The Spectacle Blog

Unions and their war against the public

By on 4.6.14 | 3:13PM

Thanks to the Cato Institute's Walter Olson, a former colleague of mine, for highlighting public employee unions and their war against the public. Via his Facebook page, Olson gave his characteristically sharp take on an article about a recent train crash at Chicago's O'Hare Airport:

Don't you love unions? "The CTA's contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union authorizes the agency to fire rail operators who have had *two* [emphasis added - W.O.] serious safety violations in a short period of time, and officials said the two incidents when Haywood dozed off qualify her for termination." Falling asleep just once at the controls of a train wasn't enough!

You can read the full story about the crash, which injured dozens, and the subsequent firing of the sleepy train operator who caused it, on CBS Chicago's site. The tale is a dozy doozy. The train operator had been piloting trains only since January, had already caused a train to blow past a station in a previous instance because she had fallen asleep, and had been off for 18 hours prior to the accident. One would think that the correct allowable number of times to fall asleep while operating a train would be zero. But that's why union members and progressives go hand-in-hand. They have no fear of progressively redefining common sense.

Of course this story might leave you with the impression that public sector unions aren't always a friend to the public they supposedly serve. One of my favorite experts on this war against the public is Daniel DiSalvo, a political science professor at the City College of New York and Manhattan Institute fellow. (Disclosure: I once helped to promote a publication of DiSalvo's called "Government Unions and the Bankrupting of America.") DiSalvo frequently writes on how public employee unions are granted special access to the politicians who are supposed to negotiate against them, thus ensuring sweetheart contracts. Furthermore, they create work rules that make it nearly impossible for the taxpayers to get their money's worth. And DiSalvo argues that there is nothing to the old canard that government employees earn less than their private sector counterparts and should thus be entitled to lavish pension and benefit packages. He nicely sums up the argument against left's support for unions in a review he wrote a few days ago for City Journal on a pro-union book called Enough Blame to Go Around: The Labor Pains of New York City’s Public Employee Unions, by Richard Steier:

...[T]he ideological thrust of [Steier's] writing is straightforward statism. The goal, as he sees it, is to transfer ever more resources from the private sector to the public sector. Whether the issue is pay, benefits, or work rules, he seems interested only in preaching to the converted. He never tries to balance the unions’ interests against others—such as those of taxpayers, small businesses, schoolchildren, or the consumers of city services. He refuses to confront the issue of exploding pension and retiree health-care costs, which threaten to displace current government services such as police, fire, and sanitation. In Steier’s world, no limit exists to how much the rich can be taxed to pay for a more opulent public sector, and he’s not interested in comparing the lots of similarly situated public- and private-sector workers. Doing so would have allowed readers to judge how government workers are faring compared with the four-fifths of workers employed in the private sector.

It's worth reading DiSalvo's work to learn more about how unions are derailing the American taxpayer.

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