They all got the attention they sought. And it's probably a good thing they did, although I doubt they got the outcome they anticipated.
This event brought some important issues into the public discourse. It gave some flesh-and-bones to the topic of public sector unions. It humanized it and gave some us some image of who "the union worker" really is, how they protest, and an idea of their collective values.
It also allowed the public to experience the impact of unions on our political system. While most people wouldn't read past the tag line of a piece exploring the legitimacy of public sectors unions in the 21st century, the drama and antics coming out of "Madtown" were simultaneously hard to ignore, and a guilty pleasure to watch. A real time Survivor series, episode after episode, with no commercial breaks.
Mike Flynn wrote about this in Everything that is Wrong with Public Sector Unions in Thirty Seconds. He walks through a brief history of PSU's, their massive growth, and their malignant legacy. He even includes a YouTube clip, showing how the SEIU rolls.
Always a questionable proposition, unionization of the public sector, for a period, seemed a luxury we could afford. Yeah, public workers had job security and great benefits, but their pay was lower, so it seemed a fair trade-off. Over the last couple decades that implicit understanding was upended…public sector pay moved much higher and those great benefits were jacked up on steroids. Worse, we’ve recently learned that the benefits aren’t actually ‘paid for.’ As a result, we face the prospect of far higher taxes to meet these past promises.
At the same time, globalization and the natural forces of competition changed the economic equation for many of us in the private sector. We have had to become more productive, shoulder a greater share of our benefits and assume greater responsibility over our retirement. We’ve also realized that past politicians’ promises about Social Security were checks that couldn’t be cashed.
For the past couple of years, we’ve stayed awake at night wondering whether we would keep our job or whether our employer would stay in business. We saw our take-home pay eroded by higher state and local taxes and higher contributions to our own benefits. We watched in December as politicians of both parties congratulated themselves that they weren’t going to take even more of our earnings–well, for at least a couple more years. After that, who knows…
- We’ve allowed labor unions to become monopoly personnel providers for many state and local governments
- We force employees to make weekly payments to union leaders
- The union leaders use these payments to hire lobbyists to agitate for more government spending
- The union leaders use these payments to spend millions on campaigns to elect politicians
- The union leaders then negotiate with these politicians to set pay, benefits and work rules for their members
- The politicians know that if they cross the union leaders, their reelection plans are more complicated
- We fund the whole thing
1) Why should I pay to give others job security AND a standard of living that I don't have?
2) If the Democrats, the unions, and the Obama political machine are all organized to promote this, doesn't that mean they are organized to take advantage of me?
Public sector unions were a questionable concession that was tolerated initially. One person's mole is another person's beauty mark. But now it's time to surgically remove these radically malignant cells before they consume the host.