Hey, what's the big deal about public-employee unions?

The facts don’t support these allegations. There is little correlation between states that have public sector collective bargaining and states with large deficits. North Carolina, which lacks collective bargaining, projects a 10% budget shortfall for fiscal year 2013, nearly three times as great as that of New York (3.5%), the most densely unionized state. Nor is it the case that Democratic politicians simply pass out goodies to labor allies, the taxpayers be damned. Just ask unions in New York and California. They have complained loudly about their treatment at the hands of Democratic governors Andrew Cuomo and Jerry Brown…

Reviewing the history of the last 50 years gives the lie to those who have persistently argued that public sector collective bargaining inevitably corrupts the political system. No such debasement has occurred. Rather than serving as an instrument of plunder, public sector collective bargaining has proved to be a bulwark of an important sector of the American middle class.

History also makes clear how partisan our labor politics have become and how anti-union today’s Republican political leaders are in comparison to the man to whom they would like to be compared, the onetime union leader (as president of the Screen Actors Guild) Ronald Reagan. The Gipper was no fan of Kennedy; he rejected Kennedy’s liberalism, which he felt might lead to something worse. “Under the tousled boyish haircut” of the young president, Reagan once worried, was “still old Karl Marx.” But Reagan’s position on workers’ rights to bargain was closer to Kennedy’s than to the one promoted by Scott Walker and other conservatives today. Much indeed has changed over the last half-century.