Back in August 2007 I noted this sentence from a news report:
“The crowd of more than 10,000 union members at steamy Soldier Field cheered [Barack] Obama.”
At the time I wondered how our Illinois GOP party and legislative leadership were going to counter that union power. Of course we found out in November 2008 that our “leaders” had no plan. Obama and the state level Democrats swept on election day as expected.
Will we see a better result next November? Maybe. According to one campaign worker in the New York 23 race, conservative Doug Hoffman lost in part because of the power of the unions:
“The unions — the Service Employees [International Union] — and ACORN, I’m pretty sure — had their people all up here in force. And it makes a difference when you have hired guns.”
Yes, there were other factors, but there are always other factors. My point is a simple one: too many Republican leaders still prefer willful ignorance when it comes to the on-the-ground reality of the negative impact of the public sector unions.
Our tax dollars fund government, which in turn pays government workers, many of whom belong to unions – like the SEIU or the teacher unions. They pay dues – from those tax dollars, and contribute to PACs, which in turn fund campaigns big time.
This is from the Heritage Foundation back in May:
“Make no mistake, collecting union dues from public-sector employees (whose salaries are paid by taxpayers) is big business. The Service Employees International Union collects nearly $5 million a month from just 223,000 health care workers. And when the SEIU is not blatantly stealing this money, they are turning it into efforts to elect politicians who promise to endlessly grow the public sector. SEIU presidentAndy Stern recently told the Las Vegas Sun: ‘We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama – $60.7 million to be exact – and we’re proud of it.’
And the SEIU is not alone. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, big labor spent over $120 million dollars on just federal elections in 2008.”
A fantastic – and frankly scary – piece appeared in the Weekly Standard a month ago by Fred Siegel & Dan DiSalvo with this title and subtitle:
The authors write that public sector employee unions have enjoyed a lot of political victories at the state and local level:
“Indeed, they are the one group, besides Goldman Sachs executives, that’s done well during the current Great Recession. Public sector unions have become political powerhouses in New York, New Jersey, Washington, California, and a host of other states.”
Make no mistake – Illinois is one of those states. Siegel and DiSalvo go on to say this:
“They have become so powerful as to threaten the Madisonian system set up to constrain any one faction from overwhelming the public interest.”
Here are two more excerpts from their terrific and must read article:
- “Like entitlement programs, the expansion of public sector unionism produced a self-generating dynamic for continual expansion.”
- “There is broad agreement among economists that public sector unions’ political power increases government spending. As reported in the New York Times, public-sector wages and benefits over the past decade have grown twice as fast as those in the average private-sector.
“Public sector unions bring to the fore what James Madison called ‘the violence of faction’ and its threat to the ‘permanent and aggregate interests of the community.’ This can’t be blamed on the unions; they’re advancing their members’ interests. The fault lies with politicians…who have been willing to sabotage the public interest to smooth the path to their own reelections.”
Oh, and in case you missed it here, Illinois House Minority Leader Republican Tom Cross has taken $479,188 from the teacher unions in recent years.
We certainly know old Tom won’t be a part of the solution in Illinois any time soon, for as Siegel and DiSalvo said:
“In the absence of tough-minded reform leaders who will take on the public sector unions, the fiscal future of states and localities is bleak.”
Lastly, I’ve noted the great work of the Public Service Research Foundation’s David Denholm on the very problematic existence of public sector unions. For those interested in learning more, I’d recommend everything he’s written on the topic. He has several good articles posted here.