Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Senate Bill 5 in Ohio

Wisconsin's got all of the headlines so far for their lawmakers assault on collective bargaining rights for public workers. In the meantime lawmakers in Ohio have been planning an assault of their own. In Ohio, it's referred to as Senate Bill 5. Here's an article with background information on the bill: Senate Bill 5

I have no idea on whether this will help the state balance the budget or whether this is just a Republican agenda to harm unions, I post my thoughts here in order to answer some of the rhetoric I've heard on the issue. I believe that the issue has become more about the political parties agenda (as is typically the case nowadays), rather then about the government arbitrarily taking current rights away from people.

I will make the following disclaimer in regards to my views on unions, my father was a Teamster for his entire career. My wife is currently a school teacher employed by a state school, however, she is not a member of the union as the union does not support teachers at the school where she has employment. My only membership in a union was for about 2 years in high school at a local retailer.

Some of the rhetoric I've heard and my responses

1. If I walked into my bosses office and demanded higher pay and better benefits, I'd be looking for a job.

This maybe true, but collective bargaining doesn't allow it's participants to march into their bosses office and demand those things either, as a matter of fact, they typically only get to negotiate those things when their contract is up.

2. Public servants should be rewarded based on performance rather then collectively.

I didn't realize this was the average person's decision to make. Electing to join a collective bargaining organization requires you to put aside performance based bonuses, it's the trade off, unless of course your organization is savvy enough to negotiate that somehow into the contract. This one also perplexes me in the sense that they think the government would be any better then companies for 'rewarding' performance. I'd love to ask the people that use this as an argument about how much they trust corporations to do the right thing by their workers.

3. Public servants make too much money, the unions hold the state hostage in negotiations.

I might agree with this logic if we didn't constantly find areas where the states invest millions of taxpayer dollars on outdated programs, unneeded contracts, and a variety of other expenditures. The fact is the states and the localities have been part of each and every one of these contract negotiations, in the end if the public servants are making 'too much' the only people to blame would ultimately be the negotiators who failed to do their job.

4. I don't have a union, why should anyone else have one.

This is similar to number 1 above. The fact that you don't have something, likely has to do with your choice of profession, just as you can change jobs like a public worker can, you can also choose to go into a line of work with unions or attempt to organize your workplace.

Final Thoughts

I cannot for the life of me understand how individual citizens have come to begrudge other citizens of their rights to join a union and feel it's somehow right for our government to remove those rights. Why in the world shouldn't a group of employees have a right to collectively bargain? There's not one argument I've heard that tells me why someone shouldn't be allowed that right. The government can't even answer that question, all they are saying is that this would lead to balancing their budget. Doesn't that mean there is something wrong here?

Anytime the government decides they need to infringe on something already in place, my ears perk up. Isn't the fact that the government has failed to successfully negotiate with these groups the real issue? If you want to control salaries for employees you have a chance every couple years. You know how you do that? Negotiate better. This is failing leadership at it's best. The government can't successfully complete a task that's a part of their jobs so they decide to just legislate the problem away. This isn't how it's supposed to work. Which is why I ask all of those in favor of this bill, why would you support a government that acts in this manner? Our expectation from our elected leaders should be for them to do their jobs correctly, supporting the government in situations such as this, just tells them it's alright to fail and then legislate the problems away. That's not the type of leadership I want in office and I think most people would agree.

Just a couple of footnotes, most of my argument here assumes that our leadership is telling us the truth and their intent is to balance the budget, not to bust unions or cater to the anti-union lobby. I think there's a better then average chance that this issue is being driven by these reasons, but for arguing the issue, I didn't want to get involved in that and I think there is plenty of reason to oppose this issue without getting into either side of the political spectrum.

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