by James Soviero
We all know there was an aura of invincibility surrounding the RMS Titanic. The ship was “unsinkable”, until five days into it’s maiden voyage. For years, public sector employee unions have had a similar air of invulnerability. On April 15th, 1912, the magnificent luxury liner was swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean. One hundred years later, springtime appears equally inhospitable to the branches of organized labor that are funded by taxpayers. While there should be no catastrophic loss of life, if union leaders don’t start redirecting their vessel, there will undoubtedly be a dramatic loss of livelihoods.
Circumstances marking the Titanic’s end were the stuff of a tragic, perfect storm. The ship’s captain, Edward Smith, was faulted for ignoring warnings of drifting ice. Smith stated he could not, “imagine any condition which would cause the ship to founder. Modern ship building has gone beyond that.” An iceberg, with the overwhelming part of it’s mass hidden from view, was spotted too late. What seemed a glancing blow at first, flooded five watertight compartments. The crew was not properly trained for an emergency, there were not enough life boats, and hundreds of lives were lost beneath the frigid ocean waves.
The loss of life was disproportionately higher among third-class passengers. They were left to fend for themselves, causing many of them to be trapped below decks. First-class travelers fared much better. We’d all like to believe, if Captain Smith could have had the benefit of today’s technology to measure the genuine size and threat of the frozen water, he would have discounted his idle boast, and dodged the deadly iceberg.
There is a perfect storm brewing for public sector employee unions and it’s not clear the leadership sees it coming. Even before 2012, voters began showing deep dissatisfaction with the level of salaries and benefits they were paying public service workers. In many cases those men and women were earning considerably more than taxpayers footing the bill. Key governorships in New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio, and Wisconsin switched to conservative Republicans. Nationwide, the Tea Party had a great 2010. Even Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo passed a tax cap in bright blue New York. There was a warning of “drifting ice”.
Badger State, Chief Executive, Scott Walker was the most aggressive. He and his newly elected Republican majorities set out to keep their campaign promises by reducing state spending and shrinking the power of municipal employee unions. Democrat elected officials, along with their organized labor supporters turned the state into a political battleground. They tried recalling judges, senators, and eventually Walker himself. Their three, separate, very costly efforts were to no avail. In large numbers, voters from traditionally, a very liberal state, cast their ballots for a dramatic change in direction. The same evening Walker was winning handily in Wisconsin, two cities (San Jose’ and San Diego) in hard left leaning California, voted by landslide numbers, to rein in the cost of pensions for their municipal workers. Labor leaders were stunned. An iceberg, with the overwhelming part of it’s mass hidden from view, was spotted too late.
How the rest of this plays out is now mostly in the hands of the union bosses and their members. The warning signs are absolutely unmistakable.
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