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Tags: janus | union | public sector | democracy | miami

Despite Janus Ruling, Public Sector Bargaining Still Erodes Democracy

Despite Janus Ruling, Public Sector Bargaining Still Erodes Democracy

Supreme Court of United States (Spiroview Inc./Dreamstime.com)

Mark Mix By Friday, 31 August 2018 04:26 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In June, the National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision ended the racket of public employees being forced to pay money to a union as a condition of working for their own government. Finally, every government worker will have the freedom to decide whether or not they want to financially support a union with a part of their paycheck.

Despite the end of mandatory union payments, public sector union officials continue to wield special government-granted monopoly bargaining powers that subvert representative government. Under laws enacted by the federal government and most states, union officials are given a special seat to determine policy despite being totally unaccountable to the citizenry.

Under such schemes, elected officials who are charged with determining public policy and allocating government functions are forced to negotiate with union officials over how tax dollars are appropriated. Voters may elect school board members who run on a platform of eliminating rigid seniority systems and implementing merit pay to reward the most effective teachers, only to find that union officials block those reforms at the bargaining table.

As the Supreme Court noted in Janus, a government union “takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences.” In many ways this is a significant understatement as the allocation of hundreds of millions of tax dollars can be totally insulated from the normal political process due to union officials’ monopoly bargaining power.

For example, in 2010 and 2011 the city of Miami, Florida, faced a financial crisis with a projected budget deficit of over $140 million. Of the approximately $500 million budget of the city, about eighty percent went towards monopoly contracts negotiated by union officials. However, when Miami officials made the decision to renegotiate some contracts to save taxpayer dollars and prevent a debt crisis, union lawyers challenged the move before the Florida Supreme Court, eventually forcing the city to levy burdensome fines and taxes upon its citizens rather than adjust the terms of the union contracts.

Even after the landmark Janus decision, public sector union officials nationwide continue to have enormous legal privileges that no other private organizations or individuals enjoy. In nearly all states, public officials are required by law to bargain with union bosses, resulting in increasing deficits and spending to the detriment of millions of citizens.

Look no further than the state of Illinois, which ran a budget deficit of $14.6 billion in 2017 and has an unfunded pension liability to its overwhelmingly unionized public workers of more than $30,000 for every citizen. Adding insult to injury, prior to Janus, Illinois public employees were forced to fund union bosses as they advocated for controversial political activities and endorsements that drive up taxes and spending, and pushed for pensions that most workers will probably never see.

Fortunately, some states have begun to see the light. Wisconsin's Act 10, passed in 2011, rolled back the special legal privileges union bosses had enjoyed for decades by ending forced dues and the use of state resources to collect them, mandating recertification elections every year, and limiting bargaining to pay raises tied to inflation. Iowa lawmakers passed a similar bill in 2017 that limited unions' monopoly-bargaining powers.

Both are a step in the right direction, but there is another model to consider that provides even more fundamental reform. Rather than limit the subjects over which government unions can "bargain,” why not eliminate such bargaining altogether so public sector union bosses no longer possess the power to interfere with what should rightfully be decided by voters' chosen representatives?

North Carolina and Virginia are currently the only two states with laws prohibiting monopoly bargaining by government unions, but it hardly means public employee unions don't exist in these states. Ask elected officials in Raleigh or Richmond and they will tell you that public sector unions still remain a powerful force absent any state-granted bargaining powers, as unions lobby legislators on behalf of their voluntary members.

While government workers around the country now have the freedom to choose whether or not to subsidize a union, the monopoly-bargaining privileges enjoyed by unions still abound.

Ending monopoly-bargaining powers for government workers protects the freedom of association of independent-minded public employees and ends the anti-democratic process whereby the voters' elected representatives are required to cede power to special interest groups over the very issues we elect legislative bodies to decide.

The alternative — as Miami and Illinois found out — is a system in which union officials are empowered by their special bargaining powers to demand tax hikes and oppressive restrictions on the citizenry, even over the objections of voters and their representatives.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee. Mix began working for the National Right to Work Committee in 1990, becoming Executive Vice President before being named President of both the Committee and the Foundation in 2003. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Despite the end of mandatory union payments, public sector union officials continue to wield special government-granted monopoly bargaining powers that subvert representative government.
janus, union, public sector, democracy, miami
Friday, 31 August 2018 04:26 PM
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