ON-Lion Letter
Across the nation, battles are being waged to curb the power that public-sector labor unions wield.  Today's debates should expand their focus from collective-bargaining issues to take into account these unfair advantages that unions benefit from at the expense of American taxpayers.  Public-sector labor unions hold a distinct advantage that has gone largely unnoticed:  they already have immense financial resources to deploy without any effort; in 28 U.S. states, laws guarantee unions both members and revenue.

In March, the Center for State and Local Leadership at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York City released Dues and Deep Pockets:  Public-Sector Unions' Money Machine.  Researched and written by its senior fellow and labor-union expert Daniel DiSalvo, the report demonstrates how public-sector unions should be made to abide by the same rules as all other interest groups in order to encourage a more-balanced political discourse.  The unions are assured of members by "agency-shop" laws and assured of funds by "dues-checkoff" rules.  They thus have a strong impact on public policy -- and the costs of government -- through their uniquely powerful tools for electioneering and lobbying.

DiSalvo is also a political-science professor at The City College of New York.

Public-sector union spending is highly uneven across the states, reflecting the difference between agency-shop jurisdictions and those without these laws, according to his report.  Public-sector unions were the third-largest spender in California's 2010 state elections ($45,730,777).  In contrast, Texas prohibits collective bargaining in the public sector and is a right-to-work state where, in 2010, public-sector unions did not even rank in the top 15 largest contributors and labor in general spent only $97,624 on political action.

DiSalvo's analysis finds that in nearly every state that permits agency fees, more than 90% of teachers belong to unions -- while in states that don’t allow them, only 68% are unionized.  He outlines how this trend is exemplified in Colorado, Indiana, Utah, and Washington.

In order to level the playing field between unions and taxpayers, dues-checkoff rules and agency-shop laws need to be eliminated.  In fact, these are more politically palatable, and ultimately more-effective, avenues of reform than are restrictions on collective bargaining.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Manhattan Institute.
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