Public Unions

Supporters of Public Unions Need to Be Asking Why People Want Out So Badly

The real threat to union power is failure to serve.

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It's not freedom unless you're free to decline.
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We will likely not know until June how the Supreme Court will decide the public employee union case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, but we know from Monday's arguments that it did not seem to be heading in the favor of the association. Damon Root analyzed the arguments yesterday, and his interpretation is far from an outlier. It's not unlike when the Supreme Court heard gay marriage arguments last spring, and it was pretty clear to the observer that the court was ultimately going to rule in favor of recognition.

Based on Monday's arguments, it seems very clear that come June the court is going to rule for some sort of scaling back of the authority for public sector unions to force employees to pay agency fees to represent them.

Progressive fans of unions are about as displeased about this development as religious conservatives were about the gay marriage decision. They see it as a huge threat to the future of labor unions and their complete and utter dissolution, with no possibility of survival. Also, of course, this must be couched in culture war left and right terms. Here's Elias Isquith's opening at Salon:

Earlier Monday, the Supreme Court listened to oral arguments for Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that could quite possibly lead to the death of unionization in the public sector as we know it. And if the first impressions of those who were in attendance are anything to go by, one of American society's last bulwarks against neoliberalism is very likely about to crumble …

And later in his piece:

If the Court sees things their way, it's likely that they'll disallow these mandatory contributions from non-members. If that happens, unions say, and the vast majority of outside observers agree, then these already-embattled unions will almost certainly be unable to afford their own perseverance. Suddenly, just like that, a "right-to-work" framework will be imposed on public unions across all 50 states. An inverse of Gov. Scott Walker's process, in other words, goes national.

Assuming the Court rules the way anti-public union types hope, many people will understand the decision in much the same terms as those I used to begin this piece. They'll say it is the inevitable next step in the long-term and long-apparent dissolution of organized labor in America. They'll note that public union members are disproportionately women and African-American. They'll say the conditions are set for the middle class to shrink further still. They won't be wrong.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate says the Supreme Court is about to "kneecap" the unions in an assertion-laden piece that oddly seems to suggest that it is utterly bizarre for the Supreme Court to reconsider old precedents (as a gay man whose personal activities were once considered felonies, I would like to point out how thankful I am that they sometimes do):

In this world, embraced in full by the court's right wing Monday, money always equals speech; unions won't suffer at all for losing millions of dollars or much of their membership; precedent is only binding if you luuurve it; and the crushing harm caused by paying fees to an entity espousing messages with which you disagree far outweighs the harm arising from dismantling the nation's public-sector unions. And anyhow—how can we know how bad it would be to kneecap public-sector unions until we try it? Hey! Let's find out!

The responses seem to not want to engage—or handwave away—the constitutional issues at hand. What matters is that they don't like the consequences. Again, weirdly, the responses seem similar to objections to gay marriage recognition. Opponents didn't really care about the constitutional question of treating gay couples differently under the law as straight couples. They cared about the idea that it would somehow diminish or result in a reduction of heterosexual marriages as a response.

Many states already have right-to-work laws and still manage to have unions, albeit diminished ones. Lithwick notes this (and the argument's appearance in the court) but thinks this is still a very bad outcome because unions are nevertheless weaker. There is absolutely no engagement in either piece about how union contracts protect employees from being held accountable for misbehavior, no engagement in how unions game and abuse the system at the expense of taxpayers with unsustainable benefits that cannot be scaled back, no discussion of the problem with how police unions have played such a major role in keeping abusive cops in the field, and no engagement in unions' roles in manipulating legislation for its benefit (and to the public's detriment).

This is all about all those evil corporations, though the California Teachers Association politically outspends any private special interest in the state, second to Service Employees International Union, which also represents a lot of government employees. It's us vs. them, while ignoring the reality that it's the taxpayers who are the ones who are getting screwed over, not the Kochs. Also, note how Lithwick frames unions losing members and money as though this money and these people belong to the union and some fashion and are being stripped away from it. Not forcing people to be members is the same as taking something from the union. Where is agency for these people to decide what they want?

Let's ask a more important question: If these unions are so powerful and so valuable for its members, why do people want to leave? Given how powerful the California Teachers Association is, why would everything collapse? Why would people run away from that system?

