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  • Morning Bell: Big Government's Government Union Firewall

    Indications are that the Progressive Movement is headed for a crushing defeat two weeks from now. Political analysts Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook both peg the number of competitive House races at around 100. Separately, both analysts are also predicting Democrats will lose between 45 and 60 seats (39 are needed to switch control of the House). Striking back against the electorate’s small government fervor, AFL-CIO Political Director Karen Ackerman penned a strategy memo last week claiming “Union Voters are the firewall for candidates that support working families.”

    And sure enough Big Labor is pouring millions of dollars into this fall’s elections. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has spent $1.3 million on ads since September alone, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has spent another $5.2 million. Ackerman comforts Beltway liberals: “The AFL-CIO’s grassroots political program has an incredible reach, with union families talking to 17 million of their co-workers; comprised of union members, their families, retirees and members of Working America. Outside the political party committees themselves, we have the largest political mobilization operation in the country.”

    What Ackerman doesn’t mention is that the majority of these “union members” don’t get their paychecks from private employers; they are paid by you, the taxpayers. The AFL-CIO may have once represented the interests of steelworkers, auto workers and teamsters, but now the largest union in the AFL-CIO is AFSCME. In fact, 2009 was a historic year for Big Labor: for the first time in American history the majority of union members now work for the government, not the private sector.

    It was not supposed to be this way. Big Labor’s biggest champion, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote in 1937: “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. … The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.” Collective bargaining, the anti-trust exemption at the heart the labor movement’s power, was created to help workers seize their “fair share” of business profits. If a union ends up extracting a contract from a private firm that eats up too much profits, that firm will lose out to competitors. But while private firms face competition, governments don’t. So when a union extracts a generous contract from government, there is no check on that spending. Instead of being disciplined by more efficient competitors, the government just pays for higher spending with higher taxes.

    And generous contracts paid for by your tax dollars have become the main source of union growth. While private-sector unions lost 834,000 members in 2009, public-sector unions actually gained 64,000 members. Not only has the federal government been adding new union members, but the government is also paying them more than their services are worth in the private sector. Depending on the methodology employed, the average federal employee receives as much as 40% more in total compensation than an equally skilled private sector worker would receive. Including both wages and benefits, overpaying federal workers costs taxpayers approximately $40–50 billion per year. Government unions then take your tax dollars, turn right around, and use them to lobby for even bigger government. From Maine, to Florida, to Illinois, to California, your tax dollars are being used to lobby for higher taxes and higher spending.

    The American people are beginning to catch on to the government union game. A new poll released today by The Washington Post finds that 52% of Americans believe that federal workers are overpaid for the work that they do. And three-quarters of those surveyed say they think federal workers are paid more and get better benefits than their counterparts in the private sector.

    Not all federal employees are overpaid. Some highly skilled federal workers took pay cuts to serve their country, no doubt. But that is all the more reason Congress should reform how federal employees should be compensated. Congress should expand outsourcing to the private sector and replace the General Schedule with a performance-based pay system tied to market compensation. That would be one giant step toward ending the government union big government machine.

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    25 Responses to Morning Bell: Big Government's Government Union Firewall

    1. Ken Jarvis - Las Veg says:

      UNION WORKERS make more $$$

      and have Better Benefits than Non-Union workers.

      WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE.

      LVKen7@Gmail.com

    2. KC - New Mexico says:

      Our broken EDUCATION SYSTEM is a primary example of UNION involvement at its worst! As a retired educator, I encourage all readers of Heritage to see the movie “Waiting for Superman”. This is a new documentary by Davis Guggenheim. This is a very moving documentary about our failing education system. The union is partially to blame in this case, the other issues are politicians being involved with something that they do not understand. Alternatives to public education are shown that do work for all income levels and races. If we can fix our education system, then many of the other issues that this country has will also become fixed. At least Senator Kennedy and President Bush started a measureable approach to fix this issue but we still have a long way to go. If you have children – go see this movie! It is time to demand significant change!

      Even in my state – New Mexico (North Mexico), our democratic Lt Gov who is running for governor received a huge contribution from the teachers union. This is another example of the union buying the political favors to continue crappy education delivery. The best thing we could do is to get rid of the unions in government and specifically education.

    3. ThomNJ says:

      "Outside the political party committees themselves, we have the largest political mobilization operation in the country." – UH NO, that would be us in groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party. Collectively, we are bigger, and we have mobilized – I am sure that in a couple of weeks you will see that.

