I grew up in a union-supporting household on my mom’s side. My grandmother, the Captain’s Daughter, was a great supporter of the unions as the savior of the working man. She was born in 1885, so she’d seen the early rise of the unions, with all that entailed regarding basic safety and the like.
My dad, on the other hand, hated the unions. He was an architect, and he’d say “In the thirties I used to be able to pay a good craftsman more, and pay a shoddy worker less. But now everyone’s a ‘Journeyman’ and I have to pay the same. If I can’t reward good behavior and penalize sloppy carpentry, workmanship suffers”.
Of course, that was in the 1950’s, and back then in California, all that they had to dispute about were private sector unions. Back then, government unions were illegal in California. Illegal! We should be so lucky today.
However, this blissful time was ended by a young man just elected Governor back then, Jerry Brown. He pushed through legislation allowing the formation of California public sector unions, and they thanked him by energetically working to re-elect him quite merrily.
And now, fast forward fifty years, guess who the public sector unions just re-elected for a new term as the Governor of California?
Why, it’s Jerry Brown, the original bad penny, the unions’ best pal, the man who made them rich beyond measure.
And this highlights the monumental logical fail of public sector unions. Here’s the deal.
You have a public sector union that collects dues from the ample wages of the workers. The public sector union then uses its money and mobilizes its members to elect the very person in charge of setting and increasing the union members’ ample wages and pensions.
Gee … what could possibly go wrong with such a brilliantly designed system?
The only thing dumber than that would be to let the union members set their own salaries … but that particular bit of corruption is generally restricted to legislators. True. For example, the US Congress sets its own salary. And when that got to be too much for the harried taxpayer, the newest amendment to the US Constitution was passed which said:
“No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
Since that happens every two years, color me unimpressed … you can vote yourself a raise but you have to wait two years to start collecting it. Heck, you don’t even have to wait that long. Pass the bill just before the “election of Representatives”, collect the money a month later. Laughable, although I suppose it’s better than nothing. But I’ve digressed into the venality of Congress, a different subject, so let me return to the question at hand, public sector unions.
As a result of the !@#$%^& public sector unions, the US is going broke at every level—federal, state, county, and city governments are all paying obscene pensions to government workers at every level. Take Sonoma County where I live. The particular pluted bloatocrat who negotiated the current Sonoma County pension deal, which has doubled pension costs in the last ten years, that uncommon thief of public funds is now retired on a quarter of a million dollars per year pension! His only accomplishment was to further bankrupt the County, and for that he is getting richly rewarded … gotta love them government pension plans. And it’s not just here. A guy who ran the LA sewer system is currently making over $300,000 per year for the rest of his life.
As one Sonoma County Supervisor apologized to the taxpayers, “We can’t fix the potholes because we’ve gone broke paying the pensions of one single generation of government workers.” Of course, that wasn’t one of the Supervisors who’d approved the obscene pensions … they’re long gone.
Here’s how I’d fix this nonsense if I ran the zoo. I’d say NOBODY gets any government pension. I say, everyone should just get Social Security, the same as myself and millions of Americans. Seriously, why should some bureaucrat who spends all day sitting on his … his … sitting on his extensive database make a better pension than a fisherman like myself risking my life on the ocean so people can have fish and chips?
And more to the point, why should the County Government be in the pension business at all? How is that even remotely what I want them to do? They are thumb-fingered and prejudiced amateur future traders engaging in a highly risky gamble on future interest rates using YOUR AND MY MONEY! That is madness, they have no expertise in that.
We’re not hiring them to feather their nests, we’re hiring them to get a job done. And that job is not creating or running a pension fund, it’s fixing the potholes. What does your average County Supervisor know about pensions and discount rates and the like? He’s likely a failed businessman who ran for office, she’s maybe a lawyer with a passion for the poor, what do either of them know about betting on future interest rates?
The public sector unions have screwed the public with this game long enough. We can’t do a dang thing about existing pensions, but what we need to do is simple:
End Government Pensions At All Levels
And finally, here’s the question I always get when I say we should end government pensions—what do we do about hazardous occupations like cops and firemen? Shouldn’t they get a better pension in recognition of the danger?
Let me answer this with a story.
I recall one of the years that I was fishing up in Alaska on the Bering Sea, that welcoming and always-friendly body of water made famous by the TV show “The Deadliest Catch”. There’s never enough room at the docks for the fishing boats, so the boats just “raft up”, with a second boat tied up alongside the first boat, a third boat tied alongside the second boat, and so on out into the harbor, something like this.
The round pink air-filled balls hanging on the outside of the boat on the left are floats that are placed there to keep the sides of the boats from banging into each other. (Fishermen call that style of round pink floats “titty floats”, but then they’ve all been at sea too long to be PC, plus which among fishermen, acute testosterone poisoning is a recognized occupational hazard … but again I’m getting sidetractored, where was I? Oh, yeah, Alaskan waters.)
So one season when I was up there to go fishing, before the season started a bunch of guys in Dillingham Harbor were sitting on the back end of a rafted-up boat, talking story and telling lies as fishermen do. Some newcomer to the fleet was resting his hand on the “gunwale”, which curiously is pronounced “gunnel”. That’s the piece of wood or metal running around the upper edge of the sides of the boats seen in the photo above.
So another boat comes past the raft, and when that happens the boats in the raft all move around. In this case, as happens sometimes the floats weren’t quite enough, and two of the multi-ton vessels lightly bumped gunwales together, a light hit, no damage to the boats … but they hit right where the greenhorn had his hand casually draped over the rail. Smashed a couple fingers flat. His fishing season ended before it even got started. Here’s my point. This is Time magazine’s list of the most dangerous occupations of 2014. This is just deaths, doesn’t count all the rest of the hazards of fishing:
Commercial fishing is the second most deadly job in the US. Roofers are number four. Farmers are number six. Taxi drivers are number ten. Day-laborers are number twelve …
… and cops come in at number fifteen, while firemen don’t even make the top twenty.
I worked for years as a commercial fisherman, a much more deadly occupation than police and firemen, and what did I get for taking the risks when I retired?
Social Security … which also is what they should get.
I’m not saying we should get the same pay. I am saying we should get the same pension, that is to say, Social Security. Otherwise, I’m paying for every bureaucrat’s pension, and they’re not paying for mine.
Ending government pensions would solve one giant problem, which is that elected officials are wildly indebting future generations by merrily signing off on ridiculous pensions. Since the bill for the pensions won’t come due until they’re out of office, why not give away the store?
Ending government pensions would force governments at all levels to deal with current wages, and remove their ability to pay off the unions with future taxpayer wealth.
And if all the politicians in the US were on Social Security … you can bet they’d make sure that the Social Security System is financially sound.
The other thing I’d do if I ran the zoo would be to prevent the public sector unions from spending one dime or one minute on influencing the election of anyone with authority over them. That’s nuts. Unions in a business don’t get to vote on who the CEO is, and the same principle should hold true in government.
And as I write this, pounding rain here, and we just had some hail, a rare occurrence. More storms visible out over the ocean, rain to wash away the dregs of the recent drought, rain to bring joy to plants and animals alike, life is good.
My warmest regards to everyone,
As is my custom: I ask everyone commenting to please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE COMMENTING ON, so we can all understand just what you are referring to.