Fight Over the Future of Government Unions ‘May Be the Most Important Political Battle’ in the U.S. Today

Public Unions: The Largest Political Machine – Walter Russell Mead, TAI

Walter Russell Mead

The perceptive public-policy and political commentator Walter Russell Mead has many good insights in a post today (linked above) for his blog on the American Interest web site.

After recapping and analyzing a Wall Street Journal news story that documents the extraordinarily wide range of political and ideological contributions teacher union officials make with union treasury money, Mead concludes that teachers unions are the “ultimate political machine.” He observes that not only vast numbers of politicians at the local, state and federal levels, but also a wide range of political and ideological groups, whose express agenda often has nothing to do with unionism per se, are beholden to teacher and other government unions:

With the dues money that they get, teachers unions and other public sector unions fund a large infrastructure of other, generally left-leaning, political groups. These groups help pressure politicians to give the unions the benefits and salary agreements they want, even in circumstances where this may be only tangential to the organization’s core mission. The unions’ pockets are deep, and union leaders often have the political savvy to use their funds to create a broader alliance to support their interests.

This is an excellent point. But Mead would have done well to add that the vast majority of the dues and fees teacher and other government unions amass in their coffers are exacted from public servants who are forced under state law to fork the money over in order to keep their jobs.

The single most important provision in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s famous 2011 package of budget reforms was the one that rendered union dues and fees voluntary, rather than compulsory, for most public employees. And it is absolutely critical for would-be reformist elected officials in other fiscally-challenged forced-unionism states to include the Right to Work and rollbacks of other Big Labor monopoly privileges in their agenda.  Forced union dues and monopoly bargaining are the key reasons why, in  Mead’s words, the “fight over the future of public sector unions may be the most important political battle in the United States today.”