I don't know how many wars are going on right now, beyond the three we are involved in. There have been wars going on since there has been writing to record them. Yet which war, which theater and army did Jack Kelly today choose use as a metaphor for the state of unions today? World War II, the Russian front and the Wehrmact. Kelly chose to compare American unions, public service unions including the police, fire personal and emergency medical technicians who ran into the twin towers to the Nazis. Actually, it must be a delicious comparison, the Nazis and communists killing each other.
All right, so maybe I am going a bit overboard there. But in all of Kelly's column today, he never once mentions that the unions he is talking about include public service unions we used to consider heroes. Police, fire, emergency medical services and teachers. Either we think they are doing important work (sometimes heroic) or not. At the very least, I take exception to comparing police and teachers to Nazis (OK, so I didn't like some of my teachers, but they weren't that bad).
Now, I have admit the collective bargaining model appears to have some problems. Unions have certainly shown the tendency to act in their own interest over their employer, and to some extent to act in the interest of their most senior members over the membership as a whole. This can be particularly problematic when the employer is the taxpayers of a city, county, state or the nation.
That said, I think that if governments, local or national, made promises in the past, even if they were merely passing the buck to the future, we need to honor the promises. They won't last forever. For current public service employees, we do need to transition to defined contribution in health and retirement benefits. And although I am not sure what this would means for collective bargaining, but possibly salaries for public service employees need to be tied in some fashion to local salaries in private industry for people with similar qualifications (in experience and education). Of course, doing that might bring the salaries up for teachers, but if that's fair?
Kelly may be right, that public service unions are in danger of being dismantled, and thus the Democrats may lose a lot of funding. And I guess since Kelly seems to have bought into the Tea Party ideology, he thinks having just one party would be just fine. We could call the party the Nationalist Capitalist party.
Watch out, Sudetenland.