There is only one police force in any city. Is it right that the police can go on strike against the citizens who pay their taxes, thereby leaving them without any official enforcement of the law? Doesn’t that leave taxpayers at the mercy of criminals?
How about firemen?
Isn’t it the job of the public servants elected by the people to decide the proper staffing and funding levels for such important government employees as firemen and police? How then can the union trump decisions made by the lawful representatives of the people? Isn’t that immoral and wrong?
Playing off the ongoing story out of Wisconsin, Professor Bainbridge makes a strong argument against the very existence of public sector labor unions:
In effect, public sector unionism thus means that representatives of the union will often be on both sides of the collective bargaining table. On the one side, the de jure union leaders. On the other side, the bought and paid for politicians. No wonder public sector union wages and benefits are breaking the back of state budgets. They are bargaining with themselves rather than with an arms’-length opponent.
Bainbridge’s argument isn’t a new one. In fact., it was made more than 70 years ago by Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
“The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”
Indeed, for many years, the very idea of public sector workers being able to organize and force the government to bargain with their representatives was largely rejected:
Courts across the nation also generally held that collective bargaining by government workers should be forbidden on the legal grounds of sovereign immunity and unconstitutional delegation of government powers.
Courts across the nation also generally held that collective bargaining by government workers should be forbidden on the legal grounds of sovereign immunity and unconstitutional delegation of government powers. In 1943, a New York Supreme Court judge held:
To tolerate or recognize any combination of civil service employees of the government as a labor organization or union is not only incompatible with the spirit of democracy, but inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. Nothing is more dangerous to public welfare than to admit that hired servants of the State can dictate to the government the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizen. To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous.
The very nature of many public services — such as policing the streets and putting out fires — gives government a monopoly or near monopoly; striking public employees could therefore hold the public hostage. As long-time New York Times labor reporter A. H. Raskin wrote in 1968: “The community cannot tolerate the notion that it is defenseless at the hands of organized workers to whom it has entrusted responsibility for essential services.”