COMMENTARY: Why Collective Bargaining For Public Employees Should End

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An intense battle is being waged across the country over the subject of collective bargaining for public employees.

I am by no means an expert on the subject, but from what I can see, I believe it should end. Here's why:

Taxpayers pay public employees to do a job.

Before the public employees even get their check, part of their earnings are used to pay union dues.

The unions take those dues and use them to campaign for more jobs, more pay and more benefits for public employees. All of the money involved comes from taxpayers.

One of the ways the union works for more jobs, pay and benefits to is give money to elected officials and politicians who will support their efforts. Taxpayers are also paying the elected officials.

When it comes time to negotiate a deal, who do you think the elected officials and politicians are going to favor: the people who are giving them money (unions), or the people they are taking money from (taxpayers)?

It is clear that the practice of collective bargaining works against the taxpayer.

What else does one need to know?

Well, there is one more aspect to the situation worth noting: the average taxpaying citizen who is not a public employee does not enjoy the same level of pay and benefits as do those who are. On average they work for less money, pay more for their health insurance, and don't have a pension.
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February 27, 2011 at 7:21am
If it wouldn't for unioms you would make the same money working for a fast food resturant and being replaced by and illegal immigrant to do your job as to having to pay for a college education ,you do the math carjock unions have made good paying jobs and look what the United States do with are taxpayers money helping other countries were it could keep the money here and help the citizens here.
February 27, 2011 at 7:59am
Kevin I thank you for having the courage to post this story. I agree with you 100%. I do not work for a union, but I do my job and get paid pretty good. People with these government jobs need to be brought down with the rest of us common folk. Teachers being the main example. Why should a teacher be allowed to continue to work when their performance has fallen.
February 27, 2011 at 11:11am
We're being played by the 'elite' and Mr. Halpern is missing the point.

If I may quote from someone who gets it:

This is not about teachers or unions, but about all Americans facing a government that wants to pay for Wall Street's fraudulent mortgage backed securities by "sharing the sacrifice" i.e. dumping the losses on the public, almost $12.3 trillion according to PBS and FCIC report.

The constant message is "the people must make do with less so that Wall Street may have more." But Wall Street is trying to trick the public into thinking that the teachers are the bad guys, when the teachers had nothing to so with the financial ruin of the nation. It's just classic divide and conquer; turn the public against each other to save the rich, and if the teachers lose, then it will be the police, then the firefighters, then the repair men, then the trash pickup, then the road layers, then you, then me. This, we are told will save the state budgets because if we all make less money, the state collects less taxes. (Wait a moment, how is that supposed to work?)

Look at all the homeless and hungry people in America right now. That is your future if we do not unite and support the teachers, because every time Americans surrender a little more of their standard of living, Wall Street gets bolder and bolder, and demands that much more. Our government can spend $12.3 trillion to save the bankers, but in front of our local Safeway I see teachers and students selling brownies to buy basic school supplies.

more -
February 27, 2011 at 11:49am
Sorry Deborah, but I don't see what point I am missing. Is it that if I don't support collective bargaining for public employees I will make less money, receive less benefits, etc.? If that is the point you are trying to make, the correlation is not evident.

I don't see many Wall Street firms here in Cannon Co. I do see a lot of small businesses with people working at them who don't have the option of collective bargaining and the benefits that go with it. Where they work they can't replace the boss with one who will give in to their demands if they don't like what they are receiving.
February 27, 2011 at 1:01pm
Why is this issue now coming to the forefront? It wasn't even mentioned a short time ago. Isn't it because of the poor national economy brought about by the corrupt Wall St. gang and their enablers in government? Teachers as scapegoats is a diversion.

The point is that we are pointing our fingers at a small segment of the economy but giving a pass to the actual criminals who are ultimately responsible for this decline.

They may not have offices in our county but the tentacles of "too big to fail" Wall St., the Federal Reserve, the IRS, the military industry complex and corporations who care more for excessive profits than people are squeezing the life from us. Ask the services listed over to the right, many of whom I would venture to say are struggling, who is the 'enemy?' Teachers or ???

I just think we should first direct our anger toward the 'big boys' who don't care about us rather than teachers who do.
February 27, 2011 at 1:05pm
Unions are like communism. They eliminate the incentive to excel and compete. They breed a false sense of entitlement and inevitably lead to corruption.
February 27, 2011 at 1:07pm
Deborah, the issue has come up because governments are broke, and the highest cost of government is pay, benefits and pensions.
February 27, 2011 at 1:13pm
I was in a union member and glad for it. My life and career would have been over before it began without one...

I agree with Deborah one hundred percent.

