Public Sector Unions Are Bargaining For Your Salary

Check out my latest piece at Carolina Journal: http://www.carolinajournal.com/articles/display_story.html?id=7502  or read the entire piece below!

Public Sector Unions Are Bargaining for Your Salary
By Peter Frank
Mar. 10th, 2011

WINGATE — As Wisconsin and other states come to grips with massive budget shortfalls, and protesters seek a voice in the
painful process of spending cuts, we find ourselves questioning the role of public sector unions today.
Look at the basic structure of public vs. private unions. At the core of their collective goals, unions are trying to advocate for the
rights of their members, but this is where the similarity ends. Public sector unions are bargaining over tax dollars, so there is
little discipline or limitation for what they can bargain. Private unions are faced with a very different situation. They are simply
trying to attain a share of the corporate profits, and their bargaining power exists only if they produce a product that consumers
want. Public unions negotiate with those who they help elect to ensure they receive above average pay compared to the private
sector.

Take the current bargaining dispute between the NFL players and owners. Each party walks a fine line because if consumers
get fed up with their haggling, and stop purchasing tickets and merchandise, neither side will get a slice of the $9 billion
industry. Or consider the United Auto Workers in Ohio and Michigan who are no longer employed because General Motors had
to restructure and close over 14 production facilities.

Public sector unions try to explain their plight in terms of basic rights. Yet there is no basic right to negotiate with monopoly
power extracting resources from a democratically elected government. For the teacher union in Wisconsin, collective bargaining
means that those who supply their labor to the public school system essentially can fix their wages and benefits and force all
workers to join the union (or pay not to join). As one commentator put it, it’s equivalent to all airline companies meeting to fix
ticket prices and capacity — obviously a practice that would swiftly be stopped under antitrust law.

These unions essentially are claiming they have an unqualified right to bargain for more taxpayer funds. In Wisconsin, the
average public school teacher earns approximately one-and-a-half times what the average American worker earns. Should they
have the right to bargain for higher wages, improved pension programs, and additional worker benefits without any market
discipline? The problem is there is no “fair” way to set up a public sector union to incorporate a mechanism for compensating
workers without appealing to political patronage. The recent headlines in Wisconsin are a prime example of this problem.

Public sector employee unions should not have an unchecked ability to extract tax dollars from the state budget for their own
well-being. They simply shouldn’t have the right to bargain for more taxpayer dollars without any accountability.
Liberal legislators who are “fighting for working families” clearly don’t see this side of the argument. The transactions costs would be high, but why not put a salary or pension increase to the voters each time a public sector employee asks for more funds? No one is hoping for this outcome, but it does reveal the absurdity of unmitigated bargaining power. How manyAmericans have the ability to negotiate for the salary they desire, and the ability to bind their employer with unqualified monopoly power on the supply of their labor?

At its core, the debate over public sector union power is a debate over the public vs. private provision of goods and services.
The matter doesn’t center on some opposing moral issue of giving workers what they deserve vs. stripping school teachers of
a dignifying wage.

Americans must come to grips with an imperfect system of deciding what government workers rightfully earn as they educate
children and police our streets, while public sector unions must consider the reality that most of us rely on market forces and
the desires of consumers to determine our bargaining power.

Multiculturalism and the Withering of America’s Cultural Identity

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently spoke at the Munich Security Conference on the topic of terrorism and Islamic extremism.  His point was that the biggest threat the British face originates from terrorist attacks, yet he emphasized that the perpetrators act not from a religious conviction but one of ideology.  He was explicit that Islam is a religion observed peacefully by many, yet “Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority.”   Cameron continued, “It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other.”  What appeared to be factual, benign remarks turned controversial when the British Prime Minister held that the uprising of indigenous terrorists is catalyzed by the role of multiculturalism in British society.

What are the implications of Cameron’s comments for America?  What does the contemporary notion of multiculturalism mean for a “nation of immigrants?”  Multiculturalism has always been a core of America’s social framework.  Various people from all over the world have come to this country bringing a unique set of what economists call the informal institutional structures that help shape our daily lives.  These unique cultural characteristics are important and celebrated in America.  What emerged as many differing cultural values assimilated together was a unique set of shared cultural institutions.  Unique cultures were not lost; instead they were added to American culture.

What has made America great is that we have always come together to form this unique American cultural identity.  American culture consists of some specific core values that should remain despite the multicultural makeup of this nation.  These core values are individual liberty, democratic ideals, equality of opportunity and the fundamental freedoms that intrigued Alexis de Tocqueville, causing him to pen these as American Exceptionalism.

These are the values born out of a revolution that launched this nation well over 200 years ago.  They not only represent the identity of America, they are the values that have sustained and healed this nation during times of slavery and war.

The goal of the new multicultural movement today is to privilege what is exclusive or different about our myriad cultural identities over any shared core values.  In fact, multicultural proponents argue there are no core American values, or at least no core values that supersede the diversity of ethnic values that exist today.  This is wrong.  We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.

While we in America have long celebrated the cultural diversities among us, we have also always held that the core values that made us exceptional since our fight for independence are also the same values that define us today.  Why do some want the melting pot to end?  I argue that those who advocate for tolerance at all costs do so because they don’t understand the core values of America’s cultural identity, or they don’t think it’s important to maintain a unifying collective identity.  For those who don’t understand the importance of America’s core values the best course of action is to educate them on the ideals of liberty, equality of opportunity, etc., explaining that these values are fundamental to who man is.  Sadly, this education is not happening in America’s school system.  The modern multicultural movement is teaching kids that it is intolerant to privilege one cultural identity over another.  Thus, kids fail to learn the unique foundation of the American identity.

An equally dangerous position is from those who don’t believe it is important to maintain a unifying collective identity.  One needn’t look further than Western Europe to see the peril in this thinking.  Consider the recent French law banning burqas in public places as an example of the long-run outcome of the modern multicultural movement.

How can America avoid the problems that beset Britain as addressed by Prime Minister Cameron?  First, we must make sure that those extremists, who deny our values and hope for the downfall of America, fail to gain strength.  We should actively promote the core values of America which are individual liberty, democratic ideals, equality of opportunity, and the fundamental freedoms we share, such as those of speech and religion.  When we collectively deny that these values are the cornerstone of this nation, and when we claim that there is no American cultural identity, we open the door for a new set of values that dilute the strength of this country and further divide its people.