The Washington Post

Why politicians answer to unions

George F. Will’s discussion of grossly excessive public employee compensation [“Rahm and the teachers,” op-ed, July 5] rightly noted that unions exist to benefit their members and that elected officials deserve blame for signing “improvident contracts” with government unions. But Mr. Will does not mention why officials give in to union demands so often: They want to stay in office.

Government unions contribute generously to political campaigns, giving the unions enormous clout in negotiating with their bosses — whom they are helping to elect. Union-backed politicians, therefore, have a strong incentive to enrich their union supporters.

This unsustainable cycle has served politicians and government unions well for decades, but taxpayers are fed up. Elected officials who are serious about bringing public finances in order need to curb the power of government unions. Necessary reforms would include giving a worker the choice of whether to join a union and requiring union officials to obtain members’ permission before spending their dues on politics.

Ivan Osorio, Washington

The writer is editorial director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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