Public Unions Must Begin Giving Their ‘Fair Share’

by lewwaters

Sure to anger many who think their positions within government entitle them to preferential treatment and compensation, but something that is being seen more and more as a much needed act and soon, if we are to ever recover from this deep economic blight we continue to struggle with, unions, public unions especially must begin sharing in the burden of this elongated economic downward spiral.

I don’t blame public unions for all of our troubles, but they have played a significant role in getting us here and I see little from them in helping get us out. For those who will inevitably flock here to cry I am anti-Police or anti-Firefighters, don’t waste your time. I am anything but and I am reminded that we have Troops fighting and dying to protect our country who receive far less compensation than either do.

I also openly admit that in the past, unions have accomplished much good, fighting for and winning safe work places, fair work hours and conditions and reasonable wages from private sector companies. But, somewhere along the way, that was forgotten and far exceeded as business agents convinced union members they were entitled to more and more and gained concessions from companies that were passed along in the way of higher consumer prices. Higher prices that even the union members had to pay, necessitating yet another strike vote for even more compensation which too was passed along in the form of higher prices.

In my personal estimation, a self-defeating vicious circle.

But, somewhere also along the way, unions began figuring out that government workers unionized did not have to negotiate with a company that must remain profitable to stay in business as negotiators seemed to have bottomless pits of money in the form of our taxes paid.

As private sector union membership waned, public sector union membership grew, as even acknowledged by the staunchly left-leaning, pro-union New York Times in a January 2010 article, Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government.

“In its annual report on union membership, the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] undercut the longstanding notion that union members are overwhelmingly blue-collar factory workers. It found that membership fell so fast in the private sector in 2009 that the 7.9 million unionized public-sector workers easily outnumbered those in the private sector, where labor’s ranks shrank to 7.4 million, from 8.2 million in 2008.”

While a later New York Times article makes the claim that “Many Public Employees Will Pay More,” I find the claim hollow and empty when it comes to the public unions in Washington State and Clark County in particular.

With the growing budget deficits, increases in taxes and fees, ever growing unemployment, Clark County remaining the highest in the state at 13%, what real concessions have we struggling taxpayers seen from public employees?

Our illustrious County Commissioners just voted unanimously to pass off yet another 1% increase in property tax for the county general fund, “for health services.” I had the opportunity, along with several other struggling property owners, to testify to the commissioners on our struggles and apparently, our voices went ignored by the 2 Republican, 1 Democrat commission.

In the deal, we are told “the committee voted to have [public union] employees pay higher service costs rather than start taking payroll deductions,” but just what does “service costs” mean? Unless it means county employees begin contributing to their health insurance premiums, that they currently contribute not one dime towards, there is absolutely no relief to struggling homeowners who will pay this increased tax.

Clark County paid $26 Million so far this year alone for health insurance premiums while the 1640 public union employees paid no portion of those premiums. The private sector must pay upwards of 70% of their health insurance premiums.

Then too we read on the decision for public union employees to pay “higher service costs,” “How this is accomplished will depend on the outcome of ongoing [public union] contract negotiations,” by County Administrator Bill Barron.

The city of Kelso, in Cowlitz County just saw their Police Union rejecting a 5% pay cut, which means they will lose 3 Police Officers and 1 Police Clerk. Less Police is not serving the community. And, it must be noted that many in the private sector have received a 100% pay reduction due to being placed on the unemployment rolls.

While the state did reach a tentative agreement with state public unions to have their members pay 12% to 15% contribution to their health insurance premiums, that sum is paltry compared to those of us still struggling in the private sector. Most laughable is seeing that we taxpayers will pay ONLY 85% of their premiums now.

Then too, as the state still faces yet another multi-billion dollar budget deficit, can we forget the outrage expressed by union members over furloughs in the attempt to decrease state spending?

Also not to be forgotten is how we lost a grant in 2008 to our schools because the teachers union in our state couldn’t control the $13.2 Million grant to teachers, the benefactor desiring to handle it directly.

On and on it goes. Example after example could be provided as to how we in the private sector continue to tighten our belts and do without while well paid state workers, public union members, make no or very slight concessions to help weather this deep economic morass we continue in.

Who in government is willing to stand up to these unions? Who will take the bull by the horns and say enough? Obviously the unions will not voluntarily give up a little so all may survive.

Negotiators do not worry about being profitable, they just raise taxes or fees. The public unions pour money in by the droves to defeat common sense approaches that might lower spending, as they did recently in our state against measures to privatize the sale, warehousing and distribution of liquor, currently wholly managed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, who just happens to be filled with public union members stocking shelves and selling liquor in state owned stores at upwards of $15.00 an hour, with generous benefits and pension, on our dime.

