Public-sector unions in Puerto Rico have reached a new low. While avoiding any responsibility for causing, or at least being a major part of, the current fiscal crisis, unions have decided to step up their game by putting the health, safety, and welfare of their fellow citizens at grave risk in the name of the all-important Christmas bonus.
In early December, health workers went on strike, demanding that the government pay them their bonus. As a result, more than 100 “elective” surgeries and consultations were canceled. Clearly, getting a bonus for Christmas is more important than surgery.
Not to be outdone, prison guards walked off the job in late December. Officers at the Bayamon prison walked out for one hour, forcing the police to mobilize and make sure things didn’t’ get out of hand at the jail. Prison authorities are investigating to find out exactly how many guards walked out and how long they left inmates unsupervised.
There were also rumors of police officers conducting a work slowdown during the holidays. If true, I’m sure criminals enjoyed their additional gifts with fewer cops out there to keep them in check.
These are just the latest in a series of protests by public employees demanding that the government pay them a Christmas bonus. To be fair, the bonus is law in the commonwealth, but did anyone notice that the island is preparing for its second default in just six months? Apparently, that is not very important to these people.
What public employees and retirees should truly be concerned about is how the government was finally able to pay out the bonus. According to local reports, the Puerto Rican government took money from the already grossly underfunded public-employees retirement fund in order to to pay them their bonus. The government, however, denies those allegations.
With nearly a billion dollars in payments which came due on January 1, and billions more due in the summer, it begs the question: how will Puerto Rico pay its public-sector retirees in 2016? The government has previously admitted to taking money from various agencies to make what payments it can, and the full impact of the island’s shell-game accounting is going to be felt in the coming months.
It is a bittersweet irony that public-sector unions, who used extortion techniques, like closing hospital services, threatening prison riots, and chaining themselves to buildings, to force politicians to keep the sort of promises that helped create the debt crisis to begin with, may now be the first to suffer the consequences.
Unions (and associations that act like unions) have no business in public service. Public service is a matter of honor and sacrifice. Yes, you have a right to be paid and treated fairly, but when your selfishness threatens the health of your fellow citizens, or the safety of entire communities, its time for you to find another job.
If I am ever given the opportunity to lead an independent Puerto Rico under my plan, there will be no public-sector unions, and those who go on strike will be signing their own resignation letter, with no benefits to follow whatsoever.
Why do I hate public-sector unions? Let me count the ways…