Big Labor’s Midwest Offensive

Yesterday in the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press, my colleague Russ Pohl and I detail the current militant tactics used by Midwest public-sector unions that are paralyzing government. The actions reveal the need to uproot the foundation of government union’s power over taxpayer funds by eliminating collective bargaining in government.

We explain that in Chicago the power of collective bargaining enabled the teachers union to execute a seven-day illegal strike:

Illinois state law “prohibits the CTU from striking over non-economic issues, such as layoff and recall policies, teacher evaluations, class sizes and the length of the school day and year.” Yet CTU President Karen Lewis has stated that evaluation standards and layoffs policies are the reason the teachers abandoned their 350,000 students.

Wisconsin public sector union’s collective bargaining advantage affords them absurd legal standing. It enabled the Madison teachers union to file suit and win — for now — against Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reform. On September 14, Wisconsin Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled, “[I]t is undisputed that there is no constitutional right to collective bargaining.” Yet, he ruled that limiting the conditions over which government unions can negotiate violates workers’ rights to freedom of speech and association. In other words, the Judge essentially decided that if public sector union power were restricted, unions would be less attractive for workers to join, therefore limiting employees’ speech and freedom of association.

In addition, Colas found that the reform law’s provisions freeing workers from forced union dues payments and holding annual union re-certification elections violate the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause — essentially arguing that the law is not being equally applied if firefighter and police unions may legally coerce members to pay dues while other government unions may not.

Michigan unions have flexed their muscle by spending around $8 million on the “Protect Our Jobs Amendment.” The ballot measure is a blatant power grab by union bosses to gain greater control over public workers and taxpayer funds. If the union sponsored POJA is passed:

The initiative would give union bosses, who are not accountable to voters, power to overturn or block laws enacted by the present or future state legislature. If POJA becomes law, elected officials could never propose right to work legislation or any bill giving workers the freedom to choose whether to pay union dues without fear of losing their job.

The prevailing government union tactics in Chicago, Wisconsin, and Michigan embody former President Franklin Roosevelt’s fear of permitting collective bargaining in government. In a 1937 letter, FDR wrote then National Federation of Federal Employees union president Luther Steward stating, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees… a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.”

All around the country, FDR’s fear is being recognized. Government union entrenched power from collective bargaining is harming communities by causing unsustainable financial distress, removing choice in the workplace, and holding government services ransom. Eliminating collective bargaining in government would go a long way to ending Big Labor’s influence over the allocation of public funds. As well, to restoring government and its workforce to its proper purpose to serve the general welfare not private agendas.