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Public Transportation Tue Oct 13 2009
This is another example of the trouble the labor movement has. The private sector has carved out a legal regime that makes it easy and painless to bust unions and squash workers' rights to organize in the workplace. Because we don't allow our government to violate a worker's right to organize, it is much easier to organize in the public sector. As a result, we end up with high unionization rates in the public sector and low union density in the private sector. Since public employees get paid by all of us, it is easy to stir up resentment against public sector workers--why should they have it so good? Why should they get defined benefit pensions?
Rather than try to pull everybody up to the decent living standards that public sector workers get, conservatives advocate for dragging everybody else down to the lower living standards. Private sector jobs not covered by collective bargaining agreements, the argument goes, have their value determined "rationally" by the market, whereas union contracts "artificially" inflate wages and benefits. This is of course absurd; collective bargaining agreements are entered into voluntarily, just like any contract, and if using your size and bargaining strength to improve the deal you get is "artificial" then a certain big blue discount super retailer from Bentonville, Arkansas should be the archenemy of conservatives and libertarians everywhere.
Don't be surprised if CTA employees' refusal to give up what they've earned over years--decades--of work ends up being blamed for the fare hikes or service cuts. These workers are very convenient scapegoats. Easier to beat up on people earning the median income than force the powerful to pay their fair share, or make tough decisions.