Wednesday, March 2, 2011

10 Facts to Win Every Argument on the Evils of Public Sector Unions

One might make a case that this article is unnecessary. After all, who could possibly be supporting public sector unions after the shenanigans we’ve seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere this past few weeks? Legislators fleeing across state lines to avoid doing the job taxpayers elected them – and are paying them – to do (and they’re not exactly sleeping in their cars during their illicit vacations). Public schoolteachers calling in sick and encouraging their students to picket on their behalf (instead of going to class). Taxpayer-funded doctors unethically and fraudulently writing notes to excuse public workers from their jobs. Union thugs whacking young women Tea Partiers (more on that ahead). What a sordid mess.

Nevertheless, many of our friends and acquaintances aren’t educating themselves on the true goings-on in Madison and other current hotspots around the country. Or worse yet, they’re getting their news on it from the MSM, or the likes of Jon Stewart.

So it’s our job, those of us who love liberty and the free market and the rule of law, to school ‘em. All we need is a little well-honed rhetorical ammunition to stock our intellectual arsenals (I just love to use that vitriolic weapon imagery, although I must defer to the unions on this one – they are the masters).

ANYWAY. Here are ten facts – facts that won’t change the minds of the leftist true believer who worships at the altar of Big Government and honestly thinks the state can run our lives better than we can. But these ten facts just might give the unaware and undecided some much-needed food for thought.

Starting with: History is fun!

10. History proves we don’t need public sector unions, and the folks in Wisconsin are lying about it

I hate it when kids say they hate history. To me, that’s a stinging indictment of whoever was teaching them history, because history should be fun. History is just stories, and what could be better than that?

Those stories are particularly compelling when they illuminate the present. The history of public sector unions is crystal clear, and the Left is being wildly dishonest in their approach to it. The president of Madison Teachers, one Mike Lipp, offered this “historical perspective”:
“(For Governor Walker) to include gutting law that was put into place in 1959, signed by the great Gaylord Nelson, granting public employees the right to collectively bargain, is ludicrous.”
Huh? As Rich Lowry points out at National Review Online, “why would anyone in 2011 think of changing a government practice put in place in 1959?” Especially when it was signed by the great … who was that again?

What a ridiculous argument. But at least Mike Lipp wasn’t hysterical, like this lady:

Okay, that part with Obama at the end was just a joke. But don’t you feel like yelling out an “Amen” to the crazy lady? IT’S FOR THE KIDS!! Because if she can’t suck quite as hard at the public teat, we won’t have weekends. Or something.

Now let’s talk reality and the truth (refreshing, I know!).

All the historical arguments we’re hearing in support of unions – every last one of them – are related to the relationship between labor and the private sector. Not the relationship between well-paid government workers and THEIR employer – which is YOU.

President Kennedy is the one to blame for lifting the federal ban on government unions back in 1962, but it wasn’t because government workers were poorly paid, or suffered in adverse working conditions. It was because the traditional labor unions were losing power, as Jonah Goldberg points out, and JFK saw how public unions in states like Wisconsin were putting Democrats in power.
“The plan worked. Public union membership skyrocketed and government union support for the party of government skyrocketed with it. From 1989 to 2004, AFSCME — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — gave nearly $40 million to candidates in federal elections, with 98.5% going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”
98.5 percent! (More on that ahead.) Anyway, THAT is the true history of why we have public sector unions.

So if someone tries to tell you it’s because workers were dying in the mines, or we needed weekends – that’s a bald-faced lie.

Next: Why public employees should never be able to strike…

9. We are the employers

Government exists to provide a framework for free enterprise to flourish. Our government was never intended to be a producer of goods and services as much as it was intended to facilitate production in the private sector. Many conservatives believe that the services government does provide should be limited to those related to safety, like military and police functions. So when public sector unions infuse their self-centered collective bargaining demands, they jeopardize the safety of our society as a whole. This cannot be allowed, and it is why many government workers are forbidden, by law, from going on strike (which as we have seen does not stop them, when a militant union is involved).

What’s more, even when government workers are fulfilling a function that can (and maybe should) be privatized (education comes to mind), they still should have no right to withdraw that function from their employer, because their employer is all of us.

