This House would abolish collective bargaining rights for unions.

Collective bargaining is a means by which employees, in the private and often in the public sector, can pool their individual resources and strength of numbers to negotiate directly with their employer in order to seek better pay and working conditions. Long taken for granted as appropriate and necessary in the private sector, collective bargaining rights have been at the centre of debate in regards to public employees and unions.

Wisconsin became the centre of this debate in early 2011 when governor Scott Walker pushed to end collective bargaining rights for public union workers.[1] Walker and other opponents of collective bargaining, often claim that ending the practice is a necessary means of helping cut costs and budget deficits. They argue that collective bargaining gives public sector unions too much power and so results in them being able coerce state and federal executives into agreeing to ever-higher wage and benefit packages, irrespective of the burden this would place on government budgets. However, others argue that there is no inherent link between collective bargaining and cutting costs; that the mere right to argue one's case doesn't mean that the governor and other politicians must agree and grant the benefits requested. Advocates argue that having a voice at the bargaining is so fundamentally important to public employees that it should be considered a fundamental right. Indeed, international law provides significant support for considering collective bargaining such a right.

In this debate, proposition should seek to allow the formation of unions of workers, but prevent their ability to collectively bargain with the state or employers, through changes to the structure of employment law or through a simple refusal to engage in negotiations with union organisations. This debate is very similar to a debate on the abolition of unions generally, as collective bargaining strategies are key to the effectiveness of almost all unions.

[1] Davey, Monica, “Wisconsin Senate Limits Bargaining by Public Workers”, The New York Times, 9 March 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/us/10wisconsin.html?pagewanted=all

 

 

Title 
Collective Bargaining is Not a Right
Point 

Whilst the freedom of association exists under the state and it is true that people should be allowed to communicate with one another and form groups to forward their personal and political interests, it is not true that the freedom of association automatically grants access to the decision making process.

Unions in this instance are problematic because whilst other groups do not have access to special privileges, unions are able to exert a significant and disproportionate amount of influence over the political process through the use of collective bargaining mechanisms. This argument applies to private unions as well, although to a lesser extent, and the banning of collective bargaining for private unions would be principally sound. In the case of unions in the private sector they can cause large amounts of disruption which has a large knock on impact on the economy giving leverage over politicians for whom the economy and jobs are always important issues. For example unions in transport in the private sector are just as disruptive as in the public sector. Even more minor businesses can be significant due to being in supply or logistics chains that are vital for important parts of the economy.[1]  The access to the decision making process that unions are granted goes above and beyond the rights that we award to all other groups and as such this right, if it can be called one at all, can easily be taken away as it is the removal of an inequality within our system.

Further, even if collective bargaining were to be considered a “right,” the government can curtail the rights of individuals and groups of people should it feel the harm to all of society is great enough. We see this with the limits that we put on free speech such that we may prevent the incitement of racial hatred.[2]

[1] Shepardson, David, “GM, Ford warn rail strike could cripple auto industry”, The Detroit News, 30 November 2011, http://www.detnews.com/article/20111130/AUTO01/111300437/GM-Ford-warn-rail-strike-could-cripple-auto-industry

[2] Denholm, David “Guess What: There is no ‘right’ to collective bargaining.” LabourUnionReport.com 21/02/2011 http://www.laborunionreport.com/portal/2011/02/guess-what-there-is-no-right-to-collective-bargaining/

Counterpoint 

Collective bargaining is considered a right because of the great benefit that it provides. Specifically, whilst freedom of association might not allow people to be privy to the negotiation process, when a large enough group of people form together and make a statement regarding their opinion, it is profitable for those in power to listen to them.

