Organizing around a common interest is a fundamental part of democracy. We should no more try to take away the right of individuals to collectively bargain than we should try to take away the right to a secret ballot. Instead, we should work to modernize government’s relationship with unions — and union leaders should be farsighted enough to cooperate, because the only way to protect the long-term integrity of employee benefits is to ensure the public’s long-term ability to fund them. In Wisconsin, efforts to rein in spending on labor contracts have included proposals to strip unions of their right to collectively bargain for pensions and health care benefits.
Yet the problem is not unions expressing those rights; it is governments failing to adapt to the times and act in a fiscally responsible manner. If contract terms or labor laws from years past no longer make sense, we the people should renegotiate — or legislate — changes. Benefits agreed to 35 years ago that now are unaffordable should be reduced. Similarly, work rules that made sense 70 years ago but are now antiquated should be changed.