Do extra homework to learn about public employee unions

Published 9:58 am Monday, April 30, 2012

Upon learning that our municipal employees and a union organizer had met with Mayor Paul Winfield, I couldn’t help but feel a door had slammed shut, never to be opened again.

That meant the union organizer had already established a “us vs. them” attitude with the city employees that is nearly impossible to eradicate. The mayor’s advice to them that, “It’s not the right time” implied “patience, your time will come.” One thing for certain, as citizens, we had better learn all we can about public employee unions.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ranks itself as the second- or third-largest union in the United States. It claims more than 1.6 million members and is part of the AFL-CIO. Most federal employees, with a couple of exceptions, are not represented here because they have their own American Federation of Government Employees union.

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However, the 1.6 million group we would fall into is spread over 3,500 local unions in 46 states, including the District of Columbia. Each of these locals write their own constitution, hold membership meetings and elect their own officers.

It might also surprise you to know that the AFSCME was founded in Wisconsin way back in 1932. At that time most economists, politicians and judges were against unions in the public sector.

We all recognize President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a champion of labor unions in the private sector. But here’s what he had to say about unions in the public-sector: “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an attempt on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of government by those that have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.”

George Meany was the first President of the AFL-CIO at that time and also said, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

Since that time nearly eight decades ago, much has been written of our troubling labor history, as both private and public unions struggled for power.

History has now shown that, for the most part, the Public Employee Unions have won, while the private nongovernment unions have dropped dramatically in membership.

That victory wasn’t occurring only in the United States, many countries around the globe were now finding themselves in similar predicaments with their public employee unions. It has taken us quite some time to recognize that, “the problem down the road” has now arrived.

The public employee unions have established a triumvirate of union organizers, public employees and elected officials. They work together to assure that each is successful in attaining and reaching its desired goals, providing we, the citizens, continue to pay the taxes they work to assign us.

We now know what form the problems ahead of us will take: Eventually, maybe not in this election or next one, or the one after that, but eventually, greed, mismanagement and down right corruption will be our lot. Once locked into our city, state and country — just as it has in other countries — we will be struggling to maintain fiscal responsibility. We have cities that are now declaring bankruptcy, and several of our states are on the very brink, as is the country.

Wisconsin, the state where it all started is one of those. Scott Walker ran for office to save Wisconsin from such a debacle. The unions, both private and public, rose up in anger and now he is the object of a recall election in June. We’ve all watched it on TV and now can see in detail what happens when unions get the power they crave.

We also are watching and marvel at the struggle Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is having with his public employee problems in one of the highest tax rate states in the country.

“If we don’t win this fight, there’s no other fight left,” Christie said. That’s not being melodramatic, just realistic.

The scariest part is that this same scenario is playing out in state after state. New Jersey has an $11 billion budget deficit. Add to this scenario the states of Illinois, New York, Washington and California — and the beat goes on.

Readers, if you doubt any of the above, or if you just want to learn more of the facts of what is going on with our public employee unions, please do what I did and get on the Internet and search for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Labor History in the United States” and “National Affairs — labor unions.”

You can even check out such as the Greek and/or Italian Unions — or any other country. Once you do all this, I have no doubt you will see what Gov. Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Christie have seen: If you love our city as I do, there must never be “A right time” in Vicksburg.

Al Lundin is a guest columnist living in Vicksburg.