No Sympathy For Public Unions

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - March 02, 2011
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Starting with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to challenge the clout of state public worker’s unions - not on wages but on collective bargaining, compulsory payment of union dues and other controversial union levers of power - some other Republican governors are beginning to pay attention. And not surprisingly, so are their state worker unions.

Although personally I am not sympathetic to public worker unions - the people who work for us and whose salaries we pay. They are the tail and we are the dog, and too often it is we who get wagged. But the bottom line is, they should be better managed and we should be better represented by the people we elect to do that through wage and benefit negotiations, and collective bargaining. We really can’t blame the union leadership for going to the wall in representing their membership in striving for ever higher wages and benefits, as if it were a zero-sum game. Some hard-bargaining union leaders simply price their members and the services they provide right out of the market, the result being the loss of their entire industry - think Hawaiian sugar cane and pineapple.

It is estimated that unions donated more than $400 million to state and federal lawmakers during the 2008 elections, and not just out of the goodness of their hearts. Unfortunately, too many lawmakers - supposedly our representatives—have round heels. They’re pushovers for big campaign donations and - believe it or not - will too often vote accordingly! And, equally unfortunate, they are seldom long on foresight, i.e.: “What are we gonna do about these high wages and benefits we’re approving now during the next inevitable economic downturn?”

Contributing to the increasing disfavor in which many public worker unions are finding themselves is the growing disparity in wages and benefits between public workers and private-sector workers, not to mention the disparity in job security: Public sector provides much higher job security than private. Not surprisingly, union membership in public-sector jobs is approximately 30 percent compared to about 8 percent in the private sector.

Ironically, the mostly Democrat Hawaii Legislature with its strong union patronage is typical of the imbalance of power in state Houses all across the country, up to and including the federal system - all the way to the White House. The bottom line is how you and I cast our vote. As John McCain has said, and you and I are realizing all the more (if we didn’t before): “elections have consequences!”

three star

A brief message received from a Christian friend in Egypt:

“The revolution in Egypt was the most profound event of our generation. I just watched a service that took place in my church in Cairo to honor the people who were martyred during the uprising. Young Muslim and Christian leaders who were part of the engine behind the demonstrations spoke from the pulpit, love and unity filled the air, Muslims and Christians honored one another ... it was an unprecedented coming together and an opportunity for the church to show her love to the nation.

“Even though this amazing event took place in only one church, if we nurture this spirit, Egypt will never be the same again. The biggest challenges for Egypt and the Middle East are definitely ahead of us. Our people broke the barrier of fear to make their voices heard.

“But a secular, democratic form of government is still a foreign concept to us ... we want it but I don’t think we know how to do it ... yet.

“Until we can, I believe there is a very real possibility for the gradual rise of a hard line pro-Islamic government in Egypt.”

According to a McNeil-Lehrer report on PBS Feb. 22, The Muslim Brotherhood (the dangers of which I wrote in my last MidWeek column, Feb. 14) is the best organized, most politically and socially pervasive and most dangerous institution in Egypt.

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