It is becoming evident that the leaders of many special interest labor groups have forgotten what is taught in high school economics and world history, or at the very least, they are not living it out. That's why we have been questioning their authority and their policies.
The fact is that their notions are hurting working class Americans. To make matters worse, the U.S. Department of Labor continues to bow to their will which puts our transit systems in fiscal limbo. The groups support high livable wages and benefits for workers which, to be fair, is a noble idea. However, the only way that wish is going to come true is to get the economy back into a robust state, not force taxpayers into paying out unaffordable perks. If you're wondering why our local agencies like RTA, RCTC, and Omnitrans cannot afford to build out public transportation infrastructure at a faster pace, this is a prime reason.
For those who have forgotten the basics of how the economic system works, let's take a review, and we'll peak through the textbook World History: Connections to Today California Edition which is now taught in many California high school 10th grade history classes. If you've ever wondered why knowing your history is so important, "putting today's controversies into perspective" is a prime reason, as quoted from a 1990's syllabus by former Capistrano Valley High School U.S. History teacher Paul Pflueger. So, here it is.
The Industrial Revolution, Labor Unions and the Market Economy
Let's turn to page 178 of the textbook and review the worldwide Industrial Revolution. Here's the introductory paragraph of the lesson:
The Industrial Revolution brought great riches to most of the entrepreneurs who help set it in motion. For the millions of workers who crowded into the new factories, however, the industrial age brought poverty and harsh living conditions. In time, reforms would curb many of the worst abuses of the early industrial age in Europe and the Americas. As standards of living increased, people at all levels of society would benefit from industrialization. Until then, working people would suffer with dangerous working conditions; unsafe, unsanitary, and overcrowded housing; and unrelenting poverty.
Back then, labor unions were vital in getting world governments to intervene on the corporate corruption of the maltreatment and abuse of the working class. There's no question this was the right thing to do. Back then, such groups met in secret because many jurisdictions outlawed organized labor. Because of these labor groups, the governments passed fair and just laws which included collective bargaining rights. By the way, such labor abuse that occurred 200 years ago is still abundant in third world countries which make a significant portion of American marketplace products like clothing. The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights is currently working with such hard working laborers. If the feds and the Department of Labor want to crack down on worldwide worker abuse in factories where our products are made, that's where the attention needs to go, not toward our law-abiding transit agencies.
Back home, we have a situation where significant amounts of public employee wages and benefits are above what is offered in the marketplace. California wants to crack down on it by reforming pensions offered to future employees to market value, and the unions are using the name of "bargaining rights" to obstruct it. This type of behavior is irresponsible and puts the working class in danger of losing jobs in the marketplace. If the labor groups want to maintain the status quo of high pension benefits, they need to support policies that will get the marketplace economy back into a robust state. Here's what the history book has to say about it on page 182:
Despite the social problems created by the Industrial Revolution--low pay, dismal living conditions--the Industrial Age did have some positive effects. As demand for mass-produced goods grew, new factories opened, which in turn created more jobs. Wages rose so that workers had enough left after paying rent and buying food to buy a newspaper or visit a music hall. As the cost of railroad travel fell, people could visit family in other towns. Horizons widened and opportunities increased.
That's how the system worked back in the 1800's. The marketplace innovates and provides the jobs while the government oversees and combats corporate corruption and abuse, environmental pollution, and urban sprawl. As more jobs are added to the marketplace, wages and perks go up as more and more "Help Wanted" and "Now Hiring" signs end up on shop windows. If a business fails to take care of its employees in a robust job market, it is faced with high employee turnover which drives up its employee training and recruitment costs; look no further than your local McDonald's and Wal-Mart.
The statistics overwhelmingly show that the market economy does not collapse or negate the lives of hard working individuals as shown by higher quality products, lower prices, and competition. If the labor groups want higher wages, both the unions and the feds need to accept the fact that the economy cannot be dictated or managed from Washington or the state governments; the private sector needs to have the freedom to expand the economy and the jobs that go with it. As more jobs are added to the marketplace, benefits and wages increase.
Putting the high school history lesson into today's controversies:
Here's some ideas for those in labor groups and public office to improve the local economy: You want a robust transit center at the downtown Riverside train station and more downtown jobs? Entice a private entrepreneur to build the public facilities with a manufacturing job hub next door. Want to transform the Hyperloop pipe dream into a marketplace high speed rail system done right? Allow Inland Empire innovators to explore, mature, research and develop the technology into a robust system in the marketplace just like how the airplane evolved from a once dissented play toy into an industrial victory. What to get rid of drug and gang crime out of impoverished neighborhoods? Permit local marketplace researchers to participate in strengthening intelligence-driven enforcement solutions and procedures that law enforcement can use to catch and lock up more street criminals. You want more high paying jobs with benefits? There it is.
That's the type of policy the labor groups should be advocating which in turn fuels our transit systems toward prosperity with a productive workforce, and informed 10th graders well know it.