Friday, May 30, 2008

Another Slap in the Face to Faculty from Madison

Once again, the legislature and governor decided to make faculty pay for the budget shortfalls in Madison.  

We had our promised 2% pay increase reduced to 1%.  We are the only group of state employees who can have their salaries unilaterally changed by the legislature and the governor.  Thus, it is easy to break promises made to us.  The unionized state employees are protected by such action because of their ability to negotiate with the state as a collective.

This, of course, is on top of the fact that our pay runs far behind the national and regional averages for professors across the country.  We will only slip farther behind with this latest move.  

As the year comes to a close, this problem is made ever clearer as we find some of our most promising scholars pick up and move to other institutions where the pay is better.  There has been some discussion of the pay levels for chancellors, but we in the classrooms and laboratory never seem to make it into the discussion.

The repeated disrespectful attitude that comes from our elected leaders toward the UW system and the faculty damages our ability to education students and bring the latest, most sophisticated research to Wisconsin. 

 I have talked to many people, all of whom express great anger at once again being treated like this.  Even if people aren't leaving, they lose respect for our institution and are less likely to become involved in just the kind of projects that can make us a great place.


Anonymous said...

And it's not just faculty. Consider the many non-teaching academic staff and classified non-represented supervisors such as maintenance, police, human resources, custodial services etc.

Anonymous said...

..and those academic staffthat already signed contracts for next year have received 'new' contracts with the raise eliminated altogether -- not even the 1% raise in the 'new' contracts.

Anonymous said...

Cry me a river. You people don't work half as hard as the average American anyway.

Anonymous said...

Look! A legislator wrote in!

Another person who has no clue what happens on a college campus has decided we don't work as hard as he does.

Anonymous said...

I bet what anonymous #3 meant was that we don't work HALF as hard, because we work ONE AND A HALF times as hard.

Seriously, though, those assumptions are just sad. The faculty on my campus (at least, the ones who aren't cruisin' to retirement) work aboutu 60-70 hours a week. And, many of us are on 9 month contracts, yet come in daily all summer. I know there are people in other professions who are just as dedicated, but can we please put the myth of the 20 hour workweek for faculty to rest???

Anonymous said...

If you people really had any guts you would just quit coming to work and see how long before they gave you a real raise. They couldn't possibly fill all those positions at those crumby wages right?!?!?!?

Anonymous said...

They could fill the positions but not necessarily with the same quality faculty. Lots of departments have failed job searches which means that even though there is a suplus of Ph. Ds many will not come to UW.

What keeps the UW system and many other universities going is that few people are willing to give up tenure to look for employment elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Every faculty member in my department previously worked outside of academe. We came here because we love teaching--not because of the money. All of us could find private sector jobs that pay more money. However, we all expected to be treated as professionals who are fairly compensated.

I was paid in the private sector whenever I worked. I can't say the same about academe. You work twelve months (including nights and weekends) and get paid for nine.

Anonymous said...

To me, the disrespect (as evinced by anonymous #3 above, for example) is far more debilitating than the subpar pay. If someone in authority would just say, "Gosh, we'd love to pay you more cuz God knows you're worth every penny, but we just ain't got it," it would sure sit a lot better than the begrudging disrespectful arrogant insults coming out of many quarters. I honest-to-God feel in my heart that university faculties are "tolerated as a necessary evil" by the people of Wisconsin rather than appreciated for what they do for the state. That is really depressing.

Anonymous said...

My husband is academic staff. He does his job and then some. We received the information this week on how much his raise is going to comes to $45.00 a month. Oh boy, I can fill up my van with gas with the raise. Splurge! After being at the University for 20 years, my husband is at the bottom end of the pay scale for his classification. Yeah, we are getting rich from the state of Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

Truth is, there is not much sympathy for you because many other working class folks in much lower paid positions find themselves in similar situations. No wage increases, increasing healthcare costs, increasing costs of living and oh yes...that darn gas.
People making $25,000 - $40,000 and raising families don't have much time to hear about how professors in the UW system aren't making enough.
You see these people are still waiting for that "trickle down effect" to reach them. The only trickle they're dealing with is the sound of floodwater in their basement...oh ya, did I mention how much that will cost them?

Anonymous said...

So, like, how much do you think professors in UW System make anyway? Are you one of those chowderheads who somehow got the idea they're all making six-figure salaries? Truth is, newbies out of grad school start at UWO for only a couple thou over your top end salary for "regular folks". After 20 years, they might be making half again that much. And of course they often have $40,000 or $50,000 in loans to pay off after spending 8-12years in college to get to the point where they could get that job.

And the disrespect he mentioned has got nothing to do with that. It's all leftover high school b.s. Way too many of the "regular guys" you describe have a high school diploma with a C- or D- average. Ex-jocks who mostly spent high school laughing at the geeks and nerds and four-eyes who worked hard in school. Maybe if those "regular guys" had worried more about studying and working hard instead of about being popular, acting cool, and having a blast getting drunk every weekend, they wouldn't be stuck in a $20,000 a year job now, pissing and moaning about how all those "rich bastards" are out to screw them over. Yeah it's a lot of fun when your 16 or 17 to screw off in school, cut class, and pick on the nerds, but look where it gets you.

EVERYONE has a chance to get educated in this country and MAKE something of himself. A lot of folks would rather squander those opportunities and have a good time. Nothing new. Check out Aesop's Grasshopper and The Ant. I got no sympathy for them. They made their bed and now they can sleep in it. It's all about choices.

Anonymous said...