Union defenders always point to the problem of "free riders," that people would want to have the same benefits without having to pay for the negotiating costs. My response is that people also want what they pay for and want a good deal for their money. The actual union members have very little individual leverage in the current system. They cannot walk away or "take their business elsewhere" if they feel the union is not doing its job.

In that sense, the anger over the possibility of losing mandatory fees reminds me an awful lot of the arguments against allowing for charter schools. Those who oppose charter schools often present the educators vs. corporations scenario as well, with not a lot of argument about the actual customers of the school system, parents and their children (except to point out that not everybody has access to charter schools, which is odd because these same people are trying to prevent the spread of them).

There is no respect for the agency of Rebecca Friedrichs in her desire to not be forced by law to fund a union's contract negotiations. It must be a right wing plot. Charter schools can't be cropping up because parents have had it up to here with the entrenched union interests dominating educational bureaucracy, draining funding, providing lousy services, and then blaming problems on the parents themselves. It must be a right wing plot, even somehow in minority communities in liberal Los Angeles and New York City.

If the unions are doing a good job representing their employees' needs, they have little to actually fear from workers being allowed to opt out. An opt out will help keep unions honest and thoughtful. Similarly good public schools and teachers have little to fear from charter school programs. They are a challenge to the mediocre and passive education systems that serve themselves heaping helping of tax dollars with little to show for their efforts.

Below, union members stuck in this system explain for themselves what they've experienced for Reason TV:

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  1. They cared about the idea that it would somehow diminish or result in a reduction of heterosexual marriages as a response.

    AND IT HAS. A bunch of freeloaders not paying their marriage dues but benefiting from heterosexuality nonetheless.

    1. Everybody pays

      1. gas grass or ass

      2. As Pater Dean told me years ago:

        “The only problem with marrying money is that, sooner or later, you earn it.”

  2. Obviously people want out because they don’t know what’s good for them. Being in a union is such a good idea, people have to be forced to join.

    1. One minute. One fecken minute.

    2. Yeah – just like Social Security!

    3. Those that agree with the Union, should be perfectly willing to fork over more money. Those that disagree don’t know any better and should be forced to fork over more money.

  3. If government is the only thing that prevents workers from being enslaved by greedy capitalists, why do government workers require unions?

    1. Because THAT part of government is infested with Wall Street cronies.

  4. Dahlia Lithwick at Slate says the Supreme Court is about the to “kneecap” the unions in an assertion-laden piece that oddly…

    I fixed it for you. Damn, Scott, you are reinforcing stereotypes about gays having poor editing skills.

    1. Interesting that Lithwick used that word. Usually, it’s unions that engage in kneecapping, and not metaphorically.

      1. Since the case is about whether people can have “dues” extorted from them on pain of losing their jobs, yeah, that is an odd turn of phrase.

        “Nice little classroom you have here. I think I’m going to have to just . . . leave you alone” doesn’t exactly inspire fear, does it?

    2. Well, it’s a good thing I decided not to critique the missing spaces between words in several spots in her piece.

      I’ve nevertheless fixed this. Thanks.

      1. She was in a rush to get to the assertions, Scott.

    3. Much the way the FBI kneecapped the Mafia by cracking down on its extortion rackets.

      Considering what happened to the Gotti brothers, I think the unions are getting off pretty easily as far as ‘kneecapping’ is concerned.

  5. Organized ‘anything’ trends evil.

  6. I’ve been a long time union member and this is what irks me- the strength of the union doesn’t come from money, it comes from solidarity and having leverage. Money has nothing to do with either of those things. Maybe other unions are different, but in my experience it’s the members themselves voluntarily putting in the leg work that gets the job done. Yes, lawyers cost money and you need a strike fund but the idea that unions die just because they have less money is absurd.

    1. Pubsec vs privsec. Private sector unions have their place. I can think of a few things they shpuld have done decades ago to make themselves stronger, but that isnt my business.

    2. the strength of the union doesn’t come from money

      For pubsecs, who have an open pipeline to give that money (albeit mostly indirectly) to “management”, I think a lot of their strength does come from money.

