worthless when there is no money to pay for them.