Trade unionism: Defying the voters
If newspaper reporting is supposed to be the first draft of history, then it is lamentable that too many first drafts fail to get the facts straight and/or the reporter inserts his or her personal bias into the story.
For example, in Wisconsin, the Sinistra Media are portraying “collective bargaining” as a “right” when, in fact, it is a merely a “process” that many of the U.S. states, to include Wisconsin, have agreed to use in negotiating labor agreements with public employees. If the elected legislators of Wisconsin decide it is no longer financially feasible to engage in collective bargaining with public employees, the Wisconsin Legislature has a perfect “right” to change the law.
Actually, collective bargaining is merely the “process” of negotiation between union leaders and management with respect to the terms and conditions of employment such as: wages, hours of work, working conditions, and grievance procedures. Many people have no problem with those subjects; however, when it comes to the rights and powers of unions, serious questions start to arise:
Test yourself: Do you think all public employees should be forced to join a union and that government unions should have the power to take union dues from government employee paychecks? Should unions hold periodic elections to determine if the workers still want to be represented, or not? Will workers be allowed to vote in secret so union organizers will not know how they voted?
Should union bosses determine when and under what conditions that law enforcement officers may or may not use lethal force? Should union bosses be allowed to insist that seniority tops merit? Should unions set job-performance standards? Should union bosses decide who cannot be fired? Should employers be allowed to fire employees at will? Frankly, labor law is a treacherous minefield.
At Harvard, one lecturer, who worked in real life as a federal labor-relations negotiator and mediator, told us that the actual negotiations between the auto-makers and the United Auto Workers are conducted in secret. Then, with a very public hue and cry, the leaders of both sides lock themselves in a hotel suite, pledging to engage in tough, 24/7 bargaining until all means to avoid a strike have been exhausted.
Every few hours, a spokesperson for each side comes out in the hallway to describe to the media just how hard both sides are working to come to an agreement. But what has really been going on inside the hotel suite is a week-long, whisky-swilling, cigar-smoking card game. Anyway, that is what we were told at the JFK School of Government by a labor-relations insider. No wonder GM and Chrysler had to be bailed out by the U.S. taxpayer.
Currently, the U.S. is divided into 22 right-to-work states and 28 states, plus the District of Columbia, that engage in some form of “forced unionism,” which means that workers in certain fields must belong to a union in order to work.
Why do some states refuse to engage in collective bargaining and/or forced unionism? Part of the answer lies in economic performance. The unintended consequence of forced unionism is that, in general, the economies of the right-to-work states are in better shape than the states that allow forced unionism. The three top states with the highest growth in 2009 were all right-to-work states: Oklahoma (6.6%), Wyoming (5.4%), and North Dakota (3.9%). The largest concentration of forced unionism is found in the economically-lagging Northeast and across the “rust bucket” states of the Ohio Valley.
Long ago, this writer’s school-teacher Mother predicted, “If teachers are forced to join a teachers’ union in order to teach, that will transform a once proud profession into a trade.” Currently, the voters of Wisconsin are experiencing teachers trade unionism at its greedy, to-heck-with-the-children worst.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2011. William Hamilton.