First, I am not anti- union. I worked with several different unions and negotiated contracts for many years. I have great respect for responsible union leaders.
HOWEVER, the following report and point of view is beyond misleading because:
- Public employee compensation and jobs – teachers, firefighters, police, etc. cannot be compared with the private sector, especially based on education attainment.
- Local officials and politicians have the power to raise compensation only constrained by the ability to increase tax revenue – unions can’t change that.
- Most public employees have a total compensation package comparable to the private sector
- Generally, public employees have greater job security.
- Public employees are not subject to strong performance measures, or risks associated with transfers, acquisitions or mergers.
Closing any pay gap simply means higher local income, property or other taxes. Many states already making generous promises for pensions and healthcare have failed to fund such promises and/or have cut back on those promises.
The EPI like most left leaning groups overlooks the other side of an equation.
What this report finds: States where teachers and school staff, bus drivers, firefighters, police, and other local government workers have stronger collective bargaining rights have smaller gaps between these workers’ pay and the pay of private-sector workers with similar educational attainment, age, state of residence, and hours worked.
States like Colorado and Virginia, where bargaining rights have been weak or nonexistent, have lower union membership and larger public-sector pay gaps than states with strong bargaining rights.
Why it matters: Closing the public-sector pay gap especially helps Black workers and women, who are disproportionately represented in local government jobs.
Addressing the public-sector pay gap is also critical for local governments facing acute, growing staffing shortages. Finally, unions help reduce inequality, promote social mobility, and advocate for better public services.
What can be done about it: Colorado is considering legislation to extend bargaining rights to local government employees, after recently extending these rights to state employees. Virginia recently took the small step of allowing employers to voluntarily bargain with unions representing local government workers. Colorado and Virginia are among the states that are moving in the right direction. Other states that have restricted collective bargaining rights should act to expand them.