Avoiding California’s Economic Mistakes with Government Employees

The Rio Grande Foundation has released a new paper detailing the rapid rise to prominence and influence on the part of government employee unions. Study author Hal Stratton is the Rio Grande Foundation’s co-founder and served as New Mexico Attorney General from 1987-1990.

In his study, “A History of Public Sector Collective Bargaining in New Mexico,” Stratton traces the legal and political changes, both national and in New Mexico, that have made government employee labor unions among the most potent lobbying forces in politics. Tracing the efforts of unions to leverage their numbers (and votes) by bargaining collectively with politicians who rely on those very same votes to get elected back to New York and the 1950s to the present, Stratton presents a clear picture of a shrewd political strategy on the part of union organizers.

Stratton builds upon this history by illustrating how public employee unions in California have been a key factor in that state’s economic implosion, how California politicians are attempting to reverse that impact, and what California’s experience means for New Mexico.

Lastly, Stratton lays out a common-sense (albeit politically-difficult) path forward for New Mexico (and any other state’s) political leadership. As Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing noted, “Hal Stratton has had positions of leadership both in Santa Fe and Washington, DC. He has the first-hand experience to offer a detailed and well-documented analysis that clearly explains the strategies government employee unions have used to achieve their power at the expense of average taxpayers and future generations of taxpayers.”

Solutions put forth by Stratton include:

• Abolish public-sector collective bargaining. Only about half of all states (including New Mexico) allow this practice and it disproportionately enhances the power of public employee unions;

• Transfer all new hires into defined contribution and out of defined benefit retirement programs;

• Make New Mexico a “Right to Work” state in which workers are not forced to join a union in order to hold a particular job;

• Stop relying on federal largesse for economic development and instead adopt low, flat, fair, and equitable tax and regulatory policies that will encourage private-sector growth.

Stratton’s full study is available for free at this link.

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One Reply to “Avoiding California’s Economic Mistakes with Government Employees”

  1. I concur with Stratton. A comment about federal employees unions and retirement system. Having worked for three federal agencies I can tell you the union is weak and really does little for federal workers. As for federal retirement: since around 1983 all new employees must pay into social security. They are also individually responsible for most of their own retirement through the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) which is a 401k. Member’s of Congress also follow these same rules. Yeah, that email being passed around that says they don’t pay into social security is a lie.

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