About unions

Most of y’all who know me in real life know me to be somewhere right of center, somewhere around the level of being a practical minded libertarian on most issues and a raging hawk on foreign policy and national security.   So, this may come as a surprise to you.   I think unions are a necessary check and balance in the workplace.  My problem with unions is that they’ve been getting it wrong for so long and this getting it wrong is causing some real problems.

I live in an area of Texas where the local municipal police union has a large role in city politics.  The fire union to a lesser extent.  And the local third-service municipal EMS service recently obtained civil service protection, first by convincing the Texas Legislature to change state civil service law to cover third-service EMS, then convincing the voters of this unnamed “progressive” city along the Colorado River to approve said civil service protections.

So, what have the police and EMS union both done with their state civil service protections under Chapter 143 of the Texas Local Government Code?  Why they agreed to sit down at the table with city management and fritter away civil service due process protections for discipline, promotions, and hiring in return for some changes to pay rates and cost of living raises and, in the case of the police, some increased pension benefits.  The city sees giving away a few million bucks over the life of a union contract as chump change in return for the ability to return to a de facto at will employment status, the ability to play politics with the hiring process, and the ability to manipulate the selection of middle and upper level supervision/management.

The unions point to their pay raises and the political pull they have locally due to donating campaign cash to (usually) sure winners.   Sadly, pay is only part of what a union is supposed to advocate for.  When said unions don’t campaign equally aggressively for workplace conditions (call volume means a need for more medics/cops/firefighters, y’all) and due process for employee hiring, promotion, and discipline, they’re selling their members out even worse than they might be without a union.  Believing you’re protected is probably worse than when you know you’re not protected.  Only you and your lawyer can protect you — no matter what lines the union sells when it’s time to agree to have your dues deducted from your check.

My advice:  Keep a lawyer on retainer and speed dial.  Nope, I can’t be your lawyer.  I have a full-time government job where I can’t take outside cases.  If I didn’t, stupid management and union decisions could easily buy me a bigger Beemer.


  1. As a medic and attorney, I agree. That’s horrible. I wish my state would consider civil service protection for EMS. And not bargain it away.

  2. Too many EMS workers fail to pay attention to what their unions are doing for them and do not involve themselves in the process. EMS workers are among the most complacent of all workers. They simply will not get involved in the negotiating process.

    Is this because they are sampling the midazolam? One wonders.

    Maybe some of these services who continually treat their workers like crap need a good dose of the Teamsters. I did labor law for years when I was practicing law, and the one union that always stood up for its members was the Teamsters. I don’t know how it is now, but in those days, they were feared by managers. Now it seems that management and the unions are often in bed together, with the politicians sharing the mattress.

  3. Well said. When it comes to union matters, the IAFF and it’s local affiliates have it all over the assorted police and (rare) EMS unions. Even in my former life, where I was a member of a strong union, the firefighters made more than not only us, but than the cops as well.

    Some people hate unions, and they do some things to justify that hate. However, management, especially government management, has a long history of doing things that make public sector unions a necessity.

    Unfortunately, until human nature changes that will remain the case. I’m not holding my breath for human nature to change, either.

  4. To educated for unions says:

    Unions have worn out there usefulness. Public sector unions are a particular pox on society in general. Union Bosses are the worst kind of blood suckers. And local politicians are almost always in the local political game for their own monetary gain, usually in conjunction with a business they or their associates are engaged in. If you are a common laborer, whether so called professional, or unskilled, you are at the mercy of your employer. If you don’t like your circumstances, move on. Start your own business. Or run for political office!