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The Contender
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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: 4/14/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,818 times Debate No: 11616
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




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


The April Public Forum topic deals with the topic of whether or not unions of government employee laborers have a net positive impact on the United States.

Before examining both sides of the resolution, let's break down some basic terms.

In this context, a "union" is generally understood to be "an organization of employees formed to bargain with the employer; "you have to join the union in order to get a job". When employees are part of unions, the union negotiates on behalf of the collective group of employees/union members and to negotiate salaries/overtime and benefits (health care, vacation time, pensions, etc). A "pension" is essentially a salary that an employee draws for the rest of his or her life once he or she retires.

The resolution specifically refers to pubic employee labor unions. This specific reference is important because there is a large conceptual difference between a union of public employees (employees that work for a level of government – federal, state, or local) and a union of employees that work for a private company. The difference is that employees of a private company know that they can only ask for so much in wages/benefits or those will start to threaten the viability of the company. Government employees, however, can ask for almost anything that they can get, knowing that the bill will simply have to be paid by the tax payers.

The issue of public employee union wages and benefits being payed by taxpayers is what gives rise to this resolution. A declining economy/tax base is giving rise to growing government deficits that are being compounded by large obligations on the part of governments to pay (high) government employee union wages/benefits. This growing fiscal gap is increasing animosity toward public employee unions, and it is what likely gave rise to this topic and makes it timely.

The final important concept/phrase in the resolution is "on the United States." This is important to highlight because it keeps the question macro/large – what is the net impact of these unions on the country as a whole, not necessarily on individual states or counties (though these collective smaller impacts are what determine the "on balance" impact "on the United States."


I accept this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting thsi debate I will now persent my points.

First, the public sector doesn't deserve a pay decrease simply because we are going through hard times. We need government workers to make our country run efficiently and smoothly. We shouldn't short postal workers, teachers, and firefighters just because some bankers on Wall Street made bad decisions. If we take pay away from these people, they are likely to leave their jobs and then we would all be in trouble.

Second, the deficit isn't the fault of the public sector. Many people will argue that things that public sector workers are given, such as pensions, health care plans, and retirement benefits, cost too much and the taxpayer shouldn't be responsible for funding them. Just because the government has made poor investments and therefore has to take money out of the pockets of the taxpayers rather than have a lump sum available for pensions, and just because the cost of health care is rising generally, doesn't make it the fault of the public sector. These things happen independent of those that work in the public sector, so they should not be punished because of other people's mistakes. It makes more sense to advocate that the government be more responsible in their investments and that the price of healthcare ought to be rethought.

Third, specific unions have done a lot of good for the United States. Teacher's unions have been critical in raising wages for teachers, thereby attracting well-qualified individuals to the field. The National Education Association, the country's largest labor union, has been years ahead of the United States in terms of civil rights since before the Civil War. Four years before the war broke out, the NEA was admitting black members. Also, they elected a female president a decade before the United States gave women the right to vote. This organization has lobbied Congress on some of the most important issues to face our country, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the establishment of the GI Bill, the Bilingual Education Act, and several other things that have advanced the status of education and civil rights all over the United States. Unions for other jobs, such as firefighters, police, and sanitation workers, have also been beneficial. Given a little bit of research, you can find a huge number of examples when these unions have helped with needed reform, raised wages for their members, and helped the United States overcome obstacles.

Fourth, government employee labor unions are beneficial for the United States because they encourage people to go into the public sector when they otherwise wouldn't. The private sector often offers more lucrative pay, better benefits while employed, and an increased ability for promotions. Labor Unions are essential to fight for workers rights so that the public sector can compete (in terms of job related benefits) with the private sector and attract new and talented employees. While the private sector is necessary for economic growth, the public sector is necessary for the security and stability of the nation. Labor Unions are essential to protect the interests of not only those that work in the public sector, but for all citizens who use the public sector's services on a daily basis. And if you have ever gone to a public school, taken out the garbage, or mailed a letter, you have benefitted from the public sector.

Thank you, and I wait for your response.


I apologize for the delay. I will begin by posting my rebuttals, and then establish my points on the negative.

My opponent's first point is that we should not reduce the pay of these government workers. First of all, I find it necessary to point out that there is a difference between arguing against pay increases and advocating pay decreases. Therefore, this point is not relevant to the debate, because as the CON side, in no way do I have to argue for the reduction of these people's pay. I merely have to argue that unions do harm by increasing their pay.

My opponent's second point is that the deficit is not the fault of the public sector, and that we should not, again, reduce the pay of these government workers. It is then further asserted that even though the government has made poor investments, these should not factor into a reduction in pensions. However, when we see that according to the Cato Institute, the government has to pay out approximately $1 trillion more than it has funds for in pensions, it is clear that regardless of the "bad investing" that has occurred, the amount that has to be paid out in pensions clearly exceeds anything that is possible for the US to pay. Therefore, the unions have harmed the economy tremendously by advocating and creating these pension systems.

