It is not every day we get to agree with the Obama administration. But after Sen. Blanche Lincoln defeated Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter in the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary runoff election, after the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME poured millions of dollars into Halter’s campaign, a senior White House official told Politico: “Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet.” But it wasn’t just “their members” money that those unions were wasting. This year the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that for the first time in the history of the United States, a majority of union members work for the government, not the private sector. To be exact, 52% of all union members work for the federal or state and local governments. That means more than half of the $10 million that unions wasted just in Arkansas first came from your tax dollars. And the waste goes well beyond Arkansas.
In his ongoing battle with teachers unions, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) recently told a town hall in Robbinsville: “My argument is not with teachers in New Jersey. My argument is with a union who collects $730 a year from every teacher and school employee in the union in mandatory dues. And if you don’t want to join the union here’s your option: you can be out. You pay 85% of $730 … to be out. It’s like the Hotel California. You can check in anytime you like but you can never leave. That raises for the teachers union, get ready, $130 million a year. What do they spend that money on? … $6 million in negative advertising against me since March 16th. Think about that. That’s a little over two months they have spent $6 million on New York TV and Radio, Philadelphia TV and radio to attack me. That’s dues money that is coming from their teachers, mandatory no choice, and from all of you because those salaries come from your property taxes and your state income taxes.”
Christie’s fight with government unions is over his constitutional amendment that would limit annual property tax increases to 2.5 percent. Government unions hate this policy because lower taxes mean less government spending which means less dues from government employees. At a meeting with conservative journalists yesterday at The Heritage Foundation, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels called government unions “the new privileged class in America.” He told Politico earlier this week: “We used to think of government workers as underpaid public servants. Now they are better paid than the people who pay their salaries.”
As Heritage fellow James Sherk has documented this battle between government unions and the people who pay their salaries is playing out across the country. In Maine, the Maine Municipal Association, the SEIU, the Teamsters, and the Maine Education Association collectively spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign against a ballot initiative that would have prevented government spending from growing faster than the combined rate of inflation and population growth. In Illinois, AFSCME Council 31 ran television and radio ads pushing for tax increases in their “Fair Budget Illinois” campaign. In Oregon, government unions provided 90 percent of the $4 million spent advocating two ballot initiatives to raise personal income and business taxes by $733 million.
When a private sector company agrees to an unwise labor contract, it goes out of business (unless it gets bailed out by the government). But government never goes out of business, and in fact, always grows. In 2009 private-sector unions lost 834,000 members while public-sector unions actually gained 64,000 members. This is untenable. Something must change before government unions bankrupt this country.
- According to a Treasury Department report to Congress, the ratio of debt to the gross domestic product will rise to 102 percent by 2015.
- According to Rasmussen Reports, 84% of Americans oppose a three percent (3%) tax on monthly cell phone bills to help newspapers and traditional journalism.
- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wooed Hugo Chavez ally Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Tuesday.
- Turkey hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a regional security summit meeting in Istanbul yesterday.
- Members of Israel’s National Student Union are organizing a “reverse flotilla” to bring humanitarian aid to the “oppressed people of Turkish Kurdistan” and to members of the “Turkish Armenian minority.”