That Wisconsin Battle? Why Don’t We Just Unionize Everyone Instead?

Like most HR folks, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Wisconsin’s budget issues and the battle with state employee unions.

Here in Michigan, (and really, every state in America) we are facing almost the exact same issue.

Public employee unions have done so well in negotiating over the years (or I could say, the state HR folks and our elected politicians have done such a bad job managing the “business”), that they’ve bankrupted most states.

Here are some thoughts on this from a recent article  — “Public Unions: A Bad Deal for the Public“:

Wisconsin is nearly bankrupt. There is a $137 million shortfall in the fiscal year that ends June 30 and a projected deficit of $3.6 billion for the two years after that.

The deficit cannot be closed without trimming the pay and benefits of public employees. In 2008, these accounted for half of all state and local government spending, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. If government workers were paid the same as equivalent private sector workers, no state would have a budget deficit, calculated blogger George Noga, a certified public accountant.

Gov. Walker wants public employees in Wisconsin to contribute roughly half as much, proportionately, to their health plans and pensions as do workers in the private sector. The governor also wants to restrict public employee unions to bargaining for wages only, leaving the health and benefit packages and work rules up to elected officials to decide. And he wants the state to stop collecting dues for the unions, and to require them to win recertification elections each year.”

Here’s who you should blame

I guess as an HR Pro, I’m looking for someone to blame, so here it is: I blame my Grandparents.

You should, too. What the heck, old or dead, they can take the blame.

Plus, it’s really their fault. They were the ones who made us believe you can work 30 years (sometimes with little or no education) and can be paid a good enough wage to have a three bedroom/two bath house, a summer cottage on “Lake Unions-killed-us-slowly”, then upon retirement at that ripe old age of 50, the company or public organization you worked for would keep paying you a pension for the next 30 years – or maybe even longer with that great medical insurance they were paying for as well.

Damn you, Grandma!

One simple solution: unionize everyone

So clearly, we are collectively a society too stupid to understand this issue. But I think I can help educate everyone with one simple solution. Let’s unionize everyone – I mean everyone – every single occupation from CEO to the janitor, and every single person will get a great wage, great benefits, and full retirement after 30 years.

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Sounds great doesn’t it?  Oh, you know the UAW, et al. are ready to make me President right now (wait a minute – no I’ll answer that call later).

One question I have, however, is this:  how long until we go bankrupt as a society? What do you think? I’ll give it 13 seconds. We can all enjoy the same pay benefits and pensions as the unions for 13 seconds – hope you liked it!

I know how we got here. I’ve gone though my labor relations courses, so I know the history.

The issues that what we faced 50, 60, 70 years ago, are not what we face now. We created a system that is unsustainable, not only in the private sector (hello GM!), but also in the public sector (hello teachers, government workers, and guys making $42K a year holding the sign on the highway to ”Slow Down”).

We’re done. And damn it, Grandma, it’s your fault!

This post was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


2 Comments on “That Wisconsin Battle? Why Don’t We Just Unionize Everyone Instead?

  1. The states are bankrupt because they’re forced to out-tax-break each other to attract jobs and industry. If we all paid in taxes what we were paying even 20 years ago from a percentage standpoint, we would probably be fine. I’d gladly pay more in taxes, on my $40k/year job, if I could get some semblance of health care that doesn’t require 100 phone calls and 13 forms in triplicate, and if the same tax rate would be applied to capital gains taxes. Please stop blaming working people, who would like to make a decent wage so they can send their kids to college and better themselves (even though they’ll probably have to live like permanent college students, since student loan $ are out of control). Follow the money. I don’t know any “rich” public employees.

  2. If we are going to go historical (not hysterical) on the problems labor is facing then we should also point out that HR has rarely been in the forefront of what happens in labor relations outcomes. For the most part it was management (both in private and public) that would push the agendas and HR folks would figure out how to make it happen. With that said, it is always a sad day for me when HR professionals start spewing babble and pointing fingers – is that what we want our profession to be known for? There is no simple answer to this huge problem and I do not assume to know all of them. But this is what I know for sure – HR needs to reinvent our image and our stance on this issues and not revert to posturing ourselves on outdated views of employee/management relationships.

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