Sunday, February 20, 2011

Public Sector Unions: The Party's Over

With the Battle of Wisconsin raging, it seems like a good time to discuss public sector unions. The unions own the Democratic Party, and they get really good value for their investment. But this may be coming to an end, as Republicans are standing up to the unions and even the Democrats appear ready to look the other way. Here’s why.

Let’s start with some facts. Here’s why the unions are powerful:

● There are 7.6 million public sector employees.

● Since 1989, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has routinely been the largest contributor to Democratic campaigns. In 2010, its 1.6 million members gave $87.5 million to Democratic candidates.

● The National Education Association has 3.2 million members, and an annual budget of $300 million. The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers contributed $11 million in 2010 and spent another $5 million lobbying. Almost 100% of that went to Democrats.

● The teachers unions alone accounted for 600 of the 4000 Democratic delegates to the last convention. Over 25% of all delegates belonged to a union.
And here is what they get for their efforts:
● US Bureau of Labor statistics show state and local government employees earning on average $39.60 per hour, compared to $27.42 per hour for the private sector.... 44% more.

● In 2009, federal employees received average salaries of $81,258, compared to $53,056 for state and local government employees, and $50,462 for private sector workers.

● In 2009, federal employees received average benefits equal to $41,791, compared to $16,857 for state and local government employees, and $10,589 for private sector workers.

● Public sector employees worked 12% fewer hours than private sector workers -- 1,825 hours compared to 2,050 hours. Teachers worked only 1,440 hours.

● The chances of a public sector employee losing their job (through lay offs, firings, or quitting) is less than 2/3 that of a private sector worker losing their job.

● 90% of public sector workers have defined-benefit pension plans, compared with 20% of private-sector workers. This means, their benefits are fixed and are not based on how much they contribute. These plans are bankrupting the states, as they represent a $5 trillion unfunded pension liability.
This is too expensive to continue. But even beyond this, unions cause serious problems with our public sector.

America is one of the least efficient rich-world countries when it comes to getting value for its government spending. Our schools are utter garbage because of unionization. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek calculates that replacing the bottom 5-8% of teachers with even average teachers would move the US from the bottom of the international math and science rankings to the top. But getting rid of teachers is virtually impossible. Los Angeles, for example, spent $3.5 million between 2000-2010 just trying to get rid of seven teachers. The “rubber room” became infamous in New York as a place where it was easier to dump teachers who had committed crimes or acts of violence, than it was to fire them. Most districts engage in what is called “the dance of the lemons” as they shift bad teachers from one school to another. Moreover, one survey found that 99% of teachers receive a “satisfactory” rating, which is ridiculous, and only 23% of teachers were in the top third of their college class.

Even the left is noticing, and starting to change their minds about the unions. All over Europe, leftist governments are slashing union pay because they have no choice. New York and New Jersey are following suit. House Republicans are talking about pay cuts and attrition. Even Obama has proposed freezing pay. Wisconsin, Tennessee and Indiana are trying to ban public sector unions.

One leftist group recently released research discrediting the long-cherished liberal belief that money equals education success. They found identical districts with wildly different funding levels produced similar education results. Waiting for Superman (which I’ll review this week... Netflix willing) blasted the unions, something that was unthinkable five years ago. Recent polls too show support for public sector unions falling: 45% of Americans support public sector unions, 45% oppose, and the strongly oppose outnumber the strongly support 30% to 21%. This is a 10 percentage point loss of support in just a few years.

As long as unions earn more than the people who pay their salaries, as long as they work fewer hours and can’t be fired, and as long as they whine and protest the smallest reforms, the unions are risking political oblivion. Wisconsin was the first state to allow public employees to unionize, now it may be the first to ban them. . . and others will follow suit.


Unknown said...

Andrew: Thanks for putting all the statistics together in one place. I've been looking at them piecemeal, but that really helps. Suspicions confirmed. Public sector unions do far more harm than good in every area, and by a wide margin, and it isn't just in their outrageous monetary demands. Their arrogance indicates strongly that genuine service to the public that pays their bills is their least important agenda item.

