Why Is No One Mentioning Unions?

I try to avoid all things political, but the recent mayhem required me to give it some attention. And I couldn’t help noticing that almost no one is addressing a fundamental factor in most of it: The unions.

Whether we like or dislike unions (I have mixed experiences, as I suppose most people do), they are a major factor in our recent events, and bear some attention. And so I’ll get the ball rolling.

The Police Unions

A few people have mentioned police unions following the sadistic murder of George Floyd, but let’s be clear on this: All the cops who kill people then get their jobs back are so privileged because of their unions. (And this, by the way, is actual privilege.)

Police unions have tremendous power over the municipalities in which they operate, and get their way nearly all the time. County commissioners and the like dare not cross them, because the union bosses will get other unions to join in opposing them, will have them portrayed in the press as hating their “heroes in blue,” and will likely ruin them.

The unions are enriched by dues, of course, and justify that by protecting their dues-paying members… the further the better.

Notice, please, that I haven’t mentioned the safety of people thus far. That’s because it’s a secondary concern. In the calculations of power, the citizenry matters only when they affect larger things, like when they riot, or when they as so stirred-up by media reports that will cost political offices. That’s when bad cops are fired, and very seldom before.

Without police unions intimidating politicians, it’s likely that George Floyd, Eric Garner, Duncan Lemp and many others would still be alive.

Teachers Unions

Not every municipality has teachers unions, but all the major urban centers do. Teachers unions, like police unions, protect their dues-paying members fiercely. There’s a reason why American schools spend $15,424. per student per year (according to Corey DeAngelis at Cato), while producing poor and declining results.

Here’s a great illustration of the problem, and in it you’ll see a parallel to police unions:

Back in the 1990s, the Secretary of Education visited the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, and they had a conversation that went about like this:

Secretary: So, how do you handle bad teachers?

Union leader: We don’t have any bad teachers.

Secretary: I understand, you train them well, but you have thousands of teachers in your union; some small percentage of them have to be bad. How do you deal with those?

Union leader: We don’t have any bad teachers.

And again, the unions have so much practical power that politicians are hopeless as a mitigating force.

Government Employee Unions

It would be hard to over-state the power of government employee unions. There will be no true “draining of the swamp” so long as these outfits retain their power. Take everything we’ve said above and multiply it, if you want to understand government employee unions.

Pension Fund Insolvency

A large number of states and municipalities are hopelessly insolvent, with the worst cases where unions hold the most power. And the real fiscal pain comes in the form of pension obligations. Unions demand rich pensions, get them locked into law, and never back down. Politicians have catered to them in hope of more votes. Union members, clinging to over-sized wages, do as the union advises. And so, state and municipal budgets are permanently broken.

The Big Picture

Having been empowered by legislation and policy over the 20th century, and riding on a series of effective narratives (Robber Barons, the Triangle Shirtwaiste fire, Caesar Chavez and so on), unions have amassed power on top of power. And like all narrow-minded and amoral power, they’ve over-fed to the point of destroying their food sources.

Bear in mind that I have no prescription for this and that I don’t want any further involvement. But if my neighbors want to deal with the present situation, seeing the structure of the problem is essential. Otherwise we’re blown from one opinion to another by each new narrative.


Paul Rosenberg


3 thoughts on “Why Is No One Mentioning Unions?”

  1. I was hired by a major firm to maintain complex electrical and electronic systems. Within 6 months, my employer was able to eliminate the use of contractors. I had brought the repair operations “in-house” thereby saving my employer a considerable amount of money.
    My employer decided to reward me with a substantial “raise”. All went well until my “union” (who I was FORCED to belong to) found out about it. My “union’s” position was “if he gets a raise, everyone else in the bargaining unit must get a raise”. My “raise” was promptly rescinded. Efforts by my employer to create another “bargaining unit” job classification was met with hostility by my “union”. Here I am, FORCED to pay “union dues”, to a “union” that is keeping me down.
    It took TWO YEARS, upon the expiration of the “contract” , for me to get my “raise”.
    I have no use for unions and can stand on my own when it comes to my value to my employer.

  2. Low level city council person here. During the recession I met with our local sheriff to try to reduce costs so the city wouldn’t go bankrupt. He refused. Said he would go to papers and create perception of increased crime and it would be all my fault… they all make minimum $200k/year w/ benefits.

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