The goal of this country and employment seems to be to make the employer free from anything other than to give out a wage and that's all... Nothing more... No vested interest... No obligation. Work your hardest! Give us one hundred and ten percent to your work! Make us proud! But should we deem that you need to leave - Just do that quietly... There is no recourse for you. Get your own health care... Get your financial set-up on your own with the seven dollar wage we give you...

We have abused the term privatization.

As a kid all I ever heard was how important Unions were... How they improved the quality of life... Most of my family worked in manufacturing and with unions they were able to get a decent wage and retirement benefits.

So now organized labor is looked at with distain... All those workers who committed and PAID a percent of their income for their future... Those workers are now bad guys to be mocked and vilified as though they were both the enemy and the problem...

The problem is that OTHERS screwed up the system... Others made a financial meltdown... That abusive mastication and re-chewing of money that wasn't really money put the nation in this mess.

The problem is what it is and trimming excess is a great idea but it should be the duty of those financiers who got us into this that should do the cutting and trimming...

Instead of the top down cut backs and financial adjustments needed - we go the other way... Huge bailouts for the giant corporations. Little respect to the common man... Let's take all those poor schmucks who we think get too much because they had enough foresight to do so... Let's take all those wondrous benefits that were responsibly established and co-payed by the beneficiaries away... How dare those people! All that cash we could have!

I am amazed at the media and how the whole concept of bargaining for your rights as a worker are now looked at as part of the financial problem.

If you want to re-negotiate - That's fine... Adjustments need to be made. That seems fair. But please - sanctioning working people who have been doing their job for 15, 20, or even thirty years and doing it within the framework that was agreed upon seems very unfair.

This country is going to be one giant corporate state where all the workers are just that... Workers... Eking out a living with nothing garnered but the meager handout offered by the business faction. No negotiations... No bargaining... Either work for a minimum or stay poor... And let's all take every social program out of the picture and keep the poor as they are and they can starve to death or yield to the merchants and money holders and work for a pittance...

I HATE all his "US" and "THEM" mentality...

Two classes in this country - insanely rich with all the trappings or very poor - Praying every day that nothing dire happens to you and yours...

I feel nothing but distain for comments that indicate that teachers should be "good" and "dedicated" and if they are everything will fall into place... Idealistic tripe. Such a baseless comment. If I followed that pattern as a teacher then I'd choose another career - and not by choice! It's not that simple.

My point really is:

The collective bargaining debate is not the cause of our financial woes of today. I am not opposed to future adjustments to help assuage the financial screw up that others made, but to simply cut off benefit rights and remove a protective process that keeps wages fair seems excessive and the wrong way to go...

It's more important in this country to make sure we can keep making and selling cars rather than education.

All the evidence presents itself to such a theory...
February 27, 2011 at 1:22pm
WITH FULL PAY & medical after 5 years
February 27, 2011 at 1:25pm
Here are some facts you might want to consider before making a decision on how terrible it is for the State of Wisconsin deciding what is best for the State of Wisconsin.

In a report released in December 2010, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average state/local government worker earns $40.10 an hour in salary and benefits. The same report found the average private worker earns $27.68 an hour in salary and benefits.

With 3,000 units of government in Wisconsin, all in various stages of contractual negotiations, eliminating collective bargaining may be the only way they could quickly deal with the cuts, said Todd Berry, president of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

"If 80 percent of your budget is personnel, and you're having state and your property tax revenues reduced while your costs are going up, you can't solve your problem without addressing compensation," Berry said.

In that case, "you only have two choices — reduce the number of people or keep the people and reduce the amount of compensation," he said.

I find it totally ironic and hypocritical that people against what the State of Wisconsin is attempting to do are the same people who were for Congress enacting a Health Care Law that penalizes people who don't buy government approved health care by 2014.

If the United States government (Democrats) can enact a law forcing people to buy health care then why shouldn't Wisconsin (Republicans) be allowed to enact a law that forces people to pay for more of their health care?

I wonder what the liberal media would be saying about the Republican Party if they were the ones who had effectively shut down the process of Democracy by running and hiding in another state?
February 27, 2011 at 1:31pm
Although Mr. Halpern didn't directly address teachers as the primary target in the crosshairs of the collective bargaining issue, why are they the largest group being criticized? Is it because of the Wisconsin debate?

I am doing my absolute best to be objective because I have worked in both sectors. But, now I'm a teacher. One who paid large sums of money for a degree; yet we have all heard that teachers don't go into the profession for the pay. I realize that I chose this profession, and must deal with the monetary consequences...but please realize that I spend more waking hours with your children than you do. I get the best hours of their day, and I am aware of the influence I have with these children. I give 110 % to be the absolute best I can be to educate them and be a good role model. However, I feel REALLY discouraged when I read how people react to teachers collectively, as if we are being coddled and have cushy positions. I WORK HARD. All day long, evenings, and even some on the weekends- but I love it. And I love it even more when I feel I am being supported.

