With our various levels of government grappling with revenues falling short of expenses, there is a long overdue focus being put on the state of government labor. The recent Chicago teachers strike should be seen as an example of the excesses of government unions. Reporting lumps all unionization into one category, and there is no distinction expressed between private and public unions. Public sector unions are different from private unions in that they have no “Free Market” competition to keep their demands in line. In addition, the cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and public unions create a conflict of interest for elected officials.
In the private sector there are market restraints on what a union can demand. If UPS (union) workers demand too much in compensation as to render their company non-competitive with FedEx (non-union), they will lose business. This puts a “real world” restraint on what these unions can demand in terms of compensation and benefits. Corporations can go out of business, which obviously would hurt the union employees. GM & Chrysler notwithstanding, this market mechanism works well. Government has no competition, and is in effect a monopoly in terms of the services that it supplies. Therefore, there is no similar control placed upon public sector union demands. If government workers go on strike, where else can consumers go to get their drivers licenses?
With the lack of market forces, taxpayers must rely exclusively upon management to say no to costly demands. The managers who are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table are elected officials. There is a political party, however, that is beholden to the very government unions they are supposed to be negotiating with. The Democratic Party receives an overwhelming amount of money in political donations from public sector unions. In fact, their top 4 donors are various government unions. Many candidates go to union sponsored events, and pledge their support for union causes. If a candidate for office received a donation from a corporation, then after being elected, gave a lucrative no-bid contract to that corporation it would be called corruption. How is this situation any different?
Considering most government entities (other than federal) must balance their budgets every year, you would think that politicians would be restricted from offering paybacks to the unions. They can’t give what they don’t have, right? The problem with this argument is that the official has the ability to promise, and get passed into law, retirement and health benefits that will be paid for in the future. This takes away any current budgetary restraint that may exist, and puts us in the situation we find ourselves today all across the nation.
Our country is reaching a tipping point with all of the debts we have built up, and there needs to be a sober national conversation on these problems. Without market forces, and the taxpayer representatives beholden to the unions, what chance do we have? Nobody wants to talk about cutting pay or benefits, but the costs have simply gotten out of hand. The taxes that will need to be levied to support this kind of uncontrollable spending will hit all Americans. This issue is at the core of what kind of country, and opportunities we will pass on to our children.