Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Democrat Micky Kaus: Tell the Unions No

It is rare to find a Democrat that will take on the unions and write about the obvious economic problems caused by aggressive unionism. Read the entire article, you'll find you are in agreement with much of what Micky Kaus says.

Do you have to love labor unions to be a good Democrat? That was the question raised last year by the unpopular bailouts of unionized Detroit automakers. It's been raised again this year by California's budget crisis, created at least in part by generous pensions for unionized public employees. I think the answer is no. It's time for Democrats, even liberal Democrats, to start looking at unions and unionism with deep skepticism.

Keep in mind that Detroit's union, the United Auto Workers, is one of our best. It's democratic. It's not corrupt. Its leadership has often been visionary. Yet working within our archaic union system, it still helped bring our greatest industry to its knees. And the taxpayers were stuck with the bill for bailing it out, while UAW members didn't even take a cut of $1 an hour in their $28-an-hour basic pay. How many Californians would like $27-an-hour manufacturing jobs? Actually, there was a good auto factory in California, the NUMMI plant in Fremont. It got sucked under when GM went broke. Those 4,500 jobs are gone.

Yet the answer of most union leaders to the failure of 1950s unionism has been more 1950s unionism. This isn't how we're going to get prosperity back. But it's the official Democratic Party dogma. No dissent allowed.

Government unions are even more problematic (and as private sector unions have failed in the marketplace, government unions are increasingly dominant). If there are limits on what private unions can demand -- when they win too much, as we've seen, their employers tend to disappear -- there is no such limit on what government unions can demand. They just have to get the politicians to raise your taxes to pay for it, and by funding the Democratic machine, they acquire just the politicians they need.

No wonder that in our biggest school systems, it's become virtually impossible to fight the teachers unions and fire bad teachers. The giant L.A. Unified school system, with 33,000 teachers, fires only about 21 a year, or fewer than 1 in 1,000, according to the findings of an L.A. Times investigation. Now either Los Angeles has the greatest teachers in the world or something is very wrong. Talk to parents and you'll know the answer.

"The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians, pushed by our friends in labor, gradually expanded pay and benefits ... while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages that pay ex-workers almost as much as current workers. Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide ... but at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact."

That quote is from Willie Brown, a Democratic hero, explaining why the state may go the way of Vallejo and General Motors. Easy for him to say; he's retired. But you won't catch any Democrats who are running for office saying it. They're too dependent on organized labor's money and muscle.

We need nonretired Democrats who tell the unions no. Or else, perhaps after more bankruptcies and bailouts, Republicans will do it for them.
Democratic Micky Kaus: Tell the Unions No

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