(Warner Todd Huston) – What happens when a private sector union gets far too many benefits to the point where the business for which its membership works goes under or whose existence is threatened? Punishment.
Unions either take a reduction of benefits or pay – or both – and cuts in time or jobs in order to right the ship and keep the business afloat occur. Just like punishment comes to businesses that make bad business decisions, private employee unions also realize punishment for overreach. At the risk of losing the whole enterprise both for unions and owners, the market serves to correct excess.
Unfortunately, there is no such corrective for union overreach for government employees. These unions rarely face any punishment for excess. And therein lies the reason that unions are antithetical to good government.
Of course, we’ve discussed this theme many times here at the Union Label Blog over the past few years. But to buttress the discussion I’d like to relate some statistics.
The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk recently took a look at the most current reports from labor and found that 12.4% of the American work force is made up of union members. But he notes that, while union membership has fallen to 7.3% of private sector jobs, it has risen to a never before seen 37.6% unionization of government employees — and this number is growing. Government workers now make up 51% of all unionized workers in the USA.
Why is this a bad thing? Well we’ve talked about it before, but let’s quote Sherk on this:
So when unions start lobbying, taxpayers should hold onto their wallet. Government employees don’t strike to get higher wages from a private business – they strike to get higher wages from you. Their pay is funded through your tax dollars. For government employee union members to get more your taxes need to go up. So that is what unions now lobby for. Just take a look at what the labor movement is doing to taxpayers on the Pacific Coast:
Sherk goes on to provide several examples.
• In Oregon the labor movement is donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund two ballot initiative campaigns to raise personal income and business taxes. The unions want tax hikes instead of cuts in the gold-plated medical benefits for state workers.
• In California the Service Employees International Union spent $1 million on a television ad campaign pressing for higher oil, gas, and liquor taxes instead of spending reductions.
• Washington State Democrats, however, have so far resisted the labor movement’s call for higher taxes. In response labor unions are threatening to fund primary campaigns against the Democrats who oppose the tax hikes.
As we know, the United Auto Workers were so strangling General Motors that the U.S. government felt it had to bailout the auto maker. The U.S. auto industry has been horribly unprofitable for decades, but has limped along regardless. But, even limping along the UAW has had to accept cuts and limits.
Not so for public employee unions that only dip back into the taxpayer’s wallet for their generous benefits and pensions. And it is bankrupting nearly every state in the union.
The solution, of course, is to outlaw the public employee union.
For the sake of perspective, it should be noted that government employees traditionally were not subject to unions. It wasn’t until the early 1960s when New York Mayor Robert Wagner pushed what was called “The Little Wagner Act,” legislation that gave municipal workers the right to unionize and enter collective bargaining. There was never any expectation previous to that that government employees could unionize.
So, unions have not been a staple for government workers. We should go back to that situation especially in this day of a suffering economy, falling tax receipts, and wild government waste. Eliminating public employee unions can only help.
(Mr. Huston writes The Union Label blog)