Ronald Reagan understood this quite clearly. Here he is ‘splainin the facts to a bunch of hardheaded (and soon to be ex-) air traffic controllers:

Ah, but our beloved President Reagan is not the only president to make a meaningful contribution to the issue of public sector unions. Consider what another president had to say – and this wasn’t an argument against strikes, but an argument against ANY collective bargaining in the public sector:
“All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public-personnel management. The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with government-employee organizations. The employer is the whole people…”
That, my friends, was what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to say. Mr. New Deal himself. That’s a wee bit o’history that you probably won’t see quoted in the NYT.

We are the employer. You and me. So don’t let anyone try to frame the argument in terms of “corporate greed” (which is exactly what they’re deceitfully doing). The only greed evident in THIS debate is that of the money-grubbing unions. The real employer – the taxpayer – you, me – we are not being greedy. Is it greedy to tell the kids you can’t take them on a European vacation when Dad just lost his job? That’s not called greed. That’s called responsibility.

Next: The criminally-selfish circle of money and influence…

8. Public unions PLUS Democrats MINUS taxpayer interests = unending river of fun money for everyone (well, everyone except the taxpayers)

The formula mentioned above is one being applied in many states, municipalities and of course at the federal level. Public sector unions “bargain” with the government for wages and benefits, but the folks representing the government at the bargaining table end up being those representing primarily Democratic politicians (remember that 98.5% figure, above?) who give the unions everything they want in exchange for untold riches being funneled back to the Democrats in power at election time. By the way, there is no seat for the taxpayers at this bargaining table, even though it is their money that is at stake. So the unions ask for more and more lavish entitlements, which the Democrats are only too happy to provide from the public coffers, because they know the union will then line their pockets come campaign time.

The results of all this largesse back and forth between the public unions and the Democrats? The results are the jaw-dropping budget deficits in all those states, municipalities and counties (and countries) with public sector unions. The Democrats (primarily) have thrown taxpayer money at the unions in the form of outrageous wages and benefits (more on that, later), then benefit personally at election time (more on that, later, too).

The leftists clearly understand how this system works – why do you think there’s such an outcry? No less a liberal luminary than Watergate “uncoverer” Carl Bernstein is calling Governor Walker’s action a “very political, demagogic move by a governor who knows that the Democratic Party subsists to some extent on union contributions.” To which we would add – what does he mean “to some extent”? It’s their mother’s milk! This is why Walker is, as Carol Platt Liebau puts it, an anathema to both the unions and the liberal politicians.

Jonah Goldberg sums up the problem neatly:
“And this gets to the real insidiousness of government unions. Wisconsin labor officials fairly note that they’ve acceded to many of their governor’s specific demands… but they don’t want to lose the right to collective bargaining. But that is exactly what they need to lose. Private sector unions fight with management over an equitable distribution of profits. Government unions negotiate with politicians over taxpayer money, putting the public interest at odds with union interests and, as we’ve seen in states such as California and Wisconsin, exploding the cost of government. The labor-politician negotiations can’t be fair when the unions can put so much money into campaign spending. Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, ‘We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.’”
Indeed. And keep in mind – WE are the real boss that is being supplanted. This is positively criminal behavior. It’s corrupt. It’s a racket. And it’s why Scott Walker is a hero for trying to dismantle it in his state. It robs all taxpayers to benefit the few who happen to be employed by the government. And as much as the Left tries to cloak this in class warfare terms – Americans are not buying it.

Next: Another factor in this corrupt and evil formula…

7. Union members are given no choice

At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to quote New York Post columnist Michael Walsh, discussing the vast sums of money discussed in our previous point:
“Where does that money come from? From union members’ dues. In what is effectively a criminal enterprise were it not for the moment legal, public-union leaders negotiate ever-larger pay and benefits from the very politicians to whom they then kick back ‘campaign contributions.’ All at taxpayer expense.”
But Diane, you say. You already went over this. Yes, I did. I just wanted to reiterate the “criminal” aspect before making the next point, which is that THESE UNION DUES ARE COERCED BY FORCE FROM UNION MEMBERS. These aren’t voluntary donations from union members who are 99% Democrats themselves. These are union dues removed from public union members’ paychecks before they ever see the money. Mona Charen has a good description here:
“Through collective bargaining, unions negotiate with elected officials for wages and benefits. They then get the state to collect union dues for them by withholding the dues from public employees’ checks. With the accumulated cash, the union then makes campaign contributions to the favored public officials. Neat.”
She goes on to quote labor historian Fred Siegel:
“Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits.”
Do you think every one of those public sector employees wants to have dues taken out of his or her paycheck? Do you think if the dues weren’t removed from their paychecks automatically, that quite a few of them might fight for the right to opt out? Do you think every one of them agrees with the politicians their unions push? What about the teacher whose forced union dues paid for attack ads against her conservative politician husband – do you think she was on board with that?

