Friday, December 19, 2014

Are Our Public Sector Police and Teachers' Unions Too Powerful?

We've heard and read much recently about police brutality and racial discrimination in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

We've also heard much about the need to spend more and more taxpayer money if we want to realize better outcomes in our urban public schools.

We also hear lots about income inequality and that something needs to be done about it.

So why don't we allow vouchers and thereby do more about improving our educational outcomes, since we know that educational inequality and income inequality are highly correlated?

Unfortunately, what we don't hear much about are the powerful public sector unions and whether these are inherently forces for good with respect to our police forces and public schools.

The Union Future contains an interesting, informative and insightful take on the largely out-of-the-spotlight role of powerful public sector unions concerning the current state of urban policing and public schools:

"Over the past decades, the case for enhancing union power has grown both stronger and weaker. On the one hand, as wages have stagnated while profits have soared, it does seem that there is something out of whack in the balance of power between labor and capital. Workers need some new way to collectively bargain for more money.
On the other hand, unions, and especially public-sector unions, have done a lot over the past decades to rigidify workplaces, especially government. Teachers’ unions have become the single biggest impediment to school reform. Police unions have become an impediment to police reform.
If you look at all the proposals that have been discussed since the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, you find that somewhere or other around the country, police unions have opposed all of them:
But it’s very hard to remove the bad apples from the force. Trying to protect their members, unions have weakened accountability. The investigation process is softer on police than it would be on anyone else. In parts of the country, contract rules stipulate that officers get a 48-hour cooling-off period before having to respond to questions. They have access to the names and testimony of their accusers. They can be questioned only by one person at a time. They can’t be threatened with disciplinary action during questioning.

More seriously, cops who are punished can be reinstated through a secretive appeals process that favors job retention over public safety. In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has a riveting piece with egregious stories of cops who have returned to the force after clear incompetence. Hector Jimenez was an Oakland, Calif., cop who shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old man in 2007. Seven months later, he killed another unarmed man, shooting him in the back three times while he ran away. The city paid damages. Jimenez was fired. But he appealed through his union and was reinstated with back pay. . . .

COMMUNITY RELATIONS In Philadelphia, a civilian oversight commission suggested that police officers apologize to citizens who complain of being mistreated. The local chief of the Fraternal Order of Police responded with a hysterical letter in March 2012 claiming that the commission was trying “to further weaken and demoralize the Philadelphia Police Department in a time of crisis with a significantly growing crime problem in this city. ... Your group poses a direct threat to public safety in this city. A threat which should no longer be tolerated by our citizens or their government.”
We get mad at racism, but most government outrages have structural roots. The left doesn’t want to go after police unions because they’re unions. The right doesn’t want to because they represent law and order. Politicians of all stripes shy away because they are powerful.
Now we have a test case to see if the people who march about the Garner case have the stamina to force change. Legitimate union advocacy has become extreme because it has gone unchecked. Most cops do hard jobs well, but right now there’s a crisis of accountability."
Summing Up
We should all be held accountable for our actions.
In the public sector, it's time for the politicians to start acting as leaders and stop deferring to the wishes of the too powerful public union officials.
As soon as that happens, our citizens as members of a nation of equals will be the big winners.
As will the tens of thousands of hard working and well intentioned and self disciplined individual teachers and police officers.
That's my take.
Thanks. Bob.

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