Thursday, March 10, 2011

It sounds fair, but it's not.

Via Rachel Maddow I learn that the Wall Street Journal is congratulating Governor Scott Walker for his victory in eliminating collective bargaining. Which seems to me is pretty much central to a union having any power at all. But it's one provision of the legislation that's been bugging me, and it's one the WSJ crows about:

"Unions can still bargain for wages, but annual increases can't exceed the rate of inflation."

Which sounds sort of fair, right? If someone is promoted or changes jobs, their salary can adjust to accommodate, but for the union as a whole, wages of public employees would be capped by inflation, which seems on the surface to be equitable. But what if one of the public sector unions contains an expertise that becomes more valuable because of changing market conditions?

Let's say you're a sharp union leader and you believe the future is in technology x. You inspire/convince your rank and file to embrace this technology and you turn out to be right and your union now has a very valuable new skill. One that your state desperately needs.

And you can't negotiate to be compensated in line with the way the market values that skill? Isn't that punishing people for doing what conservatives tend to say to working people who are worried about falling out of the middle class?: 'Get educated, develop new skills, be competitive in the marketplace." What's the incentive for unions to push workers to improve themselves, if they can't be benefit from it? Seems very anti-capitalistic to me.

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