ON-Lion Letter

Public-employee labor unions are among the most-influential institutions in American politics.  Setting compensation and determining labor-management relations are among the most-important decisions that city and state governments make. As a consequence, public-employee unions are deeply involved in democratic governance in the U.S. through collective bargaining and politics.  But how democratic are the unions themselves?

In a September report from the Center for State and Local Leadership (CSLL) at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York City, "Are Unions Democratic?:  The Internal Politics of Labor Unions and Their Implications," Daniel DiSalvo exposes the hypocrisy surrounding public-union elections in America and previews many of the themes in his forthcoming book, Government Against Itself:  Political Union Power and Its Consequences

DiSalvo is a senior fellow at CSLL, which is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, and an assistant professor of political science in the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at The City College of New York.

Internal union-election practices are typically hidden from public view, he writes, notwithstanding union calls for greater “transparency” in campaign finance and corporate governance.

He proposes specific reforms to make unions more accountable to their members and transparent to the general public, including:  1.) mandating that unions publicize election data and procedures; 2.) adopting online voting systems; and, 3.) requiring unions to gauge their members' views more precisely by holding referenda on important policy issues.

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