Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Union Shafts Workers

In reading about the striking workers from Northwest Airlines, one can't help but feel sorry for them. Northwest is operating smoothly after replacing them, their health insurance runs out tomorrow, and they get their last paycheck on Friday.

Here are GR Pundit, we're often hard on unions, but it's important that our readers understand that we're hard on union leadership, not union members. The airline mechanics' union had the opportunity to make concessions to keep the jobs of most of the union members, but those concessions were rejected. Intead, over 4,000 mechanics are now out of work with no income.

Today's unions are losing their clout and their muscle. The airline mechanics' union is just one example of many to come where the members are going to be out of a job in the name of solidarity.

Now there are 1,200 replacement mechanincs working at Northwest who, we're sure, are happy to have a job. In the mean time, the head of the mechanics' union makes statements which are clearly untrue:

AMFA co-founder and national director O.V. Delle-Femine visited picketers Monday at Detroit Metro Airport to boost spirits.

"In a couple weeks, people are going to see the failure of this airline," Delle-Femine told strikers gathering at a nearby United Auto Workers union hall before heading to picket lines.

He's lying to his members to try and keep them in line. In the mean time, we're sure Mr. Delle-Femine is receiving his full salary and health benefits.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fork in the Road for Unions

The Detroit News had a good selection of articles yesterday on the crisis faced by unions in today's America. The current Northwest Airlines strike is highlighting the fact that the ability of unions to flex muscle and take on "big business" is severely weakened. Northwest trained replacement mechanics for 18 months prior to last week's strike. An article from today's DetNews says that the strikers' chances of forcing the airline into an agreement are slim.

Northwest says that 96% of flights were successfully completed on Tuesday, up from 91% on Saturday. The strike caused a momentary disruption, but things are back to normal. Looks like the strike was just a blip on the radar.

An important quote from the article:

In interviews this week, the replacement hires say they don't regret their move, despite being derided as "scabs" and "scum" by the strikers, who yell at them from sidewalks above the tarmac.

The Northwest jobs are a chance for better pay and, for many laid off from other airlines, a chance to return to the industry.

That sums the situation up well. While the union members strike, people who are happy just to have a job are filling in. The poor state of the economy in Michigan makes it unwise to walk off the job.

Particularly interesting about the Detroit News' web site is that a poll of online readers shows that 67% believe that union demands are out of line. Read the comments as well, they are mostly anti-union.

While unions had an important role to play in the past, they have outlived their usefulness and now just stand in the way of economic progress. The legacy air carriers and automakers, weighted down with the union mentality of the 1950s, are the big losers in today's economy. As companies such as Northwest aggressively challenge unions, the unions will become less and less relevant.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Area Teachers Best Paid in the Nation

In an interesting article from the Grand Rapids Press, it seems as though area teachers are the best paid in the nation, when cost of living is taken into account.

The average teacher in the GR area makes $55,568 in adjusted salary. Bert Bleke, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, says that this number looks "about right."

Of course, the teacher's union is going crazy now that the secret is out. "We're befuddled," according to the GREA's president.

We here at GR Pundit are befuddled too. The GR area has the highest paid teachers in the nation (with Grand Rapids Schools teachers not being very far behind), and the GR School district is hinting at bankruptcy. Befuddling doesn't begin to describe the situation.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Grand Rapids Schools Collapsing

There was a good article in today's Grand Rapids Press regarding much of the top leadership of the Grand Rapids Public Schools district leaving. Bert Bleke, the superintendent, is leaving only four years into his five year contract, the Deupty Superintendent has left, the Chief Academic Officer is leaving in a few months, the Chief Operations Officer is leaving, as well as two of the five high school principals (one of them leaving for a charter school), as well as a number of elementary school principals.

Hmm... maybe they see the writing on the wall?

The school district, which spends over $10,000 per student, claims that it is near bankruptcy. At this point, that's about the best thing that could happen. If a federal trustee takes over, he could rip up the contracts and start over. All the union contracts should be tossed, along with most of the administration. They maybe, just maybe, some reform could be implemented. But we're not holding our breath.

With folks like Mayor Heartwell in the likely position to influence what happens to the district, there really is no hope. He'll probably propose a group hug to make things all better.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Election Wrap-Up

The City's municipal election had some interesting results on Tuesday:

1. The first ward (west side of Grand Rapids) saw incumbent Jim Jendrasiak get less than the 50% required to avoid a runoff election in November. We're a bit surprised by that fact, since incumbents usually don't have a hard time getting past primaries.

Allegations that Jendrasiak wanted to cut the housing inspection department's budget after he was cited for several violations at his own home hang over his head, however. Jendrasiak will face newcomer Dave Shaffer.

Jendrasiak got 44% of the vote and Shaffer got 25%

2. The second ward (north and northeast side of the city) saw a hotly contested race with Rossalynn Bliss getting 43% of the vote and Shaula Johnston getting 33%. Bliss, who's lived in the second ward for only three years, was also getting grief for never having voted in a city election.

3. The third ward (south and southeast sides) saw incumbent Jim White win 58% of the vote, re-electing him without a runoff.