Missouri Legislature Takes Up New Roosevelt Laws
Lawmakers are teaming up to address the growing problem of unaccountable government unions. This month Senator Bob Onder and Rep. John Weimann filed twin bills in the House and Senate that seek to reform the way these unions operate.
Government unions—the unions representing government employees such as teachers, firefighters, and state workers—bargain in a much different setting than private sector unions. Rather than negotiating with private companies, government unions negotiate with public officials. This means that public sector collective bargaining affects everyone—not just the few who happen to be associated with a specific business.
In the public sector, unions can use political muscle to help elect politicians favorable to their interests. When it comes time to negotiate pay and pension benefits, politicians are often willing to return the favor.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, a great advocate of organized labor, understood the differences between unions in the government and unions in the private sector. According to FDR, when it comes to government labor, “the employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.” For this reason FDR thought that “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
Roosevelt was right. The labor laws we use in the private sector are a poor fit in government. Instead, the laws that allow public employees to bargain with their managers should have special features that protect both government workers and the public at large.
I welcome reform introduced in this spirit. Look for more posts from me on this subject in the coming weeks.