Say Naw to SAW!

A scene from the sit-in
A scene from the sit-in

 What do we want? UNC ANNOYING PROTESTORS FREE!  What do we want? UNC ANNOYING PROTESTORS FREE!  Etc., etc., etc.  Yesterday UNC went a long way towards achieving this, every pedestrian’s dream.  The university has created new guidelines for protesting on campus.  In short, you may not barge into the Chancellor’s office, chant in unison, and sit down like a bunch of hoodlums.  This has, of course, always been understood to be an unwritten rule of protesting, but apparently members of the student organization Students Action with Workers (SAW) did not get the memo. 

Last semester SAW conducted a 16 day sit-in in the Chancellor’s building because the university would not comply with their “demands” that they “stop union busting.” The demonstrations accomplished nothing more than offer fodder for the DTH and discredit the organization as well as its members.  The protest ended with five arrests and no one caring. 

One of SAW’s most immediate concerns is to unionize North Carolina’s public sector.  They consider the fact that public collective bargaining is banned in North Carolina a violation of human rights.  And, they even have the U.N. to back them up.  But what of public sector unions?  Do government employees have the right to unionize?  I am inclined to say no. 

When government unions are formed a few things inevitably happen.  First, the goal of the union is (naturally) to improve wages and working conditions for the government employees.  Therefore, the unions support political candidates that most pander to them.  If he wins, their candidate, in turn, offers the union what it wants.   This results in better wages for the union members, thus allowing for a more affluent union and, by extension, a more powerful union.  In the end, a cycle of never-ending wage increases occur without regard to a free-market pricing mechanism.  The increase in working benefits creates more incentive  for people to enter into government work, and thus  the size of the government-working class is increased.  Of course, private citizens pay the wages.

Government unions have the express purpose of increasing the size of government because it offers job security and privileges.  And, as the government grows and involves itself in more and more markets and sectors its natural tendency, as Milton Friedman explains in Capitalism and Freedom, is to centralize its power.  Therefore, unions become larger and more powerful.  Union bosses thus gain undue leverage over the American political process and over our general welfare.  This is unacceptable.

Barry Goldwater wrote in his book Conscience of a Conservative that if a union is to serve its purpose it must allow that “association with the union is voluntary; the union confines its activities to collective bargaining; the bargaining is conducted with the employer of the workers concerned.”  I feel that government unions would break these three conditions. First, the tendency of public unions is to make membership compulsory.  Second, a government union cannot help but involve itself with political lobbying as well as collective bargaining.  And, thirdly, the tendency of government towards centralization does not allow for bargaining to be conducted in the most efficient manner possible.  These breaches, in my view, eliminate the legitimacy of government unions.

In closing, “Say naw to SAW!”

6 thoughts on “Say Naw to SAW!

  1. Ben Shaver Reply

    I don’t understand how unions are any different than other legal institutions within society. The university, for example, is an organization that makes use of labor, and thus represents the demand-side for labor. A union, on the other hand, is an organization of labor, representing the supply-side of the labor market. Why allow one element of the market to organize and act as a unit while not allowing the other?

    I could imagine one objection being that the demand-side is indivisible and the supply-side is divisible. But why must all laborers act as as individuals? That seems to be the central question. We live in a complexly organized and hierarchical society. Why insist that one element of this society be unable to organize?

    I really would like the answers to these questions, from the conservative standpoint.

  2. jlcrowde Reply

    Exactly! UNC should not be a public institution. The UNC system has a near monopoly on education. It’s aim is to increase the size of government as well as the unions. I mean I’m not that smart about economics yet to answer you theoretically but this is what I sincerely think. The principle is the same on both “sides.”

  3. Ben Shaver Reply

    Oh, the public / private distinction. So its not that there shouldn’t be any “public” unions, but that there shouldn’t be “public” anything.

  4. jlcrowde Reply

    Naw! Naw! I offered three rules for unions, if they are to exist.

    1. membership should be voluntary

    2. they should not involve themselves in politics

    3. They should involve themselves with the most local of employers

    I will let the first one go because, due to time restraints, I offered no research or facts to back up my assumption that there is strong pressure and intimidation involved to join a public union. (although I bet I could find examples)

    As to the second, I take my opinion from Barry Goldwater’s outline in his chapter “Freedom for Labor” in The Conscience of a Conservative. His point is that unions (while good) were not created to serve political interests, but rather economic. And, when union bosses begin spending union money, one, it gives a large amount of political power to a few men, and two, it does not account for the Republicans’ union dues going to pay for a Democrat’s bid or vis versa. This, he feels, is immoral and I agree with him. The Republican or Democrat payed his union dues in order that they might be used in order to aid or keep his position at his specific company. My point was that a public union cannot help but get involved with politics because it is politics…they have a vested interest to keep thier political power or station even if it is inefficient or not a role meant for government.

