Local Government

"Unions have priced themselves out of a job"

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The Wall Street Journal had a good piece yesterday about how even labortastic politicians are going after public sector unions–at least rhetorically–because We Are Out of Money. Sample:

Das boot

[W]ith the city facing a budget deficit that could drain its reserves by summer, [Los Angeles] Mayor [Antonio] Villaraigosa wants to re-open contract talks with 45,000 cops, firefighters, librarians and other city employees in hopes of persuading them to contribute more to their pensions and health-care costs. His deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo, puts it bluntly: "Unions have priced themselves out of a job."

Nationwide, politicians looking for budget cuts are confronting politically powerful unions that represent state and local government employees—15% of U.S. workers and organized labor's biggest stronghold. […]

Similar things are happening at the state level. Over the past two years, 17 states have cut benefits for employees or increased the amount that individuals must contribute to their pension plans. Three of those states—Kentucky, Texas and Vermont—did both[.]

Reality's a bitch

In New Jersey, outrage over state deficits helped Republican Chris Christie defeat incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine last November. A few weeks after Mr. Christie's victory, a Quinnipiac University poll found that three-fourths of state voters supported a wage freeze for state workers, and 61% favored layoffs. Last month, Gov. Christie signed a set of bills that would, among other things, cut pension benefits for future employees. […]

As a group, state and local governments have promised an estimated $3.35 trillion in pension and health-care benefits to be paid over the next three decades, but are estimated to have 70% of the money to cover those payments, according to the Pew Center on the States. Pension and health costs can consume 20% of city and state budgets.

ReasonTV on public sector unions below.

NEXT: A Price Control By Any Other Name Is Still A Price Control

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  1. Here in ‘Burque, they mayor just proposed a 3% pay cut for city employees and there’s already some grumblings going on about it. A lot saying they want furlows instead but the thing is, the furlows would add up to a 6.5% pay cut for the same employees.

    Not too bright. Then again, what do you expect from cops and public school teachers?

    1. Between less a paycut and more days off, I’d rather have the days off; of course, I’d rather have comp time rather then overtime too. Money is nice, but it can’t buy sunny days.

      Also, my wife is a public school teacher, and days she doesn’t have to deal with the little brats are worth their weight in gold to her. It’s not that she’s not smart; it’s just that the kids suck (and administration, and coworkers, but that’s beside the point).

      1. Dan?

        (I don’t mean Dan T.)

  2. Heh…great alt-text on the Governator

  3. The government, on behalf of the people, made these contracts, and if the people have to pay more to honor these contracts, then that is the price of democracy.

    1. STFU, Scotch Hamilton.

      1. STFU, Scotch Hamilton.

        QFT.

    2. But it doesn’t quite work like that, does it? “The people” didn’t make those contracts. Union members, paid from money stolen from tax payers, funnel that money into the pockets of pols who will make those contracts with them. So yes, through theft and conspiracy the people were forced into contracts with the unions.

      If people were given a choice: would you like to fund parasites who have much better benefits than you and don’t have to work as hard, or would you prefer to starve the parasites? Most people who are not parasitic would vote to starve the parasite.

      Of course, you’ve pointed out one of the main problems with democracy and its cost. In a democracy, everyone is a parasite. We are constantly given choices over who’s pie we want to steal for ourselves.

      But the real flaw you negated to point out is the compulsion and coercion involved. If we had the ability to opt out of this particularly insane set of arrangements, then other people who want to fund the generous pensions of others are more than welcome to spend their money that way. There’s no escaping the tentacles though, thus, the fact that entering into these contracts in the US is essentially mandatory, then we have yet another violation of natural rights.

      There is no obligation to honor contracts that were entered into under coercion (and implied threat of violence from the state). Which is to say, if the unions eventually loose all their perks, tough shit. Get a job that does not involve putting your hand in my pocket (unless you giving me a handy while you’re there).