Collective bargaining in this situation is a logical extension of that. Given that public sector workers are intrinsic to the continued success of the state, it thus makes sense that the state gives them a platform to make their views in a clear and ordered fashion, such that the state can take them into account easily.[1]

Further, the knowledge that such a right exists causes unions to act in a way which is more predictable. Specifically, a right to unionise with reduce the likelihood that state employees will engage in strike action. Under existing union law, groups of employees are able to compel a state employer to hear their demands, and to engage in negotiations. Indeed, they may be obliged to do so before they commence strike action. If the resolution were to pass, associations of state employees would be compelled to use strikes as a method of initiating negotiation. Under the status quo, strikes are used as a tactic of last resort against an intractable opponent or as a demonstration of the support that a union official’s bargaining position commands amongst the Union’s rank-and-file members.

[1] Bloomberg, Michael. “Limit Pay, Not Unions.” New York Times. 27/02/2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/28mayor.html?_r=1

Title 
Collective Bargaining Leads to an Overpaid Public Sector
Point 

The public sector is often significantly overpaid. The workers within the public sectors of Western liberal democracies often get paid more than people of equal education and experience who are employed in the private sector. In the United States there is a salary premium of 10-20 percent in the public sector. This means that there is likely a waste of resources as these people are being paid more than they should be by the government.[1] 

The reason this happens is that collective bargaining means that workers can often, through the simple idea that they can communicate with the government and have a hand in the decision making process, make their demands much more easily.

Further, governments in particular are vulnerable during negotiations with unions, due their need to maintain both their political credibility and the cost effectiveness of the services they provide. This is significantly different to private enterprise where public opinion of the company is often significantly less relevant. As such, public sector workers can earn significantly more than their equally skilled counterparts in the private sector. This is problematic because it leads to a drain of workers and ideas from the private sector to the public. This is, in and of itself, problematic because the public sector, due to being shackled to the needs of public opinion often take fewer risks than the private sector and as such results in fewer innovations than work in the private sector.

[1] Biggs, Andrew G. “Why Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Is Right About Collective Bargaining.” US News. 25/02/2011 http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2011/02/25/why-wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-is-right-about-collective-bargaining

Counterpoint 

The public sector being paid extra is something that is acceptable and necessary within society. Workers within the public sector often fulfill roles in jobs that are public goods. Such jobs provide a positive externality for the rest of society, but would be underprovided by the free market. For example, education would likely be underprovided, particularly for the poorest, by the free market but provides a significant benefit to the public because of the long term benefits an educated populace provides.[I1]  In healthcare the example of the United States shows that private providers will never provide to those who are unable to afford it with nearly 50million people without health insurance.[1]

Although the average pay received by government employees tends to be higher, the peak earnings potential of a government position is significantly lower than that of other professions. Workers who chose to build long term careers within the public sector forgo a significant amount of money, and assume a heavier workload, in order to serve the needs of society and play a part in furthering its aspirations. As such, and owing to the fact that the people who do these jobs often provide economic benefit beyond what their pay would encompass in the private sector, it makes sense that they be paid more in the public sector. This is because their work benefits the people of the state and as such the state as a whole benefits significantly more from their work.[2]

[1] Christie, Les, “Number of people without health insurance climbs”, CNNmoney, 13 September 2011, http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/13/news/economy/census_bureau_health_insura...

[2] “AS Market Failure.” Tutor2u. http://tutor2u.net/economics/revision-notes/as-marketfailure-positive-externalities.html

Title 
Collective Bargaining Hurts the Democratic Process
Point 

The bargain between normal unions and private enterprise involves all parties being brought to the table and talking about the issues that they might have. However, the public sector represents the benefits of taxpayers, the politicians and the unions. The power that unions exercises means that negotiations can happen without the consent or involvement of the public sector’s stakeholders, the public.

