Monday, February 14, 2011

On Government Employees and Lambs

We are about to witness a huge upsurge of hysteria over Governor Walkers attempts to limit the power of state employees and their unions. So I began to ponder the purpose of unions and to what extent government employees should even need one.

My understanding is that unions formed initially in the private sector. Through a collective with a looming threat of strikes, unions sought to win a greater share of profits, improve working conditions etc.... when negotiating with ownership.

Public sector unionization lacks some key features of their private sector counterparts.

For starters, there is not a worker/owner dynamic battling with each other over profits. Rather than battling over a finite amount of money, ie profits, generated from the efforts of both parties, the government and government unions are battling over a huge and nearly limitless amount of money generated by OTHER people's efforts. This is a recipe for disaster for the other people.

Secondly, where is the worker vs owner dynamic with a government union? Are government workers mere employees or are they the government? In truth I suppose they are a mix of the two. To the extent that they are the government, it sort of begs the question: Why does government need to negotiate with itself?

Thirdly, is government an owner? As an advocate for small government, it is beginning to feel that way to me, but that is a subject for another day. Most of us would like to think that we, as in all of us, own or are in charge of government. And that would include public employees. As "owners," why would they need to negotiate with themselves?

Lets face it, there are three separate parties involved here with three separate goals. Public sector employees want whatever they can get. Elected officials want to be reelected. The rest of us want services delivered efficiently and cost effectively.

Only two of these parties are at the negotiating table. It reminds me a little of the quip about two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. The difference being in our case as lambs that we don't even get a vote.

Yes, I know, the elected officials are there to represent us. But they are also there to represent government employees, also citizens deserving of representation. Since the goals and objectives of government employees and the lambs are rather different, this creates an unresolvable conflict for our representatives.

Furthermore, we mustn't forget the objectives of government officials. They want to get reelected. Getting reelected is not so easy when you drive a hard bargain with a large, powerful and political force such as government employees. The temptation surely is there to appease them at the expense of the lambs.

All of which leaves us with a growing government and a shrinking private sector, brought on by an unnecessary, unfair and ultimately self destructive imbalance of power which favors government employees over regular citizens. It is time to change this formula.

This is the opinion of one lamb with no vote. Thank you Governor Walker for looking out for me.


Sean Cranley said...

What a ludicrus analysis Denis. You Cons really don't get representative democracy.

We the People ARE the government. Elected officials are there to represent US, the citizenry. The public employees are OUR employees, they are NOT the government. They have a right to negotiate and have a say in their compensation and work environment. they negogiate with OUR representatives, the elected officials. All of the above are citizens.

You should find an old civics text book and read it.

Nemo said...

Wrong sean, "the government usually refers to the rulers, that group of people who are in charge of the state at a particular time."

We in the private world are the governed, not the government.

Denis Navratil said...

Sean, why are "WE" the government but government employees are, in your words, "NOT the government?" They are citizens too and therefore part of the big happy WE and therefore they have no need to organize against the WE, as it is them.

Anonymous said...

It's goofy to imagine that rank and file state employees "are" the government. No, they work for the government, and state residents are their clients. They don't control government or negotiate with themselves. They negotiate with managers appointed by the governor, and their contracts must be approved by legislators. All their working conditions are controlled by political appointees or civil management. They are no more the government than a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal is the publisher. And if you knew many of these employees, you'd also know that they are 1.) people like you and I who live in Wisconsin communities and are our neighbors; 2.) who pay taxes, 3.) who vote, 4.) who are every bit as much concerned with efficient government and quality services as the rest of us citizens, and who 5.) care about and often love their jobs but naturally also desire decent working conditions and a fair day's pay. Your blog confuses the worker bees with the queen bee. That would be Queen Scotty, at the moment, and apparently he just doesn't have enough royal jelly to suit himself.

Anonymous said...

i am a conservative, but i do not support Walker's efforts for the simple fact if some government / state employees should have limited negotiating power as it relates to their jobs, ALL government / state employees should have limited negotiating power including Police & Fire.

Police & Fire salary and pensions account for 68 percent of the city of Racine's budget. Let's be honest and say their is alot of fat to be trimmed at the local PD & Fire Station, literally & figuratively.

Sean Cranley said...

Nemo, you've more ignorance that I credited you for. In America, We the People are Sovereign. that is one of the founding principles of our republic. It is OUR government and governance is to be through the informed consent of the citizenry, you know self determination. We ARE the rulers.

Anonymous #1, well said. I have counterparts in state Gov't that work with regularly. We sometimes butt heads, because their interests and those of my clients don't always mesh completely. But it always professional and they are responsive, hard working, consciencious and I might add, they don't make what I do in the private sector, though our education and experiance levels are comparable.

Anonymnous #2 Good point. Selecting some unions and not others? Unequal protection, not Constitutional.

Denis Navratil said...

Sean, since we are all "We the People," why is it necessary to have a union? We elect people to set the salaries and benefits. Everyone has the ability to lobby the government, but none get a special seat at the table. I notice that you continue to dodge the question.

Anon #2 has a good point about police and fire. Maybe that can come later.

