The Unions Cannot Survive a Perpetually Down Economy
The thing that most irks me about unions in general and public-sector unions in particular is their way of obscuring natural alliances for the benefit not of their members, but of their organizers and political allies. Now, I can’t speak to the in-fights that union discipline may be keeping out of public view (although I suspect many union readers just chuckled at the notion of such organization), but the workers should realize and begin reacting — soon — to the dire straits into which their leaders are steering them.
Consider this ho-hum article about inadequate funding for public-sector unions in Rhode Island:
The study shows that Rhode Island has no reserves for state employees’ retirement benefits and handles them on a pay-as-you-go basis. …
Karpinski, who oversees the state’s pension plans but not other retiree benefits such as health insurance, said that due to some pension reform measures and full annual payments to the plans, the state system is on the road to recovery. But, he stressed, the key question is, can it keep the momentum given the tough financial times the state is facing?
As Rhode Island government and political structures are currently compiled, state workers must begin to consider the possibility that their pensions will evaporate entirely. There are no reserves, and “catching up” requires an economic recovery that nobody sees on the horizon — nobody, that is, who hasn’t been seeing one on every horizon for the past two years. If the state responds per its habits and attempts to squeeze more revenue out of residents and businesses, they will leave, and leave the state worse off for it.
The only long-term hope for the unions is to become free-market advocates extraordinaire, with a little bit of faith in the winds of economic freedom. Rather than sticking by the tried-and-doomed alliances that have left them trying to subsist off a rotting economic carcass, they must realize that, when times are flush, nobody cares much about their greatly remunerative deals. Lower taxes. Eliminate mandates. Erase regulations.
Private citizens are only loosely tied to the state. Union members are lashed to it with career investments and retirement plans. They need the economy to take off. The reason for optimism is that Rhode Island is such a naturally attractive place to live and do business that throwing of the unnecessary governmental weights will make recovery light work. The reason for pessimism is that union culture leaves labor leaders’ way of doing business as secure as, well, as secure as established politicians in Rhode Island.