Tag: Trade union

The Wisconsin Elephant

The big story for the next month is going to be the recall of Scott Walker. The Democratic primary is on Tuesday and they seem to be coalescing behind a semi-electable candidate. And then, in June, we’ll have the recall election. If you want to keep up, I highly recommend Ann Althouse (actually, I recommend her even if you could give two shits about the election). She’s front-and-center of the fight, objective and insightful.

For obvious reasons, I see this is a critical election. State employee benefits are the bomb hovering over the fiscal futures of many states. And it matters who is making the decisions. Steven Malanga explains why:

Indiana’s debt for unfunded retiree health-care benefits, for example, amounts to just $81 per person. Neighboring Illinois’s accumulated obligations for the same benefit average $3,399 per person.

Illinois is an object lesson in why firms are starting to pay more attention to the long-term fiscal prospects of communities. Early last year, the state imposed $7 billion in new taxes on residents and business, pledging to use the money to eliminate its deficit and pay down a backlog of unpaid bills (to Medicaid providers, state vendors and delayed tax refunds to businesses). But more than a year later, the state is in worse fiscal shape, with its total deficit expected to increase to $5 billion from $4.6 billion, according to an estimate by the Civic Federation of Chicago.

The reason is because Illinois employees get extremely generous healthcare benefits and pensions, funded entirely by the state. Even Rahm Emmanuel is beginning to notice businesses fleeing for Indiana and Wisconsin. Illinois is the disaster Walker wanted to avoid.

But there is a political price to pay for that. Or … maybe not. The funny thing is that the Democrats aren’t running on the issue that sparked the recall.

Since last summer, unions have been throwing millions at defeating the man who reformed collective bargaining for government workers and required union members to pay 5.8% of their paychecks toward pensions and 12.6% of their health insurance premiums, modest contributions compared to the average in private business. As the May 8 Democratic recall primary nears to determine who will run against Mr. Walker on June 5, this should be their rhetorical moment ne plus ultra.

So, let’s see. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the front-runner, has focused his campaigns on jobs, education, the environment and “making communities safer.” One of Mr. Barrett’s ads singles out “Walker’s War on Women,” with nary a mention of collective bargaining. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is heavily supported by union groups, but even her issues list makes only passing reference to collective bargaining.

There’s a very good reason they aren’t running against Walker’s reforms: because they’re working. Wisconsin property taxes fell for the first time in two decades and their business environment is now ranked as top 20. The state has already saved a billion dollar, mostly by allowing governments to shop for health insurance rather than forcing them to buy it through the union. And, in fact, the changes saved union jobs, allowing costs to be cut without firing teachers. Thousands of union employees still have their jobs today — albeit with lesser benefits — thanks to Walker and the Republicans.

The Democratic refusal to run on this issue is an acknowledgement that Walker was right.

The unions can see how dangerous this is. The only way we are supposed to deal with these problems is by raising taxes. If Walker is re-elected, it will not only vindicate his reforms but show that politicians can take on the unions and still win re-election. And so they are pulling out the stops.

(Of course, this stop out-pulling is coming without the media terror that would ensue if this were a Right Wing recall. If Sarah Palin talked about “taking out” a governor, she’d be forced to apologize, unlike Richard Trumka. If outside money were pouring in, we’d hear about Koch Brothers and Citizens United. And I’m sure the unions will try to re-ignite the protests — only without the hand-wringing that accompanies Tea Party rallies. The fight in this election is on many fronts, the media being one.)

Keep an eye on this election. And if you live in Wisconsin or know those who do, encourage them to vote like hell. This may end up being more important than the November election.

Closing the Ports?

I was a little baffled yesterday when I heard that the Occupy movement was moving to close down ports. How is the 99% helped by preventing blue collar dock workers from doing their jobs? And how is their cause advanced by pissing off their most logical allies.

Occupy Oakland’s plan to shut down the city’s bustling port on Monday for the second time in as many months is facing a complicating wrinkle nowhere in sight last time – opposition from several unions and some within the Occupy movement itself.

The attempted shutdown will be part of a coordinated blockade of 11 West Coast ports from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska, an effort conceived by Occupy Oakland to build on the success of the Nov. 2 general strike it led that closed the city’s port for more than six hours.

But unlike last time, when the area’s major unions gave tacit or outright approval, many of them see Monday’s action as disruptive and unnecessary.

Read the whole thing. It’s like the unions have suddenly realized the economic disruption doesn’t help them either. And with the unions opposed, Occupy has basically no one on their side. They have been reduced to what I feared they would become: a group of agitators protesting for the sake of protest.

