All of us talk about the need for good jobs, good schools and lots of other "goods."
Some of us also talk about the need for continuous productivity gains which result in reduced per unit input costs and higher quality of per unit output.
When we consider the combination of price and quality, we're looking squarely at the value proposition of the product or service being offered.
The U.S. has long been a prosperous nation, and we've had a long habit of consistently growing the economic pie for all to share. The fact that the pie would grow quickly was a given, and the only debate concerned how that growing pie would be shared among the participants, including owners and their employees.
That's how organized labor unions came to be such big players on the American employment scene. In the beginning, workers wanted their fair share of the economic pie. The organized U.S. labor movement originated in the private sector and began to take hold in the public sector in the 1960s. Times were good in the 1960s and for many years thereafter. There was lots of pie to share. Plenty for everybody.
So as long as times were good and the economy was growing at a steady clip, management and the representatives of the workers negotiated how much of the ever bigger pie would be the share of the workers.
Times aren't good now and haven't been for several years. We're in a new economic normal, it seems.
Even though all that has happened, our public sector labor discussions continue to be about how much MORE unions will get for their members. There's little if any conversation about productivity gains or other per unit cost reductions. Unions and shrinking pie discussions don't go together.
Consider what the self-congratulatory local and national heads of the Chicago teachers union DON'T have to say about shrinking pies in A Gold Star for the Chicago Teachers Strike:
"After more than a decade of top-down dictates, disruptive school
closures, disregard of teachers' and parents' input, testing that
squeezes out teaching, and cuts to the arts, physical education and
libraries, educators in Chicago said "enough is enough." With strong
support from parents and many in the community, teachers challenged a
flawed vision of education reform that has not helped schoolchildren in
Chicago or around the country. It took a seven-day strike—something no
one does without cause—but with it educators in Chicago have changed the
conversation about education reform. . . .
Teachers and parents were united in the
frustration that led to the strike. Nearly nine out of 10 students in
Chicago Public Schools live in poverty, a shameful fact that so-called
reformers too often ignore, yet most schools lack even one full-time
nurse or social worker. The district has made cuts where it shouldn't
(in art, music, physical education and libraries) but hasn't cut where
it should (class sizes and excessive standardized testing and test
prep). The tentative agreement reached in Chicago aims to address all
Chicago's teachers see this as an opportunity to move past the random
acts of "reform" that have failed to move the needle and toward actual
systemic school improvement. The tentative agreement focuses on
improving quality so that every public school in Chicago is a place
where parents want to send their children and educators want to teach. . . .
In a period when many officials have
sought to strip workers of any contractual rights or even a collective
voice, the Chicago teachers strike showed that collective action is a
powerful force for change and that collective bargaining is an effective
tool to strengthen public schools. Chicago's public-school
teachers—backed by countless educators across the country—changed the
conversation from the blaming and shaming of teachers to the promotion
of strategies that parents and teachers believe are necessary to help
It is a powerful example of solution-driven unionism and a reminder
that when people come together to deal with matters affecting education,
those who work in the schools need to be heard. When they are,
students, parents and communities are better for it."
I have a question: Don't "matters affecting education" include costs and quality, aka VALUE for money?
In the editorial, there was not one word mentioned concerning value received by taxpayers.
Nor was there one word about teachers pay or unaffordable unfunded pensions to be somehow paid by taxpayers.
Nor was there one word about what city services will need to be sacrificed to pay for the new contractual provisions, including salary and other cost increases.
With respect to quality, there was not one word mentioned about any goals related to improving the dropout rate or college graduation rate of Chicago's public school students.
In sum, it was just a continuation of why unions are great and why collectivism is best for societal progress. Who will pay the heavy price for all this?
Everybody except the teachers union leadership.