The second in a series about government and the GOP in New York — And in Brooklyn in particular
Public Employee Unions, and how they pose a threat to our democracy itself
Whenever anybody tells you “We are not the Enemy....” — They are probably lying
What if somebody came up to you and said this: “How many times must we say ‘WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY?’ The media has criticized labor and all those, including elected officials, who stand up for the rights of public employees. One of our elected officials recently was asked through the media by the Governor: ‘Who do you represent, the public or the unions?’ It is an amazing question. Public employees are the public. In the words of our elected officials, ‘Public employees are taxpayers too.’ The only way that we are different from the rest of the residents of the state is that we have dedicated our careers and our lives to serving the state. *** Unfortunately, in New York State we face a continued effort to cast blame for shortfalls on public employees and to balance budgets by undermining the protections for which public employees have sacrificed.”
How do you feel about those remarks ? — More important, what do you think about those remarks’ being part of a legitimate plea or presentation ? — And still more important than that, what do you really know about any of the pitch that is being made with those remarks ?
First, those remarks are contained as part of the “Chairman’s Message” [http://www.nyspec.com/chairman] on the “official website” of The New York State Public Employee Conference (NYSPEC), a labor organization that acts as a unified voice for 70 public employee unions in New York City and New York State; and those remarks are subscribed by Peter D. Meringolo, Chairman.
Second, The New York State Public Employee Conference (NYSPEC) nakedly presents itself to the world as “a powerful organization of labor leaders” that “is a highly effective organization with the power and flexibility to focus exclusively on doing business for the good of its members.”
Needless to say, The New York State Public Employee Conference (NYSPEC) is not the only public employees’ labor organization that represents its public employee unions and members to the New York State Legislature, the New York City Council, or any of the other local governing bodies throughout New York. However, I have chosen them as an example, because they chose the only Brooklyn elected Republican office-holder, State Senator Martin Golden, to be this year’s keynote speaker at their annual “Legislative Event” at the New York State Capitol.
So when any public employee or any organization representing public employees tells you that “[t]he only way that [public employees] are different from the rest of the residents of the state is that [public employees] have dedicated [their] careers and [their] lives to serving the state....”; remind whoever tells you that or something like it — “That’s not really true.” Point out that, unlike public employees, you don’t have any highly effective organization with the power and flexibility to focus exclusively on doing the business of bringing your message to the New York State Legislature, the New York City Council, or any of the other local governing bodies throughout New York. Also if they ever tell you that “...[p]ublic employees are the public...”, simply answer that unless they seriously want you to think that public employees pay the public to be the public in the same way that the public pays public employees to be public employees, that notion is not only false, it is impossible. Lastly, let any public employee or his union or other labor organization know that it is your taxes and/or mandated government fees and assessments that pay towards their salaries and benefits, and it’s definitely not the other way around.
‘THE ENEMY WITHIN – PART 2 — HOW PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS POSE A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY
America’s system of republican-democracy is under threat. It's under threat from an Obama Administration that seeks to polarize Americans along race and class lines. It's under threat from a Democratic Party that seeks to transfer wealth and pit those who pay high taxes against those who pay little or no taxes, but who also receive significant government payments. However, most of all, the American system of self-governing individualism is now under direct attack from America's public sector unions, associations and other labor organizations (See “The Greatest Threat to our Democracy” by Ben Shapiro, 2012, Creators.com [http://www.creators.com/opinion/ben-shapiro/the-greatest-threat-to-our-democracy.html]).
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who strongly supported the organizational rights of private sector employees, strenuously opposed the notion that government workers be allowed to organize and form unions. FDR recognized that the ultimate power of unions resides in their ability to strike, and that if government workers were allowed to exercise the power to strike, government employees would be allowed to act against the interests of the dispersed citizens and other taxpayers. To President Roosevelt, that would have been patently unacceptable. Over time, Roosevelt passed away and his clear vision soon passed away along with him. In the 1960s, JFK, recognized the power of private sector unions and realized that government employees who unionized could build a path to a permanent Democratic Party hegemony.
