"Fighting the last war" is how Rob Schofield begins his latest attack on us free-marketeers in his latest diatribe on how public service unions will be good for North Carolina.
Funny, that is exactly what the unions are doing by turning their attention to the only captive audience they have left. With their numbers declining, or in many cases, evaporating in the private sector, big labor unions like the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are trying to hold the line and "fight their last war" at the only place they can gain membership — public sector employees.
He talks about repeating the same mistakes over and over, but isn’t that exactly what we would be doing by allowing collective bargaining? Allowing a failed phenomenon to spread?
Unions had a time and place in our history, perhaps–a time when gross negligence by employers was prevalent, when workers’ dignity was often not respected, and when workplace conditions were unsafe. It is very hard to suggest the comparison between the working conditions of the factory worker in the 30s, 40s and 50s with that of the government bureaucrat of today. As a social movement it did its job. As an economic one, it has failed.
Unions were needed when workers had little choice in their jobs and travel and mobility were limited. Now, if you don’t like your job, it is very easy and relatively inexpensive to just get up, leave and go find a new one.
But let me just take a few minutes to rebut a couple of Schofield’s assertions:
Schofield claims, "First and foremost, it is simply inaccurate to state that the presence of public employee collective bargaining will automatically drive up the cost of government and/or taxes." However, a document entitled "Report of the SEANC Collective Bargaining Study Committee" found here states that "on the average, collective bargaining boosts state and local-government salaries by approximately five to six per cent and probably increases the dollar value of benefits even more."
So explain to me how a 5-6% increase in salaries will not drive up the cost of government? Especially when according to the NC General Assembly’s Fiscal Research division (CAFR p. 318) a 1% across-the-board pay increase for all state employees in 2006-2007 costs $106.89 million dollars. Apparently Schofield believes that the government spending an additional $535 million dollars is not an additional cost or wouldn’t have to be paid for with higher taxes. So exactly where does he envision the money coming from? Maybe the state can buy some tickets for the $300 million Powerball drawing this weekend.
Next Schofield makes the assertion that, "just because ‘the market’ has determined that North Carolina workers must, on the whole, make do on lower average wages than other Americans does not mean that this is proper or just."
Hold on. Go back and read that again. The labor market is not proper and just? Is that what you are saying Comrade? So please Rob, tell me: who then, if not the market, should set wages? You? The Central Committee? And exactly what is a "proper or just" wage? $10/hr? $20? If Schofield thinks value-for-value exchanges among consenting adults should be determined by an elite, I’d be happy to come and price his Cornflakes for him. (You see, Schofield’s likely ‘laboring’ under the theory of value put forth by Marx, which argues that values are objectively determined by central planners, and that profit is not return on investment, but expropriation. We think values are subjective and are exchanged by free people.)
Finally, Schofield talks about union dues and political contributions. Funny, he only mentions SEANC when everyone knows that SEANC’s political activity is very limited and they let their SEIU brothers do the heavy lifting. That such is the state of affairs in North Carolina is only because the state doesn’t recognize public-sector unions. Just take a look at any other state, the teachers and state employees unions (if not represented by AFSCME or SEIU) all use forcibly collected union dues for political activities (Maybe a refresher on this recent US Supreme Court case will help).
To allow the government to organize against itself would be the political equivalent of cannibalism. Governments can’t go out of business, so there is no reasonable limit to the demands government can make of itself (passing the cost onto taxpayers, of course). Nevermind that there is something really wrong with pitting government against the governed at the negotiating table.