Public-sector unions are on the road to self-destruction

What would you think of a salary of $53,995.00? Could you get by on that? What would you think if that were just your salary increase over the last decade? Sounding better all the time, isn’t it? That is, in fact, the amount of annual salary increase the teachers in the West Bloomfield, Michigan school district received on average over the last decade. In 1999-2000, their average salary was $31,881. In 2010-2011, it has jumped to $85,836. That’s nearly a 170% increase! And that’s just salary. Their total compensation went from $47,346 to $129,637 over that same period, roughly a 173% increase.

There are about 100 teachers at the high school. On Feb. 15th, about 40% of them decided to participate in a “sick-out” during contract negotiations. This is just another example of the Wisconsin style tactics teachers unions across the country are imposing in an effort to hold school boards hostage. The tactics are disgraceful and unethical as well as illegal. They will surely backfire.

It seems every endorsement handed out by Obama results in a loss. The left in general is trying to make a stand. The rhetoric doesn’t change. Make the rich pay more, assaulting families, etc., the same tired old song. Problem is they’re trying to sell to the wrong audience. The people who are unemployed, who are losing their homes, who are under-employed and just trying to get by don’t have any interest in the sob story. I’m one of them. My salary is down 30% in the last decade. Of course, I work in the private sector and am not subsidized by the taxpayer. My benefit contributions coming out of my paycheck exceed my mortgage payment.

I used to be a union guy myself. A union steward in fact. I know the tactics and the goals. I still don’t have any ill will towards unions. Private sector, that is. That’s where they belong. I’ve also posted here that I fully support the teacher’s right to protest. Still do. On their own time. On their own dime.

The unwritten rules for the unions are what they are. You don’t give back what other members before you fought to achieve. You don’t work through breaks. Work to rule, have you heard of that one? We were instructed to do everything by the book, even if we didn’t do it in the course of normal business. Slow down the process.  But we were never told not to work. Never told to fake calling in sick. We never protested on the company dime, less an official strike was called. In other words we didn’t break the law. Nobody ever said we couldn’t work hard either, only that you had to follow every rule, every safety standard, etc.

I worked for the telephone company. We never negotiated through fear tactics. No intimidation. We negotiated from the standpoint of providing the highest quality standards and workmanship. And it sold. Did I have any issues with the union? Sure. Didn’t like where my dues were going back then either. But I made the voluntary choice to accept the job and join the union. Just like there are shortcomings with virtually any company you work for.

When the internet bubble burst due to over-growth of capacity, we lost our bargaining power. We no longer had a service for hire that the telco’s had to have. So we gave concessions voluntarily. Nobody liked it, but we knew keeping all our members employed was the highest priority.

The difference was we had a dynamic compensation package. It changed with the market. When the companies were making money hand over fist, we profited immensely as well. Yet, when business slowed, we knew we couldn’t hang on to every gain we achieved through collective bargaining. You can’t cut off the hand that feeds you.

Public-sector unions haven’t faced that reality for decades. Sure, they may forego the occasional pay raise, but they’ve never had to drastically change their compensation package in order to stay employed. The day has come when they can no longer continue this practice. Home values have plummeted and aren’t done yet. Property tax collections are down and are going to stay down. Taxpayers can not afford any tax increases. The basic laws of economics. The revenue isn’t there and won’t be anytime in the near future.

We all know there are a great many talented and valuable teachers. But that doesn’t change the fact that the pie has shrunk and will still shrink more. No amount of intimidation, endorsements, sick-outs or even legislators in dereliction of their duties can change it. The public-sector unions will lose this battle. The only question is will they play hardball long enough to cost them their very existence.

4 thoughts on “Public-sector unions are on the road to self-destruction”

  1. I have always marveled at the willingness of some unions to cut off the hand that feeds them. They seem to be more concerned with losing their power than they are in retaining jobs for their members.

  2. It’s just ingrained that giving back any gains at all is a slippery slope. You’re right, union leadership functions just like our politicians in that retaining power is job one.

Comments are closed.