Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sick of the Unions!

Unions have done a lot for the worker class, I'd be the first to admit. They won reasonable working hours, better working conditions, and better pay and benefits for their members. They also got processes that protected workers from capricious firing by managers. Despite the corruption that has plagued unions throughout their history, it's hard to argue that unions haven't been a major factor in the democratization of our country. Unfortunately, they now seem bent on bankrupting our country by standing in front of changes that are unavoidable - changes that primarily have to do with efficiency and accountability.

Hardly a day passes when I don't read another major story that, often unintenionally, describes a union that seems bent on driving its employer base into failure or subjecting its customers to substandard services. These stories are not in republican screeds or shouted out on Fox News; they are on the front pages of local newspapers and on media outlets like NPR. Union leaders have no shame, which apparently is a condition they've mutated into as a result of too many years in a closed shop. In my view, a monopoly of labor is just as pernicious as a monopoly of employers, and in many areas of our economy labor has just such a monopoly.

Today the New York State Troopers Union strongly objected to the state's decision not to have a new troopers class in 2010 to replace troopers who have retired. They complained about the larger geographies that troopers must cover with fewer people, and they criticized the governor for having about 200 troopers assigned to security details. What they failed to mention was that the total number of troopers was at a record level just last year, and that the state is facing a giant deficit for 2010. Could we expect these people to be part of the solution until the budget woes are controlled? No way.

The New York City school system has a "rubber room" where 700 teachers under suspension for a variety of accused misdeeds await their fate while receiving full pay. The cost is $65 million per year. Some of these teachers have been reporting to the "rubber room" for more than seven years while their cases proceed through the labrinthine process that the union somehow negotiated. Change this unwieldly process? No way. The process for dismissing an ineffective teacher also contains so many steps, documentation requirements, and appeals to higher and higher authorities that few principals have the time or interest to use it. It's obvious that teachers unions have little interest in the quality of education that their members deliver, even though bad teachers are often pariahs even in the teacher ranks of their own schools. This is what happens when unions gain so much political power that only candidates who support even their outrageous demands will get their funding support.

Today I listened to a co-worker describe a post office screw-up of a deposit for business reply mail. This was the third consecutive time that this type of transaction had been improperly processed by this local post office. If a private company had screwed up in this manner, it would have been easy to find a manager, explain the situation, and get the problem fixed. When it comes to the post office, you just shrug your shoulders and sigh, wishing that they'd go bankrupt and be sold off to FedEx or UPS after their union contracts were scrapped.

In Rochester, New York, the school system is run by a local school board of hacks who each get a few thousand dollars for their part time efforts. The drop out rate is ridiculous, and Rochester's teenage pregnancy rate leads the nation, so the mayor is making noise about getting permission to take over the system. In addition to citing the poor academic performance, he's concerned about the waste in the central administration of the system. Where is the teacher's union on this? Screaming! They see a disaster coming when an excellent mayor might get into their knickers after replacing a bunch of hacks who are easily bought off. Why should we be surprised?

Last year it cost the federal government over $60 billion to save GM and Chrysler, both of which were crippled by unions who fought the company's effort to become competitive. Well, we haven't seen anything yet. The public employee unions will be the death of the blue states before its over. Maybe unions were once good citizens, but now they are simply out to protect obsolete jobs and poor performers. I'm sick of them, and I'm going to vote for anyone who has the guts to take them on.

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