Public Sector Unions Are Very Different From Private Sector Unions

Photo Credit: Washington Examiner A strike in Chicago and New York City; rallies of tens of thousands in Wisconsin; politician walkouts in Indiana; attempts to change the constitution in Michigan — these events and more featured government unions and their leaders at the forefront of the recent battles over public policy.

As a recessed economy dragged down state expenditures, governors and legislatures increasingly looked to trim from the fattest part of government: Public-sector employees. Salaries and pensions that saw government workers being compensated far more generously than their private-sector counterparts were finally beginning to be addressed.

While it would be easy to classify this battle as between those who are “pro-union” or “anti-union,” a distinction should be made between unions in the private-sector versus the public-sector counterpart. Historically and in modern-day practice, these are two very different things.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, private-sector unions are allowed to extract dues and fees from workers if the employer is a unionized workplace. The NLRA, passed in 1935 during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, does not, however, apply to public-sector employees, including state and federal workers, because the thinking was that this would over-politicize government and cause a conflict of interest between unions and politicians.

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