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome Lawhawk, I figure it would be useful. I was particularly amazed to see the estimate that changing 5% of teachers would make such a huge difference in education. Stunning.

I wonder how many of those 5% are siting out in the soon-to-be snow in Wisconsin?

AndrewPrice said...

FYI, Politico has done a similar story today in which they are worried that the new crop of "aggressive" Republican governors are "striking at the heart of the Democratic Party" by trying to break the unions. LOL!

Here's the link: Link

Joel Farnham said...


This is the second thing to happen. The first being the strong showing last November.

After this week and month, I don't think the Democrat Party will have that much sway over the country. Especially when these brain-dead idjits show off themselves at the protest.

When close to twenty percent of the nation's able-bodied employees are out of work because of Democrat follies, these Unions are showing their muscle? .... PLEASE!!

I didn't think that the Greek problem was that bad here. I guess I was wrong.

The problems that we have aren't that hard to solve. Half of it, is getting people to recognize that certain things we do today snowball into bigger problems tomorrow. The other half is actually getting people's eyes open about tyranny. It isn't that far of a drop now.

Because the Unions won't agree to even modest changes, it exposes their philosophy to average people. That philosophy didn't conquer a nation. It didn't beat back Hitler. It is the losing philosophy.

What is interesting is Obama openly sided with the Unions. This is Really Bad for him. If he doesn't shut his mouth soon about it, he won't be able to garner enough support for a second term.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I agree on all counts.

First, I think the Tea Party signaled a new age of common sense in politics. People no longer buy into the business as usual model. Thus, it's a very bad time for the unions to try to push business as usual.

Secondly, with the recession and the high unemployment rate, now is the worst possible time for the unions to fight all reform. When three million people lose their jobs and another 20-30 million get significant pay cuts, and another 30-40 million get pay freezes, now is the worst possible time for unions to whine about attempts to freeze or cut their pay.

Especially, as people now realize that the unions earn more than they do, have vastly greater job benefits and job security, and they work less. That's not a recipe for sympathy.

Then you add in the asinine way they've handled the Wisconsin thing and you really have a recipe for an unhappy public.

And I think Obama has played this all wrong. He laid the groundwork for a controlled crash of union benefits/salary by speaking against the unions (and thereby made it acceptable for even leftists to get upset at the unions). So now, when he should be calling or a reasonable compromise, he jumps up and says "I'm with the unions!" That's a horrible strategy from start to finish.

Tennessee Jed said...

I merely echo Hawk's comment. A great, great post guaranteed to give anyone complete confidence to cut the political allies of public sector unions to shreds. Well done. I might have said a bit more, but am headed out to see The David Grisman Quintet {fusion of jazz, bluegrass and western swing ;-) }

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed! Feel free to add thoughts later if you feel like it.

Enjoy your show! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Joel, I don't think the deceit the protestors are using (with the doctors issuing BS work excuses for stress) is playing well either. None of this will sit well with the public. And Obama siding with them is a big mistake.

DUQ said...

Did anyone see how the MSM claimed there were 70,000 protestors? Yet, somehow the hundreds of thousands of people at the Tea Party protests in Washington were only counted as "tens of thousands." I'm getting sick of this media bias BS!

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I saw that and I agree (though it was 60,000 last night). I think it's amazing how a gathering of leftists turns into mass rallies, but somehow much larger gatherings of non-leftists are either ignored or turn into generic "tens of thousands."

On the plus side, I think people are seeing through the bias these days. I think the days of blinding believing the media spin are over.

DUQ said...

Also, I'm thrill this Governor Walker has had the nerve to stare these people down. Add this guy to the list with Christie, Rubio, Bachman, Scott, and a few others that are starting to excite me about the new shape of the Republican Party! Woot! Woot!

T_Rav said...

