Hot Air is pleased to provide Governor Scott Walker with an opportunity to speak directly to voters in this guest column.
Time to End Big-Labor’s Corrosive Influence on the Federal Government
By Gov. Scott Walker
In 2012, American taxpayers shelled out some $156 million to do the bidding of big-government union bosses. Federal workers spent more than 3.3 million hours that year doing union work, instead of serving the government.
It’s a scheme that could only have been hatched in Washington. It’s called “official time,” and it allows government employees to work full-time for federal union bosses on the taxpayers’ dime. It’s just one of the reasons why action is required to end the corrosive influence big labor has on our federal government.
As president, I would stop that influence cold by eliminating federal government unions and returning power back to where it belongs: in the hands of hardworking taxpayers.
This idea is not new. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of America’s most revered liberals, realized just how counter-intuitive it is to allow union bosses to advocate against the best interests of the government. Union bargaining, Roosevelt said, “cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
In fact, until 1962, federal law explicitly prohibited federal workers from collectively bargaining. President Kennedy, however, shrewdly realized that by allowing public sector employees to unionize at the federal level, Democrats would stand to gain votes and hefty political contributions. He was right.
Federal union political donations go overwhelmingly to liberal political candidates and causes. In the 2014 election cycle alone, the largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees, contributed more than $943,000 to political candidates – 93 percent of which went to Democrats. Not to be outdone, the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents employees across more than 30 federal agencies and departments, gave more than 95 percent of its $550,050 in candidate contributions to Democrats. These lopsided donations in support of Democrats have been happening for decades, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the political donations of unions and other groups.
What’s more, federal unions are a force for making our government less efficient and accountable. Case in point is union opposition to a commonsense congressional proposal that would simply give the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs the ability to “remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct.” In case the union bosses hadn’t noticed, VA has a lot of problems nowadays, and difficulty firing bad employees is one of them.
Federal unions are also at the forefront of keeping federal employees involved in egregious misconduct on the federal payroll. When an employee at a VA hospital in Kansas City, Mo., allowed a patient to wander out of a secure psychiatry unit in 2014, VA officials sought to fire the employee. But the union representing the worker wouldn’t allow that. Instead, it fought to reduce the penalty to a suspension, and later helped the employee get back pay for the time he was under suspension. Union protection also prevented the government from firing a USDA food inspector who failed to discover a massive rat infestation in a pasta-production plant. The union won back-pay for the employee despite his actions jeopardizing the health of consumers. These are just a few examples.
And let’s not forget the fact that federal unions interfere with the ability of the government to serve the people. Consider the millions of hours each year federal employees spend working for big-labor bosses, rather than the American people. In 2012, taxpayers subsidized more than 3.3 million hours of “official time,” in which government employees are paid to work exclusively for union bosses, at a cost of $156 million to American taxpayers.
At the IRS, which has been busy attacking conservative groups instead of actually helping Americans deal with their taxes, more than 200 employees work full-time for big-government union bosses at taxpayer expense. The situation is even worse at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where in fiscal year 2013, more than 250 employees – including medical professionals – collected taxpayer-funded salaries to work for union bosses instead of veterans. The fact that this is occurring at a time when the IRS and VA lurch from one scandal to another and struggle to provide basic services to those they are charged with serving underscores the need for reform.
Under current law, employees at some federal agencies like the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and the Government Accountability Office are already prevented from unionizing. The sensitive work done at these agencies requires employee accountability and efficiency, which federal unions often work against. We should give all federal agencies the ability to operate without the limitations and inefficiencies federal unions cause.
As president, I will work with Congress to prohibit federal employee unions because it’s the right thing for workers, taxpayers and the future of the American government. I have no illusions that this effort will be easy. Opponents will say that we’re robbing federal workers of their rights and workplace protections. Nothing could be further from the truth. Total compensation for federal employees is already 30 to 40 percent higher than their civilian counterparts and they already enjoy strong workplace protections and high job security rates.
The vast majority of federal workers do an outstanding job and deserve our appreciation and protection, which they will receive under a Walker administration. But taxpayers deserve the same thing. One of the ways I will achieve that is by removing the corrosive influence of federal unions from our government.
Scott Walker, a Republican, is the governor of Wisconsin and a candidate for president.
Hot Air will be happy to provide other presidential candidates an open forum for guest essays as well.