The PJ Tatler

Gov. Mitch Daniels: Maybe It's Time We Abolish Government Worker Unions

A Kos blogger headlined the story this way: “Mitch Daniels: ‘Time to Abolish Unions.'” The Kossack even put it in quotes, suggesting that Daniels actually said that. Here is what he actually said.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said on “Fox News Sunday” that public-sector unions should be abolished in the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in a recall election.

“I think, really, government works better without them,” said Daniels, who restricted unions’ collective-bargaining rights in his own state. “Money is being devoured by very high salaries, almost bulletproof job protection, and huge pensions.”

Daniels obviously is not talking about abolishing all unions, just government worker unions. He says in the same interview that private sector unions remain “necessary.” The Kossack’s headline is a lie.

Gov. Daniels joins that radical right-wing Republican Franklin Delano Roosevelt in opposing the unionization of government workers. FDR strongly and publicly opposed such unionization, fearing what Daniels says has come to pass.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

FDR went on to call government union efforts to obstruct the operation of government until their collective bargaining rights have been satisfied “unthinkable and intolerable.” The government unions tried shutting down the government of Wisconsin last year in response to Gov. Walker’s reforms, turning FDR’s fear into a prophecy.

Americans learned an important lesson, which has since mostly been forgotten, when the air traffic controllers union launched a strike against the US government. The union, PATCO, put its collective bargaining demands ahead of the American people’s need to have safe air travel in 1981. President Reagan, a union member himself, warned them, and then he fired them. The Wisconsin recall suggests that we needed to re-learn that lesson, and the results say that a majority of us have. That’s why Wisconsin’s recall result will turn out to be even more of a watershed than Reagan’s courageous decision to fire the PATCO strikers in 1981. That was the action of one elected executive; Wisconsin was the action of a majority of voters in a Democrat state. It has encouraged figures like Gov. Daniels and the voters in California to question and curtail government union workers’ lavish benefits. The process should end where Gov. Daniels says it should, with the end of government unions themselves.