Dog bites man story: Union violence yet again.

This timem it was the longshoremen in Washington that destroyed property and held people hostage. Why are they doing it?

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union believes it has the right to work at the facility, but the company has hired a contractor that’s staffing a workforce of other union laborers.

Get that? They have the “RIGHT” to do the work, but the employer has no business, let alone the right, to hire whomever they want within what the law allows, even if those other people are also unionized! In case you think the Longshoremen union has a right as they claim and the employer is in the wrong, let me point out the following little details that put things into perspective:

The blockade appeared to defy a federal restraining order issued last week against the union after it was accused of assaults and death threats.

This isn’t something that came out of the blue. This is likely the end game of something that has been going on for years, and that the union lost since it is obvious that the feds basically have told the union they are wrong and should back off. Yeah, the same feds that told Boeing they could not relocate work to their new plant in NC, where thousands of jobs would be crated, because the unions in Washington feared much of the work would be moved there to avoid dealing with the hassle and pain they cause, told the unions they have no case and to back off. A lot of good that warning did them though. After all, we still have unionized workers doing the work. I suspect the reason the Longshoremen union didn’t care about the warning from the feds is because, as the article points out, there have been no repercussions for both destruction of property and hostage taking, and there very likely will not be any either. It’s not as if their bought & paid for govenment stooges will actually take action against them. Get real.

Shit, these guys have no compunction of being violent when it affects other unionized workers! Anyway, will the LSM be telling this story? Accusing these people of engaging in terrorism against an employer whose crime is to have picked other union to do the work, of all things? Heh, just asking to make the point. We know the answer. Maybe this is some of that “war” Hoffa told us was coming the other day? Sure sounds like blue on blue action there, with other people, likely the tax payers, again picking up the tab.

The Check Is In The Mail

Most here have heard about the insolvency of the USPS and its need for a federal bailout by the end of the month. What’s interesting about the USPS and its inability to compete and thrive is that it is plagued by those same symptoms that makes most government programs stodgy and un workable, namely , inefficiency, bloat, unable to compete in the market place, antiquated business model and equipment, and union protected workers who are in no fear of consequences for poor work production. This is not to say that all postal workers are deadbeats, but it does foster an environment where, unlike the private sector, there is no incentive or motivation to excel, no reward for individual achievement.

In the past that federal safety net has allowed the USPS to keep doing that they’re doing regardless of the losses piling up, but in the next few weeks, somebody will blink:

Facing a projected $6.4 billion loss this year, the United States Postal Service may be forced to shut down this month if Congress doesn’t take action.

A cushy relationship with the postal workers unions and flailing efforts to stem customer migration to the Internet have pushed the Postal Service to the brink of insolvency. The NYT reports that the agency will be unable to make to make its $5.5 billion payment to its employee healthcare plan by the Sept. 30 deadline.

The two factors that weigh the heaviest and are guaranteeing the USPS to fail are these:

Eighty percent of the Postal Service’s annual budget goes toward employee salaries and benefits.

We don’t need to look for the union label here. When your competitors do not have your overhead and can provide the same service cheaper, you are in trouble. Although no one is asking the USPS to run itself like a business and make a profit, to break even would be nice, can’t do it when you are not allowed to trim your staff or pay them what the market demands.

Despite the agency’s economic woes, the 250,000-member American Postal Workers Union negotiated a cushy labor deal with the USPS in March.

Here is the house that fell on you. Who ever it was on the government’s side that signed off on this little extortion package, images of a woodshed come to mind.
We have talked about unions before and how it is their job to get the best deal possible for it’s members, but this assumes that the other side will at least put up a fight and negotiate, this was no negotiation, it was a mugging. The annual raise provision was insulting given that many government workers are taking pay cuts in an attempt to keep their job, but this “no layoff” clause, holy smokes, who would buy off on such nonsense?

Given the illustrious history of the postal service who’s very existence is authorized in The Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 7) and how I still use it from time to time (monthly bills paid online but unusual stuff like a doctor bill) I don’t wish the demise the USPS. But neither can I continence endless year after year bailouts to prop up an entity that would have gone tits up years ago if left to free market survival. Closing some branches and eliminating Saturday service, is a nice first step. Allow the government to break the union contract and terminate 20% of the work force like it wants to do. Re negotiate salaries and benefits. Other union members are shouldering a bigger portion of their retirement and medical coverage costs, you guys can to. No more bailouts for poorly run government agencies, what happened to that era of austerity I heard about?