    4. John B. Greet, Long says:

      Mr. Carroll,

      The challenge is not to be found in the collective bargaining process, but in the process in which we allow public employee unions (PEU's) to use PAC funds and PAC activities to help elect (or defeat) our representatives in government or to support (or oppose) legislation that directly impacts the wages and benefits of public employees.

      All workers, whether in the public or the private sectors, should have a right to collectively bargain for the best wages and working conditions they can receive from their employer.

      It's not that there exists no check and balance against PEU's in the collective bargaining process, it's that the people elect (or, by their apathy and/or ignorance, allow to be elected) represenatatives who sometimes prove more beholden to these PEU's than they are of the people they were elected to represent.

      The answer, then, is not to disallow PEU's from collectively bargaining for their wages and working conditions, it is to elect government representatives who will better keep these PEU's in check.

      The answer is to disallow PEU's from having PAC funds or from engaging in PAC activities. Some will say that this is suppressive of the people's right to freely engage in political speech and political activity but this is not the case at all. Members of PEU's can still be just as actively engaged in the political process as they always were, on an individual basis, just like everyone else.

      Members of PEU's can still affiliate and participate with any other special interest group(s) they choose. But when they participate in our political processes, collectively, as public employees, their activity often directly and specifically conflicts with the best interests of the people they are employed to serve.

      Thus the best answer to this challenge is two-fold:

      1. Statrt electing government representatives who will better represent the people's best interests, rather than that of public employees' and,

      2. Disallow PEU's from maintaining PAC funds or engaging on PAC activities

    5. gorio says:

      Maybe I missed something but how is it that a "government union" can exist, isn't it one of the constitutions requirements that "no taxation without representation" Who is the Union Rep that we vote for/against? What we have here is a fifth element that exists on taxpayer dollars but doesn't have to be accountable to the taxpayer, who authorized this and why has congress allowed this to happen? Shouldn't someone be asking questions about the legality/illegality of the "government union" and whether the taxpayer is being indebted without their permission?

    6. Carlton VA says:

      It is interesting that unions contribute millions of dollard to political campaigns and expece the taxpayer to subsidize union pensioins and other retirement benefits. There needs to be a law in place that would prohibit any organization from getting government monies if they contribute to a political campaign or PAC or any other type of related organization formed to influence elections.

    7. Steven Jacobs Watson says:

      EVERYONE should read this ! If you are not part of the SOLUTION, you are part of the PROBLEM.

    8. Nancy says:

      All levels of government should not be allowed to have unions – city, county, state, federal and whatever other entities are deemed government – it is a waste of the taxpayers' dollars. These dollars end up in the 'union thugs' pockets and does not help the government employees and is blatant misuse of tax funds. It is all about politics.

    9. Mike Sheahen, Hickor says:

      In the insect world it is said to be routine for the female poisonous Black Widow Spider, for example, to kill and eat the male after mating…if he doesn't escape first, which he usually doesn't…never mind that without the male there would be no mating and multiplying for the female to do; in the parasite world it is in fact routine for the parasite to suck the life blood out of, and even sooner or later cause the death of, their hosts.

      That may somehow be the idea and work just fine in their realm of nature, but not among, and as a result of, the same sort of thing among humans, whether figuratively or literally.

      Yet we see the all too similar sort of thing being in some ways perpetrated and promoted by "big labor" (now including and especially government unions) and the politicians with whom they seek to promote and even impose the parasitic, destructive Statist Marxist/Communist/Socialist government elitist agenda, in all its' forms, which they all share, whether "Progressively" or in more of a hurry, which in any case, as always throughout history, "sucks the life blood out of" and destroys the productive and the prosperous without whom they would not have the wherewithal with which to promote and impose their agenda, whether immediately or eventually as in "Progressively".

      In short, not only is it being shown true that "the difference between a Liberal and a Socialist is a Liberal is a patient Socialist and a Socialist is a Liberal in a hurry", but it is in fact being shown true that "The problem with Socialism (or any other Statist form) is that you eventually run out of other people's money" as even Lady Margaret Thatcher said.

    10. Soylent Majority, Le says:

      I used to think that anyone collecting entitlement payments, welfare, food stamps should loose the right to vote – clearly a conflict of interest. Now I think this may apply to anyone who works for the government. When the majority of workers are paid with tax dollars, we've entered a downward spiral that will end in the collapse of our economy. That "better pay and benefits" is unsustainable when the "payers" are the minority.

