Home Class Politics The Public Union Proof That The Progressive State Doesn't Work

The Public Union Proof That The Progressive State Doesn’t Work



The NYT gives us a sorrowful take of how two women doing much the same job in different places gain different amounts of pay. Well, we might think, pay does vary over geography as do costs. But that’s not the real lesson to take away from this, Instead we should ponder why it is that one of the women earns more than the other:

Washington State created a Home Care Quality Authority to serve as the employer of record, and in 2003, the workers represented by the S.E.I.U. negotiated their first contract with the state. Since then, they have successfully renegotiated their contracts several times with the state.

She’s got a union! Huzzah!

But now wait just a little bit. These are state employees. OK, they’re independent but paid by the state. As is the other worker – her Mom – in Arkansas.

So, umm, why does a worker for the state need a countervailing power to protect her from the state?

Sure, we can understand this if she’s working for the bastard capitalists. They merely want to maximise their profit and screw the workers while doing so – as we all know. But government is omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent. It cannot be true that someone working for government is in need of protection from government. Because all those fine folks that make up government simply could not allow it to be that state workers don’t gain adequate wages.

Seriously, come on, this is the Progressive insistence. That getting government to do things saves us from the ravages we endure if the capitalists do them.

But now survey the actual American workplace. Unions in the private sector pretty much don’t exist any more. It is the government workforces that are unionised, making up the vast majority of union members in the country. From that pattern of union existence we have to conclude that government screws the workers rather more than the capitalists do. Otherwise why would people desire let alone need the protection of unions when working for government?

So far just a fun observation of course. But think through it that one step further. If the workers need protection from government power then what about the rest of us? And given that then doesn’t that just screw the progressive project itself?

Which leads to an interesting mind game one can play with one of those said progressives. Public sector unions don’t need to exist because government economic power is a good thing or, alternatively, government economic power is a danger to be protected from as public unions show which does rather mean government not having more economic power……



  1. A union in the for-profit sector has a natural limiter, namely that if they get too rapacious they will kill themselves.

    If you remove that, then you can get the iron triangle (union negotiates rise, some portion of which is dues, some portion of which gets used for lobbying for more rises) and the only limit then is what you can get the government to legislate.

    This would be why unions are now more or less only in government. It’s not that the government unions have increased in number, it’s that the for-profit sector unions have killed themselves.


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