Friday, April 9, 2010

By any other name

By Littlefish

It is refreshing when something of importance to you, something you have been arguing for years, finally breaches the surface and enters into public discourse. So is the case with Organized Labor. After years of being able to ignore my obscure arguments, they are now front and center in the debate surrounding how to ‘shore up’ the listing, or rather, sinking ships known as State and Local Governments.

It became clear to me that the issue of over-paid, unionized government workers with unsustainable benefit and retirement packages had made it out of the shadow realm of public discourse when even the Los Angeles Times mentioned how “The state's unfunded pension costs totaled $59.5 billion while unfunded healthcare costs were $62.5 billion,” and now we have Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who according to the Wall St Journal “once organized for a teacher's union… and later ran a branch of the American Federation of Government Employees” looking to re-open contract negotiations with city employees in an effort to assuage the city’s financial woes (they’re going broke like the rest of the state). The WSJ also quoted Villaraigosa’s deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo, as having said: "Unions have priced themselves out of a job." Amazing. Even a liberal can notice the obvious.

But not all liberals are quite that sharp of course, for instance, one of my favorite quotes from Presidente Obama in the last year showed how even the top brass of the liberal / progressive movement are completely willing to ignore the obvious in return for a proper payoff. In his speech to the AFL-CIO convention on September 15, 2009, Presidente Obama raised a rallied cry for his assertion that his stimulus package known as the Recovery Act was “a plan that didn’t include any of the usual Washington earmarks or pork-barrel spending. But what it did include was a guarantee to uphold Davis Bacon and pay prevailing wages.” Really, he said that, I watched him; he said it in almost the same breath, without any hint of sarcasm at all. Uphold Davis Bacon? Not the usual pork? Well I suppose if you want to hide something, in plain sight is your best bet.

Tell me, what is not pork about the Davis Bacon act? Davis Bacon is the only pork I don’t like for breakfast.

Prevailing wage is the term they use to remind people how important unions are to working families, how Unions have fought for the workingman. I must say, there is nothing ‘Prevailing’ about the prevailing wage. Ever wonder why public works projects run into the hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars? Prevailing wage is good start. Couple that with politicians issuing contracts to favored constituents outside of any bidding process, and whammo, your tax dollars at work!

Let me set this up…

According to the Washington State Department of Labor and industries, “Prevailing Wage is defined as the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid in the largest city in each county, to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics. Prevailing wages are established, by the Department of Labor & Industries, for each trade and occupation employed in the performance of public work. They are established separately for each county, and are reflective of local wage conditions.” “Public works projects paid for by public funding must pay prevailing wage rates.” The Department establishes this rate and any employee working on a public works project (from one of the chosen job classifications) must be paid the Prevailing wage for that classification. There are many different Prevailing wages depending of course on the negotiating skill of each union affected, such as plumbers and pipe fitters in King County, WA earn a prevailing wage for public works projects of $66.44 an hour, and drywall tapers on the same project earn $48.79 per hour, and those friendly folks with the STOP/SLOW signs on either end of a road project earn $33.93 and hour, before overtime.

I have no intention to judge anyone’s work or ability or worth in so far as each individual has their own worth and deserves whatever rate of pay they can fetch in an open market, but there is where I come to my point… the open market. To me, prevailing wage means, if the job were open to all comers, what would equally qualified persons be willing to do the job for? Which wage would prevail? I know for a fact that I can get someone to work on the plumbing of my building for $30 and hour, $45 tops. Drywall tapers, $15. If I needed someone to stand and hold a stop sign? Well, fixed posts do that job pretty well in most other applications, but I could be convinced there is a high touch necessary to the turning of the sign and allow that someone may, by performing that task effortlessly and flawlessly, be deserving of, say, minimum wage? With reported unemployment around 10%, I am sure the benefit package alone would make that job easily worth $8 or $9 dollars an hour to someone out of work. People would likely be lining up for the job. So, if the job could be done at a far lower price than is required by law, what exactly is prevailing about Prevailing wage? We have to look at the Act that brought us prevailing wage and the stuff it is made of, Davis Bacon… pork.

The incestuous relationship between Unions and politicians is no secret. That “we the people” allow it to go on is just as bad as a mother that lets her child be continually abused by her stepfather. The first conversation between a Union boss and a politician must have gone something like this: “So then, I’ll make a law that forces people to pony up tax money to pay your workers more than anyone else would pay them, you skim a bunch of money off the top for yourself, ‘contribute’ some of that back to me for my re-election campaign, and then next year I can get us both even more money. Man, we can ride this pyramid scheme right to the top!”