Even though power in a democracy is usually devolved to the politicians for this purpose, given the highly politicised nature of union negotiations, government office-holders who supervise union negotiations may act inconsistently with the mandate that the electorate have given them. This is because public unions often command a very large block of voters and can threaten politicians with this block of voters readily. This is not the same as a private business where officials aren’t elected by their workers.  As such, collective bargaining rights for public union undermine the ability of taxpayers to dictate where their money is being spent significantly.[1]

[1] “Union Bargaining Just A Dream For Many Gov Workers.” Oregan Herald. 27/02/2011 http://www.oregonherald.com/news/show-story.cfm?id=234947

Counterpoint 

Collective bargaining might hurt the democratic process due to its political nature, but the alternative is worse. Without collective bargaining it is incredibly difficult for public sector workers to get across their ideas of what their pay should be to their employers. This leads to worse consequences because public sector workers who feel underpaid or overworked will often move to the private sector for better job opportunities in the future as well as a better collective bargaining position. Further, those public sector workers that do stay will be unhappy in their positions and will likely do a worse job at work.

Given that this is true and the fact that public sector workers often choose to do their jobs out of a sense of duty or love for the profession, it is fair that the taxpayers should be placed in a position where they are required to trust the public sector and the politicians to work out deals that end up being in favour of the entire state, not just a small minority.[1]

[1] Bloomberg, Michael. “Limit Pay, Not Unions.” New York Times. 27/02/2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/28mayor.html?_r=1

Title 
Collective Bargaining is Needed to Voice Opinion
Point 

The bargain between normal unions and private enterprise involves all parties being brought to the table and talking about the issues that they might have. However, the public sector represents the benefits of taxpayers, the politicians and the unions. The power that unions exercises means that negotiations can happen without the consent or involvement of the public sector’s stakeholders, the public.

Even though power in a democracy is usually devolved to the politicians for this purpose, given the highly politicised nature of union negotiations, government office-holders who supervise union negotiations may act inconsistently with the mandate that the electorate have given them. This is because public unions often command a very large block of voters and can threaten politicians with this block of voters readily. This is not the same as a private business where officials aren’t elected by their workers.  As such, collective bargaining rights for public union undermine the ability of taxpayers to dictate where their money is being spent significantly.[1]

[1] “Union Bargaining Just A Dream For Many Gov Workers.” Oregan Herald. 27/02/2011 http://www.oregonherald.com/news/show-story.cfm?id=234947

Counterpoint 

Collective bargaining might hurt the democratic process due to its political nature, but the alternative is worse. Without collective bargaining it is incredibly difficult for public sector workers to get across their ideas of what their pay should be to their employers. This leads to worse consequences because public sector workers who feel underpaid or overworked will often move to the private sector for better job opportunities in the future as well as a better collective bargaining position. Further, those public sector workers that do stay will be unhappy in their positions and will likely do a worse job at work.

Given that this is true and the fact that public sector workers often choose to do their jobs out of a sense of duty or love for the profession, it is fair that the taxpayers should be placed in a position where they are required to trust the public sector and the politicians to work out deals that end up being in favour of the entire state, not just a small minority.[1]

[1] Bloomberg, Michael. “Limit Pay, Not Unions.” New York Times. 27/02/2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/28mayor.html?_r=1

Title 
Collective Bargaining is Needed to Voice Opinion
Point 

Collective bargaining is needed by people in any job. Within any firm there exist feedback structures that enable workers to communicate with managers and executive decision makers. However, there are some issues which affect workers significantly, but run against the principles of profit, or in this case the overall public good that the state seeks to serve.

In this situation, a collection of workers are required. This is primarily because if suggested changes go against public interest then a single worker requesting such a change is likely to be rejected. However, it is the indirect benefit to public interest through a workforce that is treated better that must also be considered. But indirect benefit can only truly occur if there are a large number of workers where said indirect benefit can accrue.

Specifically, indirect benefit includes the happiness of the workforce and thus the creation of a harder working workforce, as well as the prevention of brain drain of the workforce to other professions. When a single person is unhappy for example, the effect is minimal, however if this effect can be proved for a large number of people then an adjustment must be made.

