It should be obvious to almost everyone paying attention at this point: Government unions are almost always at odds with the public good when working on behalf of their members.
Normally, it is a money issue, for which the unions representing government employees fight hard to keep their members from losing any benefits, pensions and pay raises, even though the government institution may be nearly bankrupt and would have to raise taxes on everyone to keep paying. That’s what government unions do — whether it is teacher unions, police unions or the range of other government unions that include such heavyweights as AFSCME and the Teamsters. They fight to get politicians to take more money from taxpayers to give to their members.
Really, it is the only way it can be, which is why public officials need to know history and open their eyes.
But lately, we have seen another side to the problem, and it is in the unsettling realm of public safety.
Law enforcement officers are increasingly not cooperating with criminal investigations when it comes to providing DNA samples. This came up locally when Sarasota County deputies who responded to a violent home invasion were asked to give DNA samples. Investigators had found a bead of sweat and needed to rule out the deputies. One would think that this would be a natural part of being in law enforcement. But the deputies refused.
This has gone on around the country as law-enforcement officers, encouraged by their powerful police unions, question how their genetic material may be used. This, even as private citizens are routinely asked to give samples to rule them out of an investigation. The refusals cause problems for investigators and could endanger a prosecution.
Further, in a series of stories on how a few bad cops get and keep jobs in Florida, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune pointed out that the state commission that oversees police conduct is now packed with leaders and members of the Police Benevolent Association — the police union. That commission has consistently put up roadblocks to getting rid of bad cops in the same way that teachers unions put up roadblocks to getting rid of bad teachers.
It’s one of the many things government unions do that is destructive for the public at large and raises the question of whether we should allow government unions.
George Meany, former president of the AFL-CIO, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were sure of the answer: Resoundingly no. The result would be obvious: Unions would insist on laws and contracts that serve union members’ interest at the expense of the public good.
Meany and FDR were right. We’re living with the growing burden of allowing public-sector unions. The question is can this be undone, or must the public remain subservient to the union?