Straight Talk
JERRY AGAR - Time to abolish public unions?

Teachers took to the streets, abandoning their classrooms on Dec. 10, 2012 in Timmins, ON.

Credits: KYLE GENNINGS/TIMMINS DAILY PRESS/QMI AGENCY

JERRY AGAR | QMI AGENCY

Here is a solution to the teachers’ strikes — abolish public unions.

It isn’t a new idea, nor is it a radical one when you consider that union leaders and politicians once believed it unthinkable that we would have public unions in the first place.

George Meany, the former president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations said in 1955, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” What did he mean by that?

James Sherk wrote in the New York Times, “The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers, however, don’t generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money.” According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 there were in excess of 1.3 million people employed by some level of government in Ontario. Add in their adult family members and that is a huge voting bloc, particularly when there may be just over 4 million people voting in total in a provincial election.

What is the incentive for most politicians to go head to head with the unions for the taxpayer, since the unions can vote them in or out eventually?

NHL players have a union and some labour difficulty at the moment. As a fan that may bother you, but that is the extent of your involvement as you won’t be charged for games not played. You don’t pay the players; they don’t work for you.

It isn’t likely that the public will be much affected by most labour negotiations in the private sector. If ABC Widget Corp. is shut down by a strike, unless it is in a “company town” the whole affair is only of passing notice to the general public.

But if the city workers go on strike and the garbage piles up, it is the people who suffer. Too often politicians like former Toronto Mayor David Miller simply caves in and gives the unions what they want.

It may seem the teachers in Ontario are striking against the government, but as Sherk reminds us: “When government unions strike, they strike against taxpayers. Franklin Delano Roosevelt considered this ‘unthinkable and intolerable.’”

When teachers strike they won’t be paid, but you won’t get a break on your taxes, nor will the teachers pay for your extra day care expenses. There will be no return on the days lost in your child’s education.

The law now favours the union side of negotiations. The teachers who are taking action these days against children and taxpayers have no contract, yet they “own” the right to the job. Ontario cannot replace them with the unemployed teachers in Ontario who would very likely be happy with the deal teachers had a decade ago, minus the sick days.

How did those laws come to be? Politicians forgot they represented the “other side” and happily sat down at the table to give the unions what they wanted. Many politicians proudly declare themselves on the side of labour, but that isn’t their job.

At one time people took government jobs for security, not for golden retirements and high wages. Now they get all of it and they want more.

Legendary union leaders and the darling of the left, FDR, once thought public unions anathema to a functioning government. They were right.

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