  4. The only thing Unions are good for is sucking the life blood out of companies! Nothing more.

    Lim
    http://www.anonymous-surfing.us.tc

  5. We tuk yrrrr mmmerrny!

  6. The government, on behalf of the people, made these contracts

    Let’s say your rich uncle kicks the bucket, and leaves you a large inheritance in the form of a trust.

    Let us then say the administrator decides to hire his nephew and his grandson to provide investment advice to the trust, and pays them handsomely to do so, despite the fact that their investments incur devastating principle losses to the trust.

    Should you be allowed to fire any or all of these people, or should you be inextricably bound by their contracts?

    1. Uh … No?

  7. Let us then say the administrator decides to hire his nephew and his grandson to provide investment advice to the trust, and pays them handsomely to do so, despite the fact that their investments incur devastating principle losses to the trust

    The unions are not “providing advice”; they are negotiating.

    And you had the opportunity to fire the trust administrators a long time ago, in the form of voting. The fact that the public trust’s administrators were affirmed by the public shows that the public consented to pay these contracts.

    Just like a private entity should not be relieved of its burden in a short-sighted decision to make a bad deal, so too should the public be held accountable for the deals they made, over and over again…

    1. Contracts are renegotiated all the time. To say they absolutely can not be is not only a straw dog, but is patently FALSE.

      1. There is not much “negotiating” when pensioners have detrimentally relied on the promises of the public.

        For people so obsessed with ‘personal responsibility’, you are sure eager to vitiate personal and public responsibility using the Boot of the State.

        1. Not at all. The state is the problem. Not the solution. Businesses should be free to negotiate whatever terms of a contract (labor or otherwise) will be most likely to keep them thriving in business.

          In the private sector, after all, if salaries are untenable and can not be cut back, businesses *go out of business*. In the public sector, when salaries are untenable and can not be cut back, taxpayers have their wallets raped even more.

          1. I think not. The public promised all of these benefits, and received value from the labor of those workers who fulfilled their end of the deal. It is now the public’s turn to pay for that which they bought.

            “Take what you want, God said to man, and pay for it.”

            1. Then we have doomed ourselves to tyranny and bankruptcy, because that is where your arguement inevitably leads.

              I don’t believe we are ever *obligated* to tyranny and/or bankruptcy, but I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree…Hmph.

            2. I’m curious as to what value I have received from government parasites? And how we know they have fulfilled their end of the deal? I never got to see the actual contracts that specify what union members are supposed to do, nor have I seen performance evaluations indicating that they have lived up to their obligations.

              And again, and again, and again I shall ask: where is this contract that I signed without coercion or compulsion? Where is the contract that I, a free person, freely entered into? I am not a child, which means that you, and my neighbors, do not get to make decisions on my behalf (unless, of course, as is the case, you have guns pointed at my head).

              1. Why stuff like this of course!

                Despite stepping down amid reports his underlings were slacking off when they should have been filling potholes, the director of St. Paul’s department of public works will still get to keep a six-figure job with the city.

                Bruce Beese resigned Monday in advance of a KSTP-TV report that caught city pothole crews on camera taking hours-long breaks on the clock while drivers suffer the conditions from an unusually bad pothole season. In some cases, crews spent more of their day not working than actually working, the TV station documented.

                Mayor Chris Coleman and City Council President Kathy Lantry expressed anger over the loafing, which comes at a time when the city faces steep budget cuts amid falling revenues.

                http://www.twincities.com/ci_1…..cities.com

    2. So we’ll ignore for the moment than unions take my money, in the form of compulsory taxes to pay their union dues, and funnel that money into lobbyists who then grease the wheels to give them more generous pay and benefits.

      I have never, so far as I am aware, voted to allow someone to take my money and give themselves an awesome pension and health care benefits with it. But my neighbors did, apparently. I could really care less about people voting for coercive contracts. I fail to see how the moral injustice is made right simply because my neighbors decide to gang up on me and take my money and give it to someone else. I’ve still been violated.

      So no, I will not be held accountable for things other people have done to me without my permission. Which is why I’m not particularly interested in living under a regime whereby a majority of people can impose their collective will on me.