  7. Can’t wait for the name-calling in the Slate hit piece regarding this article. FUCKING HATEFUL LIBERTARIAN SHITLORDS!

    1. Well they would know all about hateful

      1. We revel in the hate. It’s a sign we’re in the right.

  8. “And if the first impressions of those who were in attendance are anything to go by, one of American society’s last bulwarks against neoliberalism is very likely about to crumble ?”

    I wasn’t aware that the government of the state of California was a neoliberal institution…

    1. BECAUSE OF THE UNIONS!!!

      Without the unions CA will become just like Alabama.

    2. “one of German society’s last bulwarks against neoliberalism is very likely about to crumble ?”
      -Said some East German official in November 1989.

  9. unions won’t suffer at all for losing millions of dollars or much of their membership;

    The relevant question – never asked – is why does the existence of harm justify government action which merely redistributes the harm to others? I’m harmed every day and I don’t petition government for redress. It is clearly true this is bad for unions. Some people have so internalized their political preferences they don’t even distinguish between their preferences and government action to enforce those preferences.

    1. Your question can only be relevant within a sphere of consent- which hardly exists even within modern societies. Nothing put to law relies on consent of the governed, unless one has a marvelous political imagination.

      1. Need it be enthusiastic consent or just affirmative? I know when I’m getting screwed I would rather be enthusiastic than merely acquiesce.

        1. Or at least get a reach around out of it.

    2. That assumes, of course, that they have some right to those millions and that membership, other than the voluntary consent of the individual.

      I don’t see any such right, so whether unions “suffer” or not as a result of the free choices of individuals is none of my concern from a public policy or legal perspective. Unions have no more right to a monopoly on employees, than taxis have to a monopoly on paid rides.

    3. Usually the way it works is: redistribute harm away from friends of the party (teachers’ unions, the UAW, etc.) toward those who are not friends of the party (taxpayers).

  10. “Again, weirdly, the responses seem similar to objections to gay marriage recognition. Opponents didn’t really care about the constitutional question of treating gay couples differently under the law as straight couples. They cared about the idea that it would somehow diminish or result in a reduction of heterosexual marriages as a response.”

    I seem to recall there was also some concern expressed that it could lead to restrictions on religious freedom and/or business freedom.

    Oh and I think the marriage of Aaron and Melissa Klein, and their ability to provide for their family, has been harmed by gay rights to the tune of $135,000.

    1. FTA
      In the wake of news surrounding their shop, the couple netted over $500,000
      By your odd logic it appears the gay rights have greatly enhanced the Kleins’ ability to provide for their family

      1. Good thing they can give that money to their kids without having to pay any legal expenses.

        And by continuing to run their business, they have a cash cow…wait…

        1. So being fined $135,000 is a hardship and receiving $500,00 is a burden cause – lawyer fees, got it.
          Also
          Melissa and her husband shuttered the bakery at the end of 2013, but continued taking private orders from clients such as an anti-gay ministry known as Restored Hope Network.
          Looks like they found a nice little niche market there, fortunes are made on less.

          1. “Looks like they found a nice little niche market there, fortunes are made on less.”

            Wow, those gay-rights people must be kicking themselves for being so helpful to the Kleins!

            I bet they’ll stop going after family businesses now that they realizes how helpful it is to be on the receiving end of discrimination suits and heavy fines!

            1. I mean, why would the gay-rights groups deliberately help “homophobes” make large fortunes?

            2. “I bet they’ll stop going after family businesses now that they realizes how helpful it is…”

              I haven’t seen very many Chic-fil-a protests since that backfired, so yeah ‘they’ just might stop if ‘you’ continue make being targeted profitable, that’s how markets work.

              1. What do markets have to do with “civil rights” lawsuits and administrative fines for “discrimination”?

                Chick Fil A was subject to a largely voluntary* boycott which backfired.

                These guys are subject to lengthy legal proceedings and fines.

                I believe there are differences.

                And even if 99% of potential plaintiffs decide not to sue, the remaining 1% can do so and trigger such proceedings.

                *A few showboating mayors said they didn’t want any Chik Fil As in their cities, but I don’t know if that ever went anywhere. The rest was a private boycott campaign.

