07 September 2010

Unionized government workers

JW wrote an interesting comment on a draft of The End of Abundance, and I wanted to get your reactions:
I have been especially skeptical of the justification of union organization of government workers. If the justification of unionization is to protect workers from rapacious, profit maximizing, immoral businesses, what is the justification for unionizing non-profit, egalitarian governmental agencies?
Please comment.

8 comments:

Eric said...

Same as before.
Treatment of workers fairly and not abusing them. The initial unionization, on the East Coast, was not about rapacious, etc. but was about workers who were fed up enough by their treatment by management to band together and get that treatment changed.

"Egalitarian"? What planet is this book about?

TragerWaterReport.wordpress.com said...

Old union bosses, like Walter Reuther and Samuel Gompers, opposed unionization of government workers. The reason is that government workers then sit on both sides of the bargaining table: as employee and, through politicians they elect, as employer. No wonder government worker salaries and benefits, once similar to those in the private sector, now are much higher.
-- John Seiler

David Zetland said...

JW emails: "It's the same skepticism of tenure for academics in university monopolies to protect them from decisions under Cold War ideological whims; now that the Cold War is over, tenure should be too!"

Mister Kurtz said...

I am as disgusted with many government unions as anybody else. But give a read to Dennis Lehane's "The Given Day" for a sympathetic and informative portrayal of the Boston police strike which took place a little less than a century ago. There was a time, long ago and far away, when they actually stood for something decent. There are a lot of good people working for state and local governments, but the present retirement benefits system is ridiculous.

W.E. Heasley said...

TragerWaterReport.wordpress.com said...

Old union bosses, like Walter Reuther and Samuel Gompers, opposed unionization of government workers. The reason is that government workers then sit on both sides of the bargaining table: as employee and, through politicians they elect, as employer. No wonder government worker salaries and benefits, once similar to those in the private sector, now are much higher.
-- John Seiler


Excellent point. However, it may also go back to Milton Friedman’s forth category of spending: other people, spending other peoples money, on other people. When unions negotiate with government, the government bureaucrat does not come to the table like private industry where money is finite and this finite supply of money is needed for running the business tomorrow morning, buying supplies, paying taxes, buying replacement capital, maintaining capital, paying benefits, and so on.

Conversely, when other people (government bureaucrats) spend other peoples money (tax payer money) on other people (unionized labor) there is little or no incentive to negotiate for the best deal. In some cases if the bureaucrat hasn’t spend his/her allotted budget, meaning a budget cut next year, then more concessions are given to labor to fill up the budget surplus and legitimize funding levels for next year.

This discussion begs one very important question: exactly what is the moral authority to unionize against the tax dollar? The vast majority of personal taxes were generated by non union people (90% non union, 10% union), hence there is some kind of further moral justification for these non-union tax payers to be forced to pay union rates to provide government services?

Oki said...

Unions are about democratizing the workplace. All workers deserve representation if they choose it. Collective bargaining is the fairest method of creating a level playing field for workers of all kinds.

Four Mound Farm said...

Not all government employees ride the gravy train. As a temporary government worker, I am automatically enrolled in the union. I'm paid a relatively low hourly wage from which all of the deductions are taken, including union dues, from which I derive no benefit. I do however, support unions, because without them we (the hourly wage earners) would be worked to death for starvation wages.

Dies said...

I worked for the government and one union anecdote sticks out. The union placed fliers around the cafeteria and other public places heralding their achievement (after lengthy and costly arbitration) of a woman winning the right to telecommute 4 days a week. It didn't mention why she needed to do it, just that the union won her the right. I have to agree that government workers (as well many other salaried US employees) have it pretty good and unions will increase inequality by putting a greater wedge between the haves and have-nots.