Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some thoughts on unions in America

I just finished reading about the 86-year-old gentleman in Wausau, Wisconsin who has been volunteering his time as a crossing guard at the elementary school down from which he lives two-doors.

The local AFSCME representatives have taken exception to a resident volunteering his time to help the local school district and have filed a protest with Wausau's city hall.

Please read about it here before continuing with my blog.

I experienced something like this while attending Ferris State University. I lived in what was known as the "non-trad" dorm (Pickel Hall) for students 23 and older.

There had been remodeling work done in the bottom-floor lounge over the summer (1995) before my freshman year but the lounge remained off-limits because none of the furniture and other decor items had yet been moved back into it.

During one residence hall committee meeting, the topic of when the lounge would finally be ready (this was October or November) came up yet again. I suggested I would be willing to lead a volunteer effort of fellow dorm residents to help finish the job so we could have use of the lounge available again (it was considered by returning residents to be a great location to study outside of one's room).

The assistant hall director (a fellow student) immediately shot the idea down, saying the university's employees union would file a grievance against us for doing so (most likely against him since he was the student responsible for overseeing the goings-on in the dorm) and we were not to take it upon ourselves under any circumstances.

That was my first encounter with union-induced stonewalling.

Now let me be clear. I do not oppose the existence of unions. I agree that without them we would run the risk of returning to some extent to the days of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

However, with the exception of those who work in the public safety fields I fail to see the need for the unionization of government employees. Municipal, township, county, state, and federal workers on public payrolls are employed by entities which are just that: public. They have access to a built-in open forum for the airing of grievances in the workplace.

If they are being mistreated, underpaid, or subjected to any other kind of adverse conditions in the workplace, they have the opportunity to lead the charge to remove from office those who are ultimately responsible for their work environment. Autoworkers, nurses, and construction workers don't enjoy such a luxury.

One change that would help curtail union excesses and abuses with taxpayer money would be requiring all union contracts with a government entity be approved by a public vote within the respective jurisdiction (local, state, and federal).

Obviously, with the number of employee collective bargaining contracts our federal government has approved that facet of this idea may be unrealistic. But, greater public scrutiny would go far (in the billions far) in curbing waste within America's massive networks of bureaucracy.

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