10:33 you get no sympathy for the vast majority of Oshkosh residents.
Suck it up and make due with what you have,or move on and find something better elsewhere. I don't want to contribute to your income anymore than I have to.

Anonymous said...

Of course not. That's why Oshkosh is in the problems it's in. Too many grasshoppers who can't see past the end of their nose. Too many who'd rather pull th whole state economy down around their selfish heads than make the investment it's going to take to make sure there's good jobs for your kids and grandkids. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face; penny wise and pound foolish besides.

Too many who'd rather wallow in ignorance and complain than lift a finger to improve their lot in life. Too many leftover jocks and ex-hotdogs who screwed away all their chances in life and now are eaten up with envy of their classmates who went off to college and got that business degree or whatever. Always wanting the government to "do something" to make their life better, than bitching like hell because they're taxes go up! Wanting a cushy job that pays big bucks without the worker needing any education or training.

For the last forty years, every teacher from kindergarten to twelfth grade has told every kid in America, you better get an education if you want a decent lifestyle. But, no, all those popular jocks and pom-pom princesses were WAY too cool and with it to buckle down and hit the books. That crap's for four-eyes and nerds, not for cool dudes like us! I'm too busy with football practice and waxing my Camaro to crack a book! So now you got your crummy high school diploma and -- WHAT A SHOCK!! -- it just gets you a crappy job. Surprise surprise!

Yeah, you get what you deserve in life.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like some Jock must have made you his girlfriend dude. You have a really hostile attitude.

So you never got a date in HS, so you got beat up alot, so you hate the popular people in your old HS class.

Fact is still the same, most in Oshkosh don't give a hoot about you and yours and don't want you to get any richer than you already are.

Thats the truth four-eyes.

Anonymous said...

You should think before you speak. Your tax dollars pay for less than 25% of the cost for the university. The rest comes from tuition, fees, grants and contracts.If UWO could move to another community (like EAA and any other business or large manufacturing firm), just what do you think would happen to the tax rate to would have to pay to retain the same level of service? Most cities want institutions that provide good paying jobs and improve the quality of the work force. But, evidently, not a genius like you!

Anonymous said...

Hi 4:57 p.m., June 19--

I do understand the mentality that we, as faculty, don't garner sympathy because we are not of the $25,000-40,000 "working class."

However, here is the thing. I'm faculty, not at UW-Oshkosh, but at another UW campus. I make $42,000. Not because I'm not doing my job well--I've gotten high merit ratings every year--but because that's the pay scale for my campus.

I am not complaining--I love my job, and I made my choices. However, I think there would be a world of good done if people understood that we are NOT making the big bucks here!

Anonymous said...

So you're making $42,000.00 as an educator in the UW system?

An Oshkosh teacher with a masters and long-term service with the school system makes about $60,000.00 - $65,000.00 a year. (Per the Northwestern Data Mine)

Ok then...

Bill Wresch said...

I really hate where this discussion went. I wish Winneblogo had deleted Anonymous #3. Not only are his comments ugly, but what good do they do? Do we need to be told one more time that there are agly people here in town?

The bigger issue has been ignored. Wisconsin gave us a 1% raise that it really cannot afford. The GDP of the state only rose 1% last year, putting us in the bottom half of states in growth as well as in average income and education level. The state has been in decline for decades. We are surrounded by struggling people in a struggling state.

If we ever have leadership that helps grow the pie for all in the state, we could afford to give state employees raises similar to those in other states. Until then, we cannot.

As for nerds, jocks, and "girlfriends," please hit the delete button Winnebloggo.

Anonymous said...

The sad fact is that nearly half the students at UWO are taught by instructors who make less than $40,000 in base pay. All of these teachers have MAs and some have PHDs. Most professors at the assistant rank, who make up over half the university's regular faculty, get between $40,000 and $50,000. So, yes, you would probably do better in compensation with fewer credentials to teach in the Oshkosh public schools.

Anonymous said...

From the June 20, 2008 "Oshkosh Northwestern".....

" (Oshkosh Public School)...Teachers will receive a total wage and compensation package increase of 3.9 percent for the 2007-08 school year. In the second year of the agreement, they will see an increase of 3.8 percent. District officials said comparable contract settlements across the state have averaged 4.5 percent."

"According to the tentative contract, starting salary for new teachers with a bachelor's degree will be $32,078 and the maximum salary for a teacher with a master's degree plus 30 credits and at least 17 years experience will be $68,423."

Anyone who thinks faculty and Academic Staff in the UW System got what they deserved with a 1% pay increase is nuts. While Oshkosh teachers are receiving a two year package that's 50% above the raises provided to UW employees. And... note the State average teacher's raise for next year in Wisconsin is 4.5%

If you are considering State employment for the money... in nearly every instance or career... look elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I think all those making a living slurping from the public trough wil agree that the BENEFITS they receive are extraordinary. Retirement and Healthcare are second to none in the public sector.
I'm talking about city, county, state and federal employees.

Nemesis said...

I do not understand why folks draw such a huge distinction between workers paid from tax dollars and those paid from corporate income. Do you somehow think that the salary of the UAW-member employees at Ford has no affect on what you pay for your new F150?? Do you think that the golden parachute of the CEO at Mobil has no affect on what it costs to gas it up?? If the sales clerks at J. C. Penney gets a raise, you think that doesn't affect the cost of your Packers sweatshirt???

Everyone LOVES to carp about public employees and what they allegedly do to your tax bill, but no one wants to rag on the hourly wage of UAW workers and what it does to car prices, etc. What HYPOCRITES!!

