Sunday, March 13, 2011


Written in March 2011 during the Wisconsin Union Protests.

No doubt that part of the reason Republicans are pushing these union-related policy changes is to solidify and/or increase their power. No doubt part of the reason the Democrats initially imposed these policies and now resist changing them is a desire to maintain and/or increase their power.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: Which policies will produce a decent future for us and our children/grandchildren?

I think we have to make drastic financial changes. We can't deficit spend forever. We can no longer allow politicians to pay off their supporters with the public purse.

Why are so many of us worked up about the US financial situation? Maybe this will help explain why many feel urgency is necessary:

Imagine that a family yearly income was $50,000 and:

The family currently owes various entities $335,700 (some of whom don't support their values).
The family plans to spend $89,300 this year (adding another $39,300 to their debt).
One spouse suggests modifying this plan to spend $1,430 less ($87,870 - adding another $37,870 to the debt).
The other spouse believes that is way too much and only wants to cut $155 this year ($89,145 - adding another $89,145 to the debt).

Should this family be worried about the predicament it's gotten itself into?

OK, back to unions.  Denying collective bargaining rights to some classes of public workers, or allowing municipalities to do so isn’t unprecedented—18 states currently do so, as does the Federal Government. Virginia and North Carolina have outright bans on public sector collective bargaining. And nearly every state has some sort of restrictions on the scope of collective bargaining – for example, in New York, pension benefits are an excluded subject from collective bargaining.

I'm currently a union member, and I have been one for most of my working life since I got my first job at GM in 1968. Speaking from my personal experience at GM, the union (UAW) killed the American auto industry. No one in the entire factory ever worked more than about 70% or 80% of the day. The final hour and a half or two hours of every shift were spent hanging around, reading, BSing, playing cards, drinking coffee and complaining about Japanese cars. When I first started, I tried to work all day. My co-workers sabotaged my equipment, put parts into bins instead of onto the conveyer lines to slow me down and physically threatened me. The UAW supported and defended these actions.

I gave up – I knew I wasn’t going to work there long -- I was going to college at the same time -- so I just did my quota each day and spent the rest of the shift studying.

Another incident that turned me against unions happened when I lived in Shaver Lake, California, about an hour outside Fresno in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  An acquaintance of mine had been making a decent living building, with the help of a few friends, a "spec house" or two a year.  He never intended to live in them, and he wasn't building them for anyone in particular.  He'd build a house, put it up for sale and use the profits to live off while he built the next one.

He did OK.  Eventually, he got his General Contractor's license. Sometime after this, he had an opportunity to put in a fairly large number of homes on about 40 acres of land.  He was going to do the whole job, roads, water system, underground utilities, etc.  He bought some expensive equipment to do some of this, bulldozer, road grader and, I think, an excavator or large backhoe.

At that time, Shaver Lake was a small community, with no active union presence. When the union guys down in Fresno heard about this project they started pressuring him to hire union guys.  He wanted to hire locals who he knew and trusted, people who'd worked for him before.  None of them were union members, and didn't have union "certification".

Eventually the union thugs came up to the work site one night and vandalized the place.  The wrecked some of the equipment on site (sugar, etc in the fuel, slashed tires, broken glass) stole a lot of things, drove the grader off a cliff and ruined some of the work in progress.

As for the other unions I’ve belonged to, they seemed to exist solely to collect dues. I can’t see that they do anything to improve anyone’s work situation. And they use the dues to support politicians pushing policies I vehemently oppose like abortion, deficit spending, illegal immigration, affirmative action, gun control, corporate bailouts, and on and on.