Ok, Go Back To Work Now…

If the protesters in Wisconsin are trying to prove that unions don’t deserve to be punished in this budget crisis, they sure aren’t doing themselves any favors.  The reality is that if anyone can afford to give a little bit back through spending cuts, it’s the union membership. 

The poor on Medicaid, the seniors on Social Security and Medicare, and the people responsible for protecting our country are the last people that deserve to be losers in this budget battle.  They’re also the ones who will almost certainly have to make sacrifices in order to save our irresponsible federal government, and  if they stormed Pennsylvania Avenue in protest, I would understand.  Now, the unions are another story…

Don’t get me wrong here, they have every right to protest, but they don’t have a right to get fraudulent doctor’s notes so they can be paid to protest.

That aside, why are the unions the least deserving group to protest benefit cuts?  We all know that unions have historically received significantly higher benefits than private sector employees.  But just to give an idea of the absurdity we’re talking about, here are some individual level public sector statistics:

In New York City, the No. 2 guy in the fire department retired on a pension worth $242,000 a year. In New York State, a single official holding two jobs and one pension took in $641,000. A lieutenant with the Port Authority police retired with an annual pension of $196,767, and 738 of the city’s teachers, principals and such have pensions worth more than $100,000 a year.

These examples of pension obesity were culled from the local newspapers, which never fail to shock with revelations of how good life is for those who once worked for the city, the state or any one of several public agencies. In some cases, retirement came a mere 20 or so years after first reporting to HR and, if you were lucky enough to fake a disability – oh, my aching back! – the sky is virtually the limit. Fully one-third of all New York City cops who retired during a recent 17-month period did so on disability. They have dangerous jobs, we all know – but not nearly as dangerous as Long Island Rail Road workers. Almost all of them retired on disability. All aboard!

So, yeah, that’s the general idea of what we’re talking about here.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits are going to people who just simply do not deserve to be compensated that much more than the average private sector employee.  Now, the unions have grudgingly agreed to this simple reality in the face of overwhelming supporting evidence, and they’ve conceded to the financial concessions Walker has asked for.  That’s good enough, right?  Wrong.

Presumably, union leaders have made these concessions with the understanding that they might one day be able to regain those entitlements.  Interesting.  That seems to undermine the exact purpose of union membership, which is to fight for union benefits…..not throw them away….Charles Lane puts it best:

If that’s the way these guys negotiate, I really wouldn’t want to be a public-sector union member in Wisconsin. If they had the interests of their membership at heart, they would give in on bargaining rights, which can always be restored under a friendlier government later — but keep maximum cash in their members’ pockets here and now.

That’s exactly right.  Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that the union leadership wants collective bargaining rights because they are some sort of beneficent protector of the working class….but if they really cared so much about the common worker, you might think they would actually, you know, help the common worker…

And you can’t really hate the public sector employees.  You sort of have to feel sorry for them.  They’ve been brainwashed into thinking that it’s in their best interest to give up their benefits just as long as they keep their collective bargaining rights.  Because somehow those collective bargaining rights will, you know, somehow help the common worker…

The reality is that those rights don’t necessarily help the average public sector employee nearly as much as those workers think.  But, it does help the people pulling the strings.  It helps the union dictators.  It harkens back to the days of urban bosses who manipulated the working class in the 1850s for political power.  From Charles Lane:

Looks to me as if Wisconsin’s union leaders have revealed their preference for political power. They want to preserve collective bargaining at all costs, because without it they will lose the flow of dues money. And without dues money, the unions have no political war chests, and without political war chests, they are no longer power brokers in state and local elections.

That same article goes on to quote an anonymous comment from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which is too classic to go unmentioned:

Go back to work, teachers. Your union has already sold you down the river. They have agreed to the givebacks that affect YOUR paychecks, while using you to fight against the parts that will affect THEIRS. Did you get to vote before they gave away your benefits? What patsies you all are.

Call it union busting if you want.  Maybe that’s what it is, but if that is the truth of it, it’s hard to argue it isn’t necessary.  Walker can slash benefits all he wants now, but the benefits aren’t even the real problem.  How did those benefits get so out of control in the first place?  They are the product of a greedy, opportunistic, politically motivated bunch of union organizers.  They have fought for unreasonable benefits for years because that worked to their advantage, and now, at the drop of a hat, they throw their members under the bus just to maintain their influence.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to unions. Back in the day when we didn’t have them, capitalism took no prisoners.  So, unions are acceptable.  But today’s unions aren’t the same unions that existed decades ago.  They aren’t collective bodies looking out for the best interests of the working class.  They aren’t reasonable forces for good in a cut throat business world.  They have turned into an unreasonable machine of greed that’s every bit as dangerous to society as the apathy of big business they proclaim to oppose.  That’s why the benefit cuts don’t really matter in and of themselves.  Those aren’t the real problem.  The real problem is the union itself.

Here’s a final quote that pretty much sums it all up:

It was one thing when unions went after giant corporations run by guys who played golf at restricted clubs. But when it comes to government workers, we are the boss and we pay the bill. To quote what Sam Spade told the woman he loved in the “The Maltese Falcon,” “I won’t play the sap for you.” When it comes to public-sector unions, my sentiments exactly.

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