The Instigator
Con (against)
7 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
7 Points

On balance, government employee labor unions have a positive impact on the United states

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/15/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,727 times Debate No: 11595
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (2)




Resolved: On balance, government employee labor unions have a positive impact on the United States.
My partner and I stand in firm negation to the resolution.

My first point is while the private sector might offer better upward mobility and perhaps better benefits while employed, the private sector doesn't get pensions, and the public sector does. The increase in public sector pensions over the last several years has made it very difficult to justify spending as much as we do on government employees. Further, the federal government is underfunding the pension plans because there is very little money reserved for them. The Pew Center on the States recently released a survey detailing the pension plans of the public sector in all fifty states. Some states will be subject to "high annual costs that come with significant unfunded liabilities, lower bond ratings, less money available for services, higher taxes and the specter of worsening problems in the future," said the study. As of 2008, states had $2.4 trillion to meet $3.4 trillion in promised pension, health care and other post-retirement benefits, according to the report. … nsion-gap/

Second, we should not support anything that advocates the taxpayers spending more money in a time like this. Right now, there is no way that these unions could have net positive impact on the entire United States, because the majority of Americans don't have the money to be pouring into someone else's job. As the benefits and salaries for public sector employees increase, so do taxes. And right now, no one can afford that.

Third, public sector labor unions are adding to the corruption of government. Public sector labor unions gave to the Obama campaign in overwhelming amounts, as they have with all democratic candidates for president for decades. Many argue that this only buys loyalty to the labor unions and that these politicians are simply becoming hands of the public sector labor unions. You can argue that having such huge influence in elections is a threat to democracy and decreases the voting power of the average citizen.

Fourth, any increase in benefits that is granted to the public sector because of the fight given by their unions will only increase the deficit. If we choose not to increase the deficit, the only thing that will happen is a cut to services. In order to satisfy the desires of unions for higher pay, states might have to cut down on welfare benefits or state provided health care. None of which is fair to private citizens.

Thank you, and I look foward to your arguments. :)


Resolved: On balance, government employee labor unions have a positive impact on the United States.

The crux of this resolution lies the in the philosophical analysis of unions and their role in a, relatively, free market society. While I respect that you present arguments based on the current economic condition of the United States I have to draw your attention to the fact that Unions have existed since the Industrial Revolution and have been present during times of great economic prosperity. Unions, and the right to become a unionized labour source, are fundamental in protecting the safety and rights of workers while ensuring against a disparity of wealth. This can be easily seen by examining the nature of a union.

A union, despite being demonized in recent years, is no more than a group of workers who choose to negotiate with the employer en masse. Unions in general do not prohibit their employer from refusing to negotiate with the union and hiring outside labour. Employees feel the need to do this because the government does not provide them adequate protection against exploitation by their employers. If one is to reference the 1920s and 30s it is easy to see that employees have been pushed into unsafe situations by their managers and the the inception of unions was responsible for creating an objective standard of behaviour in workplace. The union movement was also responsible for the creation of 'danger pay' where a job which must be performed by an employee is inherently dangerous. This type of unionization preserved the lives of police officers and firefighters across the United States and contributed to the growth of the nation.

In your fourth point you discuss the fact that government unions have unfair resources to draw from and thus they could cause a hike in taxes of a lack of funds in the welfare system. You cite that these are unfair to the private citizen. I must first argue whether the welfare system in itself is fair to the private citizen. Why should a private citizen who makes a wage be forced to support those who do not support themselves. Does this in itself not create a system of dependancy which is detrimental to the economy? (I apologize for the sidenote)

In response to this I would state that while a government union has more resources to draw from they also have a greater number of employers to respond to. Mainly all the registered voters of the United States of America. Given that no unions have the ability to restrict the government from hiring outside labour, and that the government is accountable to the people if they hope to win another election, the union has VERY restricted influence on the administration and legislation. A union which pushes too hard against the government will face a massive public backlash and as a result will be unable to achieve their end goals. In this way we can see that even a government employee union is a situation of free exchange and barter which allows employees to be better represented.