    Third, a federal or state union or even, I suppose, a city one, cannot help but involve itself with more than local employers. Obviously, for example, teachers unions, due to federal involvement, have a say over dozens of states and hundreds of employers. This creates a large, powerful union with a few men or women at the top who simply hold too much power over millions of people’s lives. For example, a teacher’s strike would involve millions of families if the union was to force its members to act.

    As to UNC, I do not like monopolies. I am sick of people whinning about private monopolies or capitalism and pretending as if government monopolies are okay or that government is perfect. I think public institutions are necessary; I am not an anarchist. But, I believe there are strict boundries by which these institutions should involve themselves. And, having a monopoly on children’s education from kindergarten to college really ticks me off.

    Hope that answers the question more thouroughly.

    • Carrie Reply

      Thanks. I hit you nail on the head. I didn’t mean for this to be a general disicssuon of unions (I’m pro-union, by the way, at least most of the time).I really just wanted to understand what collective bargaining is and why it’s so close to unions’ hearts.So please explain this: If state workers lose collective bargaining, is the state really going to write and sign different contracts with different workers? Do workers for state governments that don’t have collective bargaining have different amounts of vacation time? That seems unlikely. And if workers don’t have collective bargaining, does that mean that *can’t* bargain collectively? I didn’t know that was a right the government could take way. If if workers don’t have that right, who does the government negotiate with. Or is that the point? They just offer a contract and you take it or leave it. Is it like baseball before free agency? (that I *do* understand)

  5. Natalya Reply

    As one to often be enlightened, and as menenoitd before, there can be some good out of some bad. And thanks UJ for an eye opening situation. Although I still question, if you enjoyed what you were doing, and knew there were financial gains within the field why didn’t you look at other educational facilities? That is really what our country stands for. Unfortunately our local University (UNCW) has a similar situation, more than 15 administrative/executives make more than the professors. More than $140k per year and they aren’t teaching!!?? I completely agree this is a flawed system and why our professors aren’t the higher of the paid positions I’ll never understand. Unfortunately this is the demise of our republic. Our government officials can vote themselves a raise, every year. This not only happens in universities and schools but city, county and state government positions. So what did the Union do? Increased your pay as you mention, but what else did it do? Brought attention to to the university, more grant money requested from the state, most likely increased will affect tuition for many years to come. Unfortunately I also worked for a Union, when I was hired for xx amount of dollars per hour during college, I thought to myself, heck ya! But then I on my first pay check, I noticed Union dues, well there went my heck ya feeling. And what does the company have to do when a they pay for the Union, increases their prices to compete in the market. And to my original point, While to some extent, I can see where a Union may be of benefit, I mostly have the stance, there should be no unions. If you feel your pay or benefits are inadequate, go find another job. But if our government is being run properly, a similar position regardless of location, race or gender, should equal the same pay (Unions shouldn’t be required to implement this theory). But here again were in a republic and elected officials can easily vote themselves pay increase without public consent. While I’m happy for you personally, is it really the right thing for our government to write a check to the Union execs? And while a professor in a teaching position is of high stature I also question government position in general, political representatives and their intent? longevity? The government offers quite the pension, which is a rarity in the private sector these days. Even the folks who work for the road system, maintenance crews, and administrative staff who work for the government are getting better financial securities than privately held positions. Which seems a bit contrary to the way it should be. The company I work (pharma) has the same pay for a new person coming into sales regardless of location, gender or race. In addition, we don’t get paid on tenure, contrary to government teaching positions. Meeting objectives, both performance and peer observations is the only way for us to increase our pay. The harder you work, usually come with results and the more you get paid. Again, contrary to the government teaching positions, the longer you work the more you get paid, regardless of any objectives. Unfortunately it sounds like it quite specific to different locations throughout the US. Here again, if I like what I do, but my company were limiting my opportunities and pay, I would look outside the company, but to keep quality and hard working individuals they know what they need to do. The government tenure teaching position is a bit flawed in general and should be evaluated.To our state colleges: My UJ’s point, why are administrators, staff and assistants making more than our professors? Maybe our chancellors and a couple executives (and unfortunately a few coaches), but in reality its our professors that make the difference! God Bless America and our Freedom.

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