I can’t help but recall back in 1979, as Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca was seeking wage and benefit concessions from the United Auto Workers Union and was asked just what could he guarantee members should they make those concessions as he answered rather matter of factly, “THEIR JOBS!

If public unions are not willing to concede and begin accepting their fair share in this continuing “Great Recession,” they must be broken. They must be decertified. They have become little more than what they were formed to fight, greedy corporations.

Should public union members decide to “walk-off” the job, stage a “sick-in” or otherwise express their unwillingness to help out, with a continuing 13% unemployment in Clark County and nearly 10% statewide, I am sure we would have no problem finding someone willing to fill their positions.

7 Comments to “Public Unions Must Begin Giving Their ‘Fair Share’”

  1. At some point, the people will finally, irrevocably, have enough.

    Unfortunately, we’re not at that point.

  2. Seems like you make exceptions for certain unions:

    Bill Turlay Picks Up Two Key Endorsements
    By lewwaters

    Bill Turlay, running for Vancouver City Council against former council member Jack Burkman has gained two key endorsements in his quest, as noted in the following Press Release.

    Bill Turlay, candidate for Vancouver City Council, Position 1, has announced two new endorsements today — The Vancouver Police Officers’ Guild and the Building Industry Association of Clark County, (BIA).

    According to Mr. Turlay these endorsements are consistent with the cross section of our local community, who heartily approve of his position on a multitude of issues.

    The Vancouver Police Officers’ Guild
    Ryan Martin, President — 360.904.3652

    Building Industry Association of Clark County, (BIA)
    Mike Bomar, Political Affairs Director – 360.694.0933

    Vancouver citizens, it is time for change in city government. Not only is the Mayor’s office in bad need of new ideas, so is the city council.

    Although Jack Burkman has been away from the city for a number of years and the seat he once held on the council, is it really new and fresh ideas he would return with?

    No, it would just be more of going back to the same.

    Bill Turlay stands for new thoughts, responsible representation and getting Vancouver back on track.

    Vote for Bill Turlay, Vancouver City Council Position 1.

    Do you think it makes sense for a council person to seek endorsements of those who will be bringing costly business before the council?

  3. Why Pat, you disappoint me that you would even try this. I thought better of you.

    Do I wholesale condemn unions in this post? Or state that they too must help out by accepting less or paying more of their health insurance premiums, as the rest of us do?

    This is even a stretch for you, Pat.

    And yes, even though you didn’t ask, I have been in a union, local 24 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Portland.

    Helping to weather a deep economic morass and endorsing a political candidate are not exactly the same, Pat.

    Then again, maybe in your world, it all depends on what the definition of “if” is? 😉

    C’mon Pat, you can do better than this.

  4. As part of a union once…a union still representing the city and county. I have a little story about how the union out-lived itself. Early in Bruce Bosch’s career as CEO of Clark Public Utilities the union, Local 11 OPEIU was challenged about its statements whether or not every member supported the direction the union wanted to go. The PUD had a management level person walk around with a union representative and poll every employee. The union lost. They walked out. The employees have been better off since. The other union on the other hand IBEW 125 is still bull-headed as ever. There was one other union which was subsequently eliminated as well…Local 18 Engineers. Once again, the PUD and its employees have been better off since. It takes a stand and I do not see any leaders in any of the 3 local government bodies today.

  5. All I really expect, John, if for unions to step up and share in the burden.

    After all, isn’t that what they ask all the time?

    But, it would seem they really have elected officials kowtowed.

  6. Clark County employees have 100% of medical, dental, life and disability insurance premiums paid by us. It covers the employee and any family members he/she wishes to cover again paid by us. The result is that in 2011 an employee with family coverage will receive $1,777 each month in free insurance benefits for self and family. When you extend that figure over a year, they are receiving more in benefits than an entry-level worker earns working full time for the entire year, rarely with any medical benefits. Does that seem extravagant? It sure does to me. Please express your concerns directly to the commissioners as well as in this blog. They have the power to renegotiate the union contracts due to our economic crisis. Even our democratic Governor has called for renegotiating union contracts….our commissions need to do the same.

  7. Even on VA Health Care, before I retired I was required to maintain my private Health Insurance by the VA, plus the private insurance available through my then employer covered my wife.

    I paid $481.19 a month for health, vision and dental, with a $1,000 deductible and co-pays.

    From what I have seen, that is pretty close to average for private sector employees.

    I see no reason why public union employees cannot share the burden and begin paying their fair share for their coverage.

    For those still working, just remember, you are paying for your families health insurance as well as the county employees.

    Is it unreasonable to ask they step up and pay a portion for their own families?

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