Money Forward

This blog is about money and trying to keep my money from flying out the window.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Are unions robbing us?

It is well known that unions in Massachusetts have a lot power. Many government officials will back off on plans that unions strongly oppose because of their power. Unfortunately this has lead to a lot of problems, especially financially. (This is related to personal finance, you'll see later on. Also unions can be good things, it just depends.)

In Massachusetts, by law (with the backing of police unions), there has to be a police detail at most construction/repair sites. The other 49 states have civilian flag persons. So if a company is working in a manhole, there must be a police officer. If there is work being done on the highway, there must be a police officer. My parents who live in a small neighborhood on a street that loops onto itself and is not a throughway, once had a police officer in front of their house when a telephone (or some other utility) company was doing work in a manhole. WASTE OF MONEY AND TIME. Most of the time the officers just sit there chatting with the workers, not actually directing traffic or doing anything useful (This is what I've experienced while trying to get around workers by going into on-coming traffic because the officer is too busy chatting to direct traffic.. which is his/her job).

Sure, the company that is doing the work pays for the police detail, and the public money does not directly pay for the detail work right away. But using these police details requires other officers to be taking up the missing work that the individual is missing. Even if it is overtime, the fatigue that must happen from working so much overtime must affect work performance. On top of this, the retirement pension that these officers make looks at their TOTAL salary (usually the last 3 years before retirement), to come up with an average (or percentage of) to calculate the pension. That means if an officer made an extra $40,000 a year in detail work for the past 3 years, that is included in the calculation. So whatever percentage of that they get every month for their pension, we as tax payers have to pay for it, for the rest of their lives.

Think about how much money that is if 5 officers a year retire and live for 30 more years. That money adds up to a lot. And it makes matters worse since our local governments are already adding on more fees and taxes to make up for their budget shortfalls. It may not seem like you are paying for this, but you are. The biggest source of income for local government is property taxes, and everyone pays those. If you rent, it's part of your rent that the landlord uses to pay the property taxes, it's obvious if you own, and money even comes from other taxes (in Massachusetts we have excise tax on cars and boats). Your fees for parking permits and other fees go towards what the government needs to pay. You are paying for these services.

As an example, the MA State Police average salary is between about $49,000 to $68,000. More than 1,000 police officers (out of 2,338) made over $100,000 last year. In Boston, about 41% (1,276) of the police made over $100,000 last year. 25 of them made over $200,000. All the while there were 74 homicides, one less than in 2005 which was at a 10-year high. As of January 1st, according to, only 28 of those homicides have been solved. What have the police been doing? (All data taken from

Any mention of changing the way of calculating pensions or taking away police details will be destroyed by union opposition. So for now we're stuck with this system and we will continue to see our money being squandered. How there is not an outcry about this, I have no idea.


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