Tag Archives: Labor unions

Teachers unions vs. students

From PragerU:

There is a dilemma in American education. On the one hand, teachers are essential to student achievement. On the other, teachers unions promote self-interests of their members which are antithetical to the interests of students. So, how do we fix this problem? In five minutes, Terry Moe, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, delineates this quandary and offers solutions.

View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Wichita teachers union president on video

The president of United Teachers of Wichita has been caught on video expressing thoughts that can’t be comforting to Wichita parents with children in the state’s largest school district. Project Veritas reports on the candid thoughts of Steve Wentz in the story Teachers Union President Admits To Abusing Children.

Based on past Wichita School District investigations, Wentz likely faces a lengthy stretch of paid administrative leave while the district decides what to do. Not long ago the district paid its school safety services supervisor for 15 months while he was charged with aggravated criminal sodomy, aggravated indecent liberties with a child, and indecent liberties with a child.

Steve Wentz Project Veritas example

They really are government schools

What’s wrong with the term “government schools?”

A recent op-ed in the Wichita Eagle read: “Some have begun to call public schools ‘government schools,’ a calculated pejorative scorning both education and anything related to government.”1

This is not the only time people have objected to the term “government schools.” Public schools bristle at use of the term. In a 2008 email from Wichita School Interim Superintendent Martin Libhart to Wichita school employees, he took issue with those who, using his words, “openly refer to public education as ‘government schools.'”2 “Openly refer,” he writes, as though it should be kept a secret.

It’s surprising that liberals and progressives object to the term “government schools.” They like government, don’t they? They want more taxation and government spending, don’t they?

When we think about public schools, we find they have all the characteristics of government programs.

Public schools are owned by government.

Their funding comes almost totally from governmental sources, which is to say taxes. (Isn’t it strange that few will donate to public schools?) If you can’t use the services of public schools and don’t want to pay for them — even if you are also paying for other schools that meet your needs — the full weight of the government will come crashing down on you.

Through laws passed by government, public schools are guaranteed a stream of customers.

Public schools are regulated — heavily — by government.

The members of their “board of directors” (the local school board) are chosen through a governmental process — elections.

Public schools are welcoming to labor unions at the time the private sector is becoming less unionized. In fact, labor unions are becoming a hallmark of government, and government only.3

Accountability of public schools, like other forms of government, is weak.

In sum, public schools have all the negative attributes of government institutions and few or none of the positive characteristics that make markets the source of continuous improvement and innovation. So I guess it isn’t surprising that public school advocates like Merritt object to being lumped in with government in general. But public schools share all the characteristics of government, and government is the worst way to supply services except in a few special instances.

What’s also troubling is how Merritt equates using the term “government schools” with scorn for education. Turning over education to government — with its litany of troubles as listed above — is scornful for children.

Merritt and others want to have the benefits of governmental institutions without accepting the reality of what government means. That’s a shame for Kansas schoolchildren.


Notes

  1. Merritt, Davis. Can traditional conservatism save Kansas schools? Wichita Eagle, May 17, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article77969617.html.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Wichita School Superintendent Martin Libhart: What’s Wrong With “Government Schools?” Available at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/wichita-school-superintendent-martin-libhart-whats-wrong-with-government-schools/.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union Members Summary. January 28, 2016. Available at www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Bob’s shaking his head, Wichita water woes, and the harm of teachers unions

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: There are a few things that make Bob wonder. Then, a troubling episode for Wichita government and news media. Finally, the harm of teachers unions. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 114, broadcast March 27, 2016.

Sales tax revenue and the Kansas highway fund

The effect of a proposed bill to end transfer of Kansas sales tax revenue to the highway fund is distorted by promoters of taxation and spending.

The bill is SB 463. The bill’s fiscal note tells how this bill, if passed, would affect the highway fund: “Beginning in FY 2018, the percentage of state sales tax and compensating use tax distributed to the [State Highway Fund] would be eliminated.” The fiscal note goes on to estimate that the highway fund would receive $553.4 million less sales tax revenue than it would otherwise in fiscal year 2018. (This bill proposed changes to other funds, but here I consider only highways.)

