There are so many facets to the problem of public sector unions that one of their most outrageous abuses, their war on volunteerism, is barely covered by the media. But it happens all the time, especially in public education. If any volunteer does work that could be done by a unionized worker, even if no funds exist to hire that worker, the union is likely to use all their power to stop that volunteer from providing their services.
In Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles, the union war on school volunteers has taken a new twist. In order to maintain supplemental language programs, as well as adequate staffing of classroom helpers in the Culver City Unified School District, a few philanthropic individuals have funded the payment of modest stipends to people to assist the teachers. They are essentially volunteers. But that’s not ok with the Culver City Association of Classified Employees – translation, the local union – who has threatened to file a complaint with the powerful, union-friendly Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), a “quasi-judicial administrative agency that is charged with upholding and administering collective bargaining statutes that cover employees working in California schools.” For more on this, refer to the following reports: “Parents lodge strong opposition to unionizing of CCUSD language school employees,” and “Parents Attracting Name Allies in Dispute with Union.”
This isn’t an isolated incident. A UnionWatch editorial about a year ago reported similar union attacks on schoolyard volunteers in Sonoma County, California (ref. “Public Education Unions vs. Volunteers“).
Recall the attempts by the SEIU in California to unionize babysitters during 2011? Under the dubious premise – genuinely sinister in its implications – that anyone receiving a state subsidy to do anything is technically an “employee of the state” and therefore can be compelled to join a state worker’s union, they have already succeeded in unionizing babysitters in 14 states (ref. “Meet Your SEIU Babysitter and the Left’s Scheme to Unionize Everything“).
Compelling anyone to join a union is not “protecting the middle class,” it is enslavement. Protecting the middle class, at least for private sector workers, can be accomplished by voluntary union participation. But when forced unionization extends to government workers, it is a path to tyranny.
Whether or not you agree with unions in the private sector, the justification for unionizing government workers rests on very different, and far more debatable assumptions. The purpose of government is to provide services to citizens as efficiently and equitably as possible. The purpose of unions is to extract as much money and benefits to their members as possible, as well as to acquire more members. These two purposes are intrinsically in opposition. In the private sector, unions oppose management, and union demands are mitigated by the fact that private companies must compete for customers and must therefore operate efficiently. In the public sector, unions are essentially opposing taxpayers, and the efficiency and the expense of government is not checked by market forces because the government is a monopoly with the power to force citizens to pay taxes.
Moreover, public sector union workers do not face the same “middle class” challenges as face the private sector workers they with whom they falsely claim solidarity. A writer for the Sunshine State News in Tallahassee, Florida, in a recent column entitled “Public Employees’ Pensions Can Sink the Ship,” had this to say about unionized public sector employees:
“It once was that unions were “trade unions.” They represented a largely powerless, voiceless army of blue-collar workers. That just isn’t true anymore. They truly are redefined. The majority of union members in America today are white-collared, college-educated and work for the government, where they receive an average of $123,049 annually in pay and benefits — twice the average of workers in the private sector.
These unions “contribute mightily” to help get liberal politicians elected, and those politicians vote to increase pay for public workers. The result is that some states are approaching default because of decades of fiscal malpractice. Florida isn’t there yet, but it’s on its way.”
Maybe it’s time to describe public employee unions using new terminology. They are not workers like the rest of us. They are the government; they are our overseers. They are the people who audit our taxes and enforce our laws. They teach our children, they protect us from criminals, they rescue us from disasters. Government workers hold a sacred trust, a trust that unionization, which inevitably puts them at odds with the people they serve, explicitly violates.