“All government employees,” wrote Franklin Roosevelt in 1937, “should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service…It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations
when applied to public personnel management.”
Today the remarkable growth of U.S. public sector unions, as Professor Daniel DiSalvo lucidly chronicles in Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences, has turned such wisdom on its head. As private sector workers see remuneration squeezed, unionized public employees often retire in their fifties with lavish pension and healthcare benefits.
In the process, vital government services on which the poor and middle class rely are increasingly crowded-out. Nearly everywhere, attempts to rein in public unions have met massive resistance.
Indeed public sector unions, as DiSalvo persuasively documents, threaten the integrity of American democracy. Government Against Itself, writes Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield, is “[a] sober analysis, both scholarly and political…DiSalvo shows both sides, argues cogently, and concludes reasonably—against them [public unions]. This is political science at its best.”
Daniel DiSalvo is Assistant Professor of Political Science at The City College of New York-CUNY and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership.