Archive for the 'Unions' Category

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The Trouble With Public Sector Unions

A great article by Daniel Disalvo in the fall issue of National Affairs. Here are some of my favorite parts:

When it comes to advancing their interests, public-sector unions have significant advantages over traditional unions. For one thing, using the political process, they can exert far greater influence over their members’ employers — that is, government — than private-sector unions can. Through their extensive political activity, these government-workers’ unions help elect the very politicians who will act as “management” in their contract negotiations — in effect handpicking those who will sit across the bargaining table from them, in a way that workers in a private corporation (like, say, American Airlines or the Washington Post Company) cannot. Such power led Victor Gotbaum, the leader of District Council 37 of the AFSCME in New York City, to brag in 1975: “We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.”

A further important advantage that public-sector unions have over their private-sector counterparts is their relative freedom from market forces. In the private sector, the wage demands of union workers cannot exceed a certain threshold: If they do, they can render their employers uncompetitive, threatening workers’ long-term job security. In the public sector, though, government is the monopoly provider of many services, eliminating any market pressures that might keep unions’ demands in check. Moreover, unlike in the private sector, contract negotiations in the public sector are usually not highly adversarial; most government-agency mangers have little personal stake in such negotiations. Unlike executives accountable to shareholders and corporate boards, government managers generally get paid the same — and have the same likelihood of keeping their jobs — regardless of whether their operations are run efficiently. They therefore rarely play hardball with unions like business owners and managers do; there is little history of “union busting” in government.

Additionally, the rise and fall of businesses in the private sector means that unions must constantly engage in organizing efforts, reaching out to employees of newly created companies. In government agencies, on the other hand, once a union organizes workers, they usually remain organized — because the government doesn’t go out of business. Public-employee unions can thus maintain membership levels with much less effort than can private-sector unions.

The full article could be found here.

Governor Christie Responds To A Teacher

What a great response:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkuTm-ON904]

Quote Of The Day

For 2010, the #1 American-made car is the Toyota Camry for the second year in  a row, followed by the Honda Accord.  Toyota has two other models in this year’s top ten, the Tundra at #7 and the Sienna at #10; and Honda has the Odyssey at #6.  So the two “foreign car companies” – Toyota and Honda – captured half of the top ten spots for American-made cars in 2010, just like last year.  ” — Mark Perry

Teachers Unions vs Students

If you want to see how teachers union stand in the way of educational progress, read this New York Times article.

My favorite part of the article:

A building on 118th Street is one reason that the parents who are Perkins’s constituents know that charters can work. On one side there’s the Harlem Success Academy, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade charter with 508 students. On the other side, there’s a regular public school, P.S. 149, with 438 pre-K to 8th-grade students. They are separated only by a fire door in the middle; they share a gym and cafeteria. School reformers would argue that the difference between the two demonstrates what happens when you remove three ingredients from public education — the union, big-system bureaucracy and low expectations for disadvantaged children.

Same buildings, same resources and in many cases, the same family. In fact, the charter school often has more students per teacher than the public school.

The results?

But while the public side spends more, it produces less. P.S. 149 is rated by the city as doing comparatively well in terms of student achievement and has improved since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over the city’s schools in 2002 and appointed Joel Klein as chancellor. Nonetheless, its students are performing significantly behind the charter kids on the other side of the wall. To take one representative example, 51 percent of the third-grade students in the public school last year were reading at grade level, 49 percent were reading below grade level and none were reading above. In the charter, 72 percent were at grade level, 5 percent were reading below level and 23 percent were reading above level. In math, the charter third graders tied for top performing school in the state, surpassing such high-end public school districts as Scarsdale.

Same building. Same community. Sometimes even the same parents. And the classrooms have almost exactly the same number of students. In fact, the charter school averages a student or two more per class. This calculus challenges the teachers unions’ and Perkins’s “resources” argument — that hiring more teachers so that classrooms will be smaller makes the most difference. (That’s also the bedrock of the union refrain that what’s good for teachers — hiring more of them — is always what’s good for the children.) Indeed, the core of the reformers’ argument, and the essence of the Obama approach to the Race to the Top, is that a slew of research over the last decade has discovered that what makes the most difference is the quality of the teachers and the principals who supervise them. Dan Goldhaber, an education researcher at the University of Washington, reported, “The effect of increases in teacher quality swamps the impact of any other educational investment, such as reductions in class size.”