If I had my way, all the assembly line guys at Ford would be earning minimum wage, so I could get me a brand new 4WD pickup for $4000. Why the hell should they be earning $25 or $30 an hour, mooching offa me???

That knife cuts both ways.

Anonymous said...

Public vs Private-

nemesis,your comments speak to the issue of public vs private sector unions.

As a fairly current illustration, if the market valued and was able to purchase Mercury outboard motors then these union employees would have the leverage to potentially improve their position.

That is in stark contrast to public sector unions.

I think the entire public sector union situation is a farce. These unions are not able to strike, so they are granted a very taxpayer unfriendly process called arbitration.

We as taxpayers and consumers of their services have very little control over the outcome of a public sector labor negotiation.

I believe there are many public sector roles that should be allowed the right to strike.

Yes fire and police and some others should remain under the current program, but many others such as city hall workers, general laborers in public works, parks, forestry and transit workers should be allowed the right to strike.

In today’s economic climate, there would be many potential candidates waiting in line to fill as an example… a trash collector’s job. This is basically a non-skilled position. These employees earn about $40,000.00 per year and have excellent pension and healthcare benefits (95% of their healthcare costs paid by taxpayers – 5% by the employee) If these public sector union employees were to strike, many currently unemployed laborers would be lining up to take those positions at potentially much less pay, just for the amazing benefit package.

So to most private sector union workers I’d say think long and hard about your job and family before you'd vote yes to a strike.

For the public sector unions, I’d say that I’d like you to taste a little of what it’s like to work in the private sector, outside of your arbitration protected bubble.

If you didn’t have the arbitration laws to hide behind, many cities would not be in the financial trouble we currently find ourselves in.

Anonymous said...

Is there some point to your diatribe? University faculty and academic staff do not have the rights to union representation or collective bargaining. Even if these college employees were represented and could strike, the jobs at UWO are highly skilled and require extensive credentials so the line with scab replacements would be a very short one. This helps explain why we have so many temporary and full-time employees working for trash collector wages.

Lake Winneblogo said...

I hadn't checked in on this thread for a while.

It has really taken a strange turn in the last week or so, with the nasty name-calling that dominate the blogs oriented towards local politics.

Bill suggests that I just delete the off-topic comments, but I think they represent a microcosm of our problems--peopel outside of the academy have no idea what we do or how low our pay actually is.

The silliness about jocks/nerds just emphasizes that!

Anonymous said...

The point about university faculties in this state being forbidden by law to unionize is a good one. All the complaints about the effect of public employee unions on tax bills may have merit (or not), but that argument emphatically cannot be laid at the door of university faculties.

Not a one of us is unionized. We are denied a fundamental human right enjoyed by every other working person in this country: the right of collective bargaining. We have to simply make do with what the legislature decides to pay us. Under what definition of "fairness" "equity" and "justice" can such a travesty be permitted? What person can seriously make a case on ethical or moral grounds that it would be wrong to allow university faculties to unionize?

For many years, I saw no need for unions for publicly employed professionals; thought it was inappropriate. Thanks to the Wisconsin legislature, I no longer think that way. I think that someday, they will very much regret their parsimony, for they are making it incresingly likely that they will be forced to allow UW faculties to unionize. They could have warded it off, kicked the wheels out from under that trolley, by treating faculties equitably. But they didn't. The faculties will be unionized someday, and THEN see what it costs!

Anonymous said...

Collective bargaining is for idiots who are too stupid to close their own mouths to keep the insects from collecting inside.

If you don't like what you get paid here move out of state or go work at a private institution.

The arrogance and sense of entitlement of many of the individuals teaching within the UW system is truly mind-blowing!!!

I accidentally called a professor at UWO "MR." instead of "Dr." which caused him to go off for about 10 minutes DURING CLASS complaining to me about how he deserves so much respect because he COULD BE teaching at UC Berkeley instead of at UWO.

It was all I could do to hold my tongue to protect my grade. I wanted to say "Well then why aren't you teaching there?"

Anonymous said...

>>Collective bargaining is for idiots who are too stupid to close their own mouths to keep the insects from collecting inside.<<

Why don't you go on down to the Teamsters' hall, or stop by a UAW mmeeting at Oshkosh Truck, and share those thoughts with the nice fellows there? I'm sure they would love to hear you disparage the American institution that brought the working man out of poverty and gave him his dignity.

Okay, so you're one of those people that hates intellectuals; I get that. But that's no reason to insult the entire labor movement.

Nemesis said...

>If you don't like what you get paid here move out of state or go work at a private institution.<

That's what a quitter does, that's what losers do. Is that how you run your life? Run away from problems instead of stick it out and fight to make it better? Maybe you should grow a backbone.

Wisconsin is a great state; it deserves the best educational system possible, whether the tight-fisted nimrods that fill it understand that or not.

Anonymous said...

Private sector unions (ie: GM, Ford, Merc Marine) are on the decline in America.
The only unions actually increasing are those in the public sector (ie: State, County, City, teachers)

This is all in stark contrast for why unions were first brought take from the rich (Owners) and give to the poor (Workers)

Public sector unions receive their wage and benefits from middleclass taxpayers, not rich corporate CEO's!

Anonymous said...

Your reasoning is confused. Teachers and public sector employees are middle class just as are most workers with manufacturing jobs. All these people pays taxes, buy goods locally, and benefit from good public services like a quality education. The poor are either employed in low-level service jobs or are unemployed.

The best thing you can do for the middle class is to support their positions and expand the services they provide. If you want to help the poor and the lower middle class, you should support the living wage and a universal health care plan. We already do more than enough for CEOs and the wealthy.

