It seems the folks over at the new Williamson County Employee's Association are very worried that we might think the WCEA is a union, and are adamantly protesting the reference on their blogsite. The WCEA claim is that since they can neither strike nor engage in collective bargaining, they are really just loveable, harmless, little fuzzballs. All they want to do is give out scholarships, “create unity among employees,” “foster complete cooperation” (emphasis added)between the county and its employees, and oh yeah, make sure they get raises and tax-payer funded cadillac-level benefits.
The definition of a union?
An association, combination, or organization of employees who band together to secure favorable wages, improved working conditions, and better work hours, and to resolve grievances against employers.
Since founding the WCEA, Royger Harris, an employee of Jana Duty's County Attorney office, and other members have been complaining loudly about not getting pay raises and having to contribute more to their own health insurance plans. They are unmoved by the fact that many of us in the private sector have faced unemployment, significant pay reductions, and have already been working to adjust to increased health care costs. WCEA members are lobbying the Commissioners Court to raise tax rates on Wilco residents to pay for county employees' raises and to contribute more to employee healthcare. In the tired, overused argument that inevitably attaches itself to every proposed tax hike, WCEA members whine that the monthly tax increase is "only the price of a Happy Meal at McDonald's!" Frankly, I don't care if it IS the price of a Happy Meal, the extra tax is still a redistribution of my hard-earned money.
Furthermore, while they may not be able to engage in collective bargaining, the WCEA is also demanding a seat on the benefit committee board. And, as Royger Harris recently admitted, the WCEA does have a political aspect in that it will be promoting certain candidates it deems to be 'deserving.' Never mind that these goals are identical to those of other public sector unions.
As the saying goes, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it must be a duck."
Public sector employee unions are not terribly common in Texas, a 'Right to Work' state. Nationally, private sector unions have been steadily decreasing in membership and now claim only 7% of the private workforce, but public sector union membership has grown to over 37%. According to Michael Barone, public sector unions are especially effective due to their unique 'collusive' character:
Public-sector unions strive to elect their management, which in turn can extract money from taxpayers to increase wages and benefits and can promise pensions that future taxpayers will have to fund.
Lately, economists have identified public sector unions as major contributors to the economic woes of states like California, and a full one-third of the 2009 stimulus package went to bolster these unions. If Texas and Williamson County are to continue to tout economic strength, it will be necessary to keep taxes low and resist the unreasonable demands of these 'union lite' groups. The Commissioner's Court should ignore all the quacking and stay the course of fiscal responsibility.
For a great related article, check out Taxpayer Beware, regarding the coming local government tax increases in Texas.