The Houston Chronicle:
Three weeks after hundreds of Houston janitors went on strike, janitorial contractors and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 returned to the negotiating table on Thursday. But the bargaining concluded Friday without a settlement or an end to the strike.
As reported, negotiations over janitors' third union contract broke down at the end of May. Following a series of June work stoppages, hundreds began walking off the job on July 10. Their cause caught fire nationwide, sparking a series of high-profile demonstrations, solidarity strikes and statements of support.
Wages are a key sticking point. SEIU proposed an increase from $8.35 to $10.00 over three years, but management’s “last, best, and final” offer in May raised wages only fifty cents over five years. "The union's proposal makes their lives a little better, while [management's] proposal pushes the janitors deeper into poverty," SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff wrote in a July 30 letter.
At one time in this country, there were few workplace safety laws, few restraints on employers, and incredibly exploitive working conditions that ranged from slavery, to share cropping, to putting children in dangerous working conditions. Unions, to their everlasting credit, helped play an important role in leveling the playing field for workers.
However, as the laws changed, there was less and less need for unions. Because of that, union membership shrank. In response, the unions became more explicitly involved in politics. Over time, they managed to co-opt the Democratic Party, pull their strings, and rewrite our labor laws in their favor.
As Lord Acton noted, "Power tends to corrupt," and that has certainly been true for the unions. Unions have become selfish, extremely greedy, and even thuggish in their never-ending quest to take in as much as they can for themselves, at the expense of everyone else who crosses their path.
That's why today, unions have changed from organizations that "look out for the little guy" into the largest, most rapacious special interest group in the entire country. Where unions go, disaster usually follows. Just to name a few examples:
1) Unions are severely damaging whole industries: How is it that GM and Chrysler got into such lousy shape that they had to be bailed out? There's a simple answer: The unions. The massive pensions the car companies paid out raised their costs so much that they were limited to building more expensive cars to try to get their money back. They couldn't even do a great job of building those cars because utterly ridiculous union rules prevented them from using their labor efficiently. America created the automobile industry, but American unions are strangling it to death. Unions also wrecked the steel and textile industries and have helped drive manufacturing jobs overseas. And they're crippling the airline industry.
2) Unions are ruining public education: Every few years, it's the same old story. The teachers’ unions claim that public education in this country is dramatically underfunded and if they just had more money, they could turn it around. Taxpayer money then pours into our schools like a waterfall and....there's no improvement. A few years later, when people have forgotten the last spending spree on education, the process is repeated.
However, the real problem with our education system in this country is the teachers’ unions. They do everything possible to prevent schools not only from firing lousy teachers, but also from rewarding talented teachers. Merit pay? The unions hate it. Private schools? Even though everyone knows they deliver a better education than our public schools, unions fight to keep as many kids as possible locked in failing public schools. In Wisconsin, we've had whole schools shutting down so that lazy teachers can waste their time protesting on the taxpayers’ dime. Want to improve education in this country? Then you've got to take on the teachers’ unions.
3) Unions are costing you billions of tax dollars: Let's put it plain and simple: Government workers shouldn't be allowed to unionize. Period.
Why? Because you elect representatives to look out for your interests.
It's obviously in your interest to pay as little as possible to government workers, to keep their benefits as low as possible, and to hire as few of them as possible to do the job. However, because the Democratic Party and the unions are in bed with each other, this entire process has been turned on its ear. Instead of looking out for your interests, Democrats try to hire as many government workers as possible, pay them as much as possible, and give them benefits that are as generous as possible, all so that union workers will do more to get them re-elected.
In other words, the Democratic Party and the unions are engaged in an open conspiracy to defraud the American taxpayer. There's no way that the American people should allow that to continue.
4) Unions are fundamentally anti-democratic : How in the world did we get to the point where people can be forced to join a union just to get a job at certain places? Then, after they're dragooned into the union, they have no choice other than to pay dues that are used for political activities which the unwilling dues-paying member may oppose.
Add to that the fact that the Democrats and the government unions collaborate to subvert democracy at the expense of the taxpayer and it's not a pretty picture. Worse yet, unions have gotten so voracious that they even want to do away with the secret ballot, via card check, so they can openly bully people into joining unions. The way unions behave in this country is undemocratic, un-American, and it should trouble anyone who cares about freedom and individual rights.
5) Government unions are bankrupting cities and states: Government unions have bled billions from taxpayers nationally, but the damage they're doing on the local level is even worse. We have cities and states all across the country that are so behind on their bills that there have been genuine discussions about bankruptcy. There are a lot of irresponsible financial policies that have helped contribute to that sorry state-of-affairs, but unquestionably, the biggest backbreakers can be directly traced back to the unions.
As the Washington Times has noted, union pensions are crushing budgets all across the country.
Yet it comes as little surprise that the same profligacy that pervades the corridors of federal power infects this country’s 87,000 state, county and municipal governments and school districts. By 2013, the amount of retirement money promised to employees of these public entities will exceed cash on hand by more than a trillion dollars.
So, what happens when these pensions can't be paid? They will come to the taxpayers with their hands out. When they stroll forward with their beggar's bowl in hand, the American people should keep their wallets in their pockets. That may not seem fair, but the public sector union members have gotten a great deal at everyone else's expense for a long time and if somebody has to take a haircut, and they do, it should be the union members instead of the taxpayers they've been bilking for so long.
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