Frustrated by their steadily declining membership in the private sector where fewer than one in 10 workers are now unionized, Big Labor’s bosses have been aggressively trying to recruit dues-paying members from the ranks of state and local government work forces. They’ve succeeded to the point that one in three public employees is now unionized.
But the union bosses want more and, since Denver is the site of next year’s Democratic National Convention, it’s no surprise that they now have Colorado taxpayers in their sights. The union bosses are pushing Gov. Bill Ritter to back a proposal from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to make all local and state workers subject to collective bargaining.
The proposal has “bad idea” written all over it and, as a middle-of-the-road Democrat who showed backbone earlier this year on Big Labor’s card check trick, Ritter can give it to them straight now, too. Here’s why collective bargaining for Colorado public employees is ill-advised:
First, there is one simple reason unions love to organize government workers. It’sa lot easier to extract big raises and juicier benefits from politicians bidding for votes among politically active bureaucrats, who, unlike the private sector, don’t have to worry about the bottom line. That explains why unionized public sector workers covered by collective bargaining agreements cost an estimated 20 percent more than nonunion workers, as measured by Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Nearly one-fourth of Colorado state employees are in unions already, a key factor in boosting the average state worker salary to more than $44,000. UnionFacts.com estimates that Colorado taxpayers could pay 15.23 percent lower state taxes without the added expense of unionized state workers.
And let’s not forget that collective bargaining will also mean fatter health and retirement benefits for government workers. Many states with heavily unionized public work forces — notably California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia — now face the bitter choices of raising taxes, cutting state spending on other programs or defaulting on public employee pension and health care obligations won through collective bargaining agreements years ago. There can be no doubt that the latest collective bargaining grab by the public employee unions will only make Colorado government more expensive.
What’s most worrisome about the proposal, however, is the havoc it would wreak in many Colorado workplaces, public and private. Besides collective bargaining for state and local employees, the labor bosses also want to force nonunion public employees to make a “fair share” payment to the unions. Once unions have such power in public workplaces, how long before they demand it in private businesses as well? Colorado’s healthy working environment would then be in serious trouble.