The Price of Government Unions (It's High)

Nick Dranias at the Goldwater Institute has run the numbers on the costs and consequences of the decision a few decades ago to give state, school and local government employee unions the power to force public bodies to engage in collective bargaining. It’s not pretty. Here’s an excerpt:

From 1958 through 1968, illegal work stoppages or strikes at all levels of government increased 1,593 percent, resulting in a 33,790 percent increase in the loss of workdays. In 1967, New York City sanitation workers struck and buried city streets under 10,000 tons of garbage per day. In 1978, striking firefighters in Indiana refused to respond to a fire that burned through a downtown city block. “Blue flues” have repeatedly struck law enforcement officers in California since 1985, when the state’s Supreme Court ruled that public safety employees had the right to strike. And in December 2005, New York transit workers went on strike, costing the city $400 million per day in lost business and revenue.

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The strike threat entailed by unionization combined with the power to force government employers to bargain over wages and benefits has empowered the average government worker to demand and receive hourly pay and benefits that are now 44 percent higher than the average private-sector worker’s. Those high costs are bankrupting state and local governments — and taxpayers — across the nation.

But it does not have to be this way.

More than 30 years ago, Virginia banned government-sector unions from collective bargaining and entering into collectively bargained contracts. Within seven years, government employees had abandoned their unions in droves as they realized the union did little for them.

Statistical analysis shows that if states prohibited all forms of collective bargaining, they could reap a total of nearly $50 billion in savings for state and local taxpayers across the country.

Read the rest here.

To Dranias’ list we can add these examples from Michigan: Illegal teacher strikes in Detroit in 1999 and 2008; and as reported in CapCon just this morning, state employee compensation costs that have increased on average from $78,999 in 2001 to $94,888 in 2011 when adjusted for inflation.  



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