An Inevitable Course, Once on It
Iain Murray and Vincent Vernuccio remind us that public sector unionization is not an age-old practice:
Public-sector unionism is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States. In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state to allow its public employees to unionize, and other states then followed suit. In 1962, Pres. John F. Kennedy issued an executive order allowing federal employees to join unions. Since then, union membership in the public sector has grown by leaps and bounds. In January of this year, for the first time, government-sector union membership was larger than union membership in the private sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 22.2 million government workers in the U.S. Almost 8 million of them are unionized, compared with only 7.4 million in the private sector. These unions are at the forefront of the movement for more expansive and expensive government. They use forced dues to lobby for greater pay and better benefits.
Of course, they’ve covered a lot of ground (and absorbed a lot of the economy) in that time. As the authors note, “government employees have, for years, cared more about their compensation than most taxpayers have.” They are among the biggest wielders of political money, and they aren’t likely to loosen their grip, nor politicians to force them to do so, unless an equivalent opposition arises:
… Politicians kowtow to government-employees’ unions, who in turn support their election campaigns. Once those pro-union candidates are elected, they can provide more pay and benefits to the unionized government employees. The union then collects dues from its members, which enables it to give more political support to the politicians, and the cycle goes on.
Those in such unions don’t like to hear it, but in the long-term, it is not proven (and reason exists to doubt) that their practices can coexist with a vibrant capitalistic and democratic society.