Government Unions Keep Costs High for Taxpayers

“For more than three years, workers have been sounding alarms about [the University of California’s] efforts to outsource living wage jobs to poverty wage contractors. These latest charges highlight the scope of the University’s increasingly radical privatization scheme, which is ultimately focused on one thing—paying its lowest wage workers even less.”

That was Kathryn Lybarger, Local 3299 president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in a May 2, 2019 statement. “This is not just about UC’s serial lawbreaking,” Lybarger added, “but its efforts to eliminate the last remaining middle-class careers in California.” With no apology to the understated union boss, the outsourcing is “just about” something else.

Officials at the University of California, a state institution, are government employees and as such should be striving to get the best deal for the taxpayers who pay the bills. The government employee unions, by contrast, strive to ensure the highest possible costs for taxpayers. If they don’t get what they want, they strike, which involves even higher costs for taxpayers and inconvenience for those who use government services. Government employees also take a hit.

AFSCME is the massive government-employee union that was grabbing $550 a year from the paycheck of Illinois state worker Mark Janus, even though he was not a member and using it to support political candidates and causes with which Janus disagreed. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that AFSCME couldn’t do that anymore, a huge victory for workers and taxpayers alike. On the other hand, it was not a defeat for “labor,” because the vast majority of workers are not union members.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, a full 89.5 percent of private-sector workers, a huge majority, are not union members, and only 10.5 percent of workers, a small minority, are members of a union. Likewise, only 33.9 percent of government-sector workers are union members, and a strong majority of government workers, 66.1 percent, are not union members.

Unions do not represent labor, and the public does not vote for union bosses like Kathryn Lybarger of AFSCME. A bad idea in the first place, government-employee unions are nothing more than a ruling-class special interest. Public officials should strive for the best deal for taxpayers and the public at large.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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