|Peter Sarsgaard as Lane in Shattered Glass|
So it’s news when Lane, presumably after much thought, unambiguously takes on government unions, huge in the Democratic Party base:
America’s public-sector unions are on the defensive. Wisconsin has stripped them of most collective-bargaining rights and ended mandatory dues payments. Union-negotiated pension benefits are linked to the fiscal plight of cities from San Jose to bankrupt Detroit.
It may be . . .time [to] pose the question that lies at the root of them all: Is public-sector collective bargaining in the public interest? The answer is no. All members of the public use schools, roads, parks and other government services — and pay taxes to support them. Their interest lies in receiving the highest-quality services at the lowest feasible cost. Period.
Public-sector unions interfere. They demand more pay and benefits, and more control over the workplace, than the people’s elected representatives might choose if they were answerable only to voters. Indeed, political war chests accumulated through dues checkoffs . . . give public-sector unions more influence than ordinary voters in many states and counties. At contract time, they face their political allies across a bargaining table. That table, by the way, is behind closed doors; collective bargaining is often exempt from “sunshine laws” that cover other public business.Lane scoffs at the argument public sector unions ensure that “labor peace” prevents any repeat of the “devastating” 1,400 work stoppages that hit the country between 1965 and 1970. He points out that “even well-paid unionized public workers still strike,” as did Chicago’s teachers in 2012 and Bay Area transit workers in 2013.
Then Lane zeros in on what most bothers progressives, asking, “Can anyone who looks at this country’s urban school systems seriously maintain that unionization makes for an efficient workforce?” Liberals put up with bad schools because
public-employee unions, with their large campaign donations and political staffs, have become “the all-around linchpin of the modern Democratic Party” and the progressive causes for which it stands[, especially] the public schools, which employ almost half of all local government employees but which Democrats dare reform only at the risk of war with teachers unions.Lane adds that California’s powerful prison guard union fought for the “three strikes and you’re out” mandatory life sentence law, a decidedly un-progressive battle. Lane concludes:
dependence on unions [hasn’t] been healthy for the Democratic Party or for the robust public sector it espouses. . . The fundamental problem is collective bargaining. . . In the public sector . . . it means higher costs, lower efficiency and, worst of all, less democracy.Lane’s attack is particularly noteworthy because Democrats’ blind support for government unions has so long been at odds with the meritocracy’s faith in quality education. Yet how do Democrats hold power without their public sector unions?