                1. And that is my point, being against gay marriage didn’t harm these people (see Chick-fil-a), anti-discrimination laws hurt these people. Yes we have a problem in that you can be held liable by the state for your hatred of one group or another, we shouldn’t compound that problem by denying certain groups equal treatment because they might take advantage of the protections the state erroneously gives to other groups. You wanna fight for freedom of association, across the board, no exceptions, I’m right behind you, You wanna use exceptions and preferential treatment to promote your personal bigotry, count me out.

                  1. I see, you think in terms of politics as helping the people you like and hurting the ones you don’t. So you assume others think of politics in those terms, too.

                    In your case, you want to help gays because you like them, and you want to hurt evangelicals and fundies because they’re icky. And that means that if gay activists want something bad enough, they should get it if it passes any kind of libertarian laugh test.

                    Conversely, you don’t want to help evangelicals unless you absolutely have to.

                    And you assume that people opposed to gay marriage are just like you, only the opposite – they like evangelicals and don’t like gays.

                    But some people are interested in doing justice without even getting to the question of whether you like them or not. Giving people what’s their due whether you like them or not, and denying peole what *isn’t* their due whether you like them or not.

                    Doing justice isn’t the same as a feels-based politics modeled on high-school girl cliques.

                    1. Where in “fight for freedom of association, across the board, no exceptions” do you see “helping the people you like and hurting the ones you don’t”?

                    2. You referred to using exceptions and preferential treatment to promote one’s own personal bigotries, suggesting that’s the explanation for not giving gay activists what they want.

                      Where in your own consciousness did you derive the idea that someone’s position on gay rights is based on personal biases?

                      You draw the line at freedom of association, because like I say, you can’t advocate restrictions on that right without flunking the libertarian laugh test.

                      I’m not as purist as you, so unlike you I’d *support* public-accomodation laws for gay people *if* they faced Jim Crow-style discrimination in the marketplace. They don’t face such a situation.

                      But despite your purism, when I see you telling small businesses hurt by the gay-rights laws to get in line behind Lester Maddox,* which you know to be impractical, then I’m pretty sure that your purism won’t actually lead you to oppose the gay-rights people in the current situation.

                      *Operated a segregated Georgia restaurant, fought the feds on it and used this as a platform to reach the governorship.

                    3. Just to be clear, from the standpoint of the gay activists you’re a “bigot,” too.

                      Remember the scene with David Boaz. “You’re on the wrong side of history” [APPLAUSE]

                      And they were comparatively nice to Boaz because they have a residual liking for his pro-SSM stance. But that will soon wear off and Boaz and those who think like him will soon be cast into the outer darkness with all the other bigots.

      2. By your odd logic it appears the gay rights have greatly enhanced the Kleins’ ability to provide for their family

        By your odd logic state actions eliciting a private response, even when in direct opposition to state action, should/are/can be viewed as a direct result of or even indistinguishable from said government action.

        I know of almost half-a-dozen businesses that did the exact same thing the Kleins did sans litigation and before the Kleins did it. I know dozens upon dozens more that do it for reasons other than gay marriage.

        The institution of marriage is broken and shouldn’t even be the business of government in the first place but, since it exists, why the hell not cram all manner of herd animals in at the trough and bludgeon some small businesses while we’re at it? Libertarian moment FTW!

      3. This was only because of the publicity. Most who end up in this situation will not be as fortunate. They’ll be on the hook for the expenses, though.

    2. And if they refused service to a black fella, they’d be harmed by black rights.

        1. And so you conclude that the problem is… what?

          1. Someone who isn’t served and, instead of going to the next block to be served, sues the business.

            It’s said that Jim Crow was so bad before 1964 that going to the next block wasn’t an option.

            But there’s hardly a parallel situation with “gay rights” – there are plenty of “gay-affirming” businesses or “we’ll take anyone’s money” businesses.

            So instead of suing the only motel in town, as with black people in Jim Crow, we’re having gay plaintiffs sue one of several bakeries in town, the one bakery which won’t serve their event.

            1. Anyone who supports the legal and governmental bullying of a private business fails, hard.

              I’m really starting to loathe having to explain this, since it’s something that so many have such a difficult time grasping, but you cannot say you favor liberty if you do not allow that private entities can discriminate at will, for any reason. Protected classes are a joke when the concept is applied to private business.