      But you are right partially. The unions ought to be held accountable for their criminal behavior. That means that they get cut off. Although they really ought to be doing time behind bars like other sorts of white collar criminals. A $3.5 trillion ponzi scheme (which is essentially what state and local government unions are running) makes Madoff look like chump change. So if you want accountability, pols and union leaders who devised these plans ought to be put into ass rape prison. Yes, while it is true I am not normally a fan of violations of liberty like forcible sodomy, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it happening to pols and union thugs. I might even like to watch it on the internet.

      1. So you would gladly see say, American Service Members raped? After all, they, too, have “coercive” contracts you are “forced” to pay for. If you are not willing to pay for anything unless you expressly consent, you are just an anarchist, and a simplistically dogmatic one at that.

  8. The Canadian govenment introduced a 2 year freeze on governemtn employee wages, and the Province of Saskatchewan put a program in place to reduce the civil service by 25%. I hope it works but there still throwing more money at healtcare and edcuation which comprise 65% of the budget.

    1. I don’t know where other states stand but about 65% of Florida’s budget goes to healthcare and education too.

  9. This Dan T. guy is an interesting fellow indeed!

    1. I am — I mean this Scotch Hamilton in an interesting fellow indeed!

      1. Quit the mutual fellatio guys, you’re giving us a bad name.

  10. The unions are not “providing advice”; they are negotiating.

    Try not to hurt yourself ducking the point.

    1. Oh I can tell you what’s going to happen. We are going to go bankrupt — collectively, as a nation — and slide into the ice-cold pit of tyrany, but at least Dan and his ilk will be pleased-as-punch that we honored our untenable contracts, signed under duress.

      1. Duress? Libertarians are the ones always crowing about principled nonvoting. you had your chance to fire those public administrators and you did nothing. Like I said, the public asked for this, let the public pay for it.

        1. Duress indeed. What do you call picketts, strikes, and bargaining-table threats, if not duress? That’s all that unions have ever been good for, is strong-arming more and more out of their employers. Public-sector unions are the worst!

          1. Common bargaining tactics. What, you have something against aggressive boycotts (which is what picketing is) and strikes? What, should freedom of association be banned now?

            Some libertarian you are! Picketing is free speech; strikes are freedom of association and freedom of labor; bargaining-table threats go both ways, sister. Do you think that the management on the other side of the table is not threatening firings, cutbacks in pay and benefits and other “threats”?

            I hope you do not call yourself a libertarian. you are a joke.

            1. I have nothing against bargaining tactics of any sort, but I don’t think they should be used to bankrupt companies *or countries* which is where this is going to lead.

              When you get right down to it, public-sector unions are full of theft, graft, bribery, and any number of things that would be as illegal as all-s–t if I did them as a private citizen.

              Private-sector unions must ensure in their bargaining that businesses remain profitable, else those businesses cease to exist and everyone’s out a job. Public-sector unions have no such incentive.

              As for whether I call myself a “libertarian” sir, I think that is my business and mine alone. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if I found out that you were a SEIU member yourself.

              1. So, if in twenty years one of the cost-cutting measures our federal government wants to interact is to cut VA benefits (because costs are going to explode in about 15 years or so, once all the PTSD sets in), despite the fact that the government promised those benefits in exchange for that Soldier’s labor, it is going to be “Thanks for your service…don’t let the door hit you on your ass?”

                The government needs workers. The workers had a union. The union negotiated a good contract, and you affirmed it repeatedly at the voting booth. And now you do not want to pay.

                And you wonder why we think libertarianism is childish. Adults pay their bills.

                1. PTSD doesn’t take years to manifest.

                  1. The point stands – those VA benefits were promised, and veterans will have relied on those benefits in exchange for their labor.

                    What you want is credit-card government, followed by bankruptcy. In other words, you want to eat your cake and have it, too.

