Photo By Dennis Rodkin, Exclusive to Thinking Right
Polling efforts throughout California show that for the first time in history the public doubts the veracity of teacher claims that education is underfunded. (August 2012 polls) “Californians are willing to spend money in order to protect their schools from spending cuts. But they also believe that state government is spending too much money on things that aren’t necessary and want to see that spending reined in,” commented Dan Schnur, Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. (Schnur’s quote) Much of this dramatic change of attitude about teachers and schools can be directly traced to the abuse of power of public unions like the California Teachers Association and the Chicago Teachers Union. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444017504577645550224040874.html
Before the ACLU gets all worked up, I am talking ONLY about public employee unions. Whatever you think about unions generally I do at lease understand the argument for unions in the private sector. In the private sector there is a zero sum game and if the unions overreach and are “too successful” in salary and benefit negotiations, then the companies they work for fail and the employees use a job. Similarly, the employer that gave the too generous contract loses his company. In the private sector, resources are finite and the profitability of the company is just as important to the employee as it is to the employer.
This yin and yang doesn’t exist in the public sector. The public employee negotiates against elected officials that have zero personal stake in the negotiations. If a contract is given to the employees that is more than the public agencies budget can withstand, that does not come out of the elected officials pocket. Worse, the public unions in California hold the TOP EIGHT SPOTS for campaign contributions. (FPPC) Unions not only promote candidates for election, but target candidates favoring fiscal responsibility for ouster. California is currently dominated by Democrats because of the unvarnished power wielded by the power of the public unions and their virtually unlimited political campaign funding. In California, unions involuntarily take campaign contributions from every pay check of every union member and then uses these funds to wield virtually unlimited power. (Involuntary deductions)
In one of the worst cases of thuggery I have heard about in local politics in a long time, within the past week a private detective working for the police union and driving a car with no license plates reported that a local councilman, not coincidentally a strong advocate for limiting public employee pension, was driving drunk and that the investigator had seen the councilman “staggering” out of a local pub. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/righeimer-369544-police-dammeier.html The councilman was home by the time the police responded to the call and the officer demanded that he leave his house to take a field sobriety test. Not only did the council member pass the test, he had a receipt showing that he had only had two diet cokes while at the pub. Later, the tape of the councilman leaving the bar showed a very sober man, not staggering by any definition. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/righeimer-369544-police-dammeier.html This police union was so set on ousting this councilman that they hired an investigator to follow him around and try and embarass him so that they could replace him with someone more sympathetic to the union.
In Chicago the teacher’s union has left about 350,000 kids without school even though the average Chicago teacher currently makes approximately $74,839, many times more than the average public employee in Chicago. (Average teacher pay) It looks like the teachers will get the 16% pay raise they seek to even further increase the gap between teachers other Chicago employees. http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/10/us/illinois-chicago-teachers-strike/index.html Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, not exactly a bastion of conservative thought, commented about the harm the needless strike would cause to Chicago’s kids “This is, in my view, a strike of choice, and it’s the wrong choice for our children,” he said. “Stay at the table. Finish it for our children.” (Emanuel quote) One of the key points sought by the Chicago Teachers’ Union is to make it even more difficult to terminate them. This is pretty ridiculous given that the Los Angeles Unified School District actually had to give a teacher $40,000 severance before they could terminate him after he fed blindfolded elementary students his sperm. (Mark Berndt termination)
If we were having this conversation while boasting about the United States’ ascendency to the top of the world list of education programs I would at least feel like the waste was partially worth it. Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is true. The United States, once the world’s premier educational system, is now ranked 24th in the world in math education. (World math education rankings) Clearly there is NO correlation between teacher salaries and the quality of education delivered when it is delivered in an environment where no one can be fired and no one can be evaluated. How can we be slipping so quickly as we shovel increasing mounds of money into the furnace?
Before the 1950′s the concept of public unions was virtually unthinkable and were resisted by many of the most liberal and conservative thinkers of the 20th century.
When the Boston police unionized and went on strike in 1919, the ensuing chaos—rioting and looting—crippled the public-union idea. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge became a national hero by breaking the strike, issuing the dictum: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Woodrow Wilson called the strike “an intolerable crime against civilization.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444017504577645550224040874.html
Similarly, Franklin D. Roosevelt rejected the very concept of the public union:
[Roosevelt] told the head of the Federation of Federal Employees in 1937 that collective bargaining “cannot be transplanted into the public service. The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer” because “the employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444017504577645550224040874.html
FDR’s rationale was quite simple: the government are the people – if any group can tell the government what it has to do, then that group becomes the sovereign – a state of affairs that he found completely unacceptable. It was not until JFK that the prohibition and restrictions on public unions were lifted and public employee unions sprang up everywhere – and why not, it is a gold mine for the public employee – negotiate against someone that has no individual stake in the negotiation and then get them booted of office out if you don’t like the way they negotiate with you. It is time to rethink the existence of the public unions and to return the sovereign power back to the people.