I won't go into the money issues other than to say that I am thankful for my medical insurance and I am thankful for every single tax payer and our county for supporting us. But, it isn't a free ride- I know many teachers that can not afford the family policy and opt not to take it.

We all have horror stories relating to terrible teachers. Is the issue with these or other ineffective educators? If so, then I believe governor Haslam is going in the direction of filtering these out with changing teacher evaluation and tenure laws. In the meantime, let's not weed out the wonderful teachers with the scatter-shot approach. And I invite any of you to spend a full day working- not just observing- alongside a teacher. It's not as easy as it looks.

I apologize for focusing on just my profession. Mr. Halpern's commentary has merit and all tax payers should feel that they are getting quality accountability. I am a tax payer, too, and I also get angry when I feel my contributions are used unjustly. I just wish that teachers didn't always garner such negative reactions! And...teacher's have the option to become a member of the union or not. I hope I haven't created any negative feelings here, just wanted to add in. I will do more research on the matter, so that I can be fully informed.
February 27, 2011 at 1:50pm
If I think my employer is evil then I (a union of one) has the right to QUIT. My life style may change but I will sleep well.

It makes no sense to declare we , the good honest ones, will assist the monster as long as I am paid well. If you feel this to be true the only difference between you and them is they got the money.

I think there is enough blame to go around. Maybe if we as parents, community and educational system would have taught our children how to be smart with their finances (and taught them how to borrow money) Wal Street wouldn't have been able to rob them.
February 27, 2011 at 2:01pm
Jeff, as best I can tell the American people as a whole have enjoyed the highest standard of living in the last 50 years, or longer, than any society in history. I'll be 55 in less than a month and I know mine has improved, despite some up and downs along. However, in order to have it, we spent more than we made. We promised more than we could deliver. Now our cities, states and nation are deep in debt and need to get out from under it. Is raising taxes the answer? Could be, but that can hurt as much as it might help.

I am all for businesses paying their employees a fair wage. If they can afford it insurance and pension contributions are also good things. But one has to realize most people don't work at the same job all of their careers anymore and then retire. They go from job to job for several reasons. We are a more mobile society. Most people live where they live and work where they do for reasons not totally associated with money or financial security.

My boss can hire from a pool of people that probably numbers in the hundreds of thousands if not millions to do what I do. Why should he care if I'm not satisfied with that he is willing to give me?

Jeff, I do not understand why you feel you are entitled to anything more from your employer than that which they are willing to give you?
February 27, 2011 at 2:12pm
Mr. Halpern;

You seem to be "putting all your eggs in one basket" when the reality is that attempting to compare the education systems wants and needs with the traditional union is "apples and oranges". First. let me point out that public servants are taxpayers and consumers too. Do the math. As a long time proud public employee, I can tell you that my annual contribution to the taxes of our state reach close to one month's salary. Where else do employees pay themselves?The move in our general assembly is to remove the teacher's rights to speak for themselves, not strike ( that's illegal) but merely negotiate on their own behalf for what they would like to see happen. I can tell you that there are many school boards across the state who would like to tell the teachers "just go away. The law now says we don't have to talk to you and we are not going to." Is that really what you want?
The teachers are only asking for the status quo, nothing more. But those who feel they should not be allowed to speak for themselves are wanting to take something away.

Apparently you haven't compared the salaries benfits, and retirements of public employees with those of the large ( generally manfacturing) private corporation. I have friends in both, and particurally in the areas of insurance, the manufacturers and others in the private sector contribute more, with better benefits, than the public sector and their retirements are generally better.

Don't "diss" the teachers. I certainly wouldn't have their job for the pay and benefits that they receive.

I will close with suggesting that your ability to write this article and other articles are the result of a teacher's influence in your earlier years. Try thanking them and supporting them instead of kicking them.
February 27, 2011 at 2:29pm
Agreed that governments are broke but the local and state problems are a result of the federal government. Busting the teachers may provide a short term help locally but in the big picture it is minor.

Personally I would like to eliminate most of the federal government's workers.

Cutting our individual federal taxes by say at least 75% if not 100% would go a long way. If you don't think that is possible, you haven't been paying attention. I would rather pay more taxes to our county and state than to the corrupt feds. At least we could have better oversight.

We pay hundreds of billions a year in interest to a private bank, the Federal Reserve, who is owned by Wall St. and foreign banks when we could issue our own interest free currency. Remember Andrew "I killed the bank" Jackson.

And the trillions for the war machine and the fraud of the 'war on terror." Don't get me started.



