"The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service," President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the head of the National Federation of Federal Employees. In the private sector, organized employees and the employer meet across the bargaining table as (theoretical) equals. But in the public sector, said FDR, "the employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress." Allowing public-employee unions to engage in collective bargaining would mean opening the door to the manipulation of government policy by a privileged private interest.
FDR was right. Collective bargaining has no place in the public sector. It inevitably leads to abuse. Favoritism, undue influence, lack of transparency, manipulation of government policy, the relentless mulcting of the taxpayer—this is the poisoned fruit of turning government agencies into union shops. It goes without saying that public employees ought to be as free as anyone else to join professional associations and affinity organizations. They are certainly entitled to all the protections of the civil rights laws and of a reasonable civil service system. But labor unions should have no right of exclusive representation in any government workplace and no right to negotiate wages and benefits with public officials who crave their votes and political support.
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