                2. VA benefits are totally different. First, the armed forces aren’t in a Union, and second, bureaucrats aren’t going to be subject to the stress of combat. We’re asking service member to risk their life, and the benefits are the repayment for the risk they take. How much is a person’s life worth? They don’t get paid nearly the same as their private sector counter parts, so the medical benefits are worth it. Contrast that with a county clerk who just has to file paperwork. Two totally separate things, and it’s pretty low of you to bring it up.

                  Adults also read their bills to make sure the charges are correct and to cut costs where appropriate; it’s childish to spend money willy nilly. (Witness all the Americans swimming in debt.) For instance, if I have a 800 minute cellphone plan, but I only use 400 minutes, I can change to a 450 minute plan and save money. That’s an adult thing to do. I don’t mind paying the bill; I just want to bill to be smaller.

                  It’s about conservation of resources rather then need less exploitation.

            2. So how do you account for the coercive hand of government against employers in the bargaining process? Employers subject to the NLRA, for example, cannot refuse to bargain with the unions, nor are they free to refuse employment or fire employees based upon union membership. Public sector employees generally cannot be fired or discharged without notice and a hearing at a minimum. Even when the law prohibits public unions from striking, there is little to no enforcement when they do.

        2. Fail. Again.

          I had no chance to either not hire the public administrators, nor opt to not sign binding contracts. These choices were not given to me because I do not live in a free society.

          Again, the public did not ask for this. 51% or 55% or 60% or some majority of people ganged up on the other 49% or 40% or whatever the minority was, and demanded that everyone enter into this contract. If I am dragged kicking and screaming into some sort of exchange I want no part of, I have been violated. Period.

          You’re hung up on this democracy thing. Democracy is always tyranny and a violation of liberty. I’m not interested in it. I’m not interested in voting. I’m interested in contracting, on my own terms, with people. I don’t need to consult with my neighbors to procure services that I’m interested in. Unless I’m living in a home owner’s association or something–e.g. a democracy that I have voluntary entered into.

          I just want to exchange my labor for other people’s labor. You want to tell me that I have to vote on intermediaries, who will then provide select services based upon what the majority of my neighbors want (or in the case of health care, based upon what nobody wants). Swell. It is moot since my rights have been violated by this process and the contract is null and void.

        3. Dan T. |4.2.10 @ 11:52AM|#
          “….Like I said, the public asked for this, let the public pay for it.”

          Yep, and Nixon couldn’t have been forced from office, too.

  11. “The government needs workers.”

    But we don’t need government.

    1. Nonsense. I am sure that you make enough money that you could scrape together enough for an airplane ticket to get out of here. The fact that you stay means that you recognize the legitimacy of the government. I should also add that your property would be subject to the first band of brigands with guns who were so inclined to take it, absent the protection of the State.

      1. “Nonsense. I am sure that you make enough money that you could scrape together enough for an airplane ticket to get out of here. The fact that you stay means that you recognize the legitimacy of the government. I should also add that your property would be subject to the first band of brigands with guns who were so inclined to take it, absent the protection of the State.”

        Sure, I can take a plane out of here. There are several problems though. First, renouncing citizenship is non-trivial. The government does not like to let people out of the matrix. Gotta suck me dry. Second, even if I were to renounce citizenship, the US government will still lay claim to my assets and even future profits (I forget the number of years of future taxation, but they steal from you for a great while). Third, where am I going to go in order to escape the State?

        As for the band of brigands taking my property–it is you and people like you. What, because the IRS automatically deducts money from my paycheck that somehow makes it any different from a band of brigands? That, my dear, is nonsense. Yes, I do not suffer direct violence I suppose. Only the threat of it. My how we have evolved!

        Of course, as many a reader here knows, there have been several periods in human history where people have done just fine in the absence of a coercive middle man who contracts services on their “behalf.” Governments emerge not so much to protect our property from brigands, but because a bunch of brigands rises up and lays claim to all of ours properties. Government is the brigand.

        It mystifies me that Statists always make this violence argument. We’ll ignore, of course, that free people can contract with protection services to protect their property. So statists assume that in absence of a government sponsored policing agency, everything will devolve into violence. This, despite the fact that all wars and all urban violence is either caused by governments, or happens under the eye of those government protection agencies. Who exactly is the government protecting? I mean besides it’s own interests.

