The first criticism is essentially that it’s not a right enumerated in the Constitution. I’d absolutely agree that Union Rights are not listed in the Constitution, but I’d ask that that fact be viewed with a historical lens. Certainly, the need to unionize did not develop for basically a hundred years after the Constitution was written. Thus, we need new standards for dealing Union rights. They are certainly granted by statute, and as such, can be taken away in the same fashion. [As noted above, whether a right granted for over 50 years should be stripped as a rider on a budget bill is another argument] Now, while they can indeed be stripped, let’s consider if they should be called rights. Rights, as we use the term, generally refer to the things individuals possess for a moral or equity (fairness) purpose. We think it fair that all citizens be allowed to vote, we think it fair that we are granted due process, and we think it morally right that any individual be allowed to speak, assemble or practice the religion of their choice.
Union rights refer to employees banding together to give them power to bargain against their employers. Absent a union, the employers hold the entire power in the “negotiation”. Employers are also always profit-driven. The result of this will be terrible working conditions, little to no pay and no recourse for the employees. If you think I’m being alarmist or exaggerating the problem, look to history. It happened and could happen again. Today, however, there are several statutory barriers to bad working conditions, low pay and the other perils of an unregulated business world. Do these protections abrogate the right of works to form themselves into unions to protect themselves? I think the choice to participate in a union should never be removed. If they want it, and are willing to pay for it, let them. It is fair and moral – it is their right.
The second argument against unions involves the “exclusive right to speak for the employees” or the “forced payments” into the Unions. It is very important to note that these two arguments are not against bargaining, but against the function of mandatory dues. Mandatory dues were created to solve a problem that began to occur within a workforce and union. Unions would negotiate and receive higher wages/benefits/better working conditions for all employees, even those that did not pay the dues. Thus, individuals began to stop paying dues even when they agreed with the union. This is known as the Free Rider Problem. However, this forced payments of dues create a situation where even if they disagree with the union, or the union’s political decisions, they still fund them. How do we reconcile these two conflicting interests? My proposal would be to remove mandatory dues – but not allow the worker to have the “dues” as take home pay. For example, if worker A wanted to join the union, he would make 10$, with 9$ in pay and 1$ in union dues. Worker B, choosing not to join the union, would make 9$ in pay. The difference would be that the 1$ didn’t go to the union. By making the worker disinterested, then their own political views can be reflected without ulterior motive.
The next argument is against Public Unions in particular. The theory goes something like this: Unions support candidate, candidate takes office, unions negotiate with candidate, candidate gives union favorable concessions, thereby leading to a cycle of corruption. This argument seems logical – but it is not really different from any money given to a candidate on a large scale. Corporations, special interests, extra all look for the same loop. They give money hoping for concessions, gain concessions and then use that new money to keep supporting their candidates. The idea that the unions are somehow different (they negotiate pay with the state!) is really just a smoke screen. Corporations are given tax breaks and in order to pay for those breaks, taxes are raised on others or benefits are cut. Both of which create the same fundamental cycle. As Americans, we should all despise this system of money and politics in bed together – but short of a revolution, I can’t see either side stopping it. Singling out Public Unions, who support Democrats, is simple a Partisan attacks. [And as Locke pointed out, singling out “big corporations” is the reverse. The story is a little different, but the idea remains the same]
I don’t want to devote much time to it, but Public Unions should not hold the government hostages, as Locke pointed out with his FDR quote. It is, and should continue to be, illegal for necessary public sector employees to strike. FDR was pointing out that Public Sectors workers should be able to demand fair treatment, but shouldn’t use militant tactics. I agree.
The final argument is based on the same logic as the one above. That cycle of Unions and Elected officials and thus Union bargaining rights are a budgetary matter. As Locke said:
It is also a fundamental misunderstanding to say that doing away with public sector unions has nothing to do with state budget problems. In Prof. Bellante’s full analysis, he points out exactly how costly these unions are to the tax payer. Aside from inflated wages, public sector unions have pushed for excessive pension benefit levels, which are creating a fiscal crisis for many state governments.I’d like to examine this argument more closely. We’ll work backwards – there are fiscal crisis for many state governments. That’s a fact, which no one can dispute. Next step – That excessive pension benefits and wages created this crisis. That’s a far cry from the truth – and I’m tempted to break the analysis here. However, we’ll continue along with the idea high costs of paying public workers contributed to the crisis. Essentially our argument is that the workers are paid too much and have too many benefits. Everyone, including the Unions, has agreed to that. They are willing to take every cut that Walker asked for to pensions and wages. The right to negotiate (collectively bargain) in the future has absolutely no value upon pensions and wages. None. If, in the future, they are able to secure a higher wage or pension, they have done so because the people’s elected representative has agreed to it.
Collective bargaining rights are not a budget issue.
I hope I’ve defended the public unions and exposed the partisan nature of the attack upon right now. Again, I raise my challenge to Walker to split the bill in two.