Today, Big Government, not the private sector, is Big Labor’s bread and butter. That’s why union officials push relentlessly for higher taxes and bigger government and seem completely unconcerned that the policies they advocate will slash overall private-sector job growth in future years.
Just three decades ago, less than a third of all employees subject to “exclusive” union bargaining worked for the government. Earlier this year, the U.S. Labor Department reported that for the first time ever, a majority of unionized workers across America are now government employees.
Unfortunately, Congress is poised - perhaps as soon as this month - to pass legislation that would fuel even faster growth of monopoly unionism in state and local government employment, which is already five times more heavily unionized than the private sector. That’s bad news for private employees, including union members whom union officials claim to represent, and for everyone else who pays taxes.
For many years, Big Labor featherbedding and counterproductive work rules have sharply increased taxpayer costs for compensation of state and local government employees. In fact, according to the U.S. Com- merce Department, taxpayers’ aggregate real costs for compensation of state and local government employees soared by almost 30 percent between 1998 and 2008 - an increase more than 50 percent greater than the total growth of private-sector employee compensation.
Last year, even as the nation’s economy endured a severe recession and businesses had to cut back payrolls by an average of 4 percent, state and local employees on average received a 3 percent raise.
The outsized power and privileges of government union bosses clearly are a major force behind the unsustainable growth of government payrolls. According to data furnished by respected labor economists Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson, nonunion government employment nationwide actually fell by 2 percent, but Big Labor-controlled government employment grew by nearly 4 percent from 2007 to 2009.
Government union bosses’ success in expanding the ranks of employees under their monopoly bargaining power - even as private-sector and nonunion government payrolls have shrunk - spells trouble for the future of the American economy. Our country simply must reverse the long-term trend in which the growth of government-union employment far exceeds that of private-sector employment in good and bad times alike.
Otherwise, American taxpayers and businesses are destined to face ever-more-onerous tax burdens to pay for bigger and bigger government in the decades to come.
Incredibly, nearly all Democrats and many Republicans on Capitol Hill appear eager to make matters even worse by rubber-stamping legislation (H.R. 413 and S. 3194) that would federally grant public-safety union officials monopoly bargaining privileges over state and local public employees nationwide.
In states that don’t already authorize public-safety monopoly bargaining, this legislation would impose it federally, denying localities the option to refuse to grant a union hierarchy the power to speak for all front-line employees, including those who don’t want to join. In most states that already authorize public safety union monopolies, H.R. 413 and S. 3194 would widen their scope.
This legislation also would, as former Service Employees International Union second-in-command Anna Burger has boasted, “create a national collective [i.e. monopoly] bargaining standard for all public workers.”
Federalizing “exclusive” union bargaining over public safety employees would be ill advised under any circumstances, but at a time when taxes already are poised to skyrocket and cities and towns across America already are trying to deal with the worst fiscal crisis in decades, Congress would have to be incredibly reckless to enact this bill. By tipping the scales even further in favor of government-employment growth over business job growth, this legislation could kill hopes of reviving America’s private-sector economy for a long, long time.
Nevertheless, the current congressional majorities and the president are so beholden to Big Labor that they are very likely to make police and fire monopoly-bargaining legislation the law of the land soon, unless freedom-loving citizens nationwide contact their congressmen and senators, urging them to oppose H.R. 413 and S. 3194 in massive numbers.
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.