        There is also this notion among statists that people will use violence to solve all problems. Yes, Homo sapiens have an exceedingly violent history. And like all primates, we’re a mean, nasty lot. However, given the spread of firearms and other personal protective measures, there is a high cost to violence–e.g. your life. If given a choice between transacting peacefully or taking a chance at losing your life with violence and force, violence is not the winning strategy. We see it either when there is an asymmetry in arms, or when government has made something illegal (and hence you are making a decision between not making a living at all, or risking your life to make a profit). In a legal drug market, for example, there is no reason for cartels (which wouldn’t exist in a free market) to wage war.

        I do not subscribe to the gloomy view of people that we’ll devolve into violence at every opportunity. I could be wrong. I, and others like me, ought to have the opportunity to be wrong, as opposed to you and others like you unilaterally making that decision for us.

        1. *yawn*

          Yes, there is a difference between a 7.5% deduction from your paycheck and having your land wholesale seized and you thrown into actual slavery by the first gun-toting warlord who comes around.

          As a matter of fact, if you got your precious State of Nature, I might gather up about thirty folks to come to your house and teach you a mild lesson in why Government is Good. Of course, I would give you property back: that is the kind of guy I am.

        2. I’m starting to realize that libertarians aren’t so much objecting to the concept of government but rather the word “government”.

          So let’s just rename the US Federal Government to be the Citizen’s Association, or for reason’s corporate donors, United States, Inc.

          Problem solved, everybody’s happy.

          1. Scotch Hamilton|4.2.10 @ 12:46PM|#
            “I’m starting to realize that libertarians aren’t so much objecting to the concept of government but rather the word “government”.”

            Pretty doubtful that you’re capable of “realizing” anything, much less what you propose.

        3. I wish Reason had a non-functioning rating system, so I could rate you up and figure out how to do a best of Reason comments feed.

  12. Also, the military argument is especially amusing. Where is it that I signed up for spending my money on killing people on the other side of the world? Oh right, I didn’t. But you, or a group of other people decided that it was a good idea to take MY money and kill other people with it.

    Given that I have not given power of attorney to anyone, how is it that others have the right to enter into contracts (in this case, for murder) on my behalf?

    1. Like I said – there is the door. You benefit from local police forces, state security elements and national defense. If you did not think that the benefits were worth it, you would have been gone long ago.

      It’s called “revealed preference”, since libertarians are so fond of axiomatic economics, there’s one right back at ya.

      1. How monumentally stupid.

        If I like things as they are and you do not, then you should be the one to seek fulfillment elsewhere as opposed to me having to conform and contort my life in order to secure your utopia.

        So get the fuck out.

      2. Where is this libertarian fantasy land? If you could kindly point out where that exists, I’ll be packing my bags ASAP.

      3. Dan T. |4.2.10 @ 12:30PM|#
        “Like I said…”

        Seems that’s the extent of the evidence you offer for your arguments; you ‘said so’.
        Surprise! Nobody cares what ‘you said’.
        What you said is hogwash and repeating it makes it, well, more hogwash.

  13. TQ is one of the better parodies of a libertarian I’ve seen here.

  14. Public sector unions should be illegal because management has a gigantic conflict of interest: they are beholden to the union members for their job. As far as I’m concerned, all public sector union contracts are invalid.

    1. Last time I checked, management was beholden to private unions for their jobs as well. Unless you think those cars are going to make themselves…

      1. It’s not hard to find replacement workers, but you can’t make people vote for you. Management of private companies is beholden to shareholders.

        1. And management of public trusts are beholden to the ballot box. As I said previously, the public promised these benefits in exchange for the labor, and now the public is whining that it actually has to ZOMG! pay for what they bought.

          1. Yes, but those in power to protect the public trust are basically bought off by the lure of union votes to enter into contracts againt the public trust.

