By Paul Kersey, Illinois Policy Institute -
It’s time we had a talk about government unions.
Government employee unions have become a destructive political and lobbying machine fueled by taxpayer-guaranteed money. Union bosses have flexed their muscles to intimidate lawmakers and block much-needed reforms to government employee pension and health benefit plans that have pushed the state to the brink of insolvency.
Illinois faces more than $200 billion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities, S&P downgraded our credit rating, and government unions still refuse to compromise. This leaves taxpayers in a vulnerable position.
But the unions are not the only ones at fault. They’re playing by the rules.
Labor laws in Illinois breed powerful unions and fail to establish any mechanisms for accountability or restraint:
- union bosses have exclusive representation over workers;
- workers are forced into membership whether they want it or not;
- union bosses automatically confiscate money from worker paychecks to spend as they see fit; and
- once organized, unions and worker membership are nearly permanent.
With so much power and money, it should come as no surprise that union bosses act recklessly at the expense of students, the poor and taxpayers.
Government employees have a first-amendment right to unionize; Illinoisans could not abolish unions even if they wanted to. But it’s time to change the rules of the game and level the playing field for government employees and taxpayers.
Illinoisans must hold government union bosses accountable and withdraw the leverage over state government — guaranteed money and sweeping power — that we have given them. We can no longer allow them to act recklessly, ignore economic reality and threaten the future of our state.
We will face threats and protests, claims of being anti-worker or anti-teacher, all in an attempt by union bosses to protect their money and power. But that doesn't make any of this any less necessary. It takes courage to make labor reforms stick.
Once we break free from the grip of government unions, we can begin to work toward a more prosperous future for Illinois.
P.S. Take an exclusive first look at the Institute’s labor manifesto, “Roadblock to reform: How Illinois law empowers government unions at taxpayers’ expense."