Public Unions Have No Business Existing: Even FDR Admitted That

Mish

Lost in the reaction to the Supreme Court ruling in Janus is a far bigger issue: Public unions should not exit at all.

On June 27, I reported Supreme Court Delivers Huge Blow to Unions!

In Janus vs. AFSCME, the Supreme Court correctly dealt a huge blow to forced membership in unions.

By a 5-to-4 vote, with the more conservative justices in the majority, the court ruled that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining.

Not Far Enough

The ruling was welcome. But it did not go far enough. There should not be public unions in the first place. Even FDR, a big union champion and bastion of the Left understood that.

Letter by Franklin D. Roosevelt on Public Unions

Please consider a few key snips from FDR's Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service, August 16, 1937, emphasis mine.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."

I congratulate the National Federation of Federal Employees the twentieth anniversary of its founding and trust that the convention will, in every way, be successful.

Roosevelt was discussing strikes, but public unions threaten them all the times, especially teachers' unions. They demand money "for the kids". The school boards are padded with teachers demanding more money "for the kids".

Collective bargaining cannot possibly exist in such circumstances. Unions can and have shut down schools. The unions do not give a damn about the kids.

Notice I said "unions" do not give a damn. Many, if not most, teachers do care for the kids, but the union does not. The unions can, and do, protect teachers guilty of abusing kids. It is nearly impossible to get rid of a bad tenured teacher or a bad cop.

Unions also threaten to shut down mass transportation.

None of this is in the public interest.

Abolish Public Unions Entirely

Union leaders have a mandated goal of protecting bad cops, bad teachers, and corrupt politicians. Unions blackmail politicians and threaten the public they are supposed to serve.

Union leaders will do anything to stay in power, the kids and the public be damned.

The only way to deal with the situation is to "effectively" abolish public unions entirely.

The key word is effectively. What do I mean by that? Take away 100% of their power as opposed to ending their right of association.

Recommended Steps

  1. National right-to-work laws
  2. Abolishment of all prevailing wage laws
  3. Ending public unions ability to strike
  4. Ending collective bargaining by public unions

Points one and two need to both be in place before either is completely effective.

Consider Illinois' prevailing wage laws: Prevailing wages are union wages. Municipalities and businesses have to pay prevailing wages. If they do not hire union workers, they get picketed.

Why bother hiring non-union workers if you have to pay union wages in the first place? As a direct result, municipalities and businesses must overpay for services in Illinois. National right-to-work laws alone cannot fix Illinois.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (18)
No. 1-18
cecilhenry
cecilhenry

Well said:: here in Ontario we are bombarded endlessly with commercials from public teachers unions telling us how wonderful they are for kids, how they need more money, and we better give it because the 'kids' need it.

All the while this is nothing but activism for their own interests while being grossly overpayed with poor actual results and a massive pension crisis. Gimme gimme gimme is not an argument.

They are never asked: 'so would you take a 10% cut and freeze wages until the debt is controlled.... you know, for the 'kids'?????

Gumwars
Gumwars

Then what protects public employees from poor working conditions? Unfair wages? Hostile or arbitrary management? How do public employees enjoy the same freedoms afforded workers in the private sector? Is being a public employee equivalent to being an indentured servant?

Mish, your proposal means that the administration of government; be it teachers, public transportation, and all the municipal functions of the state and federal governments would be completely at the whim of the character of their leadership. How does that work?

MntGoat
MntGoat

As an effect of eliminating public unions, it would also eliminate public unions contributing to political campaigns. It is ridiculous that public unions are even allowed to contribute to political campaigns at all! What a abomination of democracy! They are huge donors to Democratic candidates, who then are puppets of the public unions once elected. Gray Davis former CA governor was a great example of this. Public unions got him into office, and in response he awarded massive unsustainable pensions to certain unions, and made sure the status quo did not change. Many other examples of this. Huge corruption.

