The problem with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s fight against public employees “is not that it’s unwarranted, but that it’s disingenuous,” Clive Crook writes at The Atlantic. Crook argues that while reducing unions’ power will have virtually no effect on Wisconsin’s budget this year (as Walker says it will), it could give state government’s the opportunity to take back some of the power they have conceded to public-sector unions.
Crook’s case for a more nuanced argument over collective bargaining is compelling:
“The question for states and cities is not whether “collective bargaining” is a basic undeniable right, but how much union power in the public sector is too much. Progressives talk as though it can never be enough–or, at any rate, that no union privilege, once extended, should ever be withdrawn. Conservative supporters of Walker talk as though public-sector unions have no legitimate role at all. To me, the evidence says that the balance needs redressing. Public-sector workers in the US are better paid (if you take benefits into account) and enjoy greater security of employment than their private-sector counterparts. Quit rates from public-sector jobs are about one-third of quit rates in the private sector. Equally important, to my mind at least, is that the unions’ quasi-management role in education (especially) has expanded to the point where it is difficult to run schools well, and practically impossible to pursue systemic school reform. So I think the power of public-sector unions needs trimming in states like Wisconsin.
Of course, the public debate is not about that. It’s yet another no-compromise, winner-takes-all affair: either Walker will crush the unions (a catastrophe for the rights of working people worldwide), or the unions will triumph (at who knows what cost to individual liberty). With the debate cast in such farcical terms, I find it hard to care who wins.”
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