Anonymous said...

11:28 you are the one who is confused.

The only folks in unions that are viable are those in Public Sector unions.

Unions were originally developed to distribute moneys going to rich business owners to those that were employed, doing the labor.

Now public sector unions do not fight for raises against rich CEO's, they demand taxpayers (rich, middleclass or poor) to pay for their wage and benefit increases.

The point is that the redistribution of wealth from owners to labor could be justified...but now we only have successful unions (public sector) that demand that their neighbors, friends and peers pay more to them.

Anonymous said...

For 50 years, public unions, health-care lobbyists, and social-services advocacy groups have doggedly been amassing power in state capitols and city halls, using their influence to inflate pay and benefits for their workers and to boost government spending. The bill for that influence is now coming due, and it is overwhelming state and local budgets.

A sample item:
Unions have also convinced Americans that teachers are underpaid, when they now take home considerably better pay packages on average than professional workers in the private sector. The federal government’s national compensation survey estimates that local public school districts pay teachers an average of $47.97 per hour in total compensation, including $12.39 per hour in benefits—figures that far outstrip not only what private school teachers earn, but also the average of what all professional workers earn in private business, a category that includes engineers, architects, computer scientists, lawyers, and journalists.

In California, the governor and a union-friendly state legislature passed a series of bills that swelled the number of state employees who could claim disability retirement benefits and also expanded the number of ailments automatically classed as job-related to include HIV, tuberculosis, and lower-back pain. The flood of new disability claims will cost the state’s retirement system some $465 million over five years, much of which will come out of taxpayers’ pockets.

The budgetary excess has prompted the stirrings of America’s newest tax revolt, as overburdened taxpayers grope for ways to curb the often automatic expansion of state and local government and to reduce the power of public unions.

The tidal wave of local government spending that produced this crisis built up as tax revenues poured into state and municipal coffers during the 1990s boom. State tax collections rose by 86 percent, or about $250 billion, from 1990 through 2001, while local property-tax collections soared by $90 billion, or 60 percent, during a period when inflation increased by a mere 30 percent. Rather than give surpluses back to taxpayers, government went on a spree, lavishing opulent pensions on employees and expanding politically popular health and education programs.

Unions and social-services groups were perfectly positioned to funnel this flood of surplus tax revenues into their pockets rather than back to the taxpayers.

Starting with virtually no representation in the public sector 50 years ago, unions have relentlessly organized workers, so that in some states as many as 60 to 70 percent of public employees now are members. As a result, these unions wield huge clout at the ballot box, and union dues give them vast resources to sway public opinion and influence legislation.

Gradually, public unions have aligned with local social-services and health-care groups that federal (and later, state and local) government began funding heavily during the War on Poverty of the 1960s and early 1970s—creating a new class of organization that lives off government money.

The prime budget buster has been the outlandish wage and benefits packages of public employees.

Contractually guaranteed, they are untouchable even during economic slowdowns. Public-employee unions have so successfully used their political muscle that whereas public-sector compensation once lagged the private sector, now the reverse is true.

Astonishingly, the average state and local government employee now collects 46 percent more in total compensation (salary plus benefits) than the average private-sector employee, according to the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Wages average a hefty 37 percent higher in the public sector, but the differences in benefits are even more dramatic.

Local governments pay 128 percent more, on average, than private employers to finance workers’ health-care benefits, and 162 percent more on retirement benefits.

The public unions could only achieve this reversal because government is a monopoly, exempt from marketplace discipline. Competition can punish private companies that give away the store to employees or that perform ineffectively—driving the most profligate or inefficient out of business—but government is perpetual regardless of how it performs, and public unions have succeeded over the years in layering new perks and benefits on top of previous collective-bargaining gains that rarely get rolled back, even in tough times.

Anonymous said...

So, it's the return of the cut-and-paste troll! Take your rantings borrowed from Steve Malanga to another site. At least you should have imagination enough to put his polemics in your own words. You can get badly needed help with your poor writing and reasoning from the public school teachers you so often malign.

Anonymous said...

4:13 yet you offer no evidence to dispute what was said.

Anonymous said...

"The public unions could only achieve this reversal because government is a monopoly, exempt from marketplace discipline..."

Huh? I always thought we competed our government every few years. Who knew...

Anonymous said...

Government is not a monopoly. In education you can find many private universities competing with public schools. Of course, you will need $25,000 to $40,000 a year to afford them. part of this money will go to the higher salaries for the faculty teaching for our private competitors.

You can also leave academia for the private sector if you want more money. Steve Malanga shows you can even get the big bucks with an English PHD if you are willing to scribble faulty polemics for a right-wing New York think tank.

Anonymous said...

I never knew about this guy till his name kept appearing here, so I Googled him and after reading several pieces do agree this guy seems to have his act together. What he writes I think alot of us think, he can just put it down in words well.

Heres one example to see if you agree:

The Real Engine of Blue America
Steven Malanga

Is it really true that America is politically divided between conservative “Red” states in the southern and middle sections of the country and liberal “Blue” states on both coasts? Not exactly: a close look at the district-by-district voting patterns of the coastal states in the 2004 elections brings into crystal-clear focus the real nature of our political divisions. There’s really no such thing as a Blue state—only Blue metropolitan regions. Indeed, the electoral maps of some states that went for John Kerry in 2004 consist mostly of Red suburban and rural counties surrounding deep Blue cities.