2banana
2banana

Pubic unions were allowed per an executive order of JFK. It is a testamate to the power of public unions that this EO has never been rescinded

pgp
pgp

It's not clear if Mish is really authoring here or whether some ghost writer from the Maven group is drumming up click-bait, but the usually informed opinions of the old Mishtalk days seems to have lapsed somewhat into simplistic opinions.

No-one hates unionism more than I do BUT: The population of the world in 1945, Roosevelt's time, ignoring losses from world war, was a third of its current levels. And everyone knows that the "value" of labor increases when there are fewer participants. That's the law of supply and demand. Post 1945 there was huge demand (to rebuild) and fewer workers around to do it. Any need for a union was completely lost. Under those circumstances Roosevelt was right.

Move forward to the 21st century as we close in on 8 billion people, labor has become cheap. There are simply too many people clamoring for the perfect job against a competition that includes rising automation. In a truly free-market economy those people would need to work for peanuts to be employable by their corporate overlords. Even with controls on the "free-market", it's no wonder the world's manufacturing industry has moved to the third world.

Enter minimum-wages and unionism in an effort to counter the pressure of diminishing supply.

The distorted economy that we live in now is all about exploitation and nothing about sustainability. Consequently it produces corporate and political corruption. Unions under these conditions are often nothing more than self-interested political institutions themselves. But nevertheless, as long as the supply of full-time work declines in the face of overpopulation, corporate governmental financial failure and rising automation, unionism will become more and more appealing.

Stuki
Stuki

Seriously, dude: You have half of America working themselves up in a frenzy, voting over working conditions they know nothing about, for people they'll never meet, halfway around the world. How hard could it be for US public workers to appeal to the same seemingly universal instinct to meddle in the lives of others?

Besides, I've never been unionized. Yet somehow were never enslaved. Nor had my renumeration "completely at the whim of the character of" the leadership of anyone I have ever nominally worked for. Even when those have been nominally public institutions. If you don't like your boss, quit.

None of which means unions, per se, can't work in any way, shape or form. The German industrial ones seem to work well. As do, to a good extent, Hollywood ones. But they only work, because they represent a scarce resource with specialized skills; who are both very finely attuned to the overall economic conditions facing their field (knowing how far they can push), and are opposed at the table by people whose every concession comes _directly_out_of_their_own_pocket. So you have hard against hard. Not hard against "well, someone else's kids will pay sometime in the future..." Public Unions fail miserably at the latter. Which is why the conditions are simply not there for them to serve a beneficial purpose.

None of which was really FDR's point. Which was rather that public jobs are, in and of themselves, of a nature that makes militant negotiation tactics completely unsuitable. Think cops announcing they'll strike and make no effort preventing the looting of anyone who may have a say in setting their salary...... Prison guards just leaving everyone to escape... Judges staying home until everyone gets off due to lack of a speedy trial...The President and congress sulking over pay, so they don't bother to declare war on an invading army literally crossing the border bound for DC...

IOW, the very nature of the kind of jobs that can't be done by private enterprise, render them incompatible with the kind of militant negotiation tactics that may well work fine in a private setting.

Stuki
Stuki
pgp
pgp said (edited): It's not clear if Mish is really authoring here or whether some ghost writer from the Maven group is drumming up click-bait, but the usually informed opinions of the old Mishtalk days seems to have lapsed somewhat into simplistic opinions. No-one hates unionism more than I do BUT: The population of the world in 1945, Roosevelt's time, ignoring losses from world war, was a third of its current levels. And everyone knows that the "value" of labor increases when there are fewer participants. That's the law of supply and demand. Post 1945 there was huge demand (to rebuild) and fewer workers around to do it. Any need for a union was completely lost. Under those circumstances Roosevelt was right. Move forward to the 21st century as we close in on 8 billion people, labor has become cheap. There are simply too many people clamoring for the perfect job against a competition that includes rising automation. In a truly free-market economy those people would need to work for peanuts to be employable by their corporate overlords. Even with controls on the "free-market", it's no wonder the world's manufacturing industry has moved to the third world. Enter minimum-wages and unionism in an effort to counter the pressure of diminishing supply. The distorted economy that we live in now is all about exploitation and nothing about sustainability. Consequently it produces corporate and political corruption. Unions under these conditions are often nothing more than self-interested political institutions themselves. But nevertheless, as long as the supply of full-time work declines in the face of overpopulation, corporate governmental financial failure and rising automation, unionism will become more and more appealing.

