Unions' Bully Model is Dead

Mark Baisley
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Posted: Jan 25, 2012 12:01 AM

Like getting a tattoo of Michael Jackson, dating OJ Simpson, or singing “Feelings” on a karaoke machine at the company picnic, the original formation of labor unions must have seemed like a really good idea at the time.  And certainly, we have heard about all the dangerous workplace conditions that unions addressed back in the day.  So thanks, union leaders from 150 years ago.

The primary purpose of unions today is to fund the Democratic Party. The secondary purpose of unions today is to provide manpower for Democratic Party campaigns and causes. The third purpose is the facilitation of Democratic Party political philosophies in the workplace.

I experienced working in a unionized environment early in my life, as a teenager at a grocery store.  The Teamsters who drove the delivery trucks went on strike and picketed in front of the store where I worked.  They wanted us “retail clerks” to sympathy strike with them.  This all seemed bizarre to me; truck drivers refusing to work their own jobs and asking other workers to refuse to perform theirs.

Many times during the day, I pushed a train of grocery carts across the Teamsters’ picket line and into the store.  And every time, I would receive a suggestion of violence from one of the picketers.  All of us bag boys and cashiers learned to park our cars blocks away to avoid vandalism by the strikers.  But, eventually they found mine and slashed the tires.

In the 21st Century, we seem to hear a lot less of the violence that unions have been associated with.  Nowadays, it is mostly about collective bargaining.  But calling a strike is not the big threat that it used to be.  The air seemed to be let out of that tire when Ronald Reagan simply fired and rapidly replaced eleven thousand striking air traffic controllers with new folks who appreciated having the work.

People today value their jobs more than ever.  We need work.  More importantly, Americans want to provide their personal talents as valued by the customer through a company that they are proud to work for.  The whole collective bargaining concept fails to recognize exceptional efforts, gifted craftsmanship, and individual worth.

The only place where collective bargaining would seem to have a place in a free society is where the task is simply expressed and easily measured.  Airline pilots may be one example; land the plane at the designation without crashing.

I cannot think of many more cases where individual efforts would not be recognizable in the outcome of the worker’s performance.  And in my opinion, the very last place where we should mask over individual employee productivity with collective bargaining is in the teaching profession.  I say that for two reasons, both of which are in conflict with union goals, as described above. 

For one, teachers do not follow a cookie cutter script that is delivered to students in some rote monologue.  Every day they spend hours managing a gathering of 30-plus young people who would rather be somewhere else, creatively delivering to them an understanding of the tools they will need to become self-supporting adults.  We should have the option to place a greater value on the gifts they share with incentives and rewards.

And second, the people who teach our students to be successful in a capitalist environment should be capitalists themselves.  They should maintain the perspective that the students‘ parents, the students themselves, and the taxpayers are their customers.

In the county where I live, the ordinarily sensible teachers union recently got caught up in a public display of protest over fears of diminishing budgets.  The community who struggles to fund their salaries is dispirited by their demonstrations.  The public’s dismay is further compounded knowing that most of the union protesters are supportive of the political philosophy that created the economic mess in the first place.

It is time that public employees advanced beyond the monopolistic group-think of 1866.  Perhaps a good model to replace the obsolescence of unions would be the American Bar Association.  Rather than bullying their employers and customers, I assert that educators should stand up a professional organization that would create an expectation of providing the student’s parents with world class preparation for capitalist success in their students - and dispense with the collective bargaining.

Unionization, in the old sense, is embarrassingly passé.  And it is a conflict of interest for public employee unions to fund the politicians who reward them.