You know the answers to all of these questions, and so do the Democrats. That’s why they’ll flee over state lines before acting on the clearly defined will of the people (as per the 2010 elections). Special interests don’t relinquish their privileges without a fight, as Carol Platt Liebau notes.

This is at the heart of the reason the union organizers are camping out at the Wisconsin Capitol. Linda Chavez spells it out:
“The unions are afraid that if the state doesn’t deduct the dues from members’ paychecks and turn them over to the union, the members won’t pay up. The National Education Association alone will receive $358 million in its share of union dues nationally this school year — virtually all of it taken automatically out of teachers’ paychecks and turned over to the union by their government employer… Walker also wants to give state employees the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union — and if so, which one. But the unions don’t like that either. They want workers to have the right to choose union representation, but they seem scared to death that the issue might actually be put to a vote every year.”
This is one thing that unions are not lying about – it really isn’t about this year’s budget. It’s about power and who’s going to control the purse strings. It’s really an issue of right vs. wrong. Is it right to force people to give their money to causes with which they disagree? To force a wife to give her income against her husband?

Clearly, this is a cycle that needs to be broken. It does not even represent the best interests of the union members, many of whom will have NO PENSIONS AT ALL if some type of Walker-ite reform is not implemented and soon. Union bosses have been in bed with Democratic politicians for far too long, and it’s time to break up this illicit romance. All politicians, of every political stripe, are supposed to serve we the people, we the taxpayers – not, as Liebau notes, their megalomaniacal fantasies of being some type of government overlords.

Next: And lest there be any confusion whatsoever about which politicians, of which stripe, are benefitting from this corrupt system…

6. This is a 100% Democrat, big money racket

Okay, not 100%. Like we said earlier, some figures put it at 98.5%. Whatever. Writer Michael Walsh says:
“Unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) give hundreds of millions of dollars to Democrats — some $171 million in 2010 alone. They give almost nothing to Republicans.”
That’s a pretty accurate figure. Almost nothing. Keep that fact in mind the next time someone tries to tell you that one party is as bad as the other. Not on this point, my friend, and this is a pretty darned important point, as it cuts to the heart of the integrity of our entire system. You can blame the Republicans for one thing, however, and that’s for not making a huge stink about this corrupt cycle a long time ago. Why is it only the Tea Party that has emboldened action?

Anyway, the Wall Street Journal did “out” AFSCME last fall – AFSCME being the primary public employee union (outside of teacher unions). The very largest spender in the 2010 election – yes, Californians, bigger than Meg Whitman – was AFSCME. The number one spender in all state elections is public employee unions. And of course they are supporting the party of Yes-You-Can-Have-More (if not the party of Actually-You-Can-Have-Everything). The party that is cheating the American taxpayer while lying to the public sector union employees. No – we canNOT have it all. Nobody ever can. It’s one of those lessons we were supposed to learn in kindergarten.

Next: But aren’t our teachers worth it?

5. Public sector employees are making 45% more than you are. Is that right?

You may love your kid’s teacher. You may even have a favorite postal worker, or (although this is hard to believe) someone at the DMV you like. But do these people deserve to make an average of 45% more than people teaching private school, or delivering packages for UPS, or pushing paper inside some insurance company office? Well, are private school teachers doing a 45% worse job than public teachers? Does UPS do a 45% worse job than the Post Office? Is your insurance company receptionist 45% less surly than the lady at the DMV? I think we all know the answers to all of those questions, don’t we? So why do these public employees get the gold-plated treatment? Listen to Linda Chavez again:
“Public employees pay less for their health care and receive far more generous pensions, often without making contributions to them. Teachers, who are among the most heavily unionized public employees, also have tenure rights — which make it difficult, if not impossible, to remove incompetent or underperforming teachers.”
Ah, yes. Linda brings up an important point, which we will return to a little later. For now, let’s look at a few numbers in more detail, courtesy of the Department of Labor, via Carol Platt Leibau:
“…when it comes to hourly wages, the average in the private sector is $19.68 per hour; for workers in state and local government, it’s $26.25. While 74% of private-industry workers receive paid sick leave and 8 paid holidays per year, 98% of state and local government workers have paid sick leave, along with 11 paid holidays yearly. And 99% of government workers have retirement benefits (with the same percentage enjoying medical benefits), compared to 74% and 86% respectively of private sector employees. Finally, in the private sector, an average of 20% of medical premiums are paid by employees, while state and local government workers pay only 11% on average. By almost any measure, it pays to work for the government – subsidized by taxpayer money and unconstrained by the economic discipline imposed on the private sector by the need to compete — rather than as a taxpaying employee in a private enterprise.”
Working for the government used to be called public service. It can no longer be referred to as such, under these outrageous circumstances.