What makes these cities so Blue is a multifaceted liberal coalition that ranges from old-style industrial unionists and culturally liberal intellectuals, journalists, and entertainers to tort lawyers, feminists, and even politically correct financiers. But within this coalition, one group stands out as increasingly powerful and not quite in step with the old politics of the Left: those who benefit from an expanding government, including public-sector employees, workers at organizations that survive off government money, and those who receive government benefits. In cities, especially, this group has seized power from the taxpayers, as the vast expansion of the public sector that has taken place since the beginning of the War on Poverty has finally reached a tipping point. In New York City, this coalition has helped roll back some of the reforms of the Giuliani years. In California cities and towns, it is thwarting the expansion of private businesses, Wal-Mart above all. In nearly 100 municipalities, it has imposed higher costs on tens of thousands of businesses by persuading city councils to pass “living-wage” laws.

This increasingly powerful public-sector movement results from the merging of two originally distinct forces. First are the government-employee unions, born in the 1950s and nowadays the 800-pound gorillas of policy debates in many statehouses and city councils. Today, public unions don’t merely use their power to win contract concessions for their members. They help elect sympathetic legislators and defeat proponents of smaller government; they lobby for higher taxes, especially on the rich and on businesses; and they oppose legislative efforts, such as privatization initiatives, aimed at making government smaller and more efficient.

For years, government employees had no right to organize, on the grounds that there was no competition in the delivery of essential government services and that therefore public unions could hold cities and states hostage by going on strike. Even some private-sector union leaders questioned the wisdom of letting public-sector workers organize and giving them the right to strike. But that began to change in the mid-1950s, when the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) began lobbying for the right of local workers to organize and bargain collectively. The organization scored its first major victory in 1958, when it persuaded New York City mayor Robert Wagner, looking to strengthen his union support, to give municipal workers collective bargaining rights. Over the next several years, other states and cities, especially those with strong union movements, also passed laws allowing public employees to unionize. Buoyed by these victories, AFSCME’s membership rose from 100,000 in 1955 to 250,000 by 1965 and to more than 1 million by 1985.

Other government-employee organizations followed AFSCME’s lead. In 1960 the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) set out to win collective bargaining rights for U.S. teachers, using Mayor Wagner and labor-friendly New York as a test case. Though New York’s first teachers’ walkout, in November 1960, had little public support, the union movement gained adherents among teachers nationwide, so that over the next five years there were 36 strikes against municipal school systems. In 1966 alone, another three dozen strikes occurred, as teacher militancy rose in places like Newark, Baltimore, and Youngstown, Ohio. Meanwhile, membership in the AFT more than doubled to 136,000 from 1960 through 1966.

In retrospect, most of the warnings voiced in those tumultuous years proved accurate. Political leaders and labor experts predicted that government-employee unions would use their monopoly power over public services to win contracts with work rules far more generous and undemanding than in the private sector, and that without the restraints on salaries and benefits that the free marketplace imposes on private firms, unions would win increasingly meaty compensation and pension packages that would be impossible to roll back once enacted.

But what critics did not anticipate was how far public-employee unions would move beyond collective bargaining and inject themselves into the electoral and legislative processes. Today, the endorsement of a public-sector union is crucial to the election of many local candidates, and public unions now often spend far more on lobbying and political advertising on local issues than any business group does. Nor could the critics have envisioned a time when a shrinking private-sector union movement would forge alliances with the public sector, and when the lines between the two would increasingly blur, as formerly private-sector unions, like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), would come to represent increasing numbers of health-care and other workers whose jobs depend on public money.

Reinforcing the public-employee unions in the powerful new coalition of tax eaters are the social-services groups spawned by the War on Poverty. Nominally private, they are sustained by and organized around public funding. Before the War on Poverty, most social-services agencies were privately funded and had little stake in government spending policies. Groups like Catholic Charities, for instance, received less than 10 percent of their support from government sources. But all that changed beginning in 1965, when federal spending on social services soared, increasing from $800 million to $2.2 billion between 1965 and 1970, and then rocketing to $13 billion by 1980. This geyser of money transformed many formerly private welfare organizations into government contractors, and their employees into quasi-public workers. It also spurred the creation of vast new networks of such organizations, as social-services entrepreneurs conjured into being a constellation of housing groups, subsidized day-care centers, employment-training programs, health clinics, and much more—all designed to tap into the new War on Poverty money.

This social-services funding vastly expanded the publicly supported workforce almost overnight. Before the 1970s, the government didn’t even count private social services as a sector, because it was so small. But in 1972, a Bureau of Labor Statistics employment census found 550,000 people working in the sector. By 1980, that number had more than doubled to 1.1 million. The sector’s upward arc has continued unabated since then, with especially fast growth during the 1990s. Today the field teems with some 3.3 million workers, most supported by government-funded programs. Whereas in the early 1970s private social services accounted for less than 1 percent of the American workforce, today it accounts for 3 percent of jobs.

Because the clientele for social services is concentrated in the big cities, much of the growth in social-services employment took place there, too. In New York, for example, social-services jobs increased from 52,000 to 183,000 between 1975 and 2000, so that by the end of the millennium more New Yorkers worked in social services than on Wall Street. In Philadelphia, social-services jobs more than doubled to nearly 30,000 from 1988 (the first year for which numbers are available) to 2000. In Boston, during the same period, these jobs increased by 67 percent to nearly 55,000, while in Chicago they grew by nearly 140 percent to 83,000. In all these cases, social-services employment grew much faster than the cities’ economies as a whole. And cities poured their own funds into such programs to augment the (much greater) federal spending, especially in the early 1980s, when the Reagan administration restrained the growth of federal social-services programs. New York City, for instance, increased its spending on programs for the homeless from $8 million in 1978, two years before Reagan beat Jimmy Carter, to $100 million annually by 1985. In the early 1980s, New York State increased its spending on alcohol and drug addiction programs alone by two-thirds to nearly $500 million.

