Unions vs. Taxpayers – Part 2 of 2

Also from the New York Times:

Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics. …

But in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.(Full story here.)

This is interesting because it’s the second NYT story on public unions in three days.  Also, because it’s something that’s been on my mind over the last few weeks.

I got to thinking about what happens when union workers strike at a manufacturing plant like Ford or GM.  The citizens have alternate sources for these goods.  People can buy a Jeep, or a Toyota, or some other car.  People can also buy a used car.

So the conclusion is that labor unrest at a manufacturing company may restrict consumer options, but it does not deny the consumer of the goods.

This is very different with labor unrest in a public employees union.  In Illinois police are not permitted to strike.  The reason is obvious.  But school teachers are permitted to strike.  That completely denies the taxpayer, the consumer, of the services.  That seems unjust to me.

It seems that some other people, albeit in other states, were having similar thoughts.

For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.

Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.

“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers.

I’m not suggesting that we restrict collective bargaining, but we should certainly have the conversation about who should have what rights.

We should at least be allowed to have the conversation.