Witnessing the last breaths of the public-union leviathan?
The cri de guerre of public-sector unions worldwide is worker’s rights, due process, and fair play. Behind the lofty rhetoric, however, are institutions at odds with a society’s right to self-government. Born in the 1930s, public-sector unions were initially mistrusted by liberals and conservatives alike. In a 1937 letter, FDR noted that self-interested public-sector unions threatened government’s ability to represent the broad needs of the citizenry. Yet they gained much traction during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s—with many Democratic politicians using them as a fecund source of political support. And they’ve grown in strength since, now representing one of the world’s most powerful interest groups. Confronting intrinsic issues with public-sector unions, such as pensions and tenure, will be a hard-fought battle, and not just in the U.S. For they are masters of diverting attention from strategic to tactical questions. Still, today’s era of austerity—and mounting anger about this privileged class of employees—may yet provide the best opportunity to try.
“How Public Unions Took Taxpayers Hostage,” by Fred Siegel, Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2011.
“Public-sector workers: (Government) workers of the world unite!,” The Economist, January 6, 2011.
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