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.
The state of Illinois, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, is headed for a “pension doomsday.” So are other states. Across the country, unionized governments are a halfway house to nosebleed long-term pension and healthcare costs, giving politicians a Hobson’s choice. They can renege on existing collective bargaining agreements, hike taxes, or pare back social services. Interestingly, neither my Liberty Forum essay nor the responses to me focused on the fiscal train wreck aspect. This was most likely a subconscious choice on the part of the contributors, myself included, to leave aside the nuts and bolts of public finance and concentrate…
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.
The Supreme Court is slowly but surely demonstrating, over a series of cases, that the First Amendment cannot plausibly be squared with public sector unions’ court-awarded power to require payments from non-members. The Court’s 1977 decision granting unions that extraordinary power, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, is an anomaly that should be overturned next year in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Michael Toth makes these points well in his lead essay, as do Daniel DiSalvo, my Manhattan Institute colleague, in his response and in his terrific new book, and John Eastman in his own response. Alongside their comprehensive critiques, I would…
Let me start with a disclaimer. I was once a member of a union—albeit involuntarily. During college, I responded to Southwestern Bell’s ad for a part-time, 20-hour-a-week graveyard shift job designing Yellow Pages advertisements. I was offered the position, but was required to join the union as a condition of my employment. Had I been a law student rather than an undergraduate at the time, I might have realized that the requirement was illegal under the Supreme Court’s decision in National Labor Relations Board v. General Motors (1963) two decades earlier. Even then, I suspect I would have been required…
In response to: Is It Curtains for Mandatory Public Sector Union Dues?
Many say the Roberts Court has been exceptionally supportive of First Amendment principles. As Michael Toth ably details in his Liberty Forum essay, these principles have been at issue in two recent cases, Knox v. SEIU Local 1000 (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014). Both dealt with public employee unions and both were decided in…