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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Are Public Unions Nessasary?



Public unions threaten democracy which is why the left supports public unions. All public unions should lose their collective bargaining status. While public servants should be allowed to form associations and while individual public servants should be allowed to get involved in politics to the degree that such involvement doesn’t pose as a conflict of interest as it relates to their public function, public unions per-se should be disbanded. Such a measure would lead to a better, a more efficient, and a more honest government. 



The idea that public servants, paid out of taxpayer funds and conducting public functions, should be allowed to organize and to advocate for themselves poses as a profound conflict of interest and as a recipe for corruption. Only elected officials, elected by the people to represent their interests, should be responsible for setting policy as it relates to public servants on such issues as salaries and benefit packages. Public jobs are generally good paying jobs. The taxpaying public ought to reserve the right, as expressed through city councils and state legislatures, to determine how public employees are compensated and treated. This would be the democratic approach.  

The government is not comparable to a private corporation where unions are often necessary and constructive as a counter-balance to the for profit corporation. In a private setting, workers often have a good reason to organize and to establish their right to bargain collectively. Concessions to workers by the corporation come out of corporate profits. Public union concessions are subsidized by the private citizen, the hard-working taxpayer. 

Public unions mean that the government, the public sector, gives itself the power to enrich itself while doing an end run around the taxpayer. Public unions also establish legally binding contracts that often determine such matters as employment and advancement. In this way, bad public servants are retained while good public servants are punished. Because of the existence of the union, the taxpayers have no say in these matters and, to a certain degree, those elected to represent the taxpayers find that their hands are also tied. Again, this approach to government is un-democratic. 
Adding to the dangers that public unions pose to democracy is the fact that many public unions get involved in politics financially and with in-kind support. This should not happen in a free society. Individual public employees should be free to support candidates of their choice, in cases that don’t pose as a conflict of interest, but when a public organization, deriving its finances from the taxpayer, supports a candidate that would preserve and possibly advance those financial benefits the taxpaying public is placed in a position of double jeopardy. The possibility of corruption, of quid pro quo, is obvious and is indeed rampant. There are laws against private corporations financially supporting a candidate for office and then benefiting from the candidate, if elected, passing legislation that directly benefits that corporation. Not so with public unions which are free to pour money and in-kind support toward electing candidates who then vote to raise taxes or in favor of some other measure that benefits the public union. 

Presently, public unions are choking municipalities across much of the country with their cost and their increasing power and influence. An example of this was cited by Phillip K. Howard, chair of Common Good, in an article published by The Wall Street Journal (The Public Union Albatross 11/9). The article reports that over 90% the Long Island Rail Road public union members claimed disability upon retirement adding $36,000 per employee to their pensions costing New York taxpayers $300 million over the past decade. Howard reports on the inefficiency of public contracts with a reference to a New York City union contract in which, “whenever new equipment is installed the city must reopen collective bargaining "for the sole purpose of negotiating with the union on the practical impact, if any, such equipment has on the affected employees." Howard reports that “trying to get ideas from public employees can be illegal as a deputy mayor of New York City was "warned not to talk with employees in order to get suggestions" because it might violate the "direct dealing law." 

Let’s return control over our public sector to our elected representatives who would be charged with rewarding success, punishing failure, and returning the government to the people.

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