This building on 118th Street could be Exhibit A for that conclusion.

The full article can be found here.

Unions Kill Voucher Bill In Chicago

The Chicago Tribune gives the details:

The legislation got through the Senate in March after being championed by Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, and suburban Republicans. But by Wednesday, teachers unions had regrouped and its supporters found themselves pleading with opponents to overcome a furious lobbying effort to stop the bill.

“Think back to why you ran for office,” said sponsoring Rep. Kevin Joyce, D-Chicago. “Was it for a pension? I doubt it. Was it to protect the leadership of a union? I doubt that. Actually in all cases, I believe each and every one of us here got involved to try and make a difference in the lives of our fellow man.”

Joyce could muster only 48 of the 60 votes needed to pass a bill that would have allowed students to get vouchers worth about $3,700 to switch to private or parochial schools beginning in fall 2011.

Joyce said the bill would have passed if it had not faced the union opposition. The bill got support from 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats, fewer votes than Joyce had expected from his fellow Democrats.

Fighting back tears during the lengthy debate, Rep. Suzanne Bassi, R-Palatine, called on fellow lawmakers to “search your souls” to support the measure because “we have failed these kids in the inner-city schools.”

“I’m pleading with you,” said Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, who represents an area with four public schools where students would have been eligible for vouchers. “I’m begging you. Help me help kids in my district.”

Jay P. Greene has more here.

Blaming The Teachers Union For Our Failed Education System

Some people think I am being overly partisan when I blame the teachers union for a good part of our education failure. Well Intelligence Squared sponsored a debate in NYC on exactly that question. Greene reports, “On the union side was Randi Weingarten and two union bosses whose names are not worth remembering. On the other side was a dream team of Terry Moe, Rod Paige, and Larry Sand”. The results?

Let’s just say that the debate wasn’t close. Before the debate the audience was polled and 24% believed teacher unions were not to blame, 43% believed they were to blame, and 33% were undecided. By the end of the evening 25% believed the teacher unions were not to be blamed, 68% believed they were, and 7% remained undecided. Given the quality of the arguments made by Moe, Paige, and Sand and the lame responses from Weingarten, et al, it’s easy to see how the union side gained virtually no supporters while the union-critics won over an additional 25% of the audience.

If your interested in balanced look at this issue, I highly recommend reading the debate here (pdf) and here (click on Audio/Video to watch the debate). Jay P. Greene has more here.

Quote Of The Day


General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre made a big deal this week about GM’s repayment of the $6.7 billion in loans that the company got last year from the U.S. and Canadian governments. (GM press release here.) However, as this article points out, GM still has the $52 billion it got that was classified as equity rather than as debt. That money won’t be repaid unless and until GM does an Initial Public Offering which is large and successful enough to sell the government-owned positions at a price high enough to net $52 billion for the 73% of the stock owned by these two governments. For comparison, the total market capitalization of the Ford Motor Company is $48 billion. Moreover, this article suggests that even some of the $6.7 billion that was repaid came from other government funds, and hence may have been “an elaborate TARP money shuffle,” in Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s words.” — Chicago Boyz blog

Quote Of The Day

“The news is now out that Government Motors is recalling 1.3 million compact cars in the US, Canada and Mexico to fix power steering motors that can fail.  Does this sound familiar? Well the big difference with Toyota is that GM has not made the media  headlines anywhere, and certainly is not attracting the attention of House and Senate oversight committees.” – Charles Rowley, Professor of Economics at George Mason University

The Union Payoff

The Economist lists the Union payoff:

Mr Obama has revoked some Bush-era executive orders that unions hate and issued a few they adore. He has appointed union insiders to top jobs, allowed Congress to add “buy American” provisions to the stimulus bill, risked a trade war with China to please tyre-workers, let other trade deals wither and brazenly favoured unions when bailing out car firms. But his biggest favour has been green, foldable and borrowed. For example, he encourages the use of “Project Labour Agreements” on big federal construction projects, whereby contractors must recruit through a union hiring hall. Such agreements inflate costs by 12-18%, according to David Tuerck of Suffolk University, and were banned under Mr Bush. Even where PLAs are not in force, federal contractors are obliged to pay “prevailing” wages. That actually means something close to the union rates, which is nice for the workers in question but means that taxpayers get fewer roads and schools for their money.

More here.