"In a truly free-market economy those people would need to work for peanuts to be employable by their corporate overlords."

In a truly free market economy, IF their corporate overlords make any outsize money off of the work performed by the workers, OTHER wannabe corporate overlords will see this, and bid the workers' wage up. That's how freedom works. If McDonalds can barely scrape by making money paying someone $10/hour, there's very little room for someone else wanting to be an exploitative corporate overlord trying to pay half of that.

Furthermore, IF it is observed that workers don't get paid a wage fairly reflective of their value-add; that in and of itself demonstrates that the markets are simply not free enough. Meaning, the focus needs to be on making them freer. Move towards removing ANY restrictions on ANYONE setting up shop ANYWHERE doing ANYTHING. Without ANY exception.

What you are describing about workers being "underpaid" by "overlords" is simply rent seeking. And rent seeking cannot exist in truly free economies. It's simply more profitable for all of the guys making the fry machines, the farmers supplying the beef and the guys using machines and beef to make burgers, to cut out the deadweight rent seeker, and set up shop one foot from the wannabe overlord's counter, selling burgers cheaper. The only way the rent seeker can rent seek, is if there are any restrictions preventing people from doing just that.

So., instead of futzing around with nonsensical, economically illiterate pseudo understandings of pig-Marxism; just focus on increasing freedom. And then increase it some more. And then some more. Until there are no room whatsoever for "corporate overlords" making bank off the labor of others. No matter how many restrictions on unfettered freedom such a result requires the removal of; how many "systems" will supposedly "collapse"; how many "tanks" will be driving down streets blah, blah. Just focus narrowly on completely unfettered freedom, and absolutely nothing else. Safe in the knowledge that everything else will take care of itself. Optimally.

Bill P
Bill P

Gumwars, I worked as a police officer for 30 years at 2 different agencies. All city employees have protections through a "personnel ordinance". These are rules (codified into law) pertaining to treatment of workers. The rules cover hiring, benefits, disciplinary procedures and specify employee rights and protections. Virtually every state, municipality and county in the country have such laws protecting workers. Union protection is unnecessary and as Mish said, often fights for unfit workers. I never worked for in a union environment yet I felt fully protected during my entire career.

Blacklisted
Blacklisted
pgp
pgp said (edited): It's not clear if Mish is really authoring here or whether some ghost writer from the Maven group is drumming up click-bait, but the usually informed opinions of the old Mishtalk days seems to have lapsed somewhat into simplistic opinions. No-one hates unionism more than I do BUT: The population of the world in 1945, Roosevelt's time, ignoring losses from world war, was a third of its current levels. And everyone knows that the "value" of labor increases when there are fewer participants. That's the law of supply and demand. Post 1945 there was huge demand (to rebuild) and fewer workers around to do it. Any need for a union was completely lost. Under those circumstances Roosevelt was right. Move forward to the 21st century as we close in on 8 billion people, labor has become cheap. There are simply too many people clamoring for the perfect job against a competition that includes rising automation. In a truly free-market economy those people would need to work for peanuts to be employable by their corporate overlords. Even with controls on the "free-market", it's no wonder the world's manufacturing industry has moved to the third world. Enter minimum-wages and unionism in an effort to counter the pressure of diminishing supply. The distorted economy that we live in now is all about exploitation and nothing about sustainability. Consequently it produces corporate and political corruption. Unions under these conditions are often nothing more than self-interested political institutions themselves. But nevertheless, as long as the supply of full-time work declines in the face of overpopulation, corporate governmental financial failure and rising automation, unionism will become more and more appealing.