Andrew, I think a turning tide may have been evident even last summer, when the teachers' and public employees' unions in Arkansas poured money into a far-left challenger of Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln. They lost. And then she went on to lose to her Republican challenger by 20+ points. The unions gambled and lost, and in the process revealed to a lot of Democrats that a) they would turn on them if they didn't get their money, but b) they no longer had the political clout to throw the erring party members out of office. I think that may account for some of the current opposition to unions among the Democrats. No idea as to whether this is also why even Time's Joe Klein (!) said the unions were out of touch and needed to get with the program.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I agree on that too. In fact, it was interesting to see that not a single Republican (last I knew) had changed their votes. The were saying that they are not impressed with out of state union types brought in to protest, but they are impressed with the support they've gotten in their home districts. Excellent!

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, That's an interesting point, and you may well be right. When the unions turned on her and couldn't pull it off, that really did shake things up in terms of showing their sudden lack of power.

I think several things have caused this.

The recession made it impossible to keep overpaying for unions, and they lost the public's support -- even in Europe where over 50% of the population is union in some places (like Scotland).

The connection between money and education has clearly been broken. For decades, all you ever heard was "American kids are stupid because Americans won't spend on schools." Conservatives warned that this was not true, but nobody listened. Now schools are awash in cash, and education is as bad as ever. Moreover, private schools and home schoolers have totally put the lie to the idea that some kids just can't learn. So the teachers union's lie was exposed.

At the same time, private sector unions collapsed.

Then Obama took over and handed most of the stimulus money to unions..... and produced NO jobs.

I think all of that changed the landscape.

Then Arkansas happened. Then Christie stood up to the teacher's unions. Then we had TSA's gropegate. Then the New York unions disgraced themselves in the snow storm. Then even Obama pretended to be opposed to union excess.

Now we have this. And I think more is to come.

What's the Klein thing? I hadn't heard that?

StanH said...

I agree, the unions, and Barry have overplayed their hand, further exposing liberal insanity. As we’ve discussed, the USA is an inherently (fiscal) conservative country to the tune of 60-80%, juxtaposed against hardcore liberals account for 18-20% (they’ve just got real big mouths). This is an opportunity politically that comes once in a century, and we must, and I emphasize, find a conservative standard bearer, and 2012 will be a conservative landslide of monumental proportions. Wisconsin is the latest nail in the coffin of liberalism in America, let’s get busy exploiting this wonderful opportunity. Good read Andrew.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Stan! I think we are standing as an historic moment, and Wisconsin, New Jersey, Indiana and even Michigan are leading the way. 1960s liberalism has failed in all of it's forms and the public is ready to move on to genuine capitalism, not the crony capitalism of the past 18 years. Breaking the public sector unions will forever change the political landscape, and we need to seize the moment.

In terms of finding a standard bearer, we were just talking the other day about how no one stands out yet.... but these are the moments that make people stand out. These are the moments where average politicians show true leadership and give us something to believe in.

So watch for people like Gov. Walker to become national leaders.

(By the way, I see that the Republicans are going to convene the Wisc. Senate without the Democrats. This could get even more interesting!)

Ed said...

Great information! We have a lot of service employee unions around here and they are thugs. Most people are sick of them. They are expensive, unpleasant, and they are more interested in winning concessions than keeping businesses running.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, That's the story of the union -- they served a purpose at one point, which was to get fair and humane conditions. But now they're all about protecting bad employees from being fired and they don't care if they end up destroying the business in the process.

The service employees were viewed by the Democrats as the last chance to review unions. They hoped to be able to unionize all these jobs (like janitor, cashier, restaurant worker) in the hopes of ensnaring the working class they've driven away. But outside of a few areas, that hasn't succeeded.

Ed said...


Also, I was reading about the Wisconsin senate. They can't pass a budget, but they can pass anything else. If the Democrats won't come back, than this would be a great time to run a bunch of other ideas through because they only need a majority vote. I wonder if they can outlaw being a Democrat?! Lol!

AndrewPrice said...

It's worth a shot! ;-)

Seriously, you make a great point. Now is the time to pass everything. Be as radical as you want because the Democrats aren't there to stop you.

Joel Farnham said...


