Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Public Sector Unions and Lessons as yet Unlearned

Daniel Howes asked an excellent question in the Detroit News yesterday:

What will it take for public-sector labor — with no ties to private, for-profit employers — to understand that the steady gravy train of the past 50 years has ground to a halt?

In autos and steel, the UAW and the Steelworkers finally learned brutal lessons for lagging the competition. In aerospace and airlines, the machinists paid a price. In transportation, the Teamsters got it. In construction, the building trades intuitively understood the price they would pay in membership and the work to sustain them if the bills for their services weren’t competitive. But in government, where a labor monopoly insulated from competition is funded by typically increasing revenue, they never really needed to learn any of those lessons.

“The public-sector unions don’t face the same thing,” Ficano says. Increasingly, they will — even after a national economic recovery starts taking hold, adding jobs and building confidence shaken by the Great Recession.

Two things:

There were certainly some brutal lessons learned. But this isn’t just about private-sector unions “learning their lesson”. It’s more about Big Labor seeing the writing on the wall and looking for a way to get in on the governments “gravy train”.  Think rent-seeking, bank regulation, health care legislation, Craig Becker, “High Road” rule changes. The list goes on and on.

Howes says that public unions will increasingly learn their lesson too.  I’d like to know when.  When competition suddenly appears in a government building? When tax payers have finally had enough? When public pension funds are bankrupt? I guess that’s not too far off after all.

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