A Look Inside The Teachers Union

The New Yorker has an eye opening look at life inside the New York Teachers Union. It’s a must read for those still in denial of the very real problems the teachers union cause.

Full article here.

Here is a small quote:

These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city’s five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent.

The teachers have been in the Rubber Room for an average of about three years, doing the same thing every day—which is pretty much nothing at all. Watched over by two private security guards and two city Department of Education supervisors, they punch a time clock for the same hours that they would have kept at school—typically, eight-fifteen to three-fifteen. Like all teachers, they have the summer off. The city’s contract with their union, the United Federation of Teachers, requires that charges against them be heard by an arbitrator, and until the charges are resolved—the process is often endless—they will continue to draw their salaries and accrue pensions and other benefits.

The full article is highly recommended.

Buy American Is Meaningless

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWQ_UV-9Wb4]

Why the “Buy American” campaign is just another union power grab and should be ignored.

Quote Of The Day

“The Obama administration’s behavior in the Chrysler bankruptcy is a profound challenge to the rule of law. Secured creditors — entitled to first priority payment under the “absolute priority rule” — have been browbeaten by an American president into accepting only 30 cents on the dollar of their claims. Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers union, holding junior creditor claims, will get about 50 cents on the dollar….By stepping over the bright line between the rule of law and the arbitrary behavior of men, President Obama may have created a thousand new failing businesses. That is, businesses that might have received financing before but that now will not, since lenders face the potential of future government confiscation. In other words, Mr. Obama may have helped save the jobs of thousands of union workers whose dues, in part, engineered his election. But what about the untold number of job losses in the future caused by trampling the sanctity of contracts today?” — Todd J. Zywicki, professor of law at George Mason University and the author of a book on consumer bankruptcy and consumer lending, forthcoming from Yale University Press

Quote Of The Day

“Which brings us to the real question, which is, when did it become the government’s job to intervene in the bankruptcy process to move junior creditors who belong to favored political constituencies to the front of the line?  Leave aside the moral point that these people lent money under a given set of rules, and now the government wants to intervene in our extremely well-functioning (and generous) bankruptcy regime solely in order to save a favored Democratic interest group. ” — Megan McArdle, on the power of unions in the Chrysler “bankruptcy”

Quote Of The Day

“Nominated for New Hampshire’s Teacher of the Year, Hampton Academy teacher Christina Hamilton received a layoff notice — by cell phone — the same week.  Kevin Fleming, grievance chairman of the teachers union, tells the Portsmouth Herald, “Even though she is recognized as a candidate for Teacher of the Year, they have to go on seniority.” Hampton has taught eighth-grade social studies.” — Joanne Jacobs

The Problem With Pro-Union Legislation

Is that it pits minorities against unions:

Nonunion contractors and minority and female workers fear that they could lose out on major construction projects funded by the economic stimulus package because President Barack Obama has issued a directive on contracting that favors union labor. An executive order that Obama signed “encourages executive agencies to consider requiring the use of project labor agreements (PLAs)” on federal construction projects of $25 million or more.

Because white males dominate the membership of the skilled construction trade unions, however, jobs for minorities and women could be hard to come by on large stimulus-bill projects unless the Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) set goals for their inclusion.

Last year, according to Department of Labor statistics, blacks and women made up only about 11% of the nation’s working construction laborers and sheet-metal workers, and about 8% of pipe layers, brick masons and carpenters. Just 3% of structural iron and steelworkers were African-American or female.

“In an environment where jobs are already scarce, the promise of infrastructure jobs is supposed to be a promise for all,” said Catherine Singley, a policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza. “If you’re giving preference to unionized workers, you’re definitely leaving out Latinos, who generally do not belong to unions. And you’re exacerbating the disparities they already face in accessing high-quality jobs.”

Link via Mark J. Perry.

Quote Of The Day

“Another cause of long-term unemployment is unionization. High union wages that exceed the competitive market rate are likely to cause job losses in the unionized sector of the economy. Also, those who lose high-wage union jobs are often reluctant to accept alternative low-wage employment. Between 1970 and 1985, for example, a state with a 20 percent unionization rate, approximately the average for the fifty states and the District of Columbia, experienced an unemployment rate that was 1.2 percentage points higher than that of a hypothetical state that had no unions.” —Larry Summers, Harvard economist and now the head of the White House’s National Economic Council for President Barack Obama.