Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Abusive Teachers Union Power Results from Government School Monopoly

The institution of government-financed public education leads to unnecessary political controversies that wouldn’t exist in an education free market.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, a free market is inherently equipped to seamlessly deal with issues like teacher accountability and tenure. The same is true with regard to the power of teachers unions. As CATO Institute’s Neal McCluskey explains:

[Teachers unions] are a natural symptom of a government monopoly that, because it is a monopoly, strongly favors the monopolization of labor. One employer, one employee representative.

[T]eacher union officials and members are no different than anyone else: they are simply trying to get the best deals for themselves.  What separates them from non-unionized workers—and unionized workers in the private sector—is not their desires, but that their employment comes from a system into which ”customers” must pay, and which is controlled completely by politics.

Citing a Wall Street Journal piece on the unions’ “huge” political expenditures, McCluskey writes:

There would be no major freedom issue if all of this were spending by unions with completely voluntary membership, and which operated in truly free markets. There would, then, be no compelled support of politicking. But this is absolutely not the case when it comes to teachers unions and other public sector unions.

For one thing, teachers often are, for all intents and purposes, forced to join unions as a condition of employment, even when they are required to ”just” pay big “agency fees” to cover collective bargaining. Moreover, the ultimately taxpayer-supplied dues money is used to get more dough out of taxpayers who have no choice but to be schools’ “customers.”

In a genuine free market, workers and businesses would be free to create union shops by voluntary agreement. But both would be subject to voluntary market forces, because a private company cannot gather its customers by physical force. The power of the unions would be limited and strictly economic—not political—in nature. Unions’ power would be tied to the viability of the business, which would be dependent upon customer satisfaction. And in a free market, there would be little incentive for either union or company to engage in political spending, because the government wouldn’t have the power to dispense economic favors.

As to the abusive power of the teachers unions, McCluskey correctly notes that the fundamental problem is the “government schooling monopoly,” not the unions themselves. Although modern teachers unions both feed off of and perpetuate this monopoly, the underlying problem can only be solved by the complete separation of education and state.


Scrap New Teacher Tenure Policy; Erect Wall Between Government and Education

Teacher Accountability Follows From Genuine Market Activity

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools

Film Review: Waiting for “Superman”

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

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