Your belief in overpopulation is the same ignorance behind global warming, inflation, and everything else that is cyclical and doesn't continue in the same direction forever. The climate cycle is now cooling with ruduced solar activity, and is headed for another mini ice age in the decades ahead. Combined with the peaking of the volcananic activity cycle, which will block the sun, crop failures will increase, which will also decrease resistance to plagues. Nature is cyclical and takes care of everything, wich also explains why Socialism is collapsing with the debt required to sustain it.

AndrewUK
AndrewUK

We have this problem in the UK. I do think that if you are employed by the State (any branch thereof) that should prevent you from sitting on any Boards, committees or anything connected to public expenditure. Nor when you cease being an employee of the State should you be allowed to hold any elected office for at least 5 years after you have left your job.

RA_Joyce
RA_Joyce

I'm curious. If FDR "understood" that public employee unions should not exist, why would he write, in the same letter you quoted, "Organizations of Government employees have a logical place in Government affairs. The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government."

Yes, there are rules, laws, policies, and procedures that limit bargaining and actions that can be taken by private employee unions that should never be taken by public employee unions.

For the record, I hate the union that "represents" me and am glad that I do not have to give them any more money.

RA_Joyce
RA_Joyce

Public employee unions were around long before JFK as witnessed by the letter written by FDR congratulating a public employee union on its twentieth anniversary.

1Julianne
1Julianne

the concept of moral hazard comes to mind regarding public unions. there is inherent moral hazard having public unions, as we have seen first hand over the last few decades.

unions do not own the government. we do.

Gumwars
Gumwars
Stuki
Stuki said: Seriously, dude: You have half of America working themselves up in a frenzy, voting over working conditions they know nothing about, for people they'll never meet, halfway around the world. How hard could it be for US public workers to appeal to the same seemingly universal instinct to meddle in the lives of others? Besides, I've never been unionized. Yet somehow were never enslaved. Nor had my renumeration "completely at the whim of the character of" the leadership of anyone I have ever nominally worked for. Even when those have been nominally public institutions. If you don't like your boss, quit. None of which means unions, per se, can't work in any way, shape or form. The German industrial ones seem to work well. As do, to a good extent, Hollywood ones. But they only work, because they represent a scarce resource with specialized skills; who are both very finely attuned to the overall economic conditions facing their field (knowing how far they can push), and are opposed at the table by people whose every concession comes _directly_out_of_their_own_pocket. So you have hard against hard. Not hard against "well, someone else's kids will pay sometime in the future..." Public Unions fail miserably at the latter. Which is why the conditions are simply not there for them to serve a beneficial purpose. None of which was really FDR's point. Which was rather that public jobs are, in and of themselves, of a nature that makes militant negotiation tactics completely unsuitable. Think cops announcing they'll strike and make no effort preventing the looting of anyone who may have a say in setting their salary...... Prison guards just leaving everyone to escape... Judges staying home until everyone gets off due to lack of a speedy trial...The President and congress sulking over pay, so they don't bother to declare war on an invading army literally crossing the border bound for DC... IOW, the very nature of the kind of jobs that can't be done by private enterprise, render them incompatible with the kind of militant negotiation tactics that may well work fine in a private setting.

Your first paragraph is a strawman. That has nothing to do with the points I brought up. Your second paragraph is an anecdotal analogy and is far from representative of what's out there. Additionally, its a red herring to the points I made.

"Public Unions fail miserably at the latter", this is an unsubstantiated claim. Mish has been quick to point out where public unions create unnecessary drains on the public coffer, but has done little to provide readers with details explaining the circumstances surrounding each event. You are doing the same here. Give examples or stop making baseless assertions.