You do realize some of the ramifications? Things will be different. For instance, DMV, court systems and a few others. :-)

Any and everything that the government sanctioned unions had to do with the general public. The local bureaucracy, which in some places has shoved it's collective nose into personal business and also kept a boot on the necks of locals won't have the same level of job security.

Walmarts that couldn't get local ordinances changed because of the red tape might be able to do so now. I think the police will even be more polite. Because, not being polite, you might lose your job.

Things might get really different. :-)

Joel Farnham said...

Here is a major thought. EPA might not be able to do anything anymore.

They are a bureaucracy filled with union people. They might not be able to write a new regulation and expect it to be obeyed anymore.


This is going to get interesting really quick.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I agree, the implications are totally wide ranging.

First, we would get a better government. When I first moved to Virginia, their local employees were undergoing a major reform (I think out of fear they would be replaced.) They put things on the internet and made it ridiculously easy to get your license renewed (by mail), pay your taxes, get a parking sticker, change your services (water, electric, garbage), etc. When you dealt with them in person, they were friendly, helpful and efficient. And they weren't zealous jerks because they didn't have the job protections to rely upon.

Colorado, which has had no such reform because its employee unions are stronger, is a pain in the rear. The last time I got my license renewed, they actually called the cops because people started yelling and screaming -- it took me 4 hours, and people who showed up after 11:00 am were eventually turned away, but only after waiting for about 2 hours (hence the yelling). That's the difference between union and non union.

Think about what it would do for schools to inject actual competition and business-like rating criteria.... produce results or lose your job.

Also, this will gut the Democratic party of a strong labor force that it exploits to canvas voters and man polling places, and it will destroy their largest source of funds (excluding illegal Chinese money of course).

All of that will make American a better place.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think the EPA will always be with us, though did you hear that the House Republicans defunded them?

I got a good laugh about that. Sadly, it will turn out to be symbolic (and I would rather that they defunded parts of it -- which is more likely to stick), but it still did my heart good to see that!


Joel Farnham said...

No, I didn't hear about the EPA being defunded. Hmmm. Andrew, this is getting better and better. I am beginning to think that we are going to turn back the clock. I think maybe even get it back to something similar prior to World War II. Or just after WW2.

That was just about when the civil service exams came into play. It worked very well in getting the best candidate for civil work.

This is going to be a lot of fun to watch. ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I'm not looking to turn back the clock necessarily, but I'd like to see the government become small, efficient, and less ambitious. I want to see it interfere less, stop trying to regulate all of our lives, and focus on things that are truly dangerous and beyond the control of market factors, not just on whatever whim they currently have.

The EPA is a classic example. It's an agency that I admit has a purpose. It should be making sure that manufacturers are not poisoning our rivers, our air and our drinking water. But it's moved so far beyond that. It's gotten to the point of regulating the air quality inside buildings. . . uh, crack a window, don't call the government. And in the process, it's missed the really dangerous stuff because it relies on political science rather than real science. And it's causing more problems than it could ever possibly solve with its broadbrush, overbearing responses.

That's the sort of reform I'd like to see... smaller government, doing the things it should be doing, doing them well -- and in a friendly manner, and not abusing its power. Unfortunately, the current structure make it impossible to cut the size of government, do little to rein in its scope, and don't allow employees to be fired for malfeasance or abusing the public. That's why the unions need to go, they created this mess and they protect it.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, it was in a Time blog Klein posted a couple days ago. You can find it (fingers crossed) here

It's worth reading in full, but here's the money line: "Isn’t it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting “Freedom, Democracy, Union” while trying to prevent a vote? Isn’t it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process?" Actually, forget what I said earlier, the only explanation for this is that someone in the Tea Party got access to Joe's water supply.

T_Rav said...

Hmm, I can't tell if it worked or not. If it didn't, I figure it should still be up at the Time website.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, It didn't work. Maybe you didn't post a name for the link because nothing showed up that can be clicked on? Post the html and I'll put it in link format.

