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  • Government Unions: It's About the Money

    “It’s not about the money,” says University of Wisconsin Associate Professor of Political Science and Law Howard Schweber. Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell agrees: “This is not about protecting our pay and our benefits. It is about protecting our right to collectively bargain.” Both Scheber and Bell are half right: the fight in Wisconsin is not about the money… of state employees. These workers have already agreed to pay more for their health care and retirement benefits.

    But this is about someone’s money … the union’s. Consider that while the  unions have very generously volunteered for their state employee members to give up some of their money (in the form of contributions to health and retirement benefits), the government unions themselves haven’t given up a single cent of their union dues. That is what the fight in Wisconsin is all about: preserving the government union direct pipeline to taxpayer dollars. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk explains how government unions created this racket:

    In the 28 states without right-to-work laws, [which includes Wisconsin], unions negotiate contracts that require government employees to pay union dues or lose their jobs. Unions also negotiate large subsidies for their fundraising. They negotiate for the government to collect union dues through its payroll system. This spares unions the expense of doing their own fundraising.

    Without these provisions unions would bring in far less money. Federal law gives most federal employees the choice of belonging to a union. Most choose not to join. The federal unionization rate is only 18 percent—far lower than for states like Wisconsin, where 50 percent of state and local government employees belong to unions.

    Nationwide, 5.5 million state and local government employees must either pay union dues or lose their jobs. Forced unionization and government withholding of union dues are the one-two punch of government union monopoly financial power. This fight is about the money, specifically the billions of dollars government unions take directly from their members paychecks. Worse, government unions then turn right around and use that money to lobby for more government. Sherk again:

    In the election year of 2008, AFSCME’s national headquarters spent 32 percent of its budget—$63.3 million—on political activities and lobbying. Local AFSCME chapters spent millions more. Government-employee unions now spend more than any other outside group on U.S. elections. Of the five largest spenders in the 2010 election cycle outside of political parties, three were unions that represent government employees. AFSCME took the top spot, spending $91 million to elect its members’ bosses. That total dwarfed the Chamber of Commerce’s $75 million, and the $65 million raised by Republican Party-allied groups.

    Government unions use this power to campaign for higher taxes and more government employees— in order to increase union membership and the amount of money flowing to the union from dues. They are the driving force behind most campaigns to raise taxes and prevent budget cuts. They attempt to make government expansion the path of least political resistance. If politicians refuse to support this agenda, government unions will use their power to defeat them.

    At times they state this openly. A Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representative told California legislators that “We helped to get you into office, and we got a good memory. And come November, if you don’t back our program, we’ll help get you out of office.” Collective bargaining has thoroughly politicized the civil service in many states. Increasingly—and contrary to basic democratic principles—it is union leaders, not elected officials, who essentially decide how much taxes people pay, and how the government will spend those taxes.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Government Unions: It's About the Money

    1. Bobbie says:

      Wow, she sounded pretty threatening. Little sound bite from the PRESIDENT protecting government employees stating their (government union employees) rights shouldn't be infringed upon.


      impeachment before this country is destroyed. Government competition with the private sector builds resentment and under American leadership would not exist.

    2. Teresa, AZ says:

      If I were in charge of a union (ie., in WI) I would certainly be willing to sacrifice 10,000 workers in order to keep the millions of mandatory dues from the other workers.

    3. Wildcat from Dallast says:

      This is just one example why you can't transplant collective bargaining from the private sector to the public sector. Even FDR, the Progressives icon for accomplishing so much of their agenda, clearly said that.

      There is no incentive for public sector union members to perform their work in the most efficient and effective way possible as they are limited (or at least are supposed to be) by the tax revenues generated by the level of government they work for.

      It appears to have been lazy nefarious elected officials from both parties that lacked the intestinal fortitude to clamp down on the unsupportable demands for higher pay and benefits. That is where a leader has to step in and render the facts of budgetary constraints and offer viable alternatives relative to how much of a pay raise they can have commensurate with how much they have to contribute to their total benefits package including health insurance and pension contributions.

      Public sector unions should be the first to have their collective bargaining privileges taken away permanently. Then public sector wage and benefits packages should be reset based upon current budgetary constraints including how much they will contribute to paying for the benefits they derive.

    4. Todd in Pennsylvania says:

      Collective bargaining in NOT a right!!! It is a privilege. Rights are endowed by God or guaranteed by the Constitution. They apply to ALL citizens. I do not see collective bargaining defined in the Bill of Rights. We are getting confused in this entitlement mindset with rights and benefits. Federal union workers do not have collective bargaining rights. Indiana does not have collective bargaining for public employees. It has not slipped back into the dark ages with children working and no vacations and people working 7 days a week.

    5. brad says:

      At the same time corporations are accepting tax subsidies and contributing generously to political campaigns on a much wider scale than unions.

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    7. Bobbie says:

      GM and GE, Brad? Thanks for the reminder.

      Honest businesses need no subsidies and have a right to spend their money any way they choose and it is usually to those candidates that appreciate the freedom of opportunities (successful businesses had) for the people of this country to gain their own wealth. They vote for principled candidates that promote freedom, liberty and your very own, individual pursuit of happiness. Another reason we don't vote democrat.

    8. Pingback: The Absurd Report » Government Unions: It’s About the Money

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