Finally, you discuss the unfair contributions to government that labour unions are responsible for. While I agree with you that an unfair influence over the federal government is undemocratic, I contend that these labour unions are driven to this point by corrupt and exploitative corporations with much deeper pockets than the labour lobby. Picture if you will two debaters trying to win over the mind of one audience member. If both speakers use only their audible voices, the effect is fair and only the argument process will prevail. However in our metaphor the private sector is able to purchase a megaphone to amplify their argument. If this disparity is allowed to continue the labour lobby will be overrun by private interests and worker's rights will be trampled upon. I contend that not only is it the right of the worker's union lobby to attempt to contribute as much as the private sector, but it is their DUTY to do so in order to properly represent those whose union dues their paycheques come from.

In summation, I oppose your viewpoint that unions have a negative effect on the United States and will strive to show that a properly constructed union, operating in a free market economy, is integral to protecting worker's rights and will benefit the United States.
Debate Round No. 1


Resolved: On balance, government employee labor unions have a positive impact on the United States.

I thank my opponent for taking this debate.

High wages/benefits. There is good evidence that public employee unions have successfully pushed for wage and benefit increases that far exceed those that are available in the private sector. The most significant area for attack is pensions, the salaries that employees essentially get for life once they have reached retirement age. More and more evidence says that public employees are retiring in their 50s with pensions that they can keep for the rest of their lives and that the pensions often pay upwards of $100,000. Since the investments that retirement money is often put into are not very good, the taxpayer often ends up footing the bill since the pensions are guaranteed.

Deficit spending. The imbalance between pensions and wages is resulting in higher deficits and, when necessary, cuts in government services. Since most states cannot run deficits, cuts in services or tax increases become inevitable.

Higher taxes. Government salaries and benefits are largely paid for out of taxes (with some of the costs paid for by investments). As government costs for wages and benefits increase, so will taxes. Teams should argue that tax increases are bad, they undermine they ability for businesses to invest in new products, they discourage people from moving into particular areas, and they undermine the amount of money that is available to invest in the private economy.

Future generations. If governments do run deficits, taxes need to finance and pay down the deficit are passed on to future generations. Most consider it inequitable/unfair to force today's expenditures on to future generations.

Corruption/Snowball. The basic argument here is that union power continues to grow because the unions give money to politicians who support unions, creating a snowball effect. For example, many people argue that the unions gave heavily to Obama and that Obama is in turn spending stimulus money in ways that help unions. This creates a snowball effect because unions that have more money can subsequently give more to campaigns that support them.

Thank you, and please post your arguments so I can make a rebuttal in the final round and also back up my points in the final round of this debate. I would like to say that you are doing a very good job of debating for the first time on, and I would like to welcome you to the site as a friend. You don't have to rebut my points posted above, just post your own arguments.

Please vote for CON!!!


As I stated in my opening argument, it is unfair to answer this question in relation to the present day without considering past impacts that unionization has had on America and analyzing unionization as a whole. Since this debate appears to be focusing on governmental unions as opposed to unions which exist in the private sector I will post my argument in the same vein.

I will demonstrate in this section that most criticisms which my opponent has used in the previous post are merely effects of a sluggish economy. Many people in recent past have demonized unions and attributed unionization as the reasoning behind this decline however there are many factors that must be considered and unionization is nowhere near the top of that list.

When addressing the idea of pensions we must ask ourselves whether or not these wages are 'fair'. By fair I mean that two independent parties agreed upon and set terms for employment which are now binding. These parties would be unable to cause any harm to the other and thus each would agree to the contract on their own accord. I contend that while the idea of government employees earning large salaries after they have retired may seem to be excessive, these contracts were agreed to by the employers and thus are valid. I also will demonstrate that private sector jobs have much more income potential than public positions have ever had.