In terms of the quote, that sounds like something right out of the mouth of Rush Limbaugh! Something must be very wrong with Joe? Perhaps he grew a brain?

Janet said...

The destruction of unions will mean the lose of decades of workplace rules to make it safe for workers in this country. This is not something to be proud about.

Joel Farnham said...


It is something to rejoice. For too long, we have been under the highly unethical public sector unions. Unions, at one time, were important, just like the placenta that helped keep you alive in your mother's womb. Do you still have the placenta?

Unions have had their time and place in the sun. It will soon be over. No worries though. If they are needed again, we will use them. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Janet, First, let me say that I agree that unions once were a good thing, but there's no way that getting rid of unions now will return our country to Dickensian working conditions. The world is a different place these days. Employees have more information and more opportunities, to allow those kinds of conditions. Plus, consumers won't tolerate it either.

The idea that we need unions to protect workers is ridiculous. In fact, keep in mind that many of the better labor practices of the past 50 years have happened as unions disappeared from our economy.

The problem is that unions have lost their purpose and have instead gone to the extreme position of "better bankrupt" than giving an inch. In other words, they have become destructive.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I agree that unions once had a place, but they aren't needed anymore, which is why they're having such a hard time finding a purpose except maintaining themselves.

T_Rav said...

Crap. Forgive my technological ineptitude. Okay, here's the address:

And at least one liberal talking head on CNN was saying something similar. I wonder how long the "Walker=Hitler" signs are going to last once the demonstrators realize the Democrats don't entirely have their back this time.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Good question. If they think they don't have the support of "moderate Democrats," they might get really nasty. Or if they think they just don't have much support period, then they might quit.

I understand that the teachers are already being told by their union to go back to work.

And I think the Republican move to start voting on other bills will probably bring the Democrats back fairly quickly.

So I'd say the Republicans are going to win this.

Here's the link: Klein Link

Unknown said...

Janet: Horse manure. Have you ever heard of OSHA? Every government agency from the federal leviathan down to small municipalities has some version of OSHA.

Industrial unions did some very good things at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, and then became protectors of organized crime, communist agitators, useless deadwood employees, and pay rates/benefits that bear no relationship to the jobs being done. If unions are so good at protecting workers, how do you explain the UMW pushing constantly for pay raises but doing nothing at all about recent mining disasters?

You are living in an ivory tower, and you don't even know the difference between an archaic industrial union and a modern "public employees" union. How dangerous could the working conditions be at a school, city hall, or the multiple federal alphabet agencies? The rank and file (you do know what that is, don't you) in the actual dangerous jobs like law enforcement and firefighting complain constantly about their unions being in bed with government agencies and more interested in dues than in protecting the membership.

I spent the twelve years before I retired in labor relations, and the world of concerned labor bosses that you dream of doesn't exist--period. As for teachers and administrators, we didn't create the dangerous conditions in the inner city schools, and the unions do nothing about them anyway. Grow up. There is nothing that big business can do that big labor and big government can't do worse.

Workplace rules bear next to no relationship with safety or productivity. They are rules to protect jobs that simply duplicate a job someone else could do just as easily without having to hire more deadwood.

In Hollywood on the set, only a union electrician can move a lamp, even though there are union carpenters, set-dressers and gophers galore who could just as easily do it. Look up the labor expression "featherbedding" if you're as ignorant about that fact as you appear to be about others.

Public employees already have civil service protection, and teachers have the additional bonus of tenure. Why the hell do they need unions too? Answer: "Mo money, mo money." And they don't care who else has to suffer to pay for it so long as they don't have to pay for it themselves.

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, what he said! ;-)

Seriously though, I've dealt with unions in several capacities and the last thing they care about is the workers. They care about dues, they care about perks, and they care about controlling politicians.

And eliminating unions will do no more to bring about horrible labor conditions than repealing laws against animal sacrifice would cause us all to suddenly join a pagan temple.

Unknown said...

