-By Warner Todd Huston
A lot has been said about the thuggish behavior of these teachers in Wisconsin and other union toughs across the country who have been caught on tape calling people Hitler and dictators, and attacking peaceful Tea Partiers. The behavior of union supporters has been ignorant to say the least. But as we’ve focused on the behavior of these ignoramuses, we’ve also neglected to explain just why their unions are illicit in the first place.
To start with we should remind everyone that government employees have not always been allowed to unionize. Collective bargaining for pubic employees only started in 1958 after New York Mayor Robert Wagner signed what came to be called “the Little Wagner Act” allowing city workers to unionize. In fact, collective bargaining itself was only legalized even in the private sector in 1935 when Wagner’s own father, New York Senator Robert Wagner, sponsored the National Labor Relations Act, or the Wagner Act. Nationally, collective bargaining for government employees began in 1962 when President John Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988 allowing federal employees to unionize and gain collective bargaining. The fact is even after unions gained collective bargaining rights generally in 1935 public employees were logically and rightfully excluded from that ability. In fact, as several have noted over the last few weeks, even the patron saint of the left, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, stood foursquare against government employees having the right to collective bargaining.
Roosevelt was wholly against public employee unions and for good reason.
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations … The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for … officials … to bind the employer … The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives…
Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people … This obligation is paramount … A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent … to prevent or obstruct … Government … Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government is unthinkable and intolerable.
The fact is that public employee unions are antithetical to democracy and good government. Roosevelt knew this.
Still, it’s all well and good to just say that public employee unions are bad for us. But why, exactly is that a truism?
Recently Robert Tracinski did one of the best jobs I’ve yet seen laying out what these unions are so detrimental to the good health of our various governments.
Unionized public-sector employment is the distilled essence of the left’s moral ideal. No one has to worry about making a profit. Generous health-care and retirement benefits are provided to everyone by the government. Comfortable pay is mandated by legislative fiat. The work rules are militantly egalitarian: pay, promotion, and job security are almost totally independent of actual job performance. And because everyone works for the government, they never have to worry that their employer will go out of business.
In short, public employment is an idealized socialist economy in miniature, including its political aspect: the grateful recipients of government largesse provide money and organizational support to re-elect the politicians who shower them with all of these benefits.
The current crisis exposes more than just the financial unsustainability of these programs. It exposes their moral unsustainability. It exposes the fact that the generosity of these welfare-state enclaves can only be sustained by forcing everyone else to perform forced labor to pay for the benefits of a privileged few.
That unsustainability comes from the fact that this socialist utopia is wholly funded by the taxpayers, the same people whose own lives are not nearly as fortunate as the elites in government employee unions. And in this era when the whole of the people are tapped out, when the lavish lifestyles of these public employees have bankrupted local, county, state and federal governments alike, the fantasy of public employee unions has been laid bare for all to see.
So, why have these bankrupting policies been allowed to stay in place for so long when it has been clear for decades that they are dangerous to the public weal? Because certain interested parties outside the unions have also benefited to the tune of billions of dollars over the last 50 years. Democrat politicians at all levels of government have reaped the reward of constant favors delivered to unions in exchange for campaign donations.
As Michael Barone says, “follow the money.”
The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.
We are the ones being stolen from so that these people can live high off the hog for life and these tough economic times are revealing the absurdity of the arrangement.