In an email to supporters, Economic Lifelines wrote: “SB 463 would redirect 35% of T-WORKS funding beginning in July of 2017. Passage of this legislation would be a devastating blow to the future of the T-WORKS program.” (Economics Lifelines is a group that lobbies for more spending on highways. Its members are primarily local chambers of commerce, labor unions, construction equipment dealers, and construction material suppliers. In other words, those who benefit from more highway spending, without regard to whether it is needed and wise.)

Former Kansas budget director Duane Goossen was more emphatic, writing: “Watch out! A very dangerous financial bill just surfaced in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, but it was promoted with language that hid the ultimate purpose and effect. Senate Bill 463 permanently transfers more than $500 million annually from the highway fund to the general fund.”1

Goossen has it backwards, however. The proposed bill would transfer nothing from the highway fund to the general fund. It would, however, stop transfers from the general fund to the highway fund.

There’s a difference, and it’s important. The highway fund has no claim on sales tax revenue other than what the legislature decides to send it. That amount has changed over the years. Kansas law specifies how much sales tax revenue is transferred to the highway fund. Here are some recent rates of transfer and dates they became effective:2

July 1, 2010: 11.427%
July 1, 2011: 11.26%
July 1, 2012: 11.233%
July 1, 2013: 17.073%
July 1, 2015: 16.226%
July 1, 2016 and thereafter: 16.154%

(If SB 463 passes as it stands now, on July 1, 2017 the rate would become 0 percent.)

Transfers from Sales Tax to KDOT. Click for larger.
Transfers from Sales Tax to KDOT. Click for larger.
Nearby is a chart showing how many sales tax dollars were transferred to the highway fund. In 2006 the transfer was $98.914 million, and by 2015 it had grown to $511.586 million, an increase of 417 percent. Inflation rose by 18 percent over the same period.3

(It’s important to note that in some years money has been transferred from the highway fund back to the general fund. Worse, in some years KDOT has borrowed money for the highway fund, but it was transferred to the general fund.4)

You’d think that Goossen, a former state budget director, would understand the difference between stopping a flow of funds versus reversing the flow. He claims the latter, and it isn’t surprising to see this mistake. A few sentences in the article let us know Goossen’s ideology, which is that Kansans should be taxed more so that government can continue to spend: “This maneuver does not fix the problem caused by unaffordable income tax cuts, it just makes highways and children pay for it.” First, tax cuts are never unaffordable. It is government that is unaffordable. Tax cuts let people keep more of what is rightly theirs. That is, unless you believe that government has a legitimate claim to your income and assets, as Goossen does. Second, he complains that “recurring revenue does not begin to cover expenses.” That is true. But the proper remedy is to reform and cut spending. Goossen prefers raising taxes.

Economic Lifelines makes the same mistake. We can understand — but not condone — this organization’s motive. It exists for the sole purpose of drumming up support for spending that benefits its members. If its director, who wrote the email cited above, said that Kansas is spending enough or too much on highways, he undoubtedly would be fired.

But what is Duane Goossen’s motivation for twisting the meaning of a bill? That’s a mystery.

KDOT spending on major road programs. Click for larger version.
KDOT spending on major road programs. Click for larger version.
To top it off, spending on highways has increased — notwithstanding the transfers from the highway fund — when we look at actual spending on roads. KDOT’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report shows spending in the categories “Preservation” and “Expansion and Enhancement” has grown rapidly over the past five years. Spending in the category “Maintenance” has been level, while spending on “Modernization” has declined. For these four categories — which represent the major share of KDOT spending on roads — spending in fiscal 2015 totaled $932,666 million, up from a low of $698,770 in fiscal 2010.

  1. Goossen: High Danger Alert: SB 463. Kansas Center for Economic Growth. Available at: http://realprosperityks.com/goossen-high-danger-alert-sb-463/.
  2. Kansas Statutes Annotated 79-3620.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator. Available at http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm.
  4. Voice for Liberty, Kansas transportation bonds economics worse than told. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kansas-transportation-bonds-economics-worse-than-told/.

In Kansas, teachers unions should stand for retention

A bill requiring teachers unions to stand for retention elections each year would be good for teachers, students, and taxpayers.

The bill is SB 469, titled “Recertification of professional employees’ organizations under the professional negotiations act.” It would require that the Kansas Department of Labor hold an election each year in each school district regarding whether the current representation should continue. These elections, in effect, would be referendums on the teachers union, by the teachers. (Update: The bill has been revised to call for elections every third year.)