              Always the haters say that that is only a wink-and-nob argument for racisn, and sexism, and every other hurtful -ism. It’s not. It’s an affirmation of liberty, and those who refuse to see it that way assume the rest of humanity shares their cowardice and tribal affinity. But this liberty- the liberty to discriminate-implies the liberty to resist and overcome prejudicial ignorance.

              Using the brute fist of government to force compliance and accomodation upon private labor is sickening. Those wielding the cudgel never think it may one day be turned against them.

              1. Leftists consider government a kind of ‘referee’ with the responsibility of making sure their side wins.

      1. MJ, those “rights” aren’t rights at all – they are privlieges.

        And yes, suing people based on state-granted privileges does indeed harm the targets of the lawsuits.

  11. Union defenders always point to the problem of “free riders,” that people would want to have the same benefits without having to pay for the negotiating costs. My response is that people also want what they pay for and want a good deal for their money. The actual union members have very little individual leverage in the current system. They cannot walk away or “take their business elsewhere” if they feel the union is not doing its job.

    Another thing – a lot of people might be coming/have come to the conclusion that unions simply aren’t that necessary any more, that we’re running into diminishing returns. A lot of those CA teachers might (even if only privately) be thinking that they’re *already* getting a really damn good deal and paying another thousand dollars a year for a $1,500 raise might not be the best use their money when their tax bill increases by a grand also

  12. could quite possibly lead to the death of unionization in the public sector as we know it.

    A man can dream.

    1. Yeah, this could be a game-changer for all the nearly-bankrupt local governments and their suffering taxpayers.

  13. Yeah, gay marriage totally doesn’t harm regular marriage:

    “Richard and Betty Dick Odgaard of Grimes, Iowa, are forced to sell their family business for fear of facing further charges of discrimination.”

    1. You…you do realize that public accommodation laws and state marriage licensing are different things, right? Like they have nothing whatsoever to do with one another?

      1. Incorrect. They are inextricable tied together, as long as gays fall into a “protected class”.

        Notorious is completely right about this issue. The end-goal of the homosexual agenda is to make it impractical and punitive to believe in traditional marriage, and they will use the jackboot of the state to do so.

        1. Jimbo that’s the most retarded thing you’ve said in a long string of retarded-ass bullshit. The end-goal of the homosexual agenda is clearly to make gay marriage not only legal but mandatory.

          Someday soon every dude in this country will have to either grow a beard or go to the gym six days a week, and our drivers licenses will identify us as tops or bottoms. The lucky ones will be able to choose their gay husbands, and the rest of us will be paired off by the Homo Czar.

          1. Someday soon every dude in this country will have to either grow a beard or go to the gym six days a week, and our drivers licenses will identify us as tops or bottoms.

            To be fair, the ACLU has suggested that this information be recorded when we’re stopped by officer Friendly. Still no idea how the ACLU actually believed this would be accurately recorded, other than categorizing everyone who protested their ticket in a faggy, book-learning tone of voice.

          2. Way to strawman.

            I never said the end goal was to make gay marriage mandatory.

            I said that the end goal is to make it financially punitive to oppose it through personal action, such as refusing to bake cakes. And they have accomplished this goal, with the help of the pro-gay marriage crowd.

            Unless you’re Muslim. I’m still waiting on those cases to start, where some queens go into a halal bakery and demand a cake, or they’ll sue. I’m sure the lulz will be epic.

          3. I would love to see every gay activist get “married”…as punishment.

      2. You’re correct – but there’s a strong link between them today nontheless. You can thank your ‘anti-racism’ crusaders who weren’t satisfied with simply getting rid of the legal hurdles to equality but had to ‘stick it to the Klan’ by creating *forced accommodation* legislation. Now that train is being driven as hard as it can be to rape-town.

      3. You should probably tell that to the guy in Maryland who closed his tour business as soon as SSM was adopted in that state.

        “”As long as he doesn’t discriminate against other people, he’s free to do what ever he wants to do, including withdrawing his business from the industry,” executive director Carrie Evans [of the gay group Equality Maryland] said.”

