kitchen table math, the sequel: "deep shift in the makeup of unions"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"deep shift in the makeup of unions"

in the Times:

A study has found that just one in 10 union members is in manufacturing, while women account for more than 45 percent of the unionized work force.

The study, by the Center for Economic Policy Research, a Washington-based group, found that union membership is far less blue-collar and factory-based than in labor’s heyday, when the United Automobile Workers and the United Steelworkers dominated.

[snip]

About 48.9 percent of union members are in the public sector, up from 34 percent in 1983. About 61 percent of unionized women are in the public sector, compared to 38 percent for men.

[snip]

The study found that 38 percent of union members had a four-year college degree or more, up from 20 percent in 1983. Just under half of female union members (49.4 percent) have at least a four-year degree, compared with 27.7 percent for male union members.

[snip]

The percentage of men in unions has dropped sharply, to 14.5 percent in 2008, from 27.7 percent in 1983, while the percentage for women dropped more slowly, to 13 percent last year, from 18 percent in 1983. For the work force over all, the percentage of workers in unions dropped to 12.4 percent last year, from 20.1 percent in 1983.


Economix: Union Members Getting More Educated




The 2002 Census shows that "more than one-quarter" of adults hold a college degree.

Amongst union members, that figure is 37.5%.

13 comments:

Allison said...

Unionization of the public sector was a mistake.

There is no one acting as a brake on public sector union contracts, as the taxpayer is not adequately represented by the legislature or executive side of the govt.

so, apparently the reason to get your kids to go to college is so they can get a government job. They will be the only people who can retire.

LynnG said...

I've never quite understood why teachers, who are professionals, are unionized. Unions served the needs of people that had no options and no power to speak for themselves. When I think of the role of unions, it was to protect workers that could be replaced at a whim as they were unskilled and uneducated.

That's not the way the teaching or administrative work force views itself.

I might really be glorifying the history of unions in the US. But I don't think I'm far off. Teachers don't need a Union. Do they?

Anonymous said...

I don't think that government employees, from local to federal level, should be permitted to unionize. Also, the Hatch Act, which covers the military re. partisan political activity, should cover all public employees. Public sector unions and partisan political activity represents a fundamental conflict of interest.

Lsquared said...

"Teachers don't need a Union. Do they?"

Teachers are pretty vulnerable to the local governments they work for--it's not parallel to lawyers, for instance, who are almost self-employed: their income and benefits come from billing practices they are the primary decision makers about.

Teachers unions don't, however, always make rational decisions so far as I can tell, so I would say that in many instances need unions, but do not always benefit from having unions.

RMD said...

unions care only about what affects the unions . . . period

they don't care about the goals of the organization or anything else except their survival and growth

we just need to recognize this and deal with it

SteveH said...

"Teachers don't need a Union. Do they?"

It seems to me that it's a pact with the devil. They trade risk for lack of control and options. I've yet to see anything special about the teaching profession compared to other professions.


Most professional jobs have risk. I've worked for others and now I have my own business. When you work for others, you can get screwed over or laid off immediately. If you work for yourself, you run the risk of having to pay your employees before you pay yourself. Money doesn't just flow in because you work really hard. You have to convince others that you have a service or product they need.

This freedom, however, comes with great opportunity. If you don't like your job or boss, you can look for another job without any issues of seniority. You can even negotiate for large jumps in salary depending on supply and demand. My feeling, however, is that the profession would suffer a huge hit in that area without the union.

I would like to ignore the issues of unions, but they directly affect students and most people can't just go off and buy another product. The big issue in our state now is bumping. Many towns have less students and that means that classes have to be cut. If a class taught by a teacher with high seniority is cut, that teacher can bump out any teacher with lower seniority. This can cause a big chain reaction.

It's a system that buys allegiance. Once you've gone through the huge hassle of tenure, bumping, and yearly pro-forma pink slips, you don't want to be able to relax. At what price? I've commented before that some teachers seem to want it both ways; the security of a union and the freedom of other professions.

SteveH said...

Sorry, that should be: "you do want to be able to relax"

palisadesk said...

I've never understood why teachers, who are professionals...

Teachers may be "professionals" in their own minds, but teaching does not meet standards for a "profession" in any meaningful sense of the word.

I was going to paste in my comment on this topic from this post, but there were excellent contributions to the topic from others, so I think they should all be read.

I suspect the situation is quite variable. Where there is still local input and management of schools, and elected representatives hold real power, there might not be a need for a union. However in a monolithic system like mine, with 20,000 teachers, teachers (and other employees) are treated very much like factory workers -- they are disposable and easily replaced. The system is too dysfunctional to monitor how superiors do their jobs, so while I have mostly had good administrators, there are still those who try to extract sexual favors from new teachers, carry on campaigns of bullying, harrassment, intimidation or character assassination, and so on. Having a collective agreement gives people (not just teachers, but other staff) protection from abuse, personal vendettas, gross exploitation and so on. In my system, at least, such protection is necessary.

