3/1/10

Time to break public unions' power

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart's State of the City Address
So what does the future hold? Obviously, much depends on the flow of the economy. If 2010 resembles 2009, cities all over the state, indeed all over the nation, will be looking for a lifeline.

In Cuyahoga Falls, we will be negotiating with all six of our public employee unions. We do not anticipate these negotiations will be easy, however, with a keen eye on fiscal responsibility, the administration will be resolute in its demands to lower expenses. And indeed, with payroll representing 75–80% of our general fund budget, the public sector unions are the obvious place to go.

Which brings up the question that I have raised in this forum in the past: Is it time to eliminate public sector unions?

The history of public sector unions goes back to 1962 when President John F. Kennedy signed executive order 10988 allowing unionization of the federal workforce. This changed everything in the American political system. President Kennedy’s order swung open the door for the unrelenting rise of the unionized public workforce in many states and cities.

And of course, 47 years ago, the American workforce landscape looked very different. As recently as 1980, there were more than twice as many private sector union members than there were public sectors. Today 51.4% of America's 15.4 million unionized workers are employed by the government. This is the first time in American history that there are more public sector union members than there are private. So my question is, can we the taxpayers continue to afford this expense?

The problem for the economy is that the public sector unions create a self-reinforcing cycle of higher spending and taxes. The union helps elect politicians who repay the union with more pay and benefits and dues-paying members, who in turn help to re-elect those politicians.

I recall the 2006 example of former New Jersey Governor John Corzine shouting to a rally of 10,000 public workers “We will fight for a fair contract”. Mr. Corzine was supposed to be on the other side of the bargaining table representing taxpayers, not labor.

...As we can see from the desperate economic and fiscal woes of California, New Jersey, New York and other states with dominant public unions; this has become a major problem for the U.S. economy and smaller “d” democratic governance. The agenda for American political reform needs to include the breaking of public unions' power to capture an even larger share of private income.
(from directorblue.blogspot.com)

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