Big Labor’s Stake in Big Government

Source: “Iowa’s Privileged Class: State-Government Employees,” Public Interest Institute

For some insight into why politicians are afraid to tackle personnel costs, watch what’s going on in Iowa.

The Hawkeye State’s legislators are exploring ways to get spending on “public servants” under control. Rep. Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia) told The Des Moines Register: “The big thing we’re looking for is to give taxpayers a place at the table. That means they have some say in how the money is spent, and that there are safeguards to see that taxes aren’t increased willy-nilly every time there’s a demand from collective bargaining.” Wages and salaries, healthcare benefits, arbitration, the grievance process — reformers believe, based on ample evidence, that the scales have been tipped in “labor’s” favor for too long.

Iowa’s Public Interest Institute has noted a revealing statistic: In 2015, state workers “received an average wage that was 149.76 percent of what the average private-sector worker in Iowa was paid. Iowa’s Pay Gap was larger than that of any other state.” (New Mexico’s gap was a stunning fifth in the nation.) A straight-up, no-disaggregation comparison is of limited value, of course, but even The New York Times has admitted that studies “have regularly found that state and local governments offer more valuable retirement and health benefits than the private sector.”

Predictably, government unions are militantly opposing even the slightest change to Iowa’s collective-bargaining rules. We’ve seen it all before: chanting, sign-waving, predictions of an impending apocalypse. And it’s getting downright nasty. As KCRG-TV9 reported, a “leaked email advises union members in Iowa on how to prank call … lawmakers to push against a proposal to limit collective bargaining rights.” Using language not fit for Errors of Enchantment‘s family readership, the message, sent by a thug from the Laborers’ International Union of North America, advised union members to have “some fun” and provided “bullet points,” such as “Hey! I didn’t hear you campaign on this S***! You lied to me, not a good idea bro!”

Time will tell if Iowa legislators hold firm, and implement the type of reforms that have paid so many dividends in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, in the Land of Enchantment, taxpayers … wait. There’s zero desire in Santa Fe to rein in out-of-control pay and benefits for government employees, even though a 2014 study by the American Enterprise Institute found a 24 percent advantage for state workers when total compensation (including the value of job security) was scrutinized.

New Mexico’s budget has many opportunities for savings in personnel. Too bad lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, are focusing almost exclusively on finding “revenue to replenish the state’s coffers.”