By Mark Ross, Contributing Writer
[Disclaimer: the objects of the verb “kill” in the above title are corporate entities and not living organisms.]
Meg Whitman has been buying copious amounts of media time extolling her agenda for a revitalized California. She wants to make the schools good, the government frugal and the future bright. Some of us are getting just a little too adapted to living with elephants in the living room.
Meanwhile, the mysterious villain who paved the way for many of the public sector pathologies that plague our state today is a likely nominee for the other side in the upcoming gubernatorial contest. Jerry the Moonbeam Brown, in his previous tenure as governor, oversaw the unionization of teachers and most other state and local government workers.
And herein lies the rub. Government worker unions, such as the CTA and SEIU, run the state, the counties and the cities. Any attempt by the Legislature, or a city council to adopt a policy contrary to the interests of government employee unions has been thus far slapped down like a drunken bug.
Vallejo is the test case for a new reality that may bring some sense to this mess. The town council had the outrageous temerity to identify union contracts as the agents of their impending bankruptcy. Sorting out and negotiation continues. At a recent town council meeting, city retirees were pitted against local taxpayers. This conflict will likely continue well into the future… taxes will go up (despite a shrinking economy) and benefits will decline.
The “B” word was used earlier this year concerning Oakland’s financial crisis. Here, in Liberalism’s favorite city, bankruptcy is considered a last resort. First, the thugs who run this town want to bankrupt the tax payers… then they’ll look at tinkering with the union contracts.
Lynndee Kemmet of the American Institute for Economic Research, writing in the Chronicle mentioned that the public employee unions have gotten their toadies in the legislature to ram AB155 through the Assembly. Should this pass the Senate, then California cities will be constrained from altering union contracts as a result of bankruptcy. Again, let’s bankrupt the tax payers instead.
This writer is old enough to have lived through several serious recessions. Never before has the public sector (a.k.a. the government) been in such vicious competition with the citizens over money. Why? It is perhaps because of the cumulative effects of union dominance over public policy -- especially fiscal policy.
Some examples of how the public employee unions have a strangle hold on most, if not all, aspects of public policy in California, and many other states, are:
1) Restrictions on hiring police (and other emergency personnel) in order to pump up overtime.
2) Dispatch of both ambulance and fire engine to medical emergencies… in the olden days this would be called “featherbedding”… forcing the “employer” to commit excessive manpower to a task in order to increase the labor cost… and, thus, union member benefit.
3) Reduced classroom size as a benefit to K-12 education. This is my favorite… because Scientific American ran an article declaring that no educational benefit of reduced class size has been demonstrated. This from a graduate student at the right wing, knuckle-dragging bastion of Oakland’s very own Mills College. The proffered explanation is that teachers working in classrooms that have had the number of students reduced, have changed nothing about the way they do their job. There’s just a lot more of them doing things the same way they were done before the latest union thug edict was implemented.
4) In the Los Angeles Unified School District they’ve had to adopt a policy of refusing to accept donated books. It seems that mandated union rules cost the district hundreds of dollars for each “free” book, for cataloging. This in the age of the computer. Readers are most welcome to add to this list.
All along my theory and opinion has been that public employee unions are, ahem, illogical. No competitive pressures exist to moderate excesses of demand. Government is a monopoly. No stockholders or discretionary consumers are available to influence otherwise suicidal financial decisions. In practice, struggling private sector unions have striven to make their industries de facto monopolies as well. The American automobile industry is a prime example of that. Union actions have simultaneously targeted all three corporate entities in order to side step market realities. Too bad Americans are allowed to import automobiles from “unstrangled” foreign economies.
Ms Whitman and any other wannabe candidate for governor of the doomed state of California would be well advised to acknowledge the elephant in the living room. “Let’s make California a right-to-work state” should be the battle cry. We are victims of cowardice as well as union thuggery.