NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 28, 2010

There are now more unionized government workers than unionized private-sector employees in America, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD). 

Time was, unionization meant blue-collar workers laboring on production lines, at construction sites and in mine shafts.  While those industries are still unionized, organized labor is losing ground in the private sector.  And the fall has been steep says IBD: 

  • In 2009, only 7.5 million private-sector workers were unionized, down from 8.3 million in 2008 and far off the mid-1950s glory days when more than 35 percent of the work force was unionized.
  • Meanwhile, 7.9 million public-sector workers belonged to organized labor in 2009, up from 7.8 million the year before.
  • Rather than represent 17 percent of the unionized work force as they did in 1973, union workers make up 52 percent of the union rolls. 

This may be good for union members and bosses, but not for taxpayers, says IBD:  

  • Leo Troy, a Rutgers economics professor who has studied unions for years, notes "the collaboration between the nominal public employer -- elected officials -- and unionism suggests that taxpayer comes out on the short end."
  • "Collective bargaining," adds James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation, "gives government employees the power to tell voters how to spend their tax dollars instead of the other way around; that is why early labor leaders rejected it as undemocratic." 

As did policymakers.  Until the laws began to be changed in the 1960s, Sherk says, federal, state and local governments did not allow public employees to collectively bargain with taxpayers. 

The wise move would be to return to those restrictive policies.  But the unions aren't about to let that happen.  Nor would lawmakers, with whom the unions have developed what Troy calls an "incestuous" relationship. 

After all, unionized public employees are a natural voting bloc for lawmakers who keep handing them raises.  It is the kind of relationship that is crushing California and will eventually devour Oregon and other governments, says IBD. 

Source: Editorial, "Gov't Unions 2, Oregon Taxpayers 0," Investor's Business Daily, January 28, 2010. 

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