That’s a good thing. The teachers union monopoly ought to stand for retention once in a while.

The bill has an estimated cost of $340,000 annually, including the hiring of 4 employees. But this is a situation ideally suited for outsourcing to one of the many companies that can perform this work. It would undoubtedly be less expensive and would not require the hiring of employees to do a job that is seasonal in nature.

Further, the professional employees’ organization (union) that represents each district ought to bear the cost of the elections, if they want to continue representing a district.

How effective has the teachers union been in advocating for teachers? In particular, teachers in the Wichita public school district ought to be wondering about the benefit of its union. The contract for this year did not include a pay increase, although the teachers do get some additional time off as the school year was shortened by two days. (Which makes us ask: Where is the concern by the board or teachers for the welfare of the students?)

Wichita public school  salaries and change. Click for larger.
Wichita public school salaries and change. Click for larger.
As far as performance over time, since 2008 teacher salaries in Wichita rose by 2.6 percent. Salaries for principals rose by 8.1 percent over the same period. Statewide, the increase in teacher pay was 7.7 percent, and for principals, 10.9 percent.

On top of that, the Wichita teachers union takes credit for providing benefits that aren’t really benefits, such as when it promoted that only United Teachers of Wichita members would receive a copy of the employment agreement. In reality, it is a public document that anyone has the right to possess.

There are many reasons why Kansas schoolteachers might be unhappy with their current union representation, including:

Creating an adversarial environment for public schools in Kansas. Instead of cooperating on education matters, the union foments conflict with taxpayers.

Forcing professional employees to work under rules more suited for blue-collar labor.

Working to deny Kansas teachers a choice in representation. 1

Promoting a false assessment of Kansas schools that is harmful to Kansas schoolchildren. 2

Forming a task force to promote a false grassroots impression of support for the teachers union, complete with pre-determined talking points on a secret web page. 3

Encouraging party-switching to vote in primary elections to protect union members’ “professional interests.” 4

Constant drumbeat for more school spending without regard to competing interests and taxpayers.5 and taxes to support it.6

Opposing the introduction of a modern retirement system, instead preferring to saddle Kansans with billions of dollars in debt.7


Notes

  1. Weeks, B. (2013). Kansas teachers union: No competition for us. Voice For Liberty in Wichita. Available at: https://wichitaliberty.org/education/kansas-teachers-union-no-competition-for-us/.
  2. Weeks, B. (2016). Kansas schools and other states. Voice For Liberty in Wichita. Available at: https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/kansas-schools-and-other-states/.
  3. Weeks, B. (2014). Our Kansas grassroots teachers union. Voice For Liberty in Wichita. Available at: https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/kansas-grassroots-teachers-union/.
  4. Weeks, B. (2012). KNEA email a window into teachers union. Voice For Liberty in Wichita. Available at: https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/knea-email-window-teachers-union/.
  5. KNEA – School Funding . (2016). Knea.org. Available at: http://www.knea.org/home/366.htm. Accessed 8 Mar. 2016.
  6. KNEA – Taxes and Revenue. (2016). Knea.org. Available at: http://www.knea.org/home/368.htm. Accessed 8 Mar. 2016.
  7. Weeks, B. (2011). KPERS problems must be confronted. Voice For Liberty in Wichita. Available at: https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kpers-problems-must-be-confronted/.

Machinists Union has been bad for Wichita

The Machinists Union hasn’t been very good for Wichita.

Besides destroying the jobs of some 2,100 Boeing workers in Wichita when the company fled to somewhere with lower labor costs, it seems that the local Machinists Union in Wichita may be stealing from its members. KAKE Television quotes union members using the word “embezzlement,” with one saying the unions is “three and a half million dollars in arrears.” (Machinists Union members hear investigation findings, February 22, 2016)

The union members still with jobs may have thought they were the lucky ones. That is the economic effect of labor unions, after all. By driving up the cost of labor, less is demanded. So union workers who still have jobs are doing better than they would otherwise — that is, until their leadership steals from them, allegedly. Or until the company employs no one, as does Boeing in Wichita.

The 2,100 Boeing workers without jobs in Wichita because of the union’s effect — well, at least the union isn’t able to steal from them, allegedly.

Wichita teacher contract: For union members only?

United Teachers of Wichita logoIn a pitch to increase membership, United Teachers of Wichita promotes an exclusive benefit: “Only UTW members receive a copy of the Teachers Employment Agreement (contract).”