Almost from the War on Poverty’s inception, these social-services employees and their clients began to show themselves a powerful political force, as when New York welfare workers, for example, mobilized recipients in the early 1970s to storm government offices demanding higher benefits. Some social-services agencies organized their employees and clients into grassroots political operations, parlaying their huge empires built on government and foundation money into political power. Ramon Velez, for example—whose Bronx network of government-funded health centers, alcoholism clinics, and other programs garnered over $300 million in government money over 25 years—engineered the election of several city council and state assembly members in the Bronx, and Velez himself served on New York’s city council.

At the same time that the War on Poverty was gearing up and federal spending on social services was beginning to soar, the Johnson administration created the two gigantic health-care programs, Medicaid and Medicare, providing care to the poor and the elderly, respectively. In the process, Washington vastly changed the economics of U.S. medical care, turning it increasingly into a government-funded industry. From the very start, Medicaid and Medicare, initiated within a year of each other, cost far more than anyone had expected, because they encouraged overuse of the health-care system, prompted overbilling by doctors and hospitals, and led to widespread fraud. In less than five years, the federal budget for Medicaid rose to $6 billion from just $1.2 billion in its first year, 1966, while expenditures by the states, which shared the program’s cost, also ballooned. With so much money pouring in, the country’s health-care industry mushroomed. In the entire decade before the federal programs began, U.S. health-care employment had increased by about 800,000 jobs, but in the first ten years of Medicaid and Medicare, the growth rate more than doubled, and the industry added more than 2 million new jobs, including more than 1 million in hospitals.

The new federal programs made many hospitals dependents of the state, especially in cities with the largest Medicaid populations. Within a few years, urban hospitals that had previously received very little federal money were living principally on Medicaid and Medicare. And once government had become a prime payer in the health-care system, hospitals that had low occupancy rates or duplicated services provided by other local institutions could survive on government dollars rather than being forced to close. Such institutions could gold plate their treatments of patients in order to increase revenues, so that hospitalizations and length of hospital stays increased. As a result, by 1980—to take only one example—experts estimated that New York City had 5,000 more hospital beds than it really needed. Also as a result, at least in part, health-care jobs grew from 3.9 percent of the U.S. private workforce in 1965 to nearly 10 percent today. Shrinking the bloated system and stemming abuses became politically impossible. Above all, what would become of all those who worked in hospitals that should be closed?

The gradual government takeover of health care—a process still continuing—has transformed the industry’s institutions, executives, and workers into lobbyists for ever-greater public monies and expanding programs, and tireless foes of efforts to restrain costs. Hospitals and health-care unions were the chief opponents of the Gingrich Congress’s efforts to balance the federal budget in the mid-1990s in part by cutting the growth of Medicaid and Medicare, and these special interests successfully derailed some of the steepest proposed cuts. At the state and local levels, especially in cities where the industry heavily depends on Medicaid and Medicare, hospitals and hospital workers have become two of the most influential power blocs. In New York State, for instance, a coalition of hospitals and unions spent $13 million in 1999, a record for Albany, lobbying to turn back cuts in the state’s huge Medicaid system. Dennis Rivera, the head of Local 1199, a New York City–based union of health-care workers, has become the most powerful union leader in the state, far more influential than the head of the state AFL-CIO.

The electoral activism of this New New Left coalition—public-employee unions, hospitals and health-care worker unions, and social-services agencies—has reshaped the politics of many cities. As the country’s national political scene has edged rightward, thwarting their ambitions in Washington, these groups have turned their attention to urban America, where they still have the power to influence public policy.

Increasingly in U.S. cities, the road to electoral success passes through the public- employee/health-care/social-services sector. In New York, for instance, more than two-thirds of city council members are former government employees or ex-workers in health care or social services. The first Latino speaker of the California State Assembly, Antonio Villaraigosa—who narrowly lost the 2001 election for mayor of Los Angeles and served as a national co-chair of John Kerry’s presidential campaign—is a former organizer for the Los Angeles teachers’ union. Jane Campbell, the current mayor of Cleveland, snapped up a $3,000 grant back in 1974 to start WomenSpace, a feminist advocacy group, and used her role as executive director of the organization to launch a 20-year career in elective office in Ohio. Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes entered public life working as a paid staffer in the 1960s for the Cross-Lines Cooperative Council, a local social-services network, and she later helped found and run the Women’s Resource Service, an advocacy center on the campus of the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

One reason that these politicians have succeeded electorally is that those who work in the public sector have different voting priorities from private-sector workers or business owners. An exit poll conducted by City Journal of the 2001 New York mayoral election found that private-sector workers heavily backed Michael Bloomberg, the businessman candidate who had been endorsed by Rudy Giuliani and had run on a pledge of no new taxes (which he broke after his first year in office), while those who worked in the public/health-care/social-services sectors favored his Democratic opponent, who ran on a promise of raising taxes to fund further services. In the race, Bloomberg won among private-sector voters by 17 percentage points, while the Democrat won by 15 points among those who worked in the public/nonprofit sectors.

And of course public-sector workers, who know they are going to the polls to elect their bosses, make sure to remember to vote. Though they make up about one-third of New York City’s workforce, public/nonprofit-sector voters made up 37 percent of the electorate in the 2001 mayoral race. Minority workers who earned their living in the public sector were dramatically more likely than their private-sector counterparts to vote.

