Exactly What Unions Are Expected to Do

Unions throw monkey wrench into benefit reform plan. So what else is new?

Every year, state and local governments and school districts hand over tens of millions of dollars to unions with no questions asked. These funds are guaranteed under the guise of union dues, which are extracted from employees’ paychecks regardless of whether or not they support the union. But in reality, it’s government officials who agree to mandatory dues, then collect and turn them over. Those funds are available for a wide range of things, including electioneering, public relations, lobbying and litigation

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In its recent editorial on government employee union lawsuits The Detroit News calls attention to a real problem — unions that treat taxpayer money cavalierly. But while this is newsworthy, it’s not unexpected. Or at least it shouldn’t be any more.

In separate actions, the Legislature and state Civil Service Commission determined that it was necessary for public school teachers and state employees to contribute 3 percent of their annual pay to defray the cost of retiree health care benefits. In a pair of lawsuits, the MEA and AFSCME are seeking to prevent those changes from taking place. As the editorial correctly observes, these benefits are unaffordable without employee contributions and even if the union lawsuits fail, they still delayed long-overdue benefits changes.

But then again, this is exactly what public-sector unions are expected to do: protect the interests of government employees without regard for the cost to taxpayers. Government employees have every right to lobby and hire lawyers, but the public is not obligated to give in to their wishes or pay for those lobbyists and lawyers. The News is right to question the union lawsuits, but politicians who have empowered and enriched unions at the expense of taxpayers deserve a lot of the blame.