If your local, state or federal government spending is on the rise, as are calls to hike your taxes to pay for it all, odds are you can thank your friendly government employee unions for the privilege.
From the teachers union to the cops union to the firefighters union to the janitors union, the cost of public employee contracts is exploding. These “public servants” are now enjoying wages and benefits far superior to similar workers in the private sector. And those juicy contracts are putting a lot of governments at all levels on the Highway to Fiscal Hell.
The amount of tax revenue coming into government coffers simply isn’t enough to sustain the pay and benefit packages being afforded to not only current government employees, but the army of government retirees, as well. Something’s gotta give. Soon.
The biggest problem is that most elected officials are scared to death to even talk about this coming budgetary Armageddon, let alone do anything about it. The unions have been very effective at using members’ dues for political extortion…er, action. Meanwhile, most negotiating for government employee contracts is done in secret, so the public has no idea what back-room-deal they’re even agreeing to.
For example, the Las Vegas Review Journal recently noted that “(Clark) county government workers’ salaries have grown about 7 percent annually over the past three years, or about twice the national growth rate of the private sector.” Indeed, the average government worker for Clark County makes about 30 percent more than a similar worker in the private sector.
Looked at another way, the average taxpayer who is paying the average government employee’s wages is making some $10,000 a year LESS than the government employee. That’s just not right. And if something isn’t done to rein in these government salaries and compensation packages, either other government “services” will have to be cut…or your taxes will have to be raised. It’s just that simple.
So let me suggest three labor union reforms for government employees which would dramatically help level the playing field for taxpayers:
1. End the practice of payroll deductions for union dues. Labor unions are private, independent organizations. They should be responsible for collecting their own dues – like every other club and private organization – not the taxpayers. Let’s see how many workers voluntarily “contribute” part of their paychecks each week for dues if it isn’t automatically taken out by the government.
2. All collective bargaining sessions for government employees should be done in the light of day. They should be public and subject to open meeting law requirements. And ideally they should be webcast on the Internet. Let the sun shine in on these backroom deal-making sessions.
3. This is probably the most important reform of all: Once a collective bargaining agreement is struck between negotiators, the union workers themselves who will benefit from the agreement get to vote on whether or not to accept it. Well, what’s good for the goose who will be pocketing the money should be good for the ganders who have to cough it up. So all collective bargaining agreements with government employees should require ratification by a vote of the people, as well.
I wonder how many taxpayers would vote for a contract which pays bureaucrats down at the DMV some $10,000 more than they make themselves? I think it’s time we find out.
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