Our priorities are skewed in favor of the 1% at the top.

Jeff, I also agree with you. I see this teacher bashing as a step towards the privatization of our school system in the interest of for profit big corporations. A sort of Walmartization of education.

February 27, 2011 at 2:33pm
I understand your reply and support the majority of what you say....

I must simply accept the fact that employment has now changed.

I am fascinated by the last comment you made...

"Jeff, I do not understand why you feel you are entitled to anything more from your employer than that which they are willing to give you?"

My comments were not meant to be interpreted the way you presented. Employment is now more disposable and without accountability and most of all, often temporary... You are correct and under that paradigm it comes in conflict with organized collective bargaining... There is no place for that now in this new society... Unions are not so relevant.

I wasn't attempting to present my arguments on entitlements - Just fair play. I feel those who made the mess should pick up the pieces and not those who have been committed and have worked hard for the benefits they agreed upon. Are those what you mean when you say "entitlements"? I certainly do not mean to imply that an applicant for a new job should demand anything more than what was offered and agreed to.
February 27, 2011 at 2:47pm
>state/local government worker earns $40.10 an hour in salary and benefits. The same report found the average private worker earns $27.68 an hour in salary and benefits.

I am as much for lower taxes and less government as the next person, but I am tired of hearing these figures without any supporting data. Are these two groups educated equally? Are mininum wage earners included in the lower figure? Figures can be misleading if one doesn't know the whole detail.
February 27, 2011 at 2:51pm
brawleycreek, there will always be public employees, there will always be a need to pay them, and they will always have a voice (and vote) in what they receive for their services. I am not against public employees in any way, only a system which I don't believe is equitable for all taxpayers.

"Where else do employees pay themselves."

As best I can tell only government. Government decides what its employees should make, and pays them that amount, at the expense of the taxpayers. That is my objection to collective bargaining for public employees. If the public employees don't like what their bosses (elected officials) are willing to give them they can vote them out in favor of ones who will. If there is a need for it to be that way I am willing to listen, but I do not see it.
February 27, 2011 at 3:33pm
If your only recourse for dissatisfaction of your wages and benefits would be to vote those who provide them out of office nothing would ever satisfy a public employee... With the plodding pace of government and how things get completed it might be possible for the original complaint to get processed by a completely different government cabinet... Maybe it might even take years for any action. Collective bargaining is only good enough for the private sector? For all the comments I hear about how it is not equal between public employment the private sector your solutions only show a support of division rather than equitability. The system used to protect your welfare should be the same for both. Just because the payroll is paid differently doesn't mean that recourse should be undermined. Private sector employment does not offer the possibility of removing the employer should you be dissatisfied with your working conditions.
February 27, 2011 at 3:58pm
From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Industry and Occupation of Union Members

In 2010, 7.6 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with 7.1 million union workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers (6.9 percent). Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 42.3 percent. This group includes workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. Private sector industries with high unionization rates included transportation and utilities (21.8 percent), telecommunications (15.8 percent), and construction (13.1 percent). In 2010, low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (1.6 percent) and in financial activities (2.0 percent).

Among occupational groups, education, training, and library occupations (37.1 percent) and protective service occupations (34.1 percent) had the highest unionization rates in 2010. Sales and related occupations (3.2 percent) and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (3.4 percent) had the lowest unionization rates.


In 2010, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $917, while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $717. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, the difference reflects a variety of influences including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, firm size, or geographic region.
February 27, 2011 at 4:40pm
Deborah I am not sure why you would be against Andrew "I killed the bank" Jackson. He did you and me a HUGE favor by killing the Second Bank of the United States.

That bank was a monopoly on the American economy and would have destroyed it had it continued.

When the Bank attempted to offset inflation by contracting the paper money in existence (i.e., deflation), many people could no longer cover their loans. A massive wave of bankruptcies, foreclosures and bank failures ensued in what became the worst economic depression in U.S. history up to that time.

Bank President Nicholas Biddle used many questionable tactics to help his supporters. These included altering lending practices for political gain, redirecting funds to friendly sources, and publishing scathing newspaper articles about opponents.

It was a terrible deal for the working common man as Biddle had the ultimate power to set the interest rates with no one to control him. We all owe Jackson a lot for his role in helping to destroy it!

Back to collective bargaining: I still pose the question for all of you to educate me in how this is any different from the Health Care Law that was forced upon us?

If our U.S. government determined that we should all be forced to pay for rising health care or face a penalty, then why shouldn’t the State of Wisconsin be allowed to do the same thing by removing collective bargaining?

For the record, I have the upmost respect for our teachers all across America. I believe they should be one of the highest paid positions our country has to offer. Along with fire fighters and law enforcement. But, I do believe the collective bargaining process has allowed unions to hold the system hostage and force states and local governments to cower to their demands or face strikes.

