Friday, February 18, 2011

Is collective bargaining such a bargain?

So again, I'm looking at the Wisconsin mess. As one blogger I follow has noted, "Cairo and Athens come to Madison."

The argument I hear from one of the protest participants is that collective bargaining is an important right.

Now, I have never worked in a "collective bargaining" job. I did once work in a grocery store which gave employees an option of joining the union, but I was a minor at the time, and therefore not eligible for union benefits. (Now, the union wanted to sign me up and take a cut of my paycheck anyway, without telling me I wouldn't get any benefits, but thankfully I declined.)

But let's say you've been in the world of collective bargaining, and it looks like that is going to be taken away. Your union managers tell you that you absolutely need collective bargaining, that it's vital to your well-being. You can expect this. It's not your job on the line, it's theirs. Just as I can expect the car salesman to tell me that a lease on a new luxury vehicle is vital to my well-being. For some people, it may be, but in my situation, I think I can do without. Everyone has to make their own decision, in the end.

Two questions come to mind. First, what am I getting for my money? Second, what is my situation really if I decide to do without?

Sure, you can talk about the history of collective bargaining and unions, who much good or harm they may have done for American business and American workers, but in a way, that's all history. What matters here and now is the situation here and now, and that's what I want to look at.

So, what are you getting for your union dues? I'm having trouble finding a single source of information on that. Maybe someone in the union or in Wisconsin could do better, but for now, I'll just have to go with what information I've got.

It looks like you're eligible for a nifty credit union, for one, but then, credit unions are easy to come by these days. Plus, there's no reason that the credit union can't exist apart from the labor union. Ditto for the financial advice services. So, let's just leave that aside.

It looks like the Wisconsin education union spends a lot of money on lobbyists and politicians, more than twice as much as anyone else in the state. You know what I found out recently, though? You don't have to be a full-time lobbyist to lobby your politician. My Beautiful Wife registered as a lobbyist at the state legislature at the beginning of last year. I've written my politicians as a private citizen many times. If you want to donate to a politician's campaign, you can do that without having to go through the union. I'm just sayin'. Plus, it looks to me like the union has just plain made some poor lobbying decisions lately, which may be why they're on the political chopping block. They threw all their support behind one party, and the other party won. Seriously, if you're going to stick your neck out for your union, you better make sure they're doing a good job for you first.

You're paying for someone else to make your case. But if I'm paying for someone to speak for me, I want them to use language I'm comfortable using myself. I'm not comfortable with some of the signs I'm seeing here. It doesn't fit with the "love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you" ethic that I've been taught.

Checking the union's web site, they also spend money on social networking and events, multimedia, and publications. Now again, I work in an environment with no collective bargaining, and I do plenty of social networking and events with my coworkers, and we have plenty of multimedia and publications. So, the union can lose its collective bargaining position and still do all of this.

Let's move on to the "what if I have to do without collective bargaining" question. Now, as I said, I've been outside of the collective bargaining world for my whole career. My situation may seem strange to you, but please trust that I know what I'm talking about.

I am awesome at my job. I work hard, overtime even. My boss knows how awesome I am, how hard I work. He makes sure his bosses know how awesome I am and how hard I work, because it makes him look good. He does his best to make sure I get as good a raise as I can every time employee evaluations come around. Also, he's helping with my career planning. Sure, I've had bosses who weren't so great, but I worked hard, prayed, and landed in a better situation.

That's life in the non-collective world. It's not so scary as you think. Why don't you join me in the non-collective?

On Sesame Street

One of the big items on the discussion table for Federal budget cuts is NPR. Those in favor of NPR are talking about it as "de-funding Sesame Street".

Well, let's look at Sesame Street a moment. I think that if there's a single NPR production that could survive without tax money to help, it would be the show with the Big Bird. Sesame Street is a huge international franchise, and the money made on Elmo toys alone must be worth a sizable fortune.

Here's my devil's advocate question: Do they really need the money they get from our taxes? Or can they get along without it?

We get upset when Wall Street gets tax money, especially when it goes to people who can clearly do without. Why don't we hold Sesame Street up to the same standard? Is it because it's "for the children"? Or is it the cute and cuddly monsters?

I'm not saying that Sesame Street isn't a good cause. They do their job very well, educating and entertaining. But does every good cause need to be directly supported by taxpayer money? That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The economy needs miracles

Two things I ran across yesterday are spinning in my head.

First, I ran across this link. Duquesne University Economics Professor Antony Davies compares the national debt to a household income.

Here's a video from that page:

Watch that. Listen twice to what he says at the end. If you take all of the debt, all of the unfunded promises that have been made in Social Security, Medicare, and so on... If you take all of that, and add it up, it outstrips the economic output of the entire planet.

That's right. Our government has promised to pay more money than exists, more money than can possibly exist. In the world.

Let that sink in.

When I learn this, I think: Ouch. We are screwed.

Now, on to the next thing. An old college "sister" of my wife is in Wisconsin taking part in the protests at the state capital. She posted that the state budget shouldn't be balanced on the backs of state workers. I asked whose back it should be balanced on. She replied, it shouldn't be balanced on anyone's back.

Now, back to the first post. We're in a hole, deep. And digging deeper.

Here are my thoughts, as they flow one to another:
  • There is no way out of this economic mess without miracles. Big miracles. God-sized miracles. We are in a debt that we can't possibly pay.
  • Christ came to this world to pay our debt of sin that we couldn't possibly pay. He paid for it with His life given on the cross. Hold that thought.
  • Miracles require sacrifice. Christ didn't feed the multitudes without someone giving Him a few loaves and fishes. He didn't make wine without water. And again, He didn't pay off our debt of sin without giving His life.
  • Christ made clear that the only sacrifice that is worth His blessing is personal, and with nothing at all held back. If we hold anything back, anything at all, we're like the young man in Matthew 19:16-22, who couldn't bring himself to give all to follow Christ.
  • My job and the talents I exercise at my job are blessings from God. Yes, I work for a bank, but it's only by the grace of God that this bank has resources to pay me. I have a right to expect that my employer will live up to the promises that they have made to me. However, I have no rights before God. He has already given the life of His Son for me. What more would I demand? What more could I possibly ask?
  • I ask, undeserving, that He hold to his promise to care for me and my family, whatever may happen to the bank, or to the state, or to the nation. My sacrifice is that I trust in Him, and use His gifts carefully.
Kyrie eleison!