(March 23, Advocate/Times-Picayune)  The usual suspects are caterwauling that a slew of bills by conservative Louisiana legislators supposedly amount to an assault on workers’ benefits and “rights.” On some of the bills, such as one that could reduce compensation for injured workers, perhaps the caterwaulers are right. On public-sector unions, though, the legislators are on the side of reason and of democratic accountability.

As I noted here last year when the subject was public-sector unions in New Orleans rather than statewide, two 20th century liberal icons, President Franklin Roosevelt and AFL-CIO leader George Meany, both argued that public-sector unions are anathema to small-‘r’ republican government.

Roosevelt said that “the process of collective bargaining … cannot be transplanted into public service,” and Meany pronounced it “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” Longtime centrist reform advocate Philip K. Howard, in his 2023 book “Not Accountable: Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions,” wrote that such unions, unlike private-sector ones, possess “extortive power.” While they do not face “any other organized opposing force” such as business executives worried about profits, they actually hold power over the people supposed to be their bosses, namely the officials elected to represent the public, because they provide a political bloc to whom the officials cater.

Public sector unions, he said, essentially can “do what is impossible in the private sector — to ‘capture’ the officials on the other side of the table.” That’s why reformist mayors and governors of both parties, Howard wrote, providing copious examples, “all crashed into the union wall.”

In “Not Accountable” and other books, Howard has collected a cornucopia of horror stories about the near-impossibility of firing even the worst public-sector employees, even lawbreakers, because of overweening public-sector union power. He also cataloged copious instances of “spiking pensions with extra overtime and disability claims,” such as the fire chief in California who gamed the system to boost his post-retirement pension from about $140,000 per year up to well over $200,000. This all comes, of course, at the taxpayers’ expense.

With those realities in mind, what exactly would some of the proposed bills do?…. [The full column is at this link.]


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