There is nothing wrong with everyone getting a piece of the pie. Everyone just has to remember that we all can’t get the same size slice. Sooner or later you are going to run out of pie.

Things cannot continue as they are in this economy. Like I wrote earlier: Which do you want? Lay off’s or cutbacks in benefits?
February 27, 2011 at 5:57pm
I have always wondered about the logic of people that argue against legal unionized employees, using collective bargaining to get a contract between the employee’s and the employer.

It seems to me that when an “Executive”, in any line of work, decides to become a part of any organization, be it public OR private, has the common sense to get a contract of employment. No one argues with these folks, they agree it is expected behavior.

Why then should regular employees not seek the same protection when legally able? Why would anyone deny the right of such individuals to only do the same as any executive? Are the employees any less human? Do they have fewer rights?

The first amendment states that people have the right to assemble peacefully and that they have freedom of expression. Striking is certainly a protected form of expression. There is also the 9th amendment which states: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Meaning there are additional rights the people have and that neither the state nor federal government may override.

Where in the constitution is the government granted the right to strip away the people's right to assemble and voice their objection to how much they get paid, their safety, the number of hours they work, and their benefits? If it isn’t granted then the government has NOT the right.

The mistake a lot of people make is that the Constitution grants rights to the people. The Constitution grants rights to the government and expressly forbids the government from impinging on certain rights of the people. The 9th amendment affirms there are other rights retained by the people that government has no business meddling in.

If the government like any company has a budget problem with such contracts then for both parties it would be beneficial to renegotiate a more profitable agreement. If the employees will not sit down to negotiations or are not being reasonable then, in ANY contract, there are ways to rectify that situation.

Trust me no company or government will sign any contract that does not provide them with loop-holes for such actions. The same thing should apply to any executive positions and their contracts.

It is a simple matter of logic and not one of whether someone should support a union.

If anyone had a chance to have a contract with an employer they should do so.

The reason most of us do not have a contract is because we simply have to take a job out of desperation and/or necessity. We all realize when we have no contract we are VERY replaceable. This leads companies to have the opinion of” If you don’t like the way you are treated here, the pay, or benefits leave. We have hundreds or thousands that would love to take your place.”

We understand that when we take a job with such an employer in the private or public sector, we get exactly the negotiation power that we agreed too upon hiring, that being none.

It is obvious to me that the “executive” and or sports professional culture is a lot more contract savvy than us middle class workers. They are expected and even lauded when they get a lucrative contract. The media and both sides of the political spectrum don’t even blink when they get multimillion dollar contracts.

Go ahead though and vilify those “uppity” union middle/lower class workers who only demand the same idea of a contract, how dare they.

Funny how Democrats don’t have any problem abusing our rights when it comes to demanding we accept and pay for mandatory health care but, this just shows us that Republican’s don’t mind abusing our rights either.

Todd Hollandsworth
February 27, 2011 at 6:30pm
A little misunderstanding Cory. My intention in the comment was to portray Jackson as a strong leader who would stand up to the central banker interests. Something we need today.
February 27, 2011 at 9:33pm
First of all, since when is it ok to throw teachers under the bus. Has anyone been i a classroom in the last ten years and see the "quality" of students "parents" are rasing now. What ever a teacher makes I am sure it is not enough to put up with the back talk and lack of morale character that alot, not all, parents are doing now. Parents are putting a vidoe game in their childs hands now in stead of going outside and tossing the ole football around anymore. Then these kids come to school with attitudes beyond their learning and understanding. Hey take alook around people are not marching to college anymore to be teachers; instead they are going into the private sectors are, it's where the money is. If you think you can do a better job teaching without teachers, and unions that bargain on their behalf, then home school your child and quit blamming your teachers. Teaching use to be a noble profession, but what so noble about teaching students that are not being taught correctly at home. daycare would be more expensive.
February 27, 2011 at 9:43pm
the problem could quickly be turned around with a simple flat tax, this would allow all people to be on even ground....but we can't do that, since it would hurt the rich and the private sector profit's.

America's greed will quickly bring this nation to it's knees...if it hasn't already.

Insurance cost have sky rocketed, but look at what has happened in the last 20 years in the medical field. bypass surgury is like going to the doctor for a cold these days compared to twenty years ago. Cancer in some cases if caught early enough can be beat and the list keeps going...i understand the cost of insurance is a burden to each person whether in public or private sector..we will shortly be graded on key indicators like BMI, BP, etc..Best you stay away from fast food and eat right and excercise or you will pay even won't get any better...If you really want to look at something insane ...look at what a Doctor pays in mal-practice insurance ( just because we Americans will sue on the drop of a dime...because we can !!!! we are Americans. so think of what you are paying for today and i think you will understand benefits in a more realistic way.... and let's not get into the illegal immigrant thing.....

