Although it’s well known that I’m not a huge fan of organized labor, I’ve never actively opposed its existence in the private sector. If workers want to organize in a private company, if they think that’s of benefit to them, they ought to be free to do so. The reason this works in the private sector is that organized labor is kind of like a symbiote — it glams onto a host company, and in the best case it’s a sort of neutral relationship. Most often, though, unions are a parasite that enrich themselves, and to a lesser degree their membership, at the expensive of the competitiveness of the corporation that they’ve infiltrated.
In a free market, in the private sector, this is not a major, long-term problem, because the companies that are unionized will generally be outcompeted by companies that are not, and they will go out of business. Such has been the case recently with Hostess, the maker of, among other things, delicious Twinkie snack cakes. Unionized employees struck for more money, and now everybody is out of business and unemployed. The union bosses got paid, though, as did the Hostess corporate high-ups, have no fear there. Nobody driving a Cadillac will be hurt by this. But the everyday workers, the you’s and me’s of this world, they’re ultimately left holding the bag.
While I don’t want to get into the details of this too much, I do want to point out why this incident demonstrates the critical importance of outlawing public employees unions and organized labor in the public sector in any form. The market can ultimately correct for unions’ vampiric tendencies by simply dying off when all the blood has been drained from the unions’ victims. But there are no market forces in government. There is no way for the government to go out of business or even, in a practical sense, to go bankrupt. As a result, when government employees unions need to pad their pensions or increase their salary, the host is forced to transfuse more blood to itself from the taxpayer, as we recently saw in the debacle in California when taxpayers were scared into funding the teachers’ unions debt to Wall Street bankers.
Government employees unions, especially those that can cloak themselves in the aegis of “public service,” like teachers and cops, are a menace. They don’t serve the groups they purport to — teachers’ unions don’t serve students or parents or schools — they serve only themselves. Allowing them to grow in the public sector will quickly turn the locality in which they have control into a plantation, with themselves as the masters, government as the overseers, and the average taxpayers as the slaves, ever funding an increasingly bloated and moribund carcass while being fed “it’s good for you, it’s catastrophic if you don’t.”