Unions on the run?

The New Jersey teacher whose public confrontation with the Garden State's Governor in September has become ?a YouTube classic? (over 840,000 views as of today), according to the NY Times, is now front page of the Times ?and a poster child for the growing anti-union ?outrage? over public employee wages and benefits. The teacher, Marie Corfield, tells the Times:

People I don't even know are calling me horrible names ? The mantra is that the problem is the unions, the unions, the unions.

After reading the story, you might agree with poor Ms. Corfield's detractors. While New Jersey's average local government pensioner is earning less than $20,000 a year, the Times reports, its retired teachers are earning $46,000.? (Truth be told: Some police and firefighter retirees are pulling down six figure pensions.)

The clock on the pension bomb continues to tick, faster and faster?especially in the public sector. In California, says the Times,

[P]ension costs now crowd out spending for parks, public schools and state universities; in Illinois, spiraling pension costs threaten the state with insolvency.

The ?incestuous alliance? between public employee unions and their employers, as the Times characterizes it, is not much news for many reformers (see this comprehensive index in Education Next or just about anything Terry Moe has written). And you don't have to be a Peter Brimelow, author of The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions are Destroying American Education?who called teacher union leaders??commissars of [an] American Red Army? and accused the NEA?of ?metastasiz[ing] into the National Extortion Association??to know there's something wrong here.

Fred Siegel, senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute's Center for State and Local Leadership, sums it up nicely for the Times:

Public unions have had no natural adversary; they give politicians political support and get good contracts back ??It's uniquely dysfunctional.

Tolstoy couldn't have said it any better.

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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