I have always been fascinated by the urge for government employees and their die-hard supporters to cling to the notion of collective bargaining as some sort of birthright. The ability for public employees to unionize is actually not even that old, but is a comparatively recent and curious chapter in the history of organized labor.
Classical Marxist doctrine holds that in the capitalist phase of history there are two elements contributing to economic activity. There are capital and labor; the first representing the bourgeois investment class (and their managerial overseers); the second is the workforce that sells its labor to the former. Naturally, the cost of labor , the investment of the capitalists, and the return the latter is willing to accept determine the supply side cost of goods.
The Marxists believed that capital habitually exploited an oversupply of labor through poor working conditions and long hours of employment. There was certainly evidence to support this contention and the capitalists did their best to outlaw labor “combination” through their control of legislatures.
(For the sake of argument I will happily stipulate the socialist fact in evidence.)
Of course labor did combine.
But the idea of government workers unionizing did not enter the into the equation. Why? For several reasons, one of which is succinctly stated by the most effective liberal in American history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Roosevelt realized that people who work for the government cannot hold the same employer/employee relationship since their employer is the people as a sovereign whole. Clearly the idea of collective bargaining, and particularly militant union tactics used against the citizenry was abhorrent to old FDR himself.
Another related problem is that government employees do not fit into the labor-capital equation, since the “capitalist” investor in their operation is none other than the taxpayers and citizens – and not a natural adversary in an economic system. And public employees were granted civil service protection and security to make up for comparatively modest wages.
And then there is the problem of the complete public sector labor monopoly. Producers of goods compete with each other in marketplaces that, among other things, sets a value on product that helps determine the cost of labor. No such balance exists in the public sector where nothing is for sale and there is no competition in the labor market at all.
The ability to unionize and the concomitant ability to engage in collective political action has enabled the public sector labor monopoly to elect its favored candidates at all levels, and subsequently to exact greater and greater salaries and benefits for themselves; and always using the argument that all they seek is parity with the private sector. Yet never have they jettisoned the civil service protections that makes in almost impossible to fire an incompetent public worker.
Most comical are the “management” unions that represent the upper tier employees who oversee the lower, and whose own interests in running the “company” are inexplicably linked with the benefits conferred upon the latter!
And so dear Friends, next time you see a “retired” 50 year old cop who was granted almost 100% of his salary as a pension, and who was given two decades of retroactive benefits, ask him whom he has to thank. I guarantee it won’t be you, or even the other public employees who negotiated his benefits on your behalf; nor even the lackeys on the city council like Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, and Jan Flory whom his union got elected. Nuh, uh. He will thank an anonymous “system” that has created this mess and that has virtually bankrupt California and threatens almost every municipality in the state.
Well, we know who to thank.