The University should no longer be strong-armed by the Brown library union — or any other union, for that matter. I find it preposterous that the libraries union got away with not only increasing workers’ base wages by 2 percent, but also getting a lower employee contribution toward health insurance premiums. I question the whole concept of the existence of this union since in the long run it only poses affordability problems for Brown students.
With the help of some loud students, it seems that the libraries union can bring the administration to its knees and shove any contract it pleases down its throat. I feel the members of these unions should face the real world of competition that we all face. The union disregards foreign and domestic competition altogether. What motivates the library workers to make an effort if the union coddles them and a protest-loving student body gives them an excessive safety net? If the University can hire one equally competent and hard-working non-unionized worker for half the price of one unionized worker, it should let the merits of the free market prevail. In the name of education, Brown should not be allowed a free hand at our bank balances since eventually the students, not the administration, will have to pay for it.
In the real world, an organization’s decisions are dependent upon its ability to earn after-tax income. Is the cost of unionized librarians more than the service they deliver? By giving into these demands, Brown will certainly have made a terrible decision since the U.S. economy is on its decline. Due to the Federal Reserve’s continuous printing of money, the U.S. will unquestionably deal with inflation, in addition to high unemployment and a trade war with China. At a time like this, promising more of scarce monetary resources will be something the University will regret, since it will have no option but to fire the workers, charge students more or dig into the endowment, thus interrupting the investment’s compounding cycle. Firing the workers will never happen (thanks to the aforementioned protest-loving student body), and reducing the endowment’s principal only transfers the cost burden from the students of today to those of tomorrow. Either way, the students pay for it.
Unions reduce the efficiency of the job market and the efficient free flow of capital since they distort the optimal compensation and labor required. The University already has to deal with market inefficiencies already in place such as Social Security, minimum wage and taxes. For every dollar spent on workers, there’s less money for maintaining resources like LexisNexis and increasing library collections, no thanks to this wedge. Brown University is not a charity or a poorhouse, regardless of what some students expect of it. What students should expect is to have the best educational platform to improve their skills and actually compete in the global environment.
I sincerely question the intentions of Brown students who want private health care for Sharpe Refectory workers and librarians after fighting so passionately for the passing of healthcare reform. Why does the University need to pay extra for these employees’ private insurance when the reforms offer every American to be covered by health care insurance – either through out-of-pocket or government subsidy? The University should simply pay the fine and opt out of healthcare for its workers. According to a May 25, 2010, Politico article, “AT&T, for instance, calculated that it spends $2.4 billion a year providing health insurance, but would only spend $600 million if it chose to pay the penalty [of $2,000 per employee].” On the other hand, if Brown students really want more capital to be available for these workers, they should protest against capital gains taxes — but I don’t see that happening any time soon.
A few months ago, I saw posters around campus featuring the face and the quote of Brown Library Associate Specialist at the Library Annex, “Diane,” who said, “An increase in our co-pay would take food out of my kids’ mouths and force me to work more hours on my second job to offset the loss.” Even though I was deeply pained by seeing her wounded face and the troubling statement, I realized that her statement is blown completely out of proportion in order to exploit human sympathy. Did the increased employee contribution not accompany a wage increase? How much money does the increased employee contribution actually take away?
Even if we take her statement at face value, I believe Diane should have been responsible enough to understand the worst-case scenario and her financial capability. Everybody is facing hard times — from our parents to the lines of unemployed. If Diane is lucky enough to have two jobs, she should work harder to make sure her kids grow up to become assets to this struggling economy, take care of her and make up for her sacrifices when they are older. They’ll certainly be prouder of a mother who set an example of the highest work ethics and didn’t belong to a thug-like union.