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April 1, 2011

The Ugly Truth

Joe Charlebois

Let’s put this issue to rest. There is a huge difference between private-sector unions and those of government employees. Private sector unions have for years collectively bargained for greater pay, greater benefits, safer working conditions and limiting labor hours. Many much needed reforms have taken place through the pressure of the “collective.”


What has transpired over the last 50 years since President John F. Kennedy enacted Executive Order 10988 – allowing government employees to unionize and bargain collectively – has been a shift in union membership from the private-sector to the public-sector. Not because of the executive order but rather because the private-sector by definition could not continue to afford the union wages, benefits and pensions without the likely possibility of going bankrupt. Until now, the government on the other hand has continued to dip its hands into the never empty wallet of the taxpayer.


Taking it a step further, unionized government employees have little opposition on the other side of the table. Negotiators haven’t been historically held to the same fiscal restrictions as their private-sector counterparts. They are not adversarial forces.


The ugly truth is that government employees, who are members of a public sector union, have their dues collected and distributed to elect like-minded bosses, who in turn reward these dues paying employees with generous pay and benefits. It has become a never ending cycle of corruption.


What public-sector union members fail to realize is that we are their true employers – the taxpayers – we are “stockholders.” We want public spending under control, especially when tax revenues are diminished by a weakening economy.


In this situation even though the government employees work for us the taxpayers, we have no ability to negotiate with them. This is where we need to elect strong leadership to take on the fiscal crisis and not those who would back down to the “mob mentality.”


Another truth that conveniently is ignored by the public union representation is that they make a great deal more than their private-sector employee counterparts. In fact, researching articles back to 2006 from CNN, USA Today and the CATO Institute makes it clear that federal, state and local government employees make substantially more in combined salary and benefits than their private sector counterparts.


The well-publicized battles against collective bargaining in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana are all in a response to curb deficit spending. The elected officials are attempting to institute fundamental reform to save their governments from certain financial disaster. Even Montgomery County, Maryland – a clearly blue county – has elected officials who have conceded the fact that drastic measures need to be taken to reign in employee costs.


Presently the county is looking to eliminate 140 paid positions. It will then institute a healthcare plan that requires employees to pay a much greater percentage of the cost for their benefits as well as a reduction of 2% in government contributions to the employees 401(k).


There has to be a fundamental change in how we view our governmental budgets. The economy is shrinking and we need to be able to react accordingly. As the economic tide has gone out, we need to realize that all of these boats with damage – from years of fiscal leaks – need to be repaired. The next high tide won’t roll in until the “I’m entitled” mentality of government employees gives way to reason. Then and only then will we be able to mend our ships, raise our sails and get underway.


Here’s wishing all government officials dealing with these issues fair winds and following seas!


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