With so much of their economic future at stake in elections, the tax eaters have emerged as the new infantry of political campaigns, replacing the ward captains and district leaders of old-time political clubs. Today it’s the members of the New New Left, through their unions and community-based organizations, who are most likely to run political phone banks, distribute campaign literature and run get-out-the-vote efforts for their favored candidates. Indeed, when a member of the Local 1199 health-care workers union ran for New York’s city council in 2003, a local Democratic politician noted admiringly that the candidate, through her union colleagues, could field “a million foot soldiers.” And, like the old Tammany Hall and other urban political machines, these efforts have sparked complaints. Members of the New New Left advocacy group ACORN, which ran aggressive voter-registration drives in many cities during the 2004 elections, were accused of submitting fake or forged registrations in places such as Duluth, Cincinnati, and St. Petersburg, Florida.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the urban Left has evolved into so narrow a movement, promoting no more than its own self-interest. Though it started out as a romantic, if wrongheaded, idea, the War on Poverty was the child of idealists who really believed that a benevolent, paternalistic government could offer solutions that America’s private economy couldn’t provide for the poor. But the most cherished ideals and programs of the movement have turned out to be demonstrably wrong, and many Americans now reject them. Unlimited welfare proved an economic and social disaster, producing an underclass of perpetual recipients who, after years on the dole, felt incapable of functioning as productive citizens. Liberalization of the criminal laws and judicial leniency, part of a War-on-Poverty mind-set that saw criminals as victims of society, only led to soaring crime rates, which drove law-abiding citizens out of cities and condemned those who could not leave to lives of fear. Government-funded alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs that placed little emphasis on personal responsibility and individual redemption had zero effect on the rise of addiction.

By the mid-1990s, Americans were eager for reform, and they got it. Changes in welfare law that imposed time limits on assistance and required recipients to work have turned out to be a great success, reducing public-assistance rolls and getting millions of people back to work, without raising the poverty rate. Tough, activist policing innovations have sharply reduced crime, freeing millions of Americans, especially those in inner cities, from fear.

In the face of such realities, the new urban Left has emerged as an increasingly cynical coalition ever more focused on goals that benefit its members and their allies, even though it retains the jargon of “social justice.” The living-wage movement is largely the work of unions more interested in laws that bolster union membership and derail privatization or productivity-boosting measures than in legislation that genuinely helps the poor. Many of the living-wage laws enacted around the country exempt unionized companies from adhering to wage guidelines, encouraging firms to unionize. Legislative bodies commandeered by these advocates have cynically enacted laws that have been a boon to their allies but have harmed the cities themselves, as for example the New York City Council’s passage of a living-wage law that raised the wages of home health-care workers but cost the city and state millions of dollars—in the midst of the city’s worst budget crisis ever. In the same spirit, in municipalities throughout California, the New New Left coalition has successfully advocated for laws that restrict consumers’ choices by making it difficult for Wal-Mart and other nonunion retailers to open in places where unionized stores predominate.

But by donning the mantle of “social justice” and invoking the liberation language of the 1960s—for example, in its campaigns to win domestic-partner benefits for municipal workers—the New New Left has managed to dupe a generation of celebrity liberals, idealistic young voters, and religious leaders who have become their allies in the Blue-state coalition. Actor buddies Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have campaigned for living-wage laws in their home state of Massachusetts, while clergy hold pro-living-wage religious services, blissfully unaware of how unions have hijacked the movement for their self-interested goals. The union representing television and radio actors urged its members to boycott California stores during the state’s 2003 supermarket-industry strike, and celebrities like actress Melissa Gilbert joined workers on the picket lines. Groups like ACORN rely in many of their campaigns on the volunteer labor of idealistic college students, who are unaware of the controversy that the organization generates by refusing to pay its own workers minimum wages and by using federal legislation like the Community Reinvestment Act to shake down banks.

Regardless of how transparent its aims now seem, this new coalition will remain formidable in the cities, because the tax-eater sector is now so large that it can easily thwart reforms aimed at undermining its programs. But the coalition is also becoming the real power in national campaigns, working both within the Democratic Party and outside it. AFSCME, the AFT, and SEIU were among the largest contributors to the Media Fund, a $65 million advertising effort aimed at defeating President Bush in 2004. Those groups, plus ACORN, also supplied much of the manpower for the national voter-registration effort aimed at defeating the president. A succession of Democratic presidential hopefuls traveled to New York to seek the blessing of 1199/SEIU union chief Dennis Rivera, who once held a seat on the Democratic National Committee, and when John Kerry picked his running mate, he immediately called SEIU boss Andrew Stern, a John Edwards supporter, to say, “I heard you.” About one in ten delegates to the 2004 Democratic National Convention was a member of a teachers’ union.

The tax-eaters’ party has seized control of many of America’s cities; now it is trying to make the next big leap.

Anonymous said...

A correctional officer with the State of Wisconsin essentially on his/her first day on the job has the following. 10 days paid vacation. 9 days of holiday vacation time. Either 4.5 or 5.5 days of sat/personal holidays off. Plus, 16 days or so of paid sick leave per year, which can go up depending on how much overtime you work. So add it up. 10+9+5+16=40 days per year of paid time off. 40 days!!!! That is what an officer makes on day one. It only goes up from there. There is nowhere and I mean nowhere outside of government unions that provides that kind of time off.

Anonymous said...

Since professors are not unionized what does any of this have to do with UWO?

Or is all this meant to attack the janitors on campus who ARE represented by a public sector union?

Anonymous said...

