The bottom line: Private-sector unions have competitors and bargain over the profits they help create. The government earns no profits. Government unions have a legal monopoly and bargain for a greater share of tax dollars. Collective bargaining in government means that voters’ elected representatives must agree on tax and spending decisions with union representatives.
Collective bargaining gives unions a monopoly on the labor supplied to government. This takes away the final say on government policy from the voters’ elected representatives. Elected representatives must negotiate with unions over acceptable spending and policy decisions. State and local governments cannot hire nonunion employees to work for different terms. If the government and unions disagree, the union can strike against the public or call in an arbitrator to impose terms.
Collective bargaining forces elected representatives to negotiate a contract with union leaders, excluding all other citizens and potential workers from the bargaining table. Voters’ representatives do not fully control spending and tax decisions. They must reach agreement with union leaders who are unaccountable to the general public. This undermines the principle of voter sovereignty. Union leaders once recognized and opposed this. As recently as 1959, the AFL-CIO Executive Council stated flatly that “In terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress—a right available to every citizen.”
Federal laws permitted President Reagan to fire the illegally striking air traffic controllers in 1981 and bring in emergency replacements. State and local laws do not allow the government to hire nonunion workers to lower labor costs. States and municipalities must hire workers for the terms agreed to in the contract or imposed by the arbitrator.
Kramer, Labor’s Paradox, p. 41.