Monday, July 19, 2010

A Democrat Takes on Unions

Mickey Kaus lost the California Democratic Senate primary to Barbara Boxer. He finished 3rd with 5% of the vote. He is a known contrarian who ran to give his views wider publicity. But he is a serious commentator known for his “Kausfiles,” one of the first-ever blogs and published until recently in “Slate.”

Kaus has problems with unions:
unions have . . . outlived [their] usefulness. What unions do is give workers democratically the right to choose a bargaining representative who’s then their exclusive representative. That’s the whole key to unionism. What are going to be the first demands of an honest democratic workforce? They’re going to demand you can’t fire me without notice and a hearing because we don’t want arbitrary firings. And when people gather in a group, they say we don’t make invidious distinctions by merit, we want promotion by seniority and layoff by seniority. Two perfectly reasonable things.

They happen to be terrible for an organization that wants to succeed because the due process hearings for firings inevitably become cumbersome and you basically give up firing people, and promotion by seniority means you only have to do well enough not to get fired and you’ll advance. There’s no incentive to doing really well. . .So, right off the bat, unions do not contribute to productivity. The question is, what all do they do that’s so good that compensates for this effect? I don’t see it anymore.

Public employees is a much worse situation. If a private sector union asks for too much and the company gives it to them, the company will disappear, as half of General Motors disappeared.

That incentive or disincentive doesn’t have impact in the public sector. All the union has to do is get some politician to vote a tax increase to pay the increased salary, and boom—they’re back in business. That’s what happened year after year and now it’s all coming to a head because cities and towns and states all across America are starting to go bankrupt under the weight of these generations of wage increases and pension increases that unions have won for themselves.

Public employees didn’t used to be able to organize. They had civil service protections. That was enough. It was only starting in the last quarter of the 20th century that politicians gave them the right to organize. . .

Pretty much everybody hates the teachers unions now. People who have kids in the public schools, people who are paying through the noses, $20,000 a year to get out of the public schools, send their kids to private schools, hate the teachers unions.

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