    11. Jeanne Stotler, Wood says:

      Before Fed. Unions my parents worked for the Navy DEpt. at the main Navy on Constitution AVe. this was pre Pentegon. After WWII both complained about how many people were doing the same job, people were hired even if not qualified it was a mess and still is. My mother was supervisor for a dicaphone pool, (pre tape recorders) and she would constantly tell about these typist who could not spell on a fourth grade level or type above 45 WPM, the job situation is no better today. At one point Unions were good and with truck drivers and bus and train operators may still be, these unions keep owners from working an employee over the safe amount of hours a day and require specific amount of hours off before they can be called back to work. Clinton got rid of the ICC which oversaw the interstate comerce and checked the safety, incl. log books of large rigs and buses crossing state lines. Funny they get rid of a neccesary org. and put all these offices in that interfere with state rights, no wonder they spend so much.

    12. Alan R, San Diego says:

      Every government teetering on the brink of bancruptcy can trace its financial problems to excessive employee compensation, brought about by the unions. In the public sector, there is no such thing as collective bargaining. The city employees who negotiate with labor on behalf of the taxpayers negotiate their own compensation package as well.

      Mr. Greet is correct. Public employee unions should not be allowed to have PACs. Public funds (which pay the union workers' salaries) are not to be used for political purposes.

      There is one more issue, however. If public employees wish to unionize, they should have to give up their civil service status and the protections that offers, such as not being fired. They can't have it both ways.

    13. KLIMAX Baltimore, Ma says:

      I have worked union for almost 40 years and have seen a lot of changes but lately the union I belong to has changed for the worse !! As a Boilermaker I have had to work jobs that required nerves of steel such as working hundreds of feet in the air with no extra compensation, working with asbestos before anyone told us it was unhealthy etc. !! Today the unions want more dues for less representation which makes going to work harder and harder !! The only thing "ALL THE UNIONS WANT " is more dues paying members thats why they want amnesty pushed through because they can give themselves higher pay and the "NEW MEMBERS" will not say a word !!! From what I have seen the unions today don't really represent their members to any large amount !!

      When it comes to unions and the Federal and local Governments they should be baned because of the reasons stated in your article !! When Government workers pay and benefits passes private industry it should be stopped and pulled in line with the National average for private industry !!!

    14. Linda San Bernardino says:

      I am proud to say I retired from the federal government after over 25 years of service. I never forgot how I raised my hand, while facing the flag of the U.S., saying I would serve my country and perform a full day's work .Around the last 10 years or so the erosion of the work ethic began. No one seemed to care, less work performed, poor knowledge of their position, still being promoted, etc. Those of us who did care only got more work. There are still many good employees working for the federal government. A lot of them make very little money, such as food service workers who prepare and serve food to our hospitalized military, housekeeping aid's who perform the duties no one else wants to do, file clerk's who protect government records, etc. I'm not sure what can be done to stop this. Many ideas sound good but actually working is another thing. The change to Performance for Pay can be manipulated the same as the appraisal systems that have been in use. Many Union rep's do nothing but union duties while being paid the same as if the rep was working. This should not be. Outsourcing federal positions does not solve the problem. I as well as many others, have seen that employees who are not affiliated with the facility/organization do not care about the organization. After the first year the cost goes up to pay them, the work often goes down, etc. Something has to be done at "the top" to change the future of federal employment. As long as we have managers who will let these conditions continue, nothing will change. One other thing I want to clarify, federal employees contribute to almost all the benefits we receive. I agree we are fortunate to have these benefits. I worked in the private sector before I became employed by the federal government. I had very little if no benefits. There are private sector employer's who offer "free benefits" for the employees.

    15. Idarae Stockton, CA says:

      I agree with this article, I am a State of CA worker,had I been given a choice, I would never had paid into a union.but that is the only way I could work for the state. Everyone needs to get paid for thier performance I saw some costly and doozie of mistakes from poor workers that can't be fired, so it is covered up and a lot of time wasted, I believe most jobs should be from the public sector that way the Unions can't help elect thier gov.and control the state.

    16. Timpclimber Provo, U says:

      Here in Utah a Demo candidate (Hansen-Ogden,UT) feels its not important to answer questions on his position on getting rid of the secret ballot in union votes and gets angry when he is questioned. Unfortunately many unions have gotten benefit packages that are unsustainable and threaten to bankrupt governments and companies. Question did their retirees fail to get a cost of living increase like those on social security?

