Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Public Unions are Worse than Private Unions

I am not a fan of unions. I think they complicate what should be simple agreement between a worker and an employer. They infringe on the property rights of business owners. And they often mis-reward workers for union loyalty, not work quality. That said, I've been less harsh on public unions. This is not because I am a public school teacher, but because the government is inherently stronger than a business. In the case of school teachers,  the state school system is a near universal buyer of educational labor. With 9 out of 10 students attending public school, if you want to teach, you almost have to work for the government. Which this monopsony power, state schools can have an undue influence over teachers. So there is an economic reason for a teacher's union. Or that is until I read this:
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.

Why would local government unions give so much in federal elections? Because government workers have an inherent interest in boosting the amount of federal tax dollars their local governments get. Put simply, people in the government business support the party of government.
The government wants to increase the number of people working for the government, so they'll vote to increase the power of the government. Here's more:
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."
Surprisingly, the president who institutionalized progressivism in America, FDR, agrees. This was part two of my series against self-verification.


  1. Amike8:40 AM

    1) $40 million over a 15-year period, spread across the entire United States? Yeah, that's...sooooo much money. Hoo boy. $1.67 million a year, man, that's un-HEARD of in American elections!

    2) Government may be stronger than business, but both are far stronger than the individual worker. Unions are necessary because that "simple agreement" you speak of, absent regulation or the possibility of collective organizing, typically consists of "You will accept the offer I make, or get the hell out of my office." Theoretically one could just head over to Competitor B, but Competitor B will just make the same offer all over again--no real incentive to do otherwise.

  2. Then why does my job give me holidays off, a planning period, and a nice comfy chair? Because my school, yes even my government school, is competing for my labor.

    I think biggest argument that swayed me was this quote:

    Private sector unions fight with management over an equitable distribution of profits. Government unions negotiate with politicians over taxpayer money

  3. Amike8:05 PM

    Except that quote is deliberately worded to denigrate the public side and make the private side sound good. An alternate way of putting it would be:

    "Private sector unions fight with management over consumer money. Government unions fight with politicians over taxpayer money."

    It's much more of a parallel.

    I won't argue with you about teaching, though: all teachers are ridiculously underpaid, but the perks are quite nice.

  4. Sheesh, how many times am I supposed to reevaluate my presuppositions?

    Good points. I'll have to mull over them for a while.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.