I belong to a faculty union, now in it's third year of contract negotiations (for a contract which lasts four years). The sticking point, unsurprisingly, is not money. No one expects any of that–no one other than the administration, the top rung of which has been lavished with raises equal in some cases to my entire full time Assistant Professor salary. No one is complaining; their punishment is that they get to be administrators. The sticking point is workload.
But that's not really want I wanted to talk about. I'd like to talk about promises. David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times, writes:
To be clear, I’m making an argument that’s different from “Government workers are overpaid.” I’m saying that they are paid in the wrong ways — in ways that make life easier on union leaders and elected officials, at least initially, but that eventually hurt both workers and taxpayers.
The best example is health insurance. Health plans for union workers and retirees are much more likely to require little or no co-payment, which leads to lots of medical treatments that don’t make people any healthier, and to huge costs. Ultimately, some of these plans will probably prove so expensive as to be unsustainable. Workers would have been better off accepting a less generous benefit package and slightly higher salaries.
Got that. He's not saying they're overpaid. He's saying they're overpaid.
On a different point. Workers negotiated those plans on purpose. They accept lower salary in favor of better health and retirement benefits, because they understand that this is part of their compensation. The responsibility for making these deals sustainable belongs not to them, but to the people with whom they negotiated. If it doesn't, then Leonhardt has justified negotiation in bad faith, and has placed the blame on failing to follow through on promises with the promise breaker.
In the moral universe, promises such as those outlined in contracts entail moral obligations to uphold them–however "unsustainable" they may be. If they turn out, in this case, to be unsustainable, the fault lies with the promiser.
**In other news. Corporations have no personal right to privacy:
“Two words together may assume a more particular meaning than those words in isolation,” he wrote, adding that “personal privacy” suggests “a kind of privacy evocative of human concerns.”
The chief justice had examples here, too. “We understand a golden cup to be a cup made of or resembling gold,” he wrote. “A golden boy, on the other hand, is one who is charming, lucky and talented. A golden opportunity is one not to be missed.”
I wonder if Roberts noticed all of the clerks laughing.