In the private sector, unions do not control management and vice versa. In the case of public-employee unions, "management" -- i.e., public officials -- often receive generous contributions from the very unions with whom they are negotiating -- permitting unions to choose "management" to form a cozy, if corrupt, circle.
During the last election cycle, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees contributed $90 million to Democratic candidates. In 2006, then New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine addressed a rally of 10,000 public employees in Trenton, declaring, "We will fight for a fair contract." Corzine was supposed to be management. With whom was he fighting?
The answer, as even Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo and Jerry Brown are discovering, is other middle-class people -- i.e., the taxpayers. The taxpayers are the ones left holding the bag when elected officials team up with public-sector unions. Middle-class taxpayers, only about 65 percent of whom have access to retirement plans, are picking up the tab for the 90 percent of government employees who do. Nearly 70 percent of lower wage government workers receive health benefits, compared with only 38 percent of private-sector workers.
Many state workers avail themselves of the option to retire in their early to mid-50s at nearly full pay. If they were New Jersey teachers, they can collect free health benefits for life.
The results are clear: New York has a 2012 budget gap of $9 billion; California's is more than $20 billion; Illinois' is $11 billion. The vast majority of middle-class taxpayers, whose pay and benefits are lower than those of the public-sector workers, must pay in higher taxes or reduced services.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has asked California state workers for give-backs of 8 to 10 percent in salary, saying, "We have no choice ... We must now return California to fiscal responsibility and get our state on the road to economic recovery and job growth."
Mike Lux: Before you celebrate, have a look at Sacramento.