I don’t know why the Wichita teachers union would promote the contract as an exclusive benefit. It is a public document. You may read it here.

Kansas minimum wage hike would harm the most vulnerable workers

A bill to raise the minimum wage in Kansas will harm the most vulnerable workers, and make it more difficult for low-skill workers to get started in the labor market.

Legislation introduced by Representative Jim Ward of Wichita would raise the minimum wage in Kansas by one dollar per hour each year until it reaches $10.25 per hour in 2018. The bill is HB 2012, captioned “enacting the Kansas working families pay raise act.”

The caption of the bill, referencing “working families,” hints at the problem, as seen by progressives. The minimum wage does not generate enough income to raise a family. While the bill calls for raising the minimum wage, it makes no reference of whether workers are raising a family, or working part-time for pin money while in high school.

But aside from that, there is the important question to consider: Will raising the minimum wage help or harm low-wage earners? And are the policy goals — taken in their entirety — of the groups pressing for a higher minimum wage in the best interest of workers? The answer to these questions is that higher minimum wages harm low-wage workers and low-skilled people who would like to work.

The great appeal of a higher minimum wage mandated by an act of the legislature is that it seems like a wonderfully magical way to increase the wellbeing of low-wage workers. Those who were earning less than the new lawful wage and who keep their jobs after the increase are happy. They are grateful to the lawmakers, labor leaders, newspaper editorialists, and others who pleaded for the higher minimum wage. News stories will report their good fortune.

That’s the visible effect of raising the minimum wage. But to understand the entire issue, we must look for the unseen effects.

The not-so-visible effect of the higher wage law is that demand for labor will be reduced. Those workers whose productivity, as measured by the give and take of supply and demand, lies below the new lawful wage rate are in danger of losing their jobs. The minimum wage law says if you hire someone you must pay them a certain amount. The law can’t compel you to hire someone, nor can it compel employers to keep workers on the payroll.

The difficulty is that people with lose their jobs in dribs and drabs. A few workers here; a few there. They may not know who is to blame. Newspaper and television reporters will not seek these people, as they are largely invisible, especially so in the case of the people who are not hired because of the higher wage law.

In the real world, business owners have many things they can do when labor becomes more expensive. Some things employers do to compensate for higher labor costs include these:

  • Reduce non-wage benefits such as health insurance.
  • Eliminate overtime hours that many employees rely on.
  • Substitute machines for labor. We might see more self-service checkout lanes at supermarkets, more automated ordering systems at fast food restaurants, and more use of automated telephone response systems, for example.
  • Use illegal labor. Examples include paying employees under the table, or requiring work off-the-clock.
  • Some employers may be more willing to bear the risks of using undocumented workers who can’t complain that they aren’t being paid the minimum wage.
  • Some employers may decide that the risks and hassles of being in business aren’t worth it anymore, and will close shop. Others simply can’t afford the higher wages and close. The Wall Street Journal reported on a nonprofit restaurant that couldn’t survive under Michigan’s higher minimum wage, reporting “These unintended consequences of a minimum wage hike aren’t unique to small towns in south-central Michigan. Tragically, they repeat themselves in locales small and large each time legislators heed the populist call to ‘raise the wage.'”

If we are truly concerned about the plight of low-wage workers we can face some harsh realities and deal with them openly. The simple fact is that some people are not able to produce output that our economy values very much. They are not very productive. Passing a law that requires employers to pay them more doesn’t change the fact that their productivity is low. But there are ways to increase productivity.

One way to increase workers’ productivity is through education. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that our public education system is failing badly.

Capital — another way to increase wages — may be a dirty word to some. But as the economist Walter E. Williams says, ask yourself this question: who earns the higher wage: a man digging a ditch with a shovel, or a man digging a ditch using a power backhoe? The difference between the two is that the man with the backhoe is more productive. That productivity is provided by capital — the savings that someone accumulated (instead of spending on immediate consumption or taxes) and invested in a piece of equipment that increased the output of workers and our economy.

Education and capital accumulation are the two best ways to increase the productivity and the wages of workers. Ironically, the people who are most vocal about raising wages through legislative fiat are also usually opposed to meaningful education reform and school choice, insisting on more resources being poured into the present system. They also usually support higher taxes on both individuals and business, which makes it harder to accumulate capital. These organizations should examine the effects of the policies they promote, as they are not in alignment with their stated goals.