Governmental Unions negotiate with elected representatives and establish contracts. These contracts are drafted on a mass level and applied to all members of that union in order to increase productivity and efficiency with regards to contract renewal, hiring, promotions, etc... Since the unions negotiate with elected officials the American people have indirect control over the hiring of these workers. A union which pushes too far in negotiations will be met with a public backlash which will make it even harder for the union to achieve it's goals. Due to these constraints in contract negotiations we must agree that the pensions being earned are being awarded in a fair manner. Any discrepancy in this matter would surely cause disturbance in the voting population which would influence the actions of the administration.

I'll address the general idea of the unions causing an economic deficit in this section rather than isolating each of the above arguments.

While I agree that my opponent has defined situations in which unionized labour does create a drain on government resources, it seems foolhardy to make unions the sacrificial lamb for government deficit. The United States is currently undertaking two foreign wars, bailing out automakers and bankers (All private sector workers) and dealing with a housing market collapse. To contend that unionized labour has caused the present situation seems to be slightly out of touch with the current situation both foreign and domestic. I would in fact contend that unions were responsible for the generation of the wealth that we enjoy today. As we witness sweatshop labour in third world countries we must analyze our own past and consider the industrial revolution where employers looked for any opportunity to cut costs even at the expense of worker safety. In an isolated state and employee is much less likely to fight for what they believe is a fair wage, nor will they feel comfortable refusing to undertake an assignment which endangers their physical well being. During the 1930s unions were able to create safe standards for workplaces and created a better distribution of wealth by ensuring that no employees were taken advantage of.

This ideal of increasing living conditions for the masses led to the automation of assembly lines and the manufacturing of affordable goods. Furthermore, by levelling the playing field the 'american dream' was realized in that all workers had the potential to compete under fair and even standards. This new distribution of wealth created a society of consumers which further spurred economic growth. Entering into the 1950s and 60s we can see that the unionization of workers created a cycle launching the United States as the strongest economy of the world. Without unionization it is arguable that workers would have remained oppressed by their employees and the economy would have run stagnant as it now exists in third world nations.

Finally, in regards to governmental corruption I must stand strong upon my previous argument that the labour union does not contribute nearly as much money as private interests into governmental campaigns. Oil companies, Auto makers, Investment firms and many other industries have strong lobbies in Washington with much more influence. If a union is to be effective and eventually accomplish it's goals it must effect change in legislation which protects employee's rights, and we have demonstrated that worker's rights generate economic growth by creating a larger base of potential consumers. This influence in Washington is a positive force in the United States and should be encouraged, even if only to drown out the deafening bellows of private lobby groups.

I'm quite enjoying this exchange of ideas and I enjoy hearing your point of view. I look forward to being able to conclude this and put it forward to voting.

Please read both sides and consider them well! (Hopefully choosing to vote pro ;)
Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for accepting and debateing with me on this resolution, which is On balance, government employee labor unions have a positive impact on the United states. This has really been an enjoyable debate and I hope that we can have this debate som other time. I thank you again and please vote for CON!!!!


I'm quite glad we've had the opportunity to discuss this issue and find it beneficial for numerous reason.

Firstly, the current economic climate has led people to believe that unions are innately bad and demonize the practise without considering the true form of unionized labour.

Secondly, Unionized labour has many aspects which people legitimately find unfair and against their personal values, for this reason it's always enjoyable to see where personal values lie and hear logical defences of them.

Finally, the free exchange of ideas is integral in making any forward progress within a society. Only by discussing these issues can we hope to find amicable solutions to them.

I'd urge you to vote for PRO in this argument because it has been demonstrated that despite the effects that unions may or may not have on the tax system, the contracts they negotiate are legal and fair. They have been negotiated through proper channels with the approval of elected officials. If the argument is to be made that union employees make too much, that is merely a single point in an argument against governmental philosophy and it's affect on society.

What can clearly be seen is that a union protects workers from being oppressed by their employers and ensures they have basic rights such as danger pay and an objective wage structure. Police officers, fire fighters, coal miners, and many other fields owe their development and their safety record to the efforts of unions while the Industrial revolution occurred during the inception of unions which was responsible for a massive growth in economy.

It has been demonstrated that government employee labour unions have a positive impact on the United States and thus, I urge you to vote PRO.

Thank you for reading.
Debate Round No. 3
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