Really, this cuts more to the heart of out of control government spending, the bloated and unfunded pension liabilities that governments face are more about actual government workers, not the false wage rates paid to otherwise private workers that work on government projects, but for me, it proves a necessary point. It is so out-in-the-open-obvious what is going on.

If you take in a protest event at the capitol or anywhere a lot of hype has been boiled up, you are sure to see droves of same shirted union employees, chanting off pre-printed cards, holding pre-printed signs, all in unison to attempt to persuade the officials in their offices to do their bidding. A show of force, “this is how many votes we have, and we all agree. See, we even wear the same shirts and rode in on the same union provided busses because we all agree so much! Tax everyone else more so we can continue our little pyramid scheme please.” These days, we are lucky to have the Tea Partiers, or as they have been so lovingly called, the Tea Baggers! (I love it. Tea Bag the D-bags! Thanks Liberty) who at least show up in their own clothes with their own signs and their own concerns. I say we are lucky to have them because it wasn’t really until they showed up and provided a control sample of what non-unionized people (most of the population) are concerned with, that it became so easy to spot the union/politician pyramid scheme in action.

Many liberal friends of mine will argue that we need government to protect us from evil business, and we need unions to protect us from evil business. So tell me then, if both government and unions are the angels the liberals want them to be, why do government workers need to be unionized? Why should you have to protect government workers from themselves?

Now we see the scam at its root. Unions and Liberal politicians need a secure base of income and votes, and unionizing public employees was, really, a brilliant play. Criminally brilliant. Basically extorting tax payers dollars to pay a selected constituency who supports you financially, and at the same time, driving up costs of projects that those same tax payers fund, pushing the need for even further tax and wage increases.

Fortunately, we have laws in this country to protect the public from extortion. That brings me to how we finally get unions and politicians out of bed with one another, unless of course it’s a jailhouse bunk. It is high time to break up their racket.

The most concise explanation of the RICO act I could find comes from a Professor Hinze of the University of Florida, and he states that the RICO act “enables persons financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity to seek redress through the state or federal courts.” And we, my friends, have been perennially “financially injured” by the racketeering of Unions and Politicians. RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Extortion is one of the crimes covered under racketeering.

Unions are extorting politicians for money and votes, politicians are extorting the public for the tax dollars they need to pay off the mob, uh, I mean Unions, and keep themselves in power and the pyramid growing, and honestly, they should all be put in jail. In Jail. Any politician that has ever received campaign contributions from Unions… Jailed. Any union boss that has ever… well… been… should be jailed. Purposefully campaigning to raise taxes to fund a select constituency that is going to support you with the money you raise from taxes to pay them? Racketeering! And the general public is the victim as costs soar out of control.

Attorney Generals across the country need to bring charges under the RICO act against Union bosses and the politicians that accept campaign contributions from them. Any individual union members that renounce the crime syndicate, oops I did it again, I mean Unions that they were a part of can be simply put on probation and charges dropped after a class, and test, on Austrian Economics has been completed, it is the only cure for the Union brainwashing they have endured.

I have no problem with a group of employees meeting together to discuss their grievances with their respective companies, and even standing together as a united front as they approach their boss and request or even demand more favorable pay or conditions, but once you have a paid hierarchy of ‘leaders,’ collecting ‘dues’ (extortion again) in the billions of dollars to fund politicians, and direct them to forge policy that affects the ability of the union to garner even more money and power over their constituents and the non-union public as well, it becomes nothing less than criminal.

You want to save state and local governments? Imprison Union Bosses and the Politicians that feed them, then all union contracts and pension and benefit packages for state and local workers can be thrown out since they were initiated by criminals with criminal intent. Open up the government work force to public hiring, all positions open, anyone can apply for all jobs, and everyone that is currently working for the government can re-apply, but with no guarantee. Then the pension and benefit contracts can finally be renegotiated to sustainable and truly Prevailing levels. Or we can just wait for the states to go bankrupt and everyone in government can lose their job anyway.

New blogger at Redistributing Knowledge!

I am so excited to introduce "Littlefish," a good friend and an excellent writer and thinker. Littlefish has agreed to start blogging here at Redistributing Knowledge, and I could not be happier!

Welcome!