Yup. I'm thinking a pretty good argument has been made for why the faculty should unionize. I'd love to collect "46 percent more in total compensation (salary plus benefits) than the average private-sector employee." Sweet! Where do I sign?

Anonymous said...

There is an even better case for faculty and staff unionization that was just provided by the governor.

The professional state employees who are represented through collective bargaining successfully negotiated average salary increases of approximately 8% for the current biennium while academic staff and faculty will get as little as 3% over the same period.

While some pundits have accepted the rhetoric that there is "not enough money" to pay academic staff and faculty, the experiences of the doctors, attorneys, and accountants who collectively bargain their wages shows that the apologists are woefully wrong.

Anonymous said...

Taxpayers can no longer afford the services provided by public sector union employees.

This is the only segment of labor who can realize wage and benefit increases in a down economy.

If private business was incharge of public sector jobs, things would be vastly different.

The only reason public sector union employees maintain their increases, is there is no P&L (Profit & Loss) oversite. Average middleclass taxpayers rather fund the rising public union increases, not greedy corporate CEO's.

Drastic change is needed.

Anonymous said...

Right... The private sector does a great job of policing itself.

"During the past 12 months, overall total compensation of the highest-paid executive increased 20.5 percent while revenues increased 2.8 percent, the study found. As of February 2008, the average top executive received overall total compensation of $18,813,697, according to the study. In comparison, the median pay for workers rose only 3.5 percent to $36,140 in 2007, from $34,892 the previous year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics." (Fourth Quarter 2007, Bureau of Labor Statistics release Jan. 17, 2008 and

Me, as a UWO employee, I would be tickled to get that 3.5% increase in compensation all in one year!

Actually, let's see, that's 3.5% this year for the private sector (regular workers, not executives) while the out of control public sector unions averaged 4.0% (remember, that 8% is over 2 years). I'm outraged. Simply outraged.

Anonymous said...

Commonly known fact that public sector union members often have healthcare benefits that are 95% paid by the taxpayers and the union member only pays 5%.

That is in stark contrast to private industry which typically sees employers funding between 60-80% with the remaining 40-20% paid by the employee.

Most private sector employees, and even private sector union employees are faced with layoffs, plant closings and benefit reductions.

That is in stark contrast to public sector union employees who are improving their wages and benefits (funded by average property taxpayers who may have lost their own job) and provided these added benefits through an outdated arbitration law.

Time for a change...

Anonymous said...

This same post was repeated endelessy on "Glib Replies" a few months ago.

Listen very carefully, University profs do not not have a union. Most would like to be part of a public sector because then they would not have had their pay raises taken away

No matter how many times you paste variations of that same comment, no one at the university is going to listen to you.

I suggest two options: join the public sector (if your can't beat 'em join 'em); get involved in politics with like minded people and let the political market (elections) decide who has the best ideas.

Bill Wresch said...

After seing that ENDLESS cut and paste from Malanga, I am tempted to cut and paste a novel in here, but instead, let me make two short points.

1- If conservatives are paying this guy to analyze the last election thinking it will help them with the next election, they are dumber than they look. Two wars and a recession later, red/blue and all that nonsense will be completely different.

2. I hope Malanga has some money in the bank. Hired intellectuals like him rely on sugar daddies with big bucks to pay their way in think tanks and endless conservative conferences. But daddy may have a problem now that the real estate and banking industries have collapsed and the general stock market is having its worst decade since the 1930s. He may have to get a real job.

in the meantime, I think Winnebloggo is trying to get us to move on to a new topic. I think it is about time.

Lake Winneblogo said...

Do you really think somebody is paying for these anti-union trolls on the internet?

It is really a tiresome feature of the Oshkosh blogosphere--does it happen across the country?

Just some questions that I am too lazy to look into . . .

Anonymous said...

The cut-and-paste troll is not worth the time pursuing. My best guess is that he works for the John Birch Society in Appleton which promotes the Malanga line. Spam on the internet using unrelated blog sites would be an easy and cheap way for a right-wing hack to promote their cause.

Anonymous said...

All that is fine, yet no one will deny the benefits provided to public sector unions are paid by the property tax payer, not some greedy fat-cat corporate CEO. The money that goes to public sector unions comes right out of the pockets of simple taxpayers many of whom have not received any raises and some have had wage cuts.

Anonymous said...

So go tell the janitors at UW that they should take a pay cut for you. Go ahead. Tell them in person. Then tell the firefighters and police. yeah right none of them deserve a raise

Anonymous said...

They don't deserve a raise anymore that the people they are asking to give (pay) a raise to them.
It's not like huge fatcat CEO's who hord all the money and don't give any to the people who do the work. The public sector unions feed off the average common taxpayers depleting funds. Gas goes up, food goes up, taxes goes up and many of the people in Oshkosh wages are stagnent or going down, yet the public union workers feel that they will put the screws to the lowly average guy and ask him to kick in more taxes to give them even more than they have now.

Anonymous said...

First of all "fatcat" CEOs do not "hord" money.

Second, expenses such as higher executive salaries are paid for by either holding down wages for people like you or by passing on costs to consumers like you.

Third, maybe your earning power might improve if you went to college and had an underpiad non-unionized prf teach you how to write and use spell check.

Anonymous said...

"Third, maybe your earning power might improve if you went to college and had an underpiad non-unionized prf teach you how to write and use spell check."

"underpiad" - spell check?

LOL this guy is a full fledged nutcase! Must be living on the public dole. Bet he wants a raise too!

Too funny!! This made my day. Thanks for posting :)