In order for these ideas to be expressed, workers can either engage in a collective bargaining process with their employer, or take more drastic action such as strikes or protests to raise awareness of the problem. Given that the alternate option is vastly more disruptive, it seems prudent to allow people to do collectively bargain.[1]

[1] “Importance of Collective Bargaining.” Industrial relations. http://industrialrelations.naukrihub.com/importance-of-collective-bargaining.html

Counterpoint 

Even if collective bargaining leads to a workforce that is better able to communicate their ideas, it also leads to a situation as mentioned within the proposition arguments that results in unions having significantly more power over their wages and the government than in other situations. This is problematic because it leads to consequences where other unions feel that they should have the same powers as public unions and can hence lead to volatility in the private sector as a result.

Further, given that often the negotiators that work for public unions are often aware of the political power of the public workers, negotiations with public unions often lead to strike action due to the fact that it is likely that the public will be sympathetic to the public workers. As such, allowing public workers to bargain collectively leads to situations that are often much worse for the public.

Further, a lot of opposition’s problems with a lack of collective bargaining can simply be dealt with through implementing a more sensitive and understanding feedback process among workers. If a worker for example raises an issue which might affect a large number of workers, it should be fairly simple for public companies to take polls of workers to understand the gravity of the problem.[1]

[1] Rabin, Jack, and Dodd, Don, “State and Local Government Administration”New York: Marcel Dekker Inc 1985, p390

Title 
Collective Bargaining is Especially Necessary in the Case of Natural Monopolies
Point 

Many public industries exist as public industries because they are natural monopolies. For example, rail travel, which is often public in Western Liberal democracies, is a sector in which it makes no sense to build multiple railway lines across the country, each for a different company, when one would simply be more efficient. A similar case can be made for things such as public utilities. As such, these sectors often only have a single, often public company working in that sector.

In the case where there is a monopolist, the workers in the sector often have no other employers that they can reasonably find that require their skills, so for example, teachers are very well qualified to teach, however, are possibly not as qualified to deal with other areas and as such will find difficulty moving to another profession. As such, the monopolist in this area has the power to set wages without losing a significant number of employees. Further, in many of these industries strike action will not be used, for example because teachers have a vocational, almost fiduciary relationship with their students and don’t wish to see them lose out due to a strike.[1]

[1] “Monopoly Power.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly

Counterpoint 

The opposition argument here is simply a case against natural monopolies. In many Western Liberal democracies, advances in technology have enabled natural monopolies on telecoms and public transport to be broken down. A wide range of necessary public services- such as telecoms and power generation- now function as part of a competitive market. As such, it is feasible that the state could simply deal with this problem by breaking down other natural monopolies in the same way.

Even if the state acts as a monopolist in some industries, public sector workers often have transferrable skills which mean they can move to other industries without that much trouble. For example, a public prosecutor will have acquired professional skills that enable a relatively quick transition into private or commercial civil practice.[1]

[1] “Identifying the Transferable skills of a Teacher.” North Central College. http://northcentr

Title 
Collective Bargaining is Especially Necessary in the Case of Natural Monopolies
Point 

Many public industries exist as public industries because they are natural monopolies. For example, rail travel, which is often public in Western Liberal democracies, is a sector in which it makes no sense to build multiple railway lines across the country, each for a different company, when one would simply be more efficient. A similar case can be made for things such as public utilities. As such, these sectors often only have a single, often public company working in that sector.

In the case where there is a monopolist, the workers in the sector often have no other employers that they can reasonably find that require their skills, so for example, teachers are very well qualified to teach, however, are possibly not as qualified to deal with other areas and as such will find difficulty moving to another profession. As such, the monopolist in this area has the power to set wages without losing a significant number of employees. Further, in many of these industries strike action will not be used, for example because teachers have a vocational, almost fiduciary relationship with their students and don’t wish to see them lose out due to a strike.[1]

[1] “Monopoly Power.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly

Counterpoint 

The opposition argument here is simply a case against natural monopolies. In many Western Liberal democracies, advances in technology have enabled natural monopolies on telecoms and public transport to be broken down. A wide range of necessary public services- such as telecoms and power generation- now function as part of a competitive market. As such, it is feasible that the state could simply deal with this problem by breaking down other natural monopolies in the same way.