The issue remains, how do public sector employees achieve fair working conditions absent the ability to organize? Proponents of right-to-work and barring public employees from organizing are quick to claim how unfair those RIGHTS are but fail, in every way, to provide a structure to replace it. How do I, a public sector employee, prevent my employer from creating a hostile work environment through arbitrary discipline and punitive pay scales? What tools do I have at my disposal, other than quitting, to change what you and Mish believe are conditions of employment that bar me from doing anything other than finding a job elsewhere?

Gumwars
Gumwars

You do understand that because Janus was upheld, that future legislation aimed at public employees could be struck down as unconstitutional? Are you further aware that often (as it is in California) that labor orders typically don't apply, in part or their entirety, to political subdivisions, i.e., JPAs and/or public offices/services? In other words, your points don't hold.

Additionally, your reply is an anecdotal analogy; an overestimation of events that occur in one person's memory. Simply because you had no ill recollection of events surrounding a situation does not necessarily mean that your personal example is applicable to all cases. The FACT that public unions exists, some with membership measured in the hundreds of thousands, seems to imply that many other people have had unaddressable grievances with their employers.

Gumwars
Gumwars

@Mish - I find this article, and others of this vein, misleading to say the least. You've deliberately taken FDR out of context for the effect of trying to show that a liberal "agrees" with your view of organized labor. The reality is that the speech your so apt to draw from specifically calls out FEDERAL unions, which is a great many shades different than public unions as a whole.

Out of curiosity, did you read the Janus decision? Have you read Abood? If you agree with overturning standing precedent since 1977, then do you also agree with the fact that under NLRA, public unions are now forced to represent non-paying members because of Janus? I'm surprised that an individual that espouses such libertarian ideals plays lip service to the same interests that are crushing the middle class. Janus wasn't aimed at federal service employees; it was aimed at the states.

Your point about teachers is equally absurd. These people, when pressed to finally strike, have been looking at a decade of shitty pay while watching administrators and board members, that serve no educational purpose, give themselves exorbitant salaries. Does it suck that kids get caught in the middle? Yup. However, what are they supposed to do when all other avenues of diplomacy fail?

To your readers, as you seem unwilling to clarify the point, the FDR passage reference by Mish is in reference to federal employees. FDR was very much a supporter of unions beyond those at the federal level. To indicate otherwise is misleading by omission, or just straight up not being honest.

Mike Mish Shedlock
Mike Mish Shedlock

Editor

FDR not out of context. It is accurate. Federal employees or state employees - no freaking difference. By any rational measure, it applies to teachers and all public employees. FDR was clear and correct. FDR was a supporter of private unions. No question about that.

Gumwars
Gumwars

Then you are either being dishonest or simply haven't read through the references you're quoting. The reference you've provided in this article distinctly captures FEDERAL employees. Further, to say that he was against public unions is a stretch to say the least. August 16, 1937, FDR wrote to the president of NFFE (a union for federal employees) stating in the second paragraph, "Organizations of Government employees have a logical place in Government affairs." He then went on to point out the critical differences of private unions and public ones; in particular that the right to strike is something federal unions should not be granted.

Your whole position here is out of context. You've cherry picked what you want to believe and transplanted it without the benefit of providing your readers the whole picture. The bottom line is that YOU dislike unions and are attempting a weak appeal to authority in order to justify what you can't prove through logical argument. In summary, FDR was silent on public unions at the state level. Your "rational measure" is what you believe and was not spoken by Roosevelt.

The Janus decision was bought by conservative interests to the point the plaintiff in the case entered motions at the lower court levels for the defense to be awarded a victory so an appeal to a higher court could be made. It prevented the unions from entering into evidence how fair share fees were applied at AFSCME until it was heard by the SCOTUS. Give me a break that justice was served. Unless you find pro bono litigation paid for by the Koch brothers under one of the most labor hostile administrations justice.

I was a long time fan of your work Mish. The death of the middle class is the death of America; this is just another nail in the coffin. What you've done is deliberately misrepresent an authority figure with the purpose of making it seem like you are right. At least it's clear, now, what side you're on.


Global Economics

FEATURED
COMMUNITY