Anon #1, you say it is goofy to consider government employees as the government. Is it any goofier than Sean's notion that we all are the government? At any rate, they are more the government than the rest of us, that is for sure. But we are missing the larger point, that is, there is no need to have a union as we have elected officials who can and should seek to satisfy the needs of their constituents in government jobs and the rest of us who pay the bill. Neither should have special bargaining powers.

Nemo said...

We're the rulers, eh sean? How will you be voting this week on Governor Walkers budget fix bill? Will I see your vote in the House or the Senate (or both, you are a Democrat after all)? Heh.

Sean Cranley said...

Nemo, look up the word "Republic", perhaps you've never heard of it before. Sheesh.

Denis Navratil said...

What was that you said Sean about the need to have a government employees union? Oh ya, nothing! Enough with the claptrap Sean, answer the question.

Anonymous said...

Denis--Well Said. I would add....the treasury of a state is to ensure the "general welfare" of the citizens of that state. Why should a tiny sliver of those citizens, merely because they happened to score a gov't job, be entitled to collectively bargain for a larger share of that general treasury? And you are right. Other coalitions, such as business owners, the unemployed, the widows on a fixed income, the workers who's skilled labor jobs are decimated by technology....they don't have a seat at that table.

Sean Cranley said...

For one thing, you have Public Employee Unions becuae it's very inefficient to negotiate individual compensation packages with hundreds or thousands workers one at a time.

The other reason is that you want people to have a say about their work environment and compensation of you want a good work force.

Walker is on a path that will get us the lowest quality workers possible, those content to be powerless, disrespected and and poorly compensated. But then that's probably EXCACTLY what he wants anyway, isn't it?

And as for Anonymous' comment about getting a largeg share of the treasury, look no further than WMC.

Tax cuts for the rich!
Death panels for the poor!
Coming soon to a community near you!
Welcome to Walker's Wiscossippi!

Anonymous said...

Does the state have to negotiate with each employee? Can't the just pick a wage and benefit package for a given position and if you apply and get hired that is what you get. Can't they pick a wage based on what they think needs to be paid to get a quality person in a given position.

Anonymous said...

This could even be better for some workers. For instance one would think a high school calculus teacher would have to be paid more money than a humanities teacher.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't understand Mr. Cranley's statements. Certainly in large private sector companies, there's no negotiating with individual employees from top management. You come in (usually) at the bottom of a pay grade for your position, then if you're lucky you'll get a COLA increase at some point. Any merit increases are based on reviews at a departmental level. There's no negotiating benefits - you get what the company offers...PERIOD. If you don't like those circumstances, you either don't accept the job in the first place, or you move on to greener pastures.

As far as the death panels? What are you talking about. If anything, under Walker's Wisconsin, the OBAMA death panels could be nullified!

Sean Cranley said...

So Anonymous, you like dictatorships, eh? Freedom baby, yeah.

Justify why a calculous teacher should get more than a humanities teacher. Are the humanities unimportant? How important do you think calculous is for most people? Should a good humanities teachers be paid less than a mediocre calc teacher?

Sean Cranley said...

That funny Ano, I've never had a job yet where I didn't negotiate the terms of my employment and work conditions.

Of course when you're one of many doing similar jobs it's difficult no negotiate with any much effect, that's why they band together.

It's about simple human respect and the dignitiy of work. People who are powerless serfs are ussually unhappy and unhappy people are ussually not good workers.

Nemo said...

sean, I'm not sold on the idea of taking the vocational voyage by having people "band together". It's far better to have individuals progress in their careers by virtue of their skills and work ethic, not the false merit of the mob.

Anonymous said...

For most people calculus is more difficult to learn and teach than the humanities. Any high school teacher should be able to teach a civics but any other teacher cannot teach calc or chem or what not. Also, we are told that there is a shortage of people with math and science ability so they should be able to command more money for a scare resource. But I think that that is a capitalist idea so I am sure you do not agree.

Anonymous said...

BTW I don't care if they pay one teachers more than another, I don't run a school district. I am just pointing out that none union set wages could benefit some workers.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Whoaaa...back that up a bit there Mr. Cranley! You've ALWAYS negotiated the terms of your employment? IOW, you've set your salary; you've decided when and how much vacation/sick time you'll be receiving; you've determined the level of health benefits you'll receive and how much your contribution will be; you, not your prospective/current employer, has determined the type and level of retirement benefits to which you're entitled. REALLY - ALWAYS!

Could you be more full of bs!

Sean Cranley said...

Oh look another Con in need of a dictionary. I think I've found a new charitable cause!

Anonymous uttered: "IOW, you've set your salary; blah, blah vacation/sick time blah health benefits.contribution blah blah retirement benefits to which you're entitled. REALLY - ALWAYS!

No Ano, I never "SET" them, I NEGOTIATED them.

Although, in the interest of full disclosure I did NOT negotiate the terms of my first job at Paul's Pizza as I had no pizza making exerience or skills.

Wait, I DID negotiate work hours around school and gymnastics. You see? Everything is negotiable.

Denis Navratil said...

Was Paul's Pizza unionized? How can a negotiation occur without a union?

Sean Cranley said...

Absolutely Denis, I was the sole member of Sauce Ladlers Local 1.