The signs are all around us that the government envisioned by the Framers—self-rule by the people—is on the decline.
I prefer to call the “welfare state” the transfer state, because that characterization leaves open the question of whether a government which engages in large-scale transfers of money from one group to another actually increases human welfare. I am skeptical, mostly because the transfer state is always in danger of creating a polity dominated by faction. It can in fact sustain the war of all against all—the very phenomenon that the state is supposed to prevent.
Nicholas Confessore’s long front-page article in Monday’s New York Times, “Rauner and his Wealthy Friends Are Remaking Illinois,” raises concerns about the power of rich individuals to influence elections. The article both subtly and overtly argues that rich people are using their money to overturn the kind of government citizens of Illinois want. But it actually shows the importance of preserving the First Amendment right to push back against the ingrained biases of the government and the media, like the New York Times itself.
The Department of Corrections in New York State has tried to fire many prison guards for unjustified force against inmates. They are generally unsuccessful because of the union contract. It gives substantial job protection rights to the correction officers, including the right to arbitration. Arbitration rarely results in dismissal because unions have a hand in picking the arbitrators.
The inability to dismiss bad apples in turn creates a culture of impunity. The inattention of numerous guards permitted two notorious murders to tunnel out of an upstate New York State prison. Two prison employees actively aided their escape. The result was not only millions of dollars in costs to New York State, but nights of terror for nearby residents with natural born killers on the loose. And then the guards brutalized inmates with no connection to the escape in a search for scapegoats to cover up their own misfeasance.
Reducing the power of public unions in paramilitary forces, like correction officers and the police force, is one of the great civil rights issues of our time.
My first two posts in this series discussed, respectively, the origins of the concept of “exclusive representation” in the NLRA and the Supreme Court case law leading up to Abood in 1977. In this post, I will analyze the decision in Abood (which, it will be recalled, was roundly criticized in Harris v. Quinn (2014) and may be overruled in Friedrichs).
My first post delved briefly into the history and significance of the concept of “exclusive representation” in labor law. This post will explore the even more dubious application of the NLRA (private sector) model of collective bargaining (including exclusive representation) to the public sector.
Until recently, the public paid little attention to government-labor relations. The subject is technical and the action backstage. Government workers in most states and municipalities work under collective bargaining agreements, the details of which are negotiated by representatives of the employees and the public employer. Eyes glaze over at this point (or before).
Not so fast, writes political scientist Daniel DiSalvo in his definitive account of America’s 50-year experiment with unionized public employment. Meticulously weighing an array of empirical studies, and drawing from a cross-country collection of newsworthy anecdotes, Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences concludes that public sector unions have transformed state and local politics, and mainly for the worse.
FDR observed that “The process of collective bargaining . . . cannot be transplanted into the public service.” What does it mean for taxpayers if government workers organize into unions and engage in collective bargaining arrangements? What actually checks and balances their desires for greater pay and benefits? Politicians? Engaged citizens? Will dutiful public servants voluntarily restrain their appetites for the public good? To ask these questions is to answer them with a wry smile. This episode of Liberty Law Talk with Professor Daniel DiSalvo on his new book, Government Against Itself, focuses on the dramatic growth of public sector unions in…
There are no permanent partisan victories. The gains of the Republicans on Tuesday are likely to give more opportunities for victories for the Democrats sometime in the future as the party in power exhausts it agenda, makes mistakes, or is blamed for issues over which it has little control. But elections can have more enduring effects on policy and social structures.
One of the most notable consequences of this election was the setback it dealt to public sector unions. Importantly, the losses came at hands of both parties. Republican Scott Walker was reelected in Wisconsin after rolling back the power of public sector unions. Gina Raimondo gained the governorship of Rhode Island despite using her position as that state’s Treasurer to restructure public pensions and thereby earning the enmity of public sector unions. In my own home state of Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn lost in state where the most important mainstay of his party is public sector unions, whose pensions and other exactions have made Illinois the state with one of the lowest credit ratings and worst business climates in the nation.
The decline in political power and legal privileges of public sector unions would be the single most salutary structural improvement in the states where they enjoy such privileges.