From that time, the agencies and departments of national government and various state and local governments and/or their subdivisions would insist on bargaining agreements with growing classes of their employees; those various governmental employees would have to join unions in order to work and to receive the necessary representation to enter into collective bargaining agreements. As a result, government employee unions were able to exact dues from their members, and they used those dues to elect certain favored politicians. In turn, those favored politicians would then push for cushy deals for the unions’ members and also “negotiate” an unending string of bargaining agreements.
The ultimate winners in that system were those politicians who favored the government employee unions, union leaders representing government employees and the government employee union members. The losers were and continue to be the taxpayers, who have to underwrite the salaries and benefits “negotiated” by the government employee union reps and many of those politicians who favored, and were in turn favored by, the government employee unions. Democrats across the country, often with GOP cooperation, adopted the same strategy on a state and local level. Part and parcel of the negotiated contracts were mandatory union dues collected by a check-off directly from the government employees’ paychecks. The system of forced union representation and automatic union dues collection now covers large groups of public employees across the country, destroying for huge classes of public employees the fundamental rights of freedom of association and free employment that should be part of any American’s birthright.
Although once enshrined in our statutes and jurisprudence, the idea that collective bargaining by government workers should be forbidden on the legal grounds of sovereign immunity and unconstitutional delegation of government powers (See “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions” by Daniel DiSalvo, Issue #5, Fall 2010
[http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-trouble-with-public-sector-unions]) has passed into almost complete disfavor and is little more than a legal relic. Nonetheless, it is still true that the very nature of many public services gives government a monopoly or near monopoly on functions such as such as policing the streets and putting out fires; and to allow employees of those public monopolies to act collectively could therefore risk holding the public hostage. Long-time New York Times labor reporter A. H. Raskin wrote in 1968 that, “The community cannot tolerate the notion that it is defenseless at the hands of organized workers to whom it has entrusted responsibility for essential services.”
THE NEED TO RETURN TO LOGIC AND BALANCE
We must return to long-held verities. To tolerate or recognize employees of the government entering a union or other labor organization should be incompatible with the spirit of democracy, and also inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. It would be difficult to contemplate a situation more dangerous to public welfare than to allow employees of the state to dictate to the their employer the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential public services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizenry. To further allow government employees to have the right and power to halt or diminish the functions of government in any way unless the employees’ demands are satisfied, is to transfer to those employees or their representatives an unchecked combination of legislative, executive and judicial power.
At this stage of political evolution in America, it is almost impossible for anybody in the Democratic Party to genuinely attempt to rein in public service unions ( See ““Why the Democratic Party Cannot Embrace Public Sector Union Reform” by Ed Ring, 10/15/13, Union Watch [http://unionwatch.org/why-the-democratic-party-cannot-embrace-public-sector-union-reform/]); even though some experts associated with the Democratic Party have counseled that they should do so (See “The Union Threat to the Democrats' Future” by Douglas E. Schoen, 1/20/11, Wall Street Journal [http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704405704576064282100893372]). For that reason it falls to the GOP to stand against predatory and rapacious representatives of public service unions exemplified by, but not limited to, The New York State Public Employee Conference (NYSPEC), which had been mentioned above. Several states like Wisconsin and Ohio have already engaged in limited versions of this sort of roll-back of public sector union rights, and states like New York need to follow suit.
That is what makes the intense pro-public sector union activities of somebody like State Senator Martin Golden all the more distressing. His keynote address at the union function in the State Capitol is only a very recent example. He is an individualized personification of a public-private partnership that is to its core and sinew an avatar of “The Enemy Within*...” our body politic here in these United States. That Golden pretends to be a conservative Republican rubs salt in the wound. That he gets away with such a guise is not merely perfidious, it is ridiculous.
As long as those like State Senator Golden remain in power, “The Enemy Within*...” in the form of the public service unions in New York will continue to flourish and prosper, and our republican-democracy will continue to suffer its death of a thousand cuts.
* Although there was a book with a similar sounding title about certain corrupt unions by Robert F. Kennedy, the series of articles/posts “Lessons about ‘The Enemy Within...’ ” on this blog has no connection whatsoever to that work by Senator Kennedy. Even if there is a discussion in this series of the corrupting influence of certain classes of unions upon government, any possible overlap of material is merely coincidental.