A Sentiment for the Times?
Having conducted no research along these lines, I can only speculate, but I wonder whether the sentiments expressed here, by Jason Burns of Johnston, are increasingly permeating the state:
Regarding the May 1 letter “My job working in danger for peanuts”: The problem with unions is that we taxpayers pay members’ salaries, then the members pay union dues to have someone negotiate on their behalf to take more money from the taxpayers.
I work, or rather I used to work, in the private sector and was recently laid off, terminated at the whim of the business’s owners, who brought in a new plant manager. This doesn’t happen to union people. They have a bulletproof vest. They can’t walk in on Friday and be walked out two hours later wondering what happened and how they’re going to feed their family. …
Every year I had to fight on my own, face-to-face at a table with the plant manager and one of the owners, explaining why I deserve a raise of 3 to 4 percent, explaining what improvement I’ve made and what problems I’ve solved. I had to defend my worth, only to see my health insurance go up 5 percent each year, taking my raise and then some. The company matching 401(k) wasn’t bad, but after expenses for a family of four with a mortgage, there wasn’t much left to contribute.
In ways direct and insinuated, Mr. Burns expresses a bit of envy, but that strikes me as being envious of the extortionist. Private sector unions’ proving to companies that they are better off negotiating is one thing. When it comes to the RI public sector, one too often gets the impression that the attitude is “it’s wrong, but let me in.” The ill wind has perhaps changed for the better if that attitude is becoming “it’s wrong, and the game is ending, so I can’t get in.”
The negative impetus is not ideal, of course, but Jason’s description of the private-sector review process is illustrative of the contrast between union and non-union, which offers a more rational reason for change. Employees who know that hard work and demonstrable accomplishments will be their only real leverage come raise time will tend to be more productive; the huge (civically fatal) inefficiencies of government bureaucracy are evidence that unionization inclines the other way.
A fair assessment requires acknowledgment that there are certain automatonic careers in which opportunities to stand out are limited and the value to the company of an employee’s longevity is minimal. In such cases, the union approach makes more sense — not the least because it suppresses the possibility of standing out mainly in willingness to take reckless risks in the workplace. In professions for which experience and individual talent are key and opportunities to prove them manifold — teaching, say — one might be inclined to wonder whether the sorts of people who desire unionization are the sorts of people one wishes to have on the job, especially when their direct managers are subject to ballot-box manipulation and the money to sate their hunger is taken by force of law.