Last week’s National Right to Work Foundation’s U.S. Supreme Court case, Pamela Harris v Gov. Pat Quinn (IL), continues to drive discussions around the country about whether it is in the public interest to allow public sector compulsory unionism. The Foundation argues in the case, among other things, that it is unconstitutional compel these Illinois citizens to fund,against their will, the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) lobbying and other political speech.
Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane exposes the fact that labor unions were rewarded with compulsory unionism for actions, “many of which were illegal”:
Defenders of public-sector unionism argue that it reduces costs and improves quality by ensuring “labor peace” — or, avoiding strikes and creating a happier, better-trained workforce.
A group of state governments led by New York made both arguments in a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court, citing the need to prevent any repeat of the “devastating” 1,400 work stoppages that plagued the country between 1965 and 1970. Why unions should have been rewarded for these actions, many of which were illegal, is not immediately clear. In any case, even well-paid unionized public workers still strike, as Chicago’s teachers proved in 2012 and the San Francisco Bay Area’s transit workers did in 2013.
Conversely, there is no public-sector collective bargaining in Virginia, but it’s not some hotbed of labor unrest. Can anyone who looks at this country’s urban school systems seriously maintain that unionization makes for an efficient workforce?
The labor peace justification tries to make a virtue out of something Americans normally, and properly, despise: government by interest group. A variant of that argument, advanced by my colleague Harold Meyerson, is that public-employee unions, with their large campaign donations and political staffs, have become “the all-around linchpin of the modern Democratic Party” and the progressive causes for which it stands.