August 19, 2010

TAKING BACK CONTROL OF OUR EMPLOYEES:

A Three-Point Plan For Reforming Public Employment (Richard A. Epstein, 08.16.10, Forbes)

First, Calvin Coolidge underestimated the risks of public unions when he said famously, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time." No strike laws stop this problem but create another one in its stead: excessive monopoly power through the mandatory arbitration power. The correct solution is more comprehensive. No public body should ever be required or allowed to confer monopoly power on an employee union--period.

In education, for example, don't let powerful unions block charter schools, vouchers and home schooling. Any school, public or private, should operate with an explicit legislative guarantee that all teachers and other employers must agree not to join a union as a condition of employment. The "best interests of the student" cannot be allowed to become a fig leaf for protectionist union legislation. Alternative paths of education are the best way to reduce government expenditures and blunt union power.

Second, cut back pension contracts for all retired and current workers now. Far from being sacred property rights, these sweetheart agreements between union leaders and sympathetic legislators represent the worst form of self-dealing. Some legislators sell out their constituents in exchange for modest campaign contributions; others yield to union threats of massive electoral retaliation if they do not go along with union demands.

Regrettably, no taxpayer has ever been allowed to challenge these questionable deals in court before they took effect. That has to change. Any self-dealing between a corporate board and its key officers would not last a minute. These bloated union contracts should fare no better. They should be set aside as unfairly obtained. Exactly how they should be trimmed is hard to say.

Recently voters in Colorado, Minnesota and North Dakota voted to strip cost of living increases to present and future pensioners. It is a start, but it won't be enough. In the end, the ultimate objective is to reduce pensions for public employees to the levels received by their peers in private industry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 19, 2010 5:10 AM
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