        1. I meant they are legally and politically distinct issues. It’s clear that they are inextricably linked in the minds of retarded homophobes.

          1. Same-sex marriage: Will conservative religious colleges lose tax-exempt status?

            “After last week’s landmark Supreme Court ruling, the tax-exempt status of conservative religious institutions whose policies don’t extend housing and other benefits to same-sex couples could be in question….

            “Religious schools that discriminate against LGBT students “would have to defend their behavior in court,” [law] Professor [Michael] Olivas says, “and I think it would be very hard for them to give an explanation if they allowed married student housing for traditional marriages of a man and a woman while they wouldn’t allow the same for same-sex couples, when it is now legal in every jurisdiction in the country.”

            1. “”But others say fears about the IRS revoking the tax-exempt status of religious institutions are overblown.

              “”In terms of punishing religious institutions for discriminatory conduct, the IRS has done this exactly one time,” says Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at George Washington University in D.C. “And the IRS has never even made a move to revoke the tax exemptions of an institution because of its attitude toward gender equality,” he says, noting that the Bob Jones case came at the tail end of the federal government’s “full-bore, 100 mile an hour effort” to end segregation.”

              So don’t be so paranoid, it’s not like the federal government is engaged in a full-bore, 100 mile an hour effort to end “homophobia.” /sarc

              1. The IRS famously holds itself above the political fray. Thinking the IRS would be a tool for social re-engineering is just tinfoil hattery.

      4. Like they have nothing whatsoever to do with one another?

        From a strictly legal/technical perspective, this is correct.

        A fuller understanding of the issue and the way it played out makes it pretty plain that they are, indeed, strongly linked to one another.

        This is yet another issue where everyone is locked into their position, and I won’t waste time explaining it again.

        1. All I’ve ever said is that in the real world, these issues are indeed connected – “strongly linked” is a good term.

          I’m aware that they’re theoretically different, and that you can devise an imaginary system in which the two are delinked, or imagine a world in which they are.

          All I claim is that on the plane of reality, yes, they’re linked.

        2. These folks seem to think that their pursuit of damages from people who don’t celebrate their lifestyle was strongly enhanced by the gay marriage ruling.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06……html?_r=0

          I recall, but can’t find the link, that immediately after the ruling, gay activists were gleefully announcing their intent to go after businesses and landlords as the next stage of their campaign.

    2. And their marriage will be stronger than ever.

      1. Because financial uncertainty and litigation always strengthen marriages.

        1. And the [married] gays are about to figure this out too.

          1. Don’t worry, gay couples can just set up a campaign to raise money for their defense, and they’ll be better off than ever!

      2. Because financial uncertainty and litigation always strengthen marriages.

    3. Are they getting divorced?

  14. Dahlia Lithwick at Slate says the Supreme Court is about to “kneecap” the unions in an assertion-laden piece that oddly seems to suggest that it is utterly bizarre for the Supreme Court to reconsider old precedents (as a gay man whose personal activities were once considered felonies, I would like to point out how thankful I am that they sometimes do):

    Scott, I say this as someone who categorizes you as one of my favorite “new” Reason writers… but it sounds like you’re a new listener/reader to NPR/Slate (Slate is an NPR ‘parter’ news organization– so many float between the two, leaving droppings along the way).

  15. False consciousness. Free riders.

    Unions aren’t the assholes. Everyone else is an asshole.

    1. I love it how leftists are suddenly upset about “free riders” when it comes to union dues. They have no fucking problem at all with generations of welfare recipients, or illegal aliens, or refugees sucking down tax money, which is a “free rider” problem about a million times larger.

      1. They have no fucking problem at all with generations of welfare recipients, or illegal aliens, or refugees sucking down tax money, which is a “free rider” problem about a million times larger.

        Those are free riders on the rich. They don’t count. Free riders on them? That matters. Principals, not principles.

      2. Yet somehow they think pointing out that a free rider rider objection exists is enough by itself to justify the government “solving” the problem.

      3. The same thing happened when they had to start defending PPACA. Suddenly free riding became their primary concern.

        The state exists to create free rides.

        1. Suddenly free riding became their primary concern.

          Because it affected them. When it only affects teh rich they don’t care.

