FDR would have supported Walker

Democrats have not always supported public employee unions. Now their support is harming workers.

by Joshua Villa

Do you believe that public employees should be unionized? Do you believe that unions are needed to fight for fair wages and good working conditions for public employees?

President Franklin Roosevelt didnâÄôt. Surprisingly, the president best known for his dramatic expansion of the federal government opposed the idea of public employee unions. Joining him in this view was George Meany, the first president of the AFL-CIO union

Roosevelt opposed public sector unions for two reasons. The first is that a strike of public employees means public servants stop doing their jobs to advance a private interest. Second, he realized that politicians who support larger government would be inclined to give in to every demand of the workers. This leads to bloated public sector wages and unfairly burdens individuals in the private sector.

Today, unionized government employees are paid an average of 25 percent more than private sector workers. Furthermore, unionized state-level government workers are paid 17 percent more than non-union government employees.

The private sector funds the public sector, meaning that taxpayers in the private sector are paying government employees a premium of 25 percent of what they earn themselves.

The problem therein is twofold. First, private sector workers are going to resent the fact that they have to pay someone else more money than they make for doing comparable work. Second, it leads to bloated and unsustainable government budgets that require a taxpayer bailout once the system starts to falter.

Recent events in Wisconsin regarding the future of public employee unions have fulfilled RooseveltâÄôs predictions.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott WalkerâÄôs budget reform plan is a reasonable way to save taxpayer money and save public sector jobs âÄî not to mention stay in line with the desires of the original leaders of larger government and organized labor.

ItâÄôs understandable that people oppose WalkerâÄôs budget reform, but what he is doing is far from radical.

He isnâÄôt terminating the jobs of state employees âÄî which would be required if budget reform isnâÄôt enacted. He isnâÄôt outlawing public and private employee unions. He isnâÄôt luring unions to strike so that he can lay them off and replace those workers. Wisconsin simply needs to save money, and the unionized workforce represents an additional expense the state simply canâÄôt afford with its projected $3.6 billion shortfall.

Permanent budget reform that reduces public union power is absolutely essential to fix unsustainable state budgets.

While Democrats and even some Republicans have offered compromises to the situation âÄî ranging from accepting his cuts on the grounds of keeping collective bargaining rights to eliminating collective bargaining rights for only two years âÄî Walker has stood firm.

The compromises provide a temporary fix that will only result in another battle next budget cycle.

The Democratic senators who have fled the state to avoid voting on the budget reform bill are doing their constituents a major disservice and are fulfilling RooseveltâÄôs prophecy. Their commitment to unions will eventually lead to the loss of up to 6,000 public sector jobs unless unions are willing to give up some of their power.

Unions are a means to protect workers, but as we see in Wisconsin âÄî and as predicted by Roosevelt âÄî the extreme dedication to unions by certain legislators actually ends up hurting workers more than it helps them.


Josh Villa welcomes comments at [email protected]