Teachers like all other professions take a beating because of a few bad apples....the tenure thing is about weeding out the bad apples, but since we have to be fair to all some good folks get caught in the cross-fire. A person has to eleminate themselves in the work place these days...not the employer.



Unions served a purpose in the beginning but like all systems the lazy, worthless and those who have no integrity have worked the system to it's limits. And yes these types have given the unions a bad rap...I would not have the wages and benefits i have now without what the unions started. but i'm sure the founders of those unions would turn over in thier graves if they saw what unions have become... Each person is responsible for thier acts, and each person must go to bed each night thinking did i do right by my employer today!!!! There are some who can sleep easy, but there are the same amount who lay there thinking how can i screw my company out of something tomorrow....

America as we know it is not what it used to is the land of entitlement...not the land of the free and the brave....everyone has there hand out wanting something for nothing!!!As they say "it is what it is"""
February 28, 2011 at 6:54am
Thanks Deborah, sorry for the confusion. You are correct about Jackson and needing stronger leaders today!

For Todd and mkjomurf I am asking this question with no ill intent or trying to be argumentative in any way. I merely want your opinion.

One of the points that have not been mentioned, but one that I have read about lately is the idea that the unions have protected the teachers to the point there is no recourse for weeding out the bad ones. And that would be the same for all unions and not just the teachers union, so I am not just picking on them.

A lot of people see that as unfair and manipulating the system in a way that holds the taxpayer hostage when a bad teacher is protected to the point it is almost impossible to remove them. So how do you alleviate that problem? How do you solve the issue of people milking the system for years and years because they are protected by their unions?

I am lucky; I work for a great company with great benefits in a job I like very much. However, there is still an expectation of my work and I know it. It drives me to work in a way that I will not jeopardize my job. However, if I am not up to standards at my company, they have ways to either make me improve or they have the right to ship me out the door.

When the laws of a contract protect you in a way that allows you to work as you choose, at whatever standard you choose with no recourse for your actions then that is a problem in my opinion.

Would either of you want to be owners of a business that allowed its employees to work as they saw fit?
February 28, 2011 at 8:16am
Many state budgets are in trouble this year and the governors are scrambling to make up shortfalls. Unions tried to come into Colonial Corporation in Woodbury in the late 60's and the plant was almost shut down. It eliminated almost half of the work force for a period of time and families had no salaries to pay for food and housing. Unions can fight dirty and always get their dues first to strengthen their power. The Unions donate heavily to Congressional, Senate, and Presidential elections. Money is power in the world today. No one worries about the little guy or the small business who cannot afford the health care cost of today. Hospitals have new toys which cost millions and that cost is passed on to the patient.

Even retired military and Social Security pensioners are seeing increases in co-pays and medicines. No cost of living increase but everything cost more. Now it is a choise of whether to buy medicine or food for the retiree.

Elected officials need to wake up and understand the people have nothing left to give so its time to find a new way to fund your stay in Washington.

Will each Senator, Congressman, Cabinet head, and President take a $10,000 cut? How about those convicted of a felony receiving pensions who have been charged and convicted while in office? Everyone wants to go to pensions of the average worker and start cutting benefits. I for one earned my pension and do not feel like losing what was promised to me while on Active Duty. Older retirees are being shoved to the back by all the injured soldiers coming back from Iran and Afganistan. Is this part of the plan to save money on older retirees and deny adequate health care?
February 28, 2011 at 9:35am
This is not really an issue of collective bargaining, but of the fact that our local, state, and federal government are unable to balance their budget. They will not cut those programs that are wasting money. Maybe Wisconsin needs to look at what programs are failing and cut them instead. There are always other options. I challenge our county to do the same. Cut the talk about a Middle School and put that same money to pay for the dept in our schools first, and then look at increasing the pay for our teachers. That is my feeling on this whole matter. I am not pro-union or against it either.
February 28, 2011 at 9:37am
Thanks Corey for the courteous and intelligent questions. I get so tired of seeing the rhetoric on both sides that never ask or answer the hard questions. I’ll try to answer.

I too have read about “unions keeping bad employees from being fired”. I am sure that happens and there is no way I’d deny that. I would suggest that in as many non-union companies there are senior people (meaning people who have been there many years) that are spared the same level of scrutiny on job performance and other things than their fellow less senior employees, simply because of their seniority. I am also sure some “bad employees” get spared because of favoritism, family, or company politics.

“When the laws of a contract protect you in a way that allows you to work as you choose, at whatever standard you choose with no recourse for your actions then that is a problem in my opinion.”

