REPORT: Public Sector Unions Are Out Of Control


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Unchecked power has allowed public unions to establish member benefits that put a huge burden on taxpayers, a report released Tuesday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) found.

The report, “How Government Unions Undermine Upward Mobility And What Can Be Done About It” by CEI journalism fellow Carrie Sheffield, found public sector unions have been able to force costly policies through effectively crippling essential government programs. Through collective bargaining, they then increase the costs of these programs, generally with little resistance from politicians, despite the burden on taxpayers.

Worst of all, Sheffield finds, the negative effect on upward mobility is not simply contained within the union, but spills out to effect the people who use their services, often those most in need of a leg up.

“Public sector unions may claim they stand up for the little guy, but generally they aren’t representing blue collar workers against a better-educated, white-collar management,” Sheffield said in a statement. “Government unions represent skilled, white-collar workers who enjoy big benefits and job security, courtesy of the taxpayer.”

Often those skills go to waste, as union tendency is to reward tenure and connections rather than merit. Their procedures then stunt innovation and ambition, Sheffield concludes, often affecting people from the socioeconomic backgrounds most in need of the services the public sector provides.

Their monopoly on labor, the necessity of their services, and their propensity to strike make for a costly cocktail: politicians rarely stand up to them. Those few who do, like Republican Governors Chris Christie, Scott Walker or Bruce Rauner along with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, face long and tense legal and political battles, often at the behest of other policy goals.

“One of unions’ most powerful tools in collective bargaining is the threat of strikes, which can cripple government services ranging from garbage collection to transportation to schools,” the report detailed. “Collective bargaining effectively takes a degree of decision making power regarding public policy away from elected officials and puts it in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.”

While the private sector has seen a steady decrease in union members since the 1970s, the public sector has rapidly expanded.

“And, unfortunately for taxpayers, government unions donate huge amounts to elected officials who then vote on those expanding benefit packages,” Sheffield added. “Much to the detriment of cities like Detroit and Stockton, California and states like Illinois and New Jersey that are on the brink of fiscal insolvency.”

The report does offer some possible solution. Namely removing or reforming some of the more costly programs. Chief among them pensions and healthcare.

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