One argument from America that has bothered me as someone who wants community back, but with small government and less PC crap up our arses, concerns the way public-sector unions have a distinct advantage over private ones. I’ll make no bones about being pro-union – I’ve been a rep and a convenor and without union activity think we’d have dark age management everywhere. This though, is the kind of thing said about public sector unions in the States (from the Economist).
“Through their extensive political activity,” says Mr DiSalvo, “these government-workers’ unions help elect the very politicians who will act as ‘management’ in their contract negotiations—in effect handpicking those who will sit across the bargaining table from them, in a way that workers in a private corporation (like, say, American Airlines or the Washington Post Company) cannot.” And the public-sector managers sitting across the table don’t have the same worries as private-sector bosses, who must answer to profit-driven overlords. The lack of competition in government services produces little pressure on management or unions to come up with the most efficient work agreement. As a result, public-sector unions have become accustomed to getting what they want.
Mr DiSalvo offers up the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) as a case study in how public-sector unions make the system work for them, at the expense of good policy.
Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the CCPOA lobbied the state government to increase California’s prison facilities—since more prisons would obviously mean more jobs for corrections officers. And between 1980 and 2000, the Golden State constructed 22 new prisons for adults (before 1980, California had only 12 such facilities). The CCPOA also pushed for the 1994 “three strikes” sentencing law, which imposed stiff penalties on repeat offenders. The prison population exploded—and, as intended, the new prisoners required more guards. The CCPOA has been no less successful in increasing members’ compensation: In 2006, the average union member made $70,000 a year, and more than $100,000 with overtime. Corrections officers can also retire with 90% of their salaries as early as age 50. Today, an amazing 11% of the state budget—more than what is spent on higher education—goes to the penal system. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger now proposes privatizing portions of the prison system to escape the unions’ grip—though his proposal has so far met with predictable (union supported) political opposition.
Elsewhere the story is the same. Overgenerous contracts, promising lavish pensions, benefits and early retirement, have put states in dire fiscal straits. Mr DiSalvo cites Joshua Rauh, a professor at Northwestern University, who predicts that the pension funds of seven states—Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, Hawaii, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Illinois—will go broke by the end of fiscal year 2020.
Now, I have no problems with your average working stiff getting a decent screw. Indeed, I think we should have pay scales that prevent anyone getting more than 7 times what we cast as minimum pay. Top soccer players might flood abroad, but big deal – more of our own lads would be playing. We might even get rid of some of our useless rich and find a way for them not to take whatever estates they have stolen. We might even reorganise to do a lot better without them and their disgusting greed. The above reminds me that disgusting greed is making things bad at many levels of society. It’s nearly as bad as that bastard judge who was sending kids to jail to get bribes from the owner in yet another sour targets deal.
What combination of vile right and left “politics” produced the above? Three strikes and you’re out for farting in the general direction of the wrong parole officer (films with Cagney spring to mind – and the more recent Swedish classic ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’) combined with a union hustler needing more members to make his bonus? FFS! Squared!
The 21st Century? We need free of this junk – and I fear our traditional divides in politics can’t help but collude to make matters worse. I spent ten full days down at local magistrates’ courts a couple of months back and could barely find anyone who needed to be in front of the Beaks. I’m not saying there was no one to be dealt with – but nearly everyone was either in need of treatment, help, dignity or just a lapsed decent stiff the cops could have taken home. No bleeding heart here – but the cops and courts don’t put the boot in where it is needed. If anyone out there thinks it is a good idea to build and fill up prisons just to make jobs for prison officers, please stand up to make it easier for me to shoot you.
We have to stop interests politics and get on with some decent stuff.