If it were possible to increase the prosperity of everyone by simply passing a law, we should do it. But that’s not the way the world works regarding minimum wage laws.

Who is harmed?

Walter Williams explains who is most harmed by minimum wage laws, and also the politics:

How about the politics of the minimum wage? In the political arena, one dumps on people who can’t dump back on him. Minimum wages have their greatest unemployment impact on the least skilled worker. After all, who’s going to pay a worker an hourly wage of $10 if that worker is so unfortunate as to have skills that enable him to produce only $5 worth of value per hour? Who are these workers? For the most part, they are low-skilled teens or young adults, most of whom are poorly educated blacks and Latinos. The unemployment statistics in our urban areas confirm this prediction, with teen unemployment rates as high as 50 percent.

The politics of the minimum wage are simple. No congressman or president owes his office to the poorly educated black and Latino youth vote. Moreover, the victims of the minimum wage do not know why they suffer high unemployment, and neither do most of their “benefactors.” Minimum wage beneficiaries are highly organized, and they do have the necessary political clout to get Congress to price their low-skilled competition out of the market so they can demand higher wages. (Politics and Minimum Wage)

The role of labor unions

Labor unions favor higher minimum wages laws. Why? Here’s what one union said in making its argument: “However, not only is $9/hour a step in the right direction, it is also good for union members, who stand to seek even greater wage increases in their contracts, if they make more than the current minimum wage of $7.25.” ( United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).)

For more on this, see Why Unions Want a Higher Minimum Wage: Labor contracts are often tied to the law — and it reduces the competition for lower-paying jobs.

Minimum wage as competitive weapon

We also need to examine the motivations of business firms that support a higher minimum wage. Sometimes they see a way gain a competitive advantage.

In 2005 Walmart came out in favor of raising the national minimum wage. Providing an example of how regulation is pitched as needed for the common good, Walmart’s CEO said that he was concerned for the plight of working families, and that he thought the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour was too low. (“Working families.” That’s in the caption of the proposed Kansas law. It’s no coincidence.) If Walmart — a company progressives love to hate as much as any other — can be in favor of increased regulation of the workplace, can regulation be a good thing? Had Walmart discovered the joys of big government?

The answer is yes. Walmart discovered a way of using government regulation as a competitive weapon. This is often the motivation for business support of regulation. In the case of Walmart, it was already paying its employees well over the current minimum wage. At the time, some sources thought that the minimum wage could be raised as much as 50 percent and not cause Walmart any additional cost — its employees already made that much.

But its competitors didn’t pay wages that high. If the minimum wage rose very much, these competitors to Walmart would be forced to increase their wages. Their costs would rise. Their ability to compete with Walmart would be harmed.

In short, Walmart supported government regulation in the form of a higher minimum wage as a way to impose higher costs on its competitors. It found a way to compete outside the marketplace. And it did it while appearing noble.

Labor unions have harmed our standard of living

This Labor Day, as progressives promote their protection and advancement of workers, let’s become aware of the harm that labor unions have caused. George Reisman summarizes:

Far from being responsible for improvements in the standard of living of the average worker, labor unions operate in more or less total ignorance of what actually raises the average worker’s standard of living. In consequence of their ignorance, they are responsible for artificial inequalities in wage rates, for unemployment, and for holding down real wages and the average worker’s standard of living. All of these destructive, antisocial consequences derive from the fact that while individuals increase the money they earn through increasing production and the overall supply of goods and services, thereby reducing prices and raising real wages throughout the economic system, labor unions increase the money paid to their members by exactly the opposite means. They reduce the supply and productivity of labor and so reduce the supply and raise the prices of the goods and services their members help to produce, thereby reducing real wages throughout the economic system.

The full article is Labor Unions Are Anti-Labor.

WichitaLiberty.TV: For whose benefit are elections, school employment, wind power, unions, unemployment

Wichita City HallIn this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The controversy over the timing of city and school board elections provides an insight into government. Then: Can a candidate for governor’s claims about Kansas school employment be believed? Wind power is expensive electricity, very expensive. A Wichita auto dealer pushes back against union protests. Finally, what is the real rate of unemployment in America? Episode 36, broadcast March 23, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.