The trouble with the union is that it becomes a bureaucracy as unresponsive to individuals as the district hierarchy, and for similar reasons. It tends to have its own agenda and doesn't necessarily represent its members responsibly, or pursue the goals that members seek. If I had my druthers, I would opt for local unions only -- specific to the district, dealing only with local issues. The farther away any organization gets from the real people involved, the worse things are.

Allison said...

I would add also that it's not as if unions came, sui generis, to teachers 2 decades ago.

Unionizing of teachers today exists because of the unionizing of teachers 100 years ago, when work conditions were very different. (Funny, though, that the "issues" haven't changed. To wit: teachers unionized to get SMALL CLASS SIZES. why? Because they did not like THEIR work environment with too many students (no claim back then about it being bad for the students!)) When the 100-year old goal were met, the unions didn't happen to disband.

Unfortunately, the economy of scale that creates school districts rather than individual schools probably also creates work conditions that make unions desirable to teachers even in present day conditions.

Independent George said...

it's not parallel to lawyers, for instance, who are almost self-employed: their income and benefits come from billing practices they are the primary decision makers about.

Count me as someone who thinks teachers really should be professionals whose income and benefits depend on their ability to bill for services rendered.

Note that this is not mutually exclusive of unionization; electricians, plumbers, and professional athletes are highly skilled, highly specialized, and largely entrepreneurial professions with very strong unions backing them.

Anonymous said...

Many attorneys work in firms and can be fired in a split second. I'm married to one. Law firms have been shedding lawyers over the last couple of years quite dramatically, and no one is presently hiring.

What I don't get is why teachers have a union and tenure. It seems like you need a union if there is no tenure, or you need tenure if there is no union. But both?

Plus, now I'm hearing of administrator unions.

It used to be the government job was the one you didn't necessarily get the big paycheck, but you had excellent benefits and a good pension. I think most people are okay with that.

As far as unions, I can still pick a non union electrician or plumber and take my chances. The choice often comes down to money since in the private sector non union usually means less money.

Government unionization, on the other hand, feeds at the public trough and your only option is to pay for private school if you don't like it.

SusanS

Anonymous said...

A big difference that no one is mentioning is that all children must be schooled, in one form or another, while lawyers, plumbers, doctors, etc are only called upon when needed.

As for teachers being professionals- there is a difference between having professional behavior and belonging to a profession. I expect teachers to act responsibly and to execute their duty, but the idea that they are professionals and not trade unionists comes from the same ed schools that brought America the curricula most people on the board rally against.

Allison- the modern teachers' union didn't begin 100 hundred years ago. Albert Shanker, in the 1960s, pioneered the face of the union that exists today.

When people argue for new methods, assessments, and systems I have a very easy time finding validity in their points. When the conversation switches to altering tenure rules, pay structures, and benefit packages I fear the argument is short sighted.

Retirement benefits are considered delayed compensation and are one of the ways teachers make up for the prerequisite, if not pointless, costs of schooling and the, though most here would disagree with me, lower pay structure given in the field. The fact that the pay scale and the retirement benefits are defined is the trade off for lower starting pay. If a teacher puts in enough years he is justly compensated. That compensation, when added to the guaranteed pension, can become quite generous the longer he works.

I doubt the proponents of school choice and teacher compensation and retention based on quality have created models predicting the costs of such a system. I'd love to see them. As a pragmatist, a person who can't afford a house in Westchester despite two teacher's salaries that approach the top of pay scale, and someone who genuinely cares about the success of his students I'd be game to explore any model that considers students, labor, cost, and sustainability.

I've got a bunch of questions to throw into the mix.

What responsibility do individual communities have to provide an equitable scholastic environment to other cities in the county, state, region, and nation?

Where should school budgets come from?

How are school boards populated?

How much involvement should community members have in school management?

Should membership on a school board be a municipal job?

What rights do federal and state governments have when establishing funded or unfunded mandates?

Should the certifying body of a state be able to move high quality teachers to underperforming schools?

What does it mean to be a low quality teacher and how is that assessed?

I know SteveH is going to have a field day getting all hotheaded when he picks apart everything I've said :), but I feel obligated to put out some ideas from the other side to keep the conversation going.

-J

SteveH said...

"I know SteveH is going to have a field day getting all hotheaded when he picks apart everything I've said :), ..."

Which is so easy to do when you have to resort to comments like that.


"As a pragmatist, a person who can't afford a house in Westchester despite two teacher's salaries that approach the top of pay scale, ..."

This is immaterial. Do you think that you should be above supply and demand? Do you think that you should be able to live in the town where you teach?


"Retirement benefits are considered delayed compensation and are one of the ways teachers make up for the prerequisite, if not pointless, costs of schooling and the, though most here would disagree with me, lower pay structure given in the field."

"given in the field"?

Supply and demand determine the real value of any job. Unions interfere with that mechanism, especially in a monopoly.


"I doubt the proponents of school choice and teacher compensation and retention based on quality have created models predicting the costs of such a system. I'd love to see them."

Choice already exists. What's your specific problem with it? Does choice necessarily mean no unions? I really don't want to care about unions, but I have no choice (double meaning intended).