Letters to the Editor

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By Democracy Readers

Tagged Unions

Private Employees Only

I am a former United Auto Workers (UAW) member and come from a family of union members. My father and sister both were lifelong members of the UAW. My grandfather was a machinist. My other grandfather was a railroad worker. My uncle was a member of the UAW and the bricklayer’s union. Another uncle was a Teamster. Various cousins also were members of unions.

Notice I didn’t mention anyone who worked for the government. That’s because union membership used to mean “blue collar.” You worked in the industrial sector or were skilled trade. Union members generally worked with their hands and did physical labor for private companies.

And this is what progressives just do not get. They keep lumping together all union members—public and private sector—as though they are all the same. They are all “labor,” according to progressive activists and others. [“The Church of Labor,” Issue #22] But this is not the case. Private-sector union employees are paid by private companies earning profits. Public-sector employees are paid by taxpayers who have no say over how much public employees are paid or what type of benefits they get. Additionally, many public- sector employees are professional. They often have college degrees, some even advanced degrees. Most are not manual laborers. And public-sector workers are protected by civil service laws, and therefore don’t need a union for protection.

If you wonder why a lot of Americans don’t have much sympathy for Wisconsin school teachers, it’s probably because very few private-sector workers have the same job security and benefits that teachers do. The same goes for firefighters and police and all professionals working in the government. If public-sector workers are underpaid (which I doubt), I would rather have these people be paid at a higher rate and have their health and retirement benefits be equivalent to people working in the private sector.

Most people these days want to shrink the government because they don’t want the tax burden that’s required for maintaining a monstrous government. If the Democratic Party wants to hold on to power by continuing to increase the size of government and citizens’ dependency on it, they are going to doom this country.

We have one political party representing the interests of public-sector employees, and two political parties representing the interests of big business. There is no political party that represents the interests of regular, middle-class people working in the private sector, although the non-professional Tea Party is pretty close.

Please stop lumping together public and private union employees. They are not the same.

Carol Beam
San Diego, California

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