Take the hammer away from public employee unions

(Centennial Fellow) After I blogged the other day about who really won in the Ohio ballot fight over public employee unions, over at News21, my kids who live there sent a related piece published in Columbus by the mayor of a nearby small town, entitled “A few tweaks could improve collective bargaining.” They commended it to me as “thoughtful.”

My reaction was that (a) the mayor had indeed written a thoughtful piece, but that (b) I still can’t share his faith in binding arbitration. A city’s elected leadership should not be barred from deciding to take a strike or instituting a lock-out. So, in that view, one might argue that the mayor is nibbling around the edges. I do understand, though, that he was writing from a position materially weakened by the election (Issue 2 on the Ohio ballot on November 8) and, perhaps, attempting to get some cheese out of the trap.

If a business executive and/or board of directors agrees to a labor contract that is economically ruinous, sooner or later the executive, the board or the entire company is gone.

Yeah, I know it took decades for reality (read, foreign competition) to catch up to Detroit’s Big Three and their chummy relationship with the United Auto Workers. Thanks to taxpayer bailouts, Chrysler has beaten that rule of failure at least twice, GMC at least once, but even the latter had its CEO fired by Pres. Obama while he (Obama) was shamelessly—illegally, I think—stripping creditors in order to maintain the pensions, wages and other benefits of unionized workers.

Elected officials and bodies almost never have any such reckoning, in major part on account of being gone for other reasons (term limits, election defeats, etc.) before the fat lady sings. To the contrary, their incentive is far more to acquiesce in employee union demands and thereby enjoy the goodwill (and re–election campaign assistance!) of the employees’ union leaders—a vicious circle that is a clear conflict of interest.

Take away this ruinously misplaced union power. I believe public employee unions should be no more than societies of individuals exercising a First Amendment right “peaceably to assemble.” Without exception, strikes by public employees should be outlawed.

Elected officials and/or elected bodies (city councils, county commissions, state legislatures, etc.) should enjoy restoration of full authority to determine—without collective bargaining—public employees’ wages and conditions of employment. Public employees’ only influence should be in the decisions individuals make to become and remain employed, and their right as citizens to petition (i.e., lobby) for their interests.

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