Side note: This undue burden on private business is a huge part of the reason are economy is in the tank. Why should business have to compete for workers with an indulgent Uncle Sam (or state or local governments)?

Next: But like I said, aren’t our teachers worth it?

4. The service we are getting from these top-paid government employees… sucks.

Unionized public employees provide crappy customer service. Like all blanket statements, that one has its exceptions. Rare as a coherent comment from Khadafi, but yeah, I’ll grant you, out there somewhere there might just be a unionized government worker who gives a damn.


There is no incentive for excellence when, for all intents and purposes, you have unlimited job security. This is the reality of human nature, and it applies to every last one of us. When we think we can get away with something we shouldn’t do – we are more likely to do it. Period. End of discussion. There aren’t even any exceptions to that blanket statement. It is just, simply, Truth.

Unions violate the natural competitive individual spirit, providing disincentive to excel, produce and maximize potential, and instead incentivizing mediocrity. Why go the extra mile when we can get there off someone else’s effort? With public sector unions, since the workers indirectly command influence over the people who write their paychecks, supervisors have far less direct say or evaluative input into the performance or productivity of their employees.

We all almost intuitively understand this. And that’s because we’ve all been one of the 500 people in line at the DMV while workers chat with each other at the copy machine. We have seen firsthand what virtually iron-clad job security does to customer service and the work ethic.

You can’t fire a lazy, underperforming or incompetent unionized government worker without spending a considerably large amount of time, money and effort. Which is part of the reason going to the DMV is such a nightmarish experience. And part of the reason why the line at the post office is so long. And part of the reason why your kids can’t read.

That last one is particularly galling. You may have heard of the so-called rubber rooms, where teachers accused of wrongdoing or incompetence were sent to spend day after day knitting or playing cards while receiving full pay and benefits. Some of them lingered in the rubber room for YEARS. An appalling waste of taxpayer money, no doubt – but one could argue that the rubber rooms are a better location for incompetent teachers than the classroom.

Those teachers in Wisconsin who are so up in arms about having to contribute a bit toward their own health benefits (like the rest of us do)… the ones who called in sick and forced schools to close… well, the Department of Education says that 2/3 of their 8th grade students cannot read proficiently. TWO THIRDS. This is despite the fact that Wisconsin spend more per pupil than any other Midwest state. Well, it may be BECAUSE they spend more per pupil, because the spending isn’t going to help kids learn to read. It’s going to pay for those gold-plated benefits.

It’s not for the kids. It never has been, it isn’t now, and it never will be – as long as teachers are unionized.

Next: The unions show their true colors with outrageous thuggery…

3. Your arguments are suspect if you have to resort to goon behavior to make your points

Writing this article, and trying to include the latest examples of union thuggery out of Wisconsin (and other states) has been an exercise in working with moving targets. I would no sooner get the latest episode into my notes than another would be reported. And the hits – sometimes literally – keep comin’.

Like this goon, who hit a young woman who caught his classless comments on video as he demonstrated outside the offices of FreedomWorks.

Other union protesters made sexually degrading comments to female lawmakers at the Kansas statehouse. And if they’re not busy attacking women, union members also enjoy attacking minorities who aren’t marching in leftist lockstep. Like the black Tea Party member asked if he has any children that he claims. Or the man told he is a bad Jew for not supporting the unions.

In Idaho, where you’d think conservatives would be shown a little more respect, the school superintendent (who has proposed some truly courageous education reform) has had his car trashed and his mother harassed. His mother! And the union had the sheer effrontery to demand HIS apology, for calling them “thugs.”