Even if the state acts as a monopolist in some industries, public sector workers often have transferrable skills which mean they can move to other industries without that much trouble. For example, a public prosecutor will have acquired professional skills that enable a relatively quick transition into private or commercial civil practice.[1]

[1] “Identifying the Transferable skills of a Teacher.” North Central College. http://northcentralcollege.edu/documents/student_life/Teacher%20Skills_Skills%20Assessment.pdf

Title 
Collective Bargaining is a Right.
Point 

Collective bargaining is a right. If the state allows freedom of association, individuals will gather together and exchange their ideas and views as a natural consequence of this freedom. Further, free association and free expression allows groups to then select a representative to express their ideas in a way that the individuals in the group might not be able to. In preventing people from using this part of their right to assembly, we weaken the entire concept of the right to assembly. The point of the right to assembly is to allow the best possible representation for individuals. When a group of individuals are prevented from enjoying this right then it leads to those individuals feeling isolated from the rest of society who are able to enjoy this right.

This is particularly problematic in the case of public sector workers as the state that is isolating them also happens to be their employer. This hurts the way that people in the public sector view the state that ideally is meant to represent them above all as they actively contribute to the well being of the state.[1]

[1] Bloomberg, Michael. “Limit Pay, Not Unions.” New York Times. 27/02/2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/28mayor.html?_r=1

Counterpoint 

As discussed in the first proposition side argument, we can curtail the rights of individuals if we see that those rights lead to a large negative consequence for the state. In this situation proposition is happy to let some public sector workers feel slightly disenfranchised if it leads to fewer strikes and a situation where public sector workers are not paid too much, then the net benefit to society is such that the slight loss in terms of consistency of rights is worth taking instead.[1]

[1] Davey, Monica, “Wisconsin Senate Limits Bargaining by Public Workers”, The New York Times, 9 March 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/us/10wisconsin.html?pagewanted=all

Bibliography 

“AS Market Failure.” Tutor2u. http://tutor2u.net/economics/revision-notes/as-marketfailure-positive-externalities.html

Bloomberg, Michael. “Limit Pay, Not Unions.” New York Times. 27/02/2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/28mayor.html?_r=1

Biggs, Andrew G. “Why Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Is Right About Collective Bargaining.” US News. 25/02/2011 http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2011/02/25/why-wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-is-right-about-collective-bargaining

Christie, Les, “Number of people without health insurance climbs”, CNNmoney, 13 September 2011, http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/13/news/economy/census_bureau_health_insurance/index.htm

Denholm, David “Guess What: There is no ‘right’ to collective bargaining.” LabourUnionReport.com 21/02/2011 http://www.laborunionreport.com/portal/2011/02/guess-what-there-is-no-right-to-collective-bargaining/

“Importance of Collective Bargaining.” Industrial relations. http://industrialrelations.naukrihub.com/importance-of-collective-bargaining.html

“Identifying the Transferable skills of a Teacher.” North Central College. http://northcentralcollege.edu/documents/student_life/Teacher%20Skills_Skills%20Assessment.pdf

“Monopoly Power.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly

Rabin, Jack, and Dodd, Don, “State and Local Government Administration”, New York: Marcel Dekker Inc 1985, p390

Shepardson, David, “GM, Ford warn rail strike could cripple auto industry”, The Detroit News, 30 November 2011, http://www.detnews.com/article/20111130/AUTO01/111300437/GM-Ford-warn-rail-strike-could-cripple-auto-industry

“Union Bargaining Just A Dream For Many Gov Workers.” Oregan Herald. 27/02/2011 http://www.oregonherald.com/news/show-story.cfm?id=234947

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