In Defense of Public-Sector Unions
36 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2012 Last revised: 27 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2011
The United States is currently in a heated debate over the extent to which public-sector workers should be permitted to band together for mutual aid or protection, to form, join or assist unions, and to bargain collectively. This debate was sparked when, shortly after the 2010 midterm elections, politicians in states with large public deficits blamed public-sector unions for budget shortfalls. Public unions are not, however, the cause of the states’ ills. After all, public unions are not the source of wages and benefits — governments are. Furthermore, the evidence shows that, in general, public-sector-union pay is lower than the pay of their private sector counterparts even when benefits are taken into account; tenure is typically not collectively negotiated but grounded in civil-servant statutes; and arbitration is not a union benefit but the cost that unions pay for a no-strike promise. Given the evidence, it is instructive to ask the following two questions. First, why are public workers, especially public-union employees, the subject of such vitriolic attack? Second, are public-sector unions worth defending?
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