Sometimes the best defense doesn’t need to be built, it just arrives on a cloud. Such a cloud came floating by just days ago when an AP story caught my eye. I have lamented Union Labor in past columns, but always feel like I need to provide a quick primer nonetheless.
Here you go…my take on Unions. Good idea when it started out. The idea had heart and meant well, to protect workers from abusive wages and conditions, in an era when such abuses were rampant. But it grew into something much different, a kind of overweight drunken beast that was bossy, indignant, increasingly lazy and insatiable in terms of pay, benefits and pensions. Any logical person has had to marvel at the luxurious work packages laid out for union workers of all stripes. It has always, from the outside looking in, seemed too good to be true. And of course, it was…and remains so.
We watched in horror as the beast consumed the American auto industry. Same with steel and hundreds of other manufacturing and service industries. I have been in business for thirty years. A small business, to be sure, the most full time employees I ever had at one time was ten. Still, I have some nominal understanding of profit and loss, of bottom lines and competition. Had I ever found myself in a situation where, as the owner of the business, my labor pool had taken on a power in the business greater than mine…I would have fired everyone and closed the doors.
Some of you will be thinking…”sure, but who protects employees from abuse?” Allright, we need to do that, but not at the expense of losing businesses all together. Everyone knew GM couldn’t pay people $70.00 an hour to install hubcaps, with 8 weeks of vacation, benefits and a pension even government workers would die for. It made no sense. All the money went to labor, not product, and predictably the product began to be regarded as junk, which it was for many years. No big surprise for many of us.
But the Crown Jewel of union contracts must go to the New York City Teachers Union. Just weeks ago, New York finally decided to stop paying teachers to do nothing. You see, per contract, any teacher awaiting disciplinary action or resolution of a complaint, continues to get paid and reports every day to a “rubber room”. The nickname comes from the insanity which can slowly ensue after weeks, months, and in some cases, years go by while teachers await hearings. They play Scrabble and surf the internet. As of this writing there were 650 of them in New York, costing the city over $30 million last year. The “rubber rooms” are really called Reassignment Centers, but too often the “reassignment” is a little slow coming.
You need not know more. This is the kind of ridiculous bureaucratic nonsense that could only take place in a Union or Government program. Private business could never get away with it. We have a bottom line, not a bottomless pit of taxpayer money. Others will point out that 30 million bucks is chicken feed in today’s economy, but it is just that kind of thinking that got us in trouble. We watch every dollar in our household. I expect my government, city or federal, to do the same.
These teachers and the union that creates this kind of magnificent waste should be ashamed of themselves. It’s all about the kids, huh? In a city that is flat broke, with decrepit schools and a deficit of supplies and a dismal record for turning out students of adequate intellect, imagine what could have been bought with that 30 million. How many fresh coats of paint, new chalkboards or text books could have been bought? How many decent teachers could have been paid to be actually…gulp…teaching somewhere?
What a sham. Just a microcosm of the world we live in. And we wonder why we’re falling behind.
Tags: NYC Teachers Union