Andrew: When in negotiations, I was constantly amazed at how quickly we could dispose of wages in relation to how long it took us to deal with vacations. I could never get a union negotiator to tell me why they were more concerned with how much they would get paid for not working than with how much they would get paid for actually doing something. I see that mentality now in Madison.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Superb post, Andrew!

Ironically, all those decades the democrats and unions preached the importance of (and encouraged) class warfare is blowing up in their faces.
The unions are brimming over with fat cats and they are in bed with "the Man."

I find it hilarious as they wonder what in the world has gone wrong with their plans. Utopia was within their grasp! The hopium and change their messiah promised is fading into nothing...and they never wanted this kind of change!
The high speed rail to Socialopolis has derailed!

It's the RepublicApocalypse!Aaahhhh! :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, The thing that struck me was that they were always more concerned with protecting the bad employees than protecting the good employees. How does that help anyone to protect the laziest people? That hurts the company, it hurts the customer, and it hurts the other employees who are doing a good job.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben! "The high speed rail to Socialopolis has derailed!" -- I love that!

I think it is interesting, as you say, that the Democrats represent people who used to complain about "the man" but have since become "the man" and now don't care about the people. It's the same thing in colleges, where they screamed about the need for diversity to protect them against being tossed out for their stupid, divisive and communistic views. And the evil oppressors granted them those protections. Now that they have taken the place of the oppressors, they deny the same protections to people who disagree with their views. It's stunning hypocrisy.

And the Democrats specialize in that. Their unions don't care about people, they care about union big wigs and dues. Their minority groups don't care about minorities, they care about maintaining their power base. Their environmentalists don't care about the environment, they care about getting socialist policies in place and enriching themselves in the process, see e.g. Algore.

I would laugh, if it wasn't so disgusting.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, really not the best time to make that comment, seeing as how I was just about to join a pagan temple. (So was my cat, but he doesn't need to know that yet.)

I heard about the union leaders urging the teachers to go back to work. I'm feeling hopeful--maybe in a day or two, these protestors will trudge home, the Wisconsin education system will be a little more effective, and Obama will have a whole carton of eggs on his face.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, That would be nice. I actually think this will blow over soon too. The Republicans have played it smart and showed that they won't give in, and the protestors and Democrats overplayed their hand and look ridiculous.

At this point, they are just wasting their time. So unless they choose to try violence (which would be a HUGE mistake) they've lost. In politics, that tends to mean declaring victory and surrendering.

And once this thing gets passed, the theater value is over. So the crowd will go home.

CrispyRice said...

Great info and great cartoon, Andrew! Thanks!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Crispy. It's pretty shocking isn't it? (The info, not the cartoon.) How in the world they can pretend to be the victims here when they are earning so much more than the people are demanding money from is just amazing to me.

Writer X said...

It must be nice to have a job and still get paid while you spend your days carrying stupid signs. Some of them were pretty offensive (where was the media reporting that?!) I also noticed more than a few signs with misspelled words--no doubt from the genius teachers.

Great post, Andrew.

Doc Whoa said...

I agree with Jed and Lawhawk, this is an excellent list. I knew government unions were being paid more, but I had no idea it was that much more. That's shocking.

Ed said...

I saw this stupid article on CNN this morning saying that the way to solve the Wisconsin "crisis" is for three Republicans to defect. Isn't it funny how reporters instinctively think like leftists? Oh that's right, they are leftists.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Writer X!

I haven't paid much attention to the signs, but I'm not surprised. The age of civility only lasted until the next Democrat opened their mouth. Besides, they goal is a noble one, so what's a lot of hate among friends! I understand they were even protesting at the governor's private home, which is itself rather nasty.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Doc. It actually doesn't shock me as I once worked for Club Fed and I saw what people got paid. I could tell you stories of dysfunction that you would never believe!

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, That's the way they always are. The "compromise solution" to all problems is to cave in to the Democratic desires, then everyone will be happy.... because that's what everyone really wants. Grrrr.

AndrewPrice said...

Update on Wisconsin: The governor has said that they're going to put the union-busting provision in another bill (a non-budget bill), so they can pass it without the Democrats! LOL!

Game over!

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