            Of course, when employers and corporations want the ability to donate as much money to the candidate of their choice or to spend as much as they’d like on an election, you probably think thats unfair. Unions can buy favors (ie. contract concessions) from elected officials with union votes, but corporations and employers cannot do the same with cash.

            Nice double standard you got there, union shill.

            1. Nice strawman-smashing there! You could buy contract concessions by voting too. That is how this works, in case you missed sixth-grade civics.

          2. and now the public is whining that it actually has to ZOMG! pay for what they bought were promised but never received.

            https://reason.com/blog/2010/04…..nt_1640860

            https://reason.com/blog/2010/04…..nt_1640860

      2. Dan T. |4.2.10 @ 12:34PM|#
        “Last time I checked, management was beholden to private unions for their jobs as well. Unless you think those cars are going to make themselves…”

        Last time I checked, you’ve run out of false equivalences.
        Care to compare union-built vs non-union-built cars?

        1. Not really relevant to compare. Like I said, the public trust, administered by the government, made these contracts, and I would think, as libertarians, you would be “down” with the public buying what it paid for, regardless of how bad the bargain.

          Put it this way: you put something at layaway at Libertarian Mecca aka Wal*Mart. You use it and enjoy it, but when the bill comes, you say “Hey, wait, why should I have to pay this?”

          That is what you want the public to be able to do. And, like it or not, for good or for ill, you are the public.

          1. the public trust, administered by the government, made these contracts, and I would think, as libertarians, you would be “down” with the public buying what it paid for, regardless of how bad the bargain.

            Was this in the bargain?

            https://reason.com/blog/2010/04…..nt_1640860

          2. Dan T. |4.2.10 @ 1:07PM|#
            “Not really relevant to compare….”
            Because an ignoramus like you says so?

            “Like I said,…”
            Quoth the ignoramus. Got anything other that ‘what you said’? Stupidity isn’t contagious through the ‘net, so silly claims don’t add much.

            “Put it this way: you put something at layaway at Libertarian Mecca aka Wal*Mart. You use it and enjoy it, but when the bill comes, you say “Hey, wait, why should I have to pay this?””
            I’m sure you aced all those tests in “false equivalences”; you seem to have slept through the logic classes.
            Sorry; no takers for brain-dead lefty comments. Go away.

    2. Agreed. Now how do we fix this? I can’t see current pols (many of whom are in the pockets of unions as well) just up and outlawing them…

  15. “The government, on behalf of the people, made these contracts, and if the people have to pay more to honor these contracts, then that is the price of democracy.”

    No problem. We can continue to honor them. Just impose a 90% income tax on all public pension income.

  16. Oops–I was replying to this:

    Public sector unions should be illegal because management has a gigantic conflict of interest: they are beholden to the union members for their job. As far as I’m concerned, all public sector union contracts are invalid.

    I hate nested comments…

  17. OK, DanT. If the contracts have to be honored, but there is no money to do so under the current budget, they’ll have to come up with it. So, why don’t they slash all their payments to and programs for people with whom they do not have a contract. They don’t have a contract with those of the welfare dole, nor recipients of housing subsidies, not even Social Security beneficiaries. So, if they slash all these programs, and redirect all the money to paying off these union employees, while promising that they’ll never again offer such contracts, or even hire union employees, in order to avoid future financial calamity, would you be happy?

    Also, I personally think that government employees should be denied the right to vote, as it is a transparent conflict of interest. As it is, if every citizen eligible to vote in the U.S. registered, and then went to the polls to oust these bastards, they’d still lose, because right now, 60% of the public is either directly employed by the government at some level, or is paid with tax dollars as a government contractor.

    No republic can survive when the public learns they can vote themselves generous benefits from the treasury, whether that’s health insurance, or cushy jobs with lavish benefits and no chance of being fired.

    1. The other 40% could just go on taxpayer strike. The government -could- put them all in jail, but then who would pay for the jails?

  18. That should read, “…if every citizen eligible to vote in the U.S., who was not a unionized government employee, got registered, and then went to the polls to oust these bastards, they’d still lose…”

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