They are really unhappy when Fox News shows up, because Fox News tells all the sides of the story, and they only want their side told. So Rupert Murdoch’s network must be shouted down at all costs.

It’s called projection. When party A accuses party B of something that party A is really guilty of. Insert “unions/Democrats” as party A and “Tea Party” as party B, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. I’ve just posted, on one little webpage, more evidence of thug-like behavior than the Tea Party was ever accused of.

Astroturfing? It was not happening at the Tea Party rallies, but it’s happening here

Violent rhetoric and nasty signs? Ditto.

As Michelle Malkin masterfully demonstrates, these people did not read the president’s civility memo.

Note to union goons: The ends do not justify the means. Morality means something.

Side note to union goons: Some of your protesters are certifiable.

Next: Is there a connection between the unions and socialists or communists?

2. There is an absolutely indisputable link between public sector unions and socialism/communism

This isn’t really surprising. Public sector unions, in particular, represent a microcosm of socialism, in that wealth is redistributed. It is taken from producers (taxpayers) and given to deadwood (DMV workers).
Another word for this is theft. Stealing productivity of one person or group actually serves as an incentive to underproduce for both groups. Again, that natural tendency to follow the path of least resistance.

That’s the philosophical proof. But let’s get down to reality.

Mike Imbrogno is an executive board member of AFSCME. At a recent meeting of the International Socialist Organization, he issued a veiled threat against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Yeah, yeah, all kinds of leftists are threatening Scott Walker. The most important point is, he was at the INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST ORGANIZATION. He also writes for a fun little website called, where he penned this:
“This battle won’t be won in the offices of these right-wing pigs. It will be won by framing these political questions in the streets.”
It’s not just one guy. Socialist groups have been marching in Madison since the protests started, and the unionists are being supported by groups like the Maoist Revolution Communist Party and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. Read all about it here.

Of course, America’s own favorite socialist group, Obama’s Organizing for America group, was right there at the beginning, stoking the fires in Wisconsin… an effort reported in the Washington Post, which made it difficult for Obama & Co to deny when they tried to back away from their involvement as the rest of America indicated this wasn’t their definition of hope and change.

Next: NEWSFLASH! The media completely misses the point…

1. The taxpayers ARE the working people of America

I understand the Green Bay Packers are very popular in Wisconsin, so it’s really a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of fans that team captain Charles Woodson issued a statement supporting the union protesters:
“I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin…”
Newsflash, Charlie buddy. The working families of Wisconsin are the ones getting screwed by these unions. There are way more of us than there are of them. Why aren’t you supporting our rights?

I guess I can’t be too hard on a stupid football player. He has his own union, after all, because heaven knows his big kazillion dollar salary needs union protection. Or something.

But where is the media in all this? They are completely missing the reality that the people of Wisconsin – as well as most of the people in America – just voted for people who would take on the unions. In some cases, the candidates in question (like Scott Walker) were crystal clear about this during their campaigns. They were voted in to do this job for the taxpayers – but the media can’t wrap its pretty little head around that fact. George Stephanopoulos actually went to bat for the unions with Scott Walker. Meanwhile, celebrities spew on about saving the middle class, while ignoring the fact that (a) we are not a class system society and (b) even if we were, most of the middle class DOES NOT BELONG TO A UNION.

The mainstream media is not questioning this idiocy.

We also don’t see them reporting on the costs of these protests to the Wisconsin taxpayers (thanks to the right wing blogs, we at least have the information).

Journalists are supposed to act as the “fourth estate” – ferreting out and reporting on corruption and lies. But they are missing virtually every aspect of this union story: from their failure to draw parallels on the civility issue, to their failure to question union talking points, to their failure to tell the story, at least on occasion, from the taxpayer perspective.

But what else can we expect from the media but a giant FAIL. After all, they tried to keep Scott Walker from being elected in the first place, as a union spokesman revealed during the election.
This is an ugly story, bound to get uglier. Especially since the media (apart from Fox News, Rush, and the blogosphere) is not doing its job. It falls to us, as individuals, to insert some sanity into the arguments. These ten talking points deserve wide dissemination. Take them to Facebook, Twitter, and the office water cooler (but be extra careful at work). Let’s start winning hearts and minds with the truth.

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