    17. Pingback: ADF Alliance Alert » Big government’s government union firewall

    18. DL California says:

      I am "represented" but not a "member of" a Union under the SEIU. I do not share their views. One thing I will say is there are more "conservatives" in unions – although we are silent by intimidation – than I thought before becoming "represented". As near as I can tell, being "represented" does not guarantee them our votes – but what I can bear testament to is that being "represented" subjects me to A LOT of indoctrination – which I resent.

      Also, it seems to me that the membership is a lot easier to whip up into a frenzy than most average non-union people. I wish there was a way to legislate the non- participation of unions in the political process – but I guess that would be just as "un-American" as what they prostelitize. So for now I will wait, and commiserate and watch for my opportunities to associate with like-minded people so that maybe we can change it – from the inside.

      Here is the thing that gets me… the more profitable business is – the more successful employees should be – if they are valued and hard working. Raises, bonuses, benefits, etc… Can be paid by thriving businesses. So there is the win-win. Why are we always chasing the win-lose?

    19. Lorene Lichty, SO Ca says:

      One BIG problem with overcoming the liberal incumbent in House and Senate seats is voter fraud. I vote on mail in, how would I know that my vote was included, let alone input correctly. As I have heard our Military's mail ins were sent out too late to count; where does that leave us.

      Also, why is it the President's (on our payroll) to be soooo involved with the democrat's re-elections. I do not see him being very bi-partisan..

    20. Chet "Ski,&quot says:

      Yeah, Jarvis," workers of the world unite" and put a hammer and sickle after it so you have the same thing that the soviet union had before it went bust.Wake up for a change, and get off your ragged, socialist, marxist horse and go over there to see what you get. you make me laugh with your stupid comments. Stay on the 'west kos', huffington, and the rest of your unpatriotic blogs, but leave this country, I, and many have sacrificed our youth for, many of us DAV's, ( and you claim to be a vet, but can't give me the name of your outfit} Don't give me that crap , because all you are is a phony 'wannabe' .

    21. Pyeatte says:

      The government is no longer representing the common unwashed citizen, it is representing a union. I think a "housecleaning" is in order.

    22. Drew Page, IL says:

      Mr. Jarvis wants the workers of the world to unite. Where have we heard that before?

      Why is it that Japanese, Korean and German auto companies can come into the U.S., build manufacturing plants, hire Americans and sell their cars at a profit when G.M. and Chrysler can't? Does it have anything to do with the wages, insurance benefits and pensions that the UAW negotiated with the Big Three? The car companies are equally culpable in the loss of market share and jobs. They gave in to union "pattern bargaining". It worked every time and the car company simply put the higher cost of wages, benefits and pensions into the cost of their vehicles. Finally, the unions and car companies priced themselves out of the market. At the same time, the quality of union made American cars was deteriorating. Take a look at Consumer Reports for the past several years Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi are being shown as the most well made and reliable of automobiles.

      The only place unionism is growing is in government, where there is no competition. Why is it that government employees need a union anyway? Is the government that abusive an employer? Government wages, benefits and pensions are much higher than those available to the majority of private sector employees and they are paid for by taxes, so why the need for the union? Why should government workers be allowed to unionize any more than the military? Can you imagine the military going on strike because conditions were too harsh, pay was too low, or filing a grievance because the employer was guilty of maintaining a "hostile work environment"?

      There is currently an unholy alliance between SEIU and the Obama administration. Andy Stern gets more time with Obama than Michelle. SEIU showers millions in campaign contributions on Obama and his crew and in return, Obama hires more of them and gives them whatever they want. Those of us not working for the government get to pay for this arrangement.

    23. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » BIG GOVERNMENT’S government-union firewall. “The AFL-CIO may have once represented the interests of…

    24. F.D. O'Toole, N says:

      I would like to think that the Republicans will tackle this problem if they take back the House.

      But it is likely that they will have their hands full with the economy and with trying to overcome Presidential vetoes.

      My guess is that they will be thwarted at every turn and come 2012, when we are still in a recession, they will be blamed for everything under the sun.

    25. Steve, McHenry IL says:

      It's long past time to outlaw public sector unions. Allowing government employees to unionize was the most destructive act that John F. Kennedy commited as president. His executive order needs to be struck down.

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