Unions are often presented as the plucky defenders of the working man or woman, whose only interest is seeing that workers get a fair shake on the job. But in reality unions are well financed and powerful. And in government, at least, union influence goes beyond the job to include how government itself operates. Government unions have gone too far in many ways, and when they do taxpayers, and sometimes even government employees themselves, are hurt.
Here are 10 things you should know about labor in Illinois:
1. In 2011, Illinois state government collected $46.5 million in union dues from 70,000 employees, an average of $650 per worker.
2. Union dues can be even more expensive than that. Annual dues for the Chicago Teachers Union are more than $1,000.
3. Including local governments and school districts, there are about 300,000 unionized government employees in Illinois. If they each paid $400 in union dues – a conservative amount – unions in Illinois collected $120 million dollars.
4. An average family in Illinois can expect that $37 of their tax dollars will go to unions.
5. More than 120 officers and staff at the state’s teacher unions (Illinois Federation of Teachers and Illinois Education Association) make more than $100,000 annually.
6. The Illinois affiliates of the AFT, NEA, AFSCME and SEIU each regularly spend more than $1 million annually of their members’ dues on politics and lobbying. (This figure comes from their LM-2 reports – real spending on politics is likely to be higher.)
7. Unions can use collective bargaining to undermine state law. For instance, at the end of its 2012 strike the CTU was able to force Chicago Public Schools to water down its evaluation process for teachers. Under state law, evaluations standards should be set by the school board
8. Union demands do not always work out to the advantage of employees. Going back to the CTU strike, the 17.6 percent pay raise that CTU gained worsened the school system’s budget. The predictable result was more school closings and teacher layoffs.
9. Government unions add to the cost of government. According to a Beacon Hill Institute study, unionized government employees in Illinois add $50 billion to public debt, or $3,900 per capita.
10. The state has gone to great lengths to appease unions. In one case, the governor and General Assembly agreed to allow for the unionization of people who participate in a state Medicaid program that compensates them for the costs of caring for a disabled family member. That decision led to a lawsuit that has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.