My opponent's third point begins with the assertion that an increase in wages inherently attracts well-qualified individuals into the field. However, my opponent provides no analysis for this assumption, and upon further investigation, we realize that an increase in wages will not attract only well-qualified individuals, but also under qualified individuals, as everybody would be interested in higher wages. However, when we see the job security that unions inherently provide, it is clear that the under qualified workers would be more attracted to these jobs because the well-qualified workers do not need this job security, so it is irrelevant to them, but the under qualified workers see this as an opportunity to get higher pay with less effort.
My opponent goes on to say that unions have been critical in "overcoming obstacles." However, when we look at the grand scheme of things, since we are debating government employee labor unions as a whole, we must realize that although this one specific union may be beneficial in some regards, the huge amount of money that it has led to in deficits for the United States government clearly outweigh these positive effects, many of which cannot be attributed directly to unions. Although I am sure that my opponent has accurately described these events which he claims the NEA led to, what we must realize is that these unions most certainly were not the sole factor in determining these outcomes, and therefore we cannot make the assumption that unions are beneficial due to things that they may or may not have led to, as again, my opponent has the burden of proof.

My opponent's fourth point is that these unions encourage people to enter the public sector, and that these unions are necessary to raise the salaries and benefits of those in the public sector. My opponent also asserts that the private sector offers more lucrative pay and better benefits while employed. However, according to the same article from the Cato Institute that I sourced earlier, the average worker in the public sector already makes approximately 45% more in salary than the average worker in the private sector, and they have considerably higher benefits than in the private sector. Therefore, we can see that there is no need to further increase these wages and benefits in the public sector, as they are already considerably higher than in the private sector.

Now I will establish a few points on the negative.

My first point is that government employee labor unions lead to a dramatic increase in job security that negatively impacts the public sector. The main example I would like to bring up is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or the AFSCME, which is the largest union in the public sector, at 1.4 million members. The AFSCME has been crucial in leading to reforms that make it nigh upon impossible to fire government workers. Through their effective lobbying for these reforms, they have also created laws that regularize the raises of workers, determine promotions almost solely on seniority, ignore the accomplishments of workers, etc. As a consequence of this, more and more under qualified workers are being introduced into the public sector that cannot be eliminated, which ends up costing the government more money to compensate for its lack of efficiency.

My second point is the fact that I sourced earlier in my rebuttals, which is that these unions have led to a federal deficit of $1 trillion with respect to pensions. This can be directly attributed to the unions, who have continued to push for these pension increases despite the apparent fact that the United States government does not have the funds to afford these pensions.

My third point is that these unions have led to a massive imbalance in pay and benefits that has led to the growth of the public sector and the decline of the private sector, which is clearly harmful for the United States economy. This can be seen through data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says that last year the public sector grew by around 16,000 employees, but the private sector lost millions of jobs. As the public sector has better pensions, better pay, and better benefits then the private sector, it has led to an extreme imbalance which has negatively affected the private sector and therefore our economy, as the private sector is responsible for all production within the United States.

Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for his response.

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup finds organized labor taking a significant image hit in the past year. While 66% of Americans continue to believe unions are beneficial to their own members, a slight majority now say unions hurt the nation's economy. More broadly, fewer than half of Americans -- 48%, an all-time low -- approve of labor unions, down from 59% a year ago. These results are from the 2009 installment of Gallup's annual Work and Education survey, conducted Aug. 6-9. The 48% of Americans now approving of unions represents the first sub-50% approval since Gallup first asked the question in the 1930s. The previous low was 55%, found in both 1979 and 1981.
Public reaction to labor unions is one of the longest-running trends The Gallup Poll has maintained. Gallup first asked "Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?" in 1936, a year after Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act establishing the right of most private-sector employees to join unions, to bargain collectively with their employers, and to strike. That first poll found 72% of Americans approving of unions and only 20% disapproving. While approval of unions has declined since 2008 among most major demographic and political groups, the biggest drop has been among political independents.


I thank my opponent for his timely response.

In Round 3, my opponent did not reaffirm his points, nor did he refute any of my points. My opponent merely posted a piece of evidence citing public disapproval of unions, which, if anything, merely supports my own case. Therefore, I urge a vote for the CON, for the following reasons:

1) I have shown the immense costs associated with government employee labor unions.
2) I have shown that these unions lead to an increase in under qualified workers.
3) I have shown that public sectors already have better working conditions, so unions are not necessary to improve them further.
4) I have shown that these unions lead to the weakening of the private sector, hurting the US economy.

On the whole, it is clear that government employee labor unions have a vast negative impact on the United States, while only providing a few selective benefits. Therefore, the resolution has been negated.

I thank my opponent for an enjoyable debate.
Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by jingzhezhang 8 years ago
I'm never going to win!!!!!!!
Posted by jingzhezhang 8 years ago
I'm died!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by jingzhezhang 8 years ago
I'm sorry I posted the wrong thing for ruond 3!!!
Posted by jingzhezhang 8 years ago
Sorry jonpistone2, Piffler already accepted. We can have thsi debate some other time if you like.
Posted by jingzhezhang 8 years ago
Please do what ever you wish.
Posted by Piffler 8 years ago
Just for clarification, am I allowed to rebut in Round 2 or should I merely post a constructive?
Posted by jonpistone2 8 years ago
wish you took the pro side of jump on the other side...

that said---if no one joins you in a bit, i may join just to argue the other side and try to give you a solid debate....great topic!!!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by wjmelements 8 years ago
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