Casey Given

On the first Labor Day upon it's creation as a national holiday in 1887, there was no such thing as a public sector union. The idea of government workers going on strike for personal gain rather than serving the country seemed ridiculous. Even fifty years later, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt held steadfast in the government’s opposition to public unionization, writing in a now famous letter that civil servants have the “obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities.”

Fast forward nearly a century later, it is a tragedy that the country did not heed President Roosevelt's warning. Time after time, Americans have bore witness to public sector unions shutting down major functions of government such as the trains they ride on and the schools they send their children to because of government employee’s selfish interest in their paycheck rather than their “obligation to serve the whole people.” Meanwhile, the bargaining advantage that public sector unions have over inefficient, bureaucratic governments have put taxpayers on the hooks for billions of dollars in debt and unfunded public pension liabilities. On this 127th Labor Day, it is finally time to finally ditch public sector labor unions.

While such an idea may seem radical, it would actually be in the self-interest of government employees themselves. Public sector unions have a long history of opposing reforms that would reward individual employees for exemplary service to protect their bottom line of keeping the most members. For example, Michelle Rhee — former Chancellor of Washington, DC’s public school system — once proposed a plan that would reward successful teachers with high salaries up to $130,000 improving their students’ test scores. While such a proposal would seem like a bargain for any worthwhile teacher, the Washington Teachers Union rejected the idea outright. After all, rigorous evaluations may mean bad teacher get fired, which may mean less names on the union's membership rolls.


Casey Given

Casey Given is an editor at Young Voices, a project of Students For Liberty dedicated to promoting young libertarians' policy voice in the media.