If some entity (Private or Government) entered into a contract that says they cannot discipline their employees for being bad employees, then I’d say they entered into an agreement irresponsibly. I don’t blame the unions for trying to get the best deal they can, any more than I blame any company/ government, any head coach or NFL player for getting the best contract they can.

To answer two of your questions I’ll say that if I owned a company and was faced with legal collective bargaining, I would make sure the contract included many ways to evaluate , discipline, terminate my employees and I’d get the best deal I could, or I wouldn’t enter into a contract with that union. I would make sure that the contract included provisions to renegotiate if economic declines occurred. I would also tie my management contracts to economic levels as well, so that the employees would see that if cuts have to happen it would be companywide not just a worker versus management thing.

Employees would demand, i am sure, that there be review panels available so that management could not fire someone “just because they didn’t like that person”. I think that is reasonable as well.


I agree that we should try to take care of all our veterans. It is because they “stand on the wall” protecting us that we enjoy more freedoms than any society in history, they should be priority one.

It is a fact though, that we are in a time of economic upheaval. It was caused by spend now and pay never policies that republicans and democrats have passed on to us over the last 50+ years. The eagle has come to roost so to speak.

Each year since 1969, Congress has spent more money than its income. 75% or more of our budget is made up of 3 areas. Social Security- Medicare, Military spending, and Debt payments.

It is dishonest for any reasonable person not to admit that the only way to get some sanity back to our budget is to cut all three of these areas as well as others. BUT, the politicians that do so will commit career suicide. So what will happen?

We are living history and we will see if anyone has the courage to do what has to be done. In EMS we call it triage.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

"The evils of welfarism are veiled and tend to be postponed. The effect of welfarism on freedom will be felt later on, after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail."
Barry Goldwater

Todd Hollandsworth
February 28, 2011 at 1:33pm
Well Todd, I would agree your contract if you were running the business, sounds much better than any I have ever heard of or read about in any capacity and also one that I could agree with as well.

Unfortunately, that is not the contract that the State of Wisconsin or any other state that is attempting to straighten this mess out has. They are forced to deal with years of demands that have effectively forced them into paying for more than they can afford.

Wiconsin's is faced with 80% of their budget being personnel from what I have read which means they have two choices: Layoffs or reduction in benefits for those personnel. A tough choice no matter which direction they choose.

Although I have never worked for a union, I am not anti-union. I know there have been times in the past that there was a need for a union in different fields of work. Coal mines, trucking, auto-workers, teachers. etc. all come to mind. Personally, I don't see the need for them today because the working conditions have improved greatly over the years from the days of the sweat shops and such.

I think the unions as a whole; no matter what profession it is, do a terrible job of explaining their message. I think from what I read and hear from people in unions that in many ways they do hold businesses, governments (state and federal), and the people hostage to their demands.

I am with you on everyone getting the best possible deal for themselves. I would do the same; therefore I would not expect anything less from others. However, I go back to the idea of holding people hostage with a threat of a strike because I think I need $30.00 an hour instead of the $25.00 I now get. Most of the time, the demands of a union seem really out of touch with reality in my opinion.

I think it is a tough sell for a union to demand $30.00 an hour for example when the majority of Americans fall well below that rate of pay. Or to complain about paying for their share of rising health care when we have millions who can’t afford it at all. And personally, as much as I love football, I have never seen one player I thought was worth the MILLIONS of dollars they are paid. But, unions have driven that price up to that point.

I will leave you with this quote and one that speaks well for both union and non-union:

"All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms is treason. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other."
--*Abraham Lincoln*--
February 28, 2011 at 5:09pm
We continually demanded more money in our paycheck and cheaper prices at the checkout line. We desperately need unions--in China--
March 01, 2011 at 5:53am
Mr. Halpern, in just a few words (reminds me of Hank Haines) summarizes one facet of politics--money talks are at least it should.
And sometimes there is a double dipping ripple in there.

It might be noted that taxpaying TEA teachers in Tennessee can opt out at any time.

When this paragraph was copied and pasted:

"In a report released in December 2010, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average state/local government worker earns $40.10 an hour in salary and benefits. The same report found the average private worker earns $27.68 an hour in salary and benefits."

I am sure that the paragraphs that folllowed were inadvertently omitted. They explain the wage differential. Here they are:

"But the report was quick to note that this is not a direct comparison. Government workers tend to be better-educated than their private-sector counterparts, and government jobs are more likely to be professional or managerial as opposed to the many more manufacturing and sales jobs in the private work force.
In fact, studies that compare salaries and benefits for similar jobs between the public and private sectors show that government workers lag.
An April 2010 report by the Center for State & Local Government Excellence - a nonpartisan, Washington-based group with Republicans and Democrats on its board of directors - found that in 2008, state workers nationwide earned 11 percent less and local workers earned 12 percent less than private workers with comparable education levels.
The same study found that in Wisconsin between 2000 and 2008, total compensation for state and local workers was less than comparable private sector workers."

