Sunday 25 Sep 2016

Unions + Money
Matt Seinberg

For the past couple of years, most worker unions have been taking gigantic hits with layoffs, and benefits and wages cut. Though I have sympathy for the women and me, the economic environment and poorly run governments are mostly to blame.

I am sick and tired of hearing about local governments wanting to break, unilaterally, a union contract, without any sort of negotiation. The purpose of a union contract is to protect the rights of workers they represent, so just such a scenario cannot happen.

Often, local government goes to the union leadership and says there are only a few choices. First choice you have is for everyone to take a pay cut for a specific time and no layoffs happen. Second choice is the members have to contribute more to their health care benefits and give up some of their accrued vacation pay. Along with this, any new members will start at a lower pay rate and pay more for their benefits. Now, pick one, there are no other options.

What happens if those two choices meet with disdain and rejection? Mass layoffs will happen, and those people that voted no will lose their jobs and collect unemployment for around two years. For me, being unemployed for the first two weeks is almost like being on vacation, except you don’t go anywhere. If you’re lucky, there’s a pool in the backyard that you soon won’t be able to afford to maintain.

After those first two weeks, depression sets in, and you being to think that you will never find another job as good as the one you gave up. Yes, you gave it up because you voted no. Had you voted yes to those concessions, you would still be employed and be able to keep that pool open, and maintain your lifestyle without making too many sacrifices.

The unions being hit the worse are teachers. In our local elementary school, I know at least five teachers lost their jobs. Where there used to be three kindergarten teachers, there are now two. Class sizes went from around 19 per class to 25. That’s insane! Do these school administrators actually think that one teacher can control all the little rug rats and remain sane?

There is a domino effect going on here. The federal government reduces financial aid to the states, and then the states reduce aid to the local governments, which reduce aid to the schools. Then the best part happens, our taxes go up to make up for the financial aid reductions! This is like a dog chasing its own tail. In the end, the taxpayers foot the bill.

Who are those taxpayers? They are the teachers and government workers laid off because they were making too much money or didn’t have enough seniority to hang on. These folks go on unemployment, and cut back on all unnecessary purchases, like vacations, furniture, new cars and stuff for their home that they may want, but don’t really need now.

The retail stores then suffer from lower sales, and layoffs may occur there too. It’s been reported in the news that this past Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke all sorts of records; that’s great, but what about the rest of the holiday season and beyond?


So what happens when this recession or depression is over? Are all those laid off workers recalled and jump back into their jobs like happy little campers? I doubt it. They are going to be so resentful that their production will never be the same.

What happens when the next contract is up for negotiation? Will the unions then demand back what they have given up in the past, and not get it? Will they go on strike?

Are unions in America as powerful in the 21st century as they were in the 20th century? Unfortunately, they are not, because the balance of power shifted, with big business holding the upper hand. They can easily say if you don’t take what we give you, we’ll outsource all the jobs and you have nothing. That is truly a sad thought.

So remember when you go to your local school and see larger classes, or call a government office and wait on hold for what seems like forever, what is going on and ultimately who is paying: each of us.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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