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Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Wednesday, 9:00 AM.  5 degrees, up from slightly below zero earlier. Wind W, light to moderate. The sky is partly cloudy but clearing, and it will be a pretty day, but still cold.
    Private employment unions are aggravating and can ultimately be very damaging to the economy of the states and the nation, but one can make a case for their legitimacy on the basis of freedom of association and as a counterbalance to the actions of big business. However, I can see no legitimacy in the union shop, where unions, rather than the employer, have ultimate control over who is hired to do what, and the states that have “right to work” laws that outlaw mandatory union membership in the work place will always out-compete the states that have caved in to the unions, and employees in those states are far freer to find employment and advance their own lives than those controlled by the union bosses. 
    Do you want to really feel like a wage slave?  Be compelled to go to the union hall and wait for your name to be called before you can go on the job and earn your daily bread.  Such unfortunate people have but traded one master for another, and a more corrupt master at that, for the employer at least wants to hire the best parson, while the union operates solely by seniority and favoritism.
    I have said that entering the world of unions was like being Alice and falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.  Well, one meets the Mad Hatter and all the other characters when dealing with public service unions.  As a young man I was quite idealistic, and armed with a hard won education in natural resources and a lot of practical experience I went to work for what was then the Milwaukee County Park Commission.  I started out digging trees in the county tree nursery, a task I had done almost all my life.  The first day on the job I was told to slow down, or I would “kill the job,” and others, including the welfare workers among the crew, could not work that hard.  To make a long story short I ignored that dictate and rose in a decade to Assistant Superintendent of Parks.    
    Everyone knows at least a few public worker jokes, and I can assure you even the most raucous or bizarre have their basis in some actual incident.  I saw it all.  Not being able to hang a picture on an office wall without requisitioning a carpenter and a helper, and when they show up they don’t bring a hammer.
    You try to get the crew out of the lunchroom to go to work and suddenly half of them are answering nature’s call, sitting in the men’s room.  I witnessed the Superintendent of Parks, a wonderful man, threatened with a grievance for “trying to control a union member’s bowels.”  Changing a light bulb requires an electrician.  Come to work some cold morning and the door locks won’t open because some disgruntled employee squirted them full of water.  An alcoholic employee disappears from work for an extended period of time and has no trouble getting doctors’ excuses, until he finally dies of cirrhosis of the liver.  It went on and on.  And, when unionized employees work in public safety the public is truly at risk.  When the unions and the politicians that were beholding to them had made my job uncertain I took a position as Vice President with The New York Botanical Garden, and AFSME was there as well, with its bag of nasty little tricks.  But somehow the situation was not quite as severe, because even most of the union workers (we were in the process of privatizing the work force) seemed to have more pride in their work and its outcome.  It was still next to impossible to fire miscreants, and during negotiations a union boss might let his suit jacket fall open, revealing his shoulder-holstered revolver for emphasis, but used once that trick rather lost its effect. I learned that unions are not interested in small venues, as there is little money to be gained there, so the union often sold out those members to the employer for one favor or another.
    I don’t have any personal experience with the teachers’ unions or public service unions other than AFSME, but the more powerful any of them are the more arrogant and potentially destructive to civil society they certainly will be, and they have absolutely no place in a state like Wisconsin, which has ample civil service laws to protect public employees from employer abuse.  The last few weeks of protests in Madison should be a wakeup call for every Wisconsin taxpayer as they watched the mob take over the seat of government.

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