    2. “If you wake up and meet an asshole, you just met an asshole. If all day long all you meet is assholes, you’re the asshole.” Raylin Givens (paraphrasing)

  16. (as a gay man whose personal activities were once considered felonies, I would like to point out how thankful I am that they sometimes do):

    Come on, Scott- where’s your sense of adventure?

  17. The real harm done by unions is not inflating wages. It’s work rules.

    1. Pretty much the same thing. Work rules prevent employers from downsizing to a more efficient staff, so anyone who is kept around because of work rules has an extremely overinflated wage…

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  19. “Union defenders always point to the problem of “free riders,” that people would want to have the same benefits without having to pay for the negotiating costs. My response is that people also want what they pay for and want a good deal for their money. The actual union members have very little individual leverage in the current system. They cannot walk away or “take their business elsewhere” if they feel the union is not doing its job.”

    I do not understand this. Union leaders are elected by the membership, so they can elect new members, or go find another job. If I do not like my mayor, governor, President, etc., I can try to complain, elect a new person, or even leave the jurisdiction. Why would we expect any union member individually to have much power. (Neither I nor any family member has been in a union, and I have mixed views about public sector unions.)

    1. “I do not understand this. Union leaders are elected by the membership, so they can elect new members, or go find another job.”

      Generally speaking, not in the same industry.

      Unions are successful to the extent that they monopolize a labor force. Why are ports so heavily unionized? Because you only need to lock up seven or eight of them to more or less monopolize access to the entire industry.

      Why aren’t janitorial workers easily unionized? Because it’s hard for unions to monopolize access to that industry.

      Why are public employees so heavily unionized?

      Because each jurisdiction represents its own monopoly. There’s only one city government per city, one county government per county, one state government per state, and there’s only one federal government. Monopolize any one of those jurisdictions and you’ve monopolized employee access to the entire industry.

      Libertarianism isn’t about the freedom to monopolize anything. It sure as hell isn’t about monopolizing government services so as to make rent seeking as easy as possible–which is what being a public sector union is all about.

      1. “Libertarianism isn’t about the freedom to monopolize anything. It sure as hell isn’t about monopolizing government services so as to make rent seeking as easy as possible–which is what being a public sector union is all about.”

        I think this was assumed/implied, but perhaps I should have added that in the case of public sector unions, those unions wouldn’t be able to monopolize access to the industry if it weren’t for the government collaboration in rent seeking.

        In my industry, if government contracts didn’t require union labor (prevailing wage), etc., then why would builders pay extra for union labor? You have to monopolize access to the industry, builders would use criteria like price and quality to choose a construction company. Did you know that governments are generally prohibited from selecting builders based on price? The theory is that they shouldn’t encourage companies to skimp on quality that might compromise someone’s safety–and I guess the way that encourages the use of overpriced union labor is just supposed to be a coincidence.

  20. “Progressive fans of unions are about as displeased about this development as religious conservatives were about the gay marriage decision.”

    No, not really.

    Incidentally, if the states ever do call another constitutional convention, prohibiting public employees from unionizing would be one of the amendments I would propose.

    1. Either that or their REAL bosses get to vote on their contracts, not their collaborators.

  21. Dahlia Lithwick at Slate : and the crushing harm caused by paying fees to an entity espousing messages with which you disagree far outweighs the harm arising from dismantling the nation’s public-sector unions

    It does actually.

    1. I think someone needs to tell Lithwick what a right is.

  22. If these unions are so powerful and so valuable for its members, why do people want to leave?

    Alternately: “If unions are so great, why aren’t people organizing more of them voluntarily?”

    Unions only thrive when you can mandate membership with closed shops, and coerce fees from those coerced members, from what I’ve seen (e.g. in Wisconsin).

    When you claim to be benefiting people but only by being able to strong-arm them, I don’t take your claims of benefit that seriously; I’ve seen people voluntarily work together for mutual benefit, so I don’t buy that everyone’s too stupid or foolish to do so and needs to be “made to” by a benevolent overlord.

    (Let alone by some glorified gangster acting as a union boss.)

  23. BTW, the guy writing for Salon actually used: “mandatory contributions”. He actually wrote those words..

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