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Time to Rethink Public Employee Unions

In New York, sanitation workers have reported that their union ordered them to sabotage the city’s blizzard cleanup efforts. If that claim is true, the union may be responsible for at least one death. Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to investigate.
It remains to be seen what will come of this particular controversy, but the broader point is coming into ever-clearer focus: it is time to ban public employee unions.
For the large majority of our history, public employee unions have been illegal. It is only since the 1960s and 1970s that they have been allowed. Currently, they are legal in roughly half the states. The United States has carried on a four-decade experiment in legalization, and the results are in: public employee unions are a cancer on our country.
Public employee unions flourish because government is, by its nature, a monopoly. Thus, there is no need for unionized government units to compete against non-unionized units. Moreover, public officials who negotiate with public employee unions generally lack the same incentives that private employers have to keep costs down. The result has been a fiscal disaster, with numerous states and municipalities now going over the waterfall of bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, public employee unions have become perhaps the dominant force in our political life. They extract dues from their members which go to fund the candidacies of politicians who will pay public employees even more money. The unions’ ill-gotten clout has created a vicious cycle; at the same time that government units are going broke, public employees are now far better paid than their private sector counterparts, while enjoying better benefits and ridiculous job security.
Enough is enough. Legalization of public employee unions has been a disaster. It is time to end the experiment and make them illegal once again, at both the federal and state levels. I expect that this will become one of the great political issues of the next decade.

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