( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)
Once again, Kevin Williamson hits the nail on the head. Because of fair use limitations I encourage you to read the whole article. I couldn’t quote every relevent piece. The part about the Texas Teachers’ union is particularly telling about the political control that unions have even in states without collective bargaining rights for public employees.
This fight is more about political control than fiscal solvency, even though we can’t afford these outrageous union demands anymore. As Williamson points out, it’s not just the fact that the benefits and pensions are sinking our states and municipalities, it’s that public employee unions encourage increased government spending overall.
There are two fights that we need to have to curtail our fiscal decline. Entitlement reform and ending public employee union control of our politics, especially at the local level. Put simply, you shouldn’t have to belong to a union to enjoy a middle class lifestyle. And if we don’t end union control there won’t be a middle class left.
Nearly 90 percent of government employees in the United States are employed at the state and local level. A very large number of them, many millions, belong to public-sector unions. State and local bureaucrats are much more likely to be unionized than federal bureaucrats – more than twice as likely, in fact; 19 percent of federal workers are unionized, but 30 percent of state workers are, and 43 percent of local workers. These are very high levels of unionization across the board – only 8 percent of private-sector workers are union members – but much, much higher at the state and local level. That is significant because, contra Polman, McCartin, and the bulk of the Democratic commentariat, these unions do not influence public policy mainly through engaging in collective bargaining. They influence it by determining the outcome of elections.
And “determining the outcome” is no overstatement. Many union critics in the past few days have referenced Stanford professor Terry M. Moe’s fascinating paper “Political Control and the Power of the Agent,” published by the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization in 2005, citing a single extraordinary fact: In the elections Professor Moe studied, union support was as valuable as incumbency in determining winners.
Professor Moe found that in the school-board races he researched, incumbency boosted a candidate’s reelection chances by 47 percent. Union support boosted the odds by 56 percent. The combination of union support and incumbency boosted the odds by 76 percent – an important factor, since many of those incumbents became incumbents on the strength of earlier union support, meaning that the unions are compounding the effectiveness of their electoral efforts over time, stocking the incumbent pipeline with their favored candidates.
The second and more important thing is this: Curtailing collective-bargaining powers is not the end game. It is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for getting control of our public finances. The problem is not the public-sector unions, but the public sector, full stop. So long as we are a democratic society, a large public sector will have the power to impose its will on the political establishment, even if the unions are dissolved or their organized political activity is repressed. One of the great strengths of the United States is that many of our most important decisions are made at the state and local level, but government at that level is especially vulnerable to capture by rent-seeking public-sector unions. The public sector has relatively less clout at the national level (though it has a great deal) because its influence is diluted in a sea of other influences. But when it comes to state government or local bond issues – two titanic problems in our public finances – the public sector and its unions dominate, and will continue to dominate unless we either severely reduce its members’ numbers or enact very strong formal barriers to their voting themselves money out of the nation’s treasuries.