Touching on BUS and AJ: A number of historians comment that if AJ had felt Biddle was somewhat more receptive to his party, only minor changes would have occurred at BUS but AJ perceived Biddle and the BUS as a political threat and both had to go.
AJ sacked two Sec. of Treasury before he found one that would go along. That one was later rewarded quite nicely.

Much like what is happening across the US. Pawlenty commented on the "triangle of greed" with "big unions" one of those angles. Republicans see strong unions as a threat to their power, as they have always been, and with majorities, including governorships in hand, are proceeding on the course to destroy or weakening that Democrat stronghold starting with marginilizing the collective bargaining power of a union.

March 01, 2011 at 6:31am
dailyreader, I could have lived my entire life without anyone comparing me to Hank Haines, but the fact that you did now makes us sworn enemies for life :)

Nevertheless, it would appear that taxpayers are going to have to decide whether the average public employee is worth more than the average private sector employee, because that is the case according to an article in today's USA Today:

Wisconsin one of 41 states where public workers earn more
March 01, 2011 at 8:13am
Kevin from the way I read that article this is not about lowering their pay, this is about lowering how much compensation is being made. It appears to me that the current plan is to bring the public worker down to more of a level field with what the private worker is getting including the compensation plan. Is this what you got from the article as well?
March 01, 2011 at 8:52am
Mr Halpern, would it help any and make you feel better if I mentioned that Stockard had an outstanding article related to this subject in this am's DNJ? :)

But, if you will notice that the USA TODAY article also mentioned the "analysis..did not adjust for specific jobs, age, education or experience." And the DNJ adds this quotation "analysis is misleading because it does not reflect factors such as education that result in higher pay for public employees."

If you read Wickham's column Sunday, he notes that Walker's insistence on stripping away collective bargaining right's is still there even after the union agreed to the concessions the governor said were necessary to balance the budget.

All about our favorite subject, next to religion--politics.

March 01, 2011 at 10:37am
efisk that is exactly what I got from the article and everything else I have read and heard as well.

Wisconsin has two choices. Lay people off to help reduce the budget or lower their compensation by making them pay for more of their benefits.

And, that excludes fire fighters and law enforcement.

They are not going to raise taxes, so what other choice do they have?
March 01, 2011 at 10:47pm
DailyReader, thanks for telling "the rest of the story" about those public/private wage comparisons. Might I also add that these are averages, and do not necessarily reflect the wages of state of TN employees. Now, I'm afraid that your information was ignored by Mr. Halpern, however, since the facts don't fit his world-view.
To topic. I am no fan of unions. The original commentary poses a reasonable viewpoint, opposing state monies paid as salaries being witheld for union dues to be used for lobbying and political contributions. I see no harm to teachers in ending this practice.
What I do object to is the vilification of all teachers by many posters in this and other forums. They deserve respect. And, if their positions are needed, they deserve just compensation. I would like to think that this can be accomplished without the presence of a union. But can it?
March 02, 2011 at 4:07am
From a column in yesterday's Washington Examiner: "Taxpayers, present and future, . . . are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party." That's the point I made. The debate not is about compensating public employees in a fair and equitable manner, it's about being funding a political party.
March 02, 2011 at 7:24am
You might want to look at and see where most union campaign contributions went, and by and large, as pointed out, Democrat candidates are the benefactors.

But when you consider only around 12% of all workers are union members and in 22 states those union members can opt of any time they want to, do those union contributions gain more favor than contributions coming from 88% of other workers?

Look at some of the major corporations that have backed Republicans for decades. If you work for them, you are contributing by your work efforts, to the contributions being made to Republican candidates.

When you buy a product made or sold by a company that supports Republicans, are you not contributing to that company's effort to enact legislation favorable to its operations.
All distinctions without a difference or differences without distinctions--don't worry, I lost myself there also.

And as Mr. Halpern pointed out, its about funding political parties.

What would have been said had these unions contributed the bulk of campaign funds to Republicans? Would we see the Republicans doing the same thing --trying to destroy the collective bargaining power of public unions?

My answer is no.

March 02, 2011 at 7:28am
No dailyreader, we would see the Democrats doing it, which again gets back to my original point -- it's wrong no matter who is doing it.
March 02, 2011 at 8:38pm
Looks like Ohio is beating Wisconsin to the punch. It's simple get a job, do a good job, and live within your means.
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