Day 14: Encourage Excellence and Restore FDR’s Vision by Eliminating Costly Collective Bargaining

“Collective Bargaining” for government workers began in New Mexico in 1992. The law lapsed in 1999 and Gov. Gary Johnson wouldn’t sign a bill to renew it. But in 2003, Gov. Bill Richardson signed a collective-bargaining bill that, unlike the first one, did not have an expiration date.1

The term “collective bargaining” is defined as: “a process of negotiations between employers and a group of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions.2

It sounds innocuous on its face and is often called a “right” by government employee unions and their advocates, but it really represents a closed-circuit whereby government unions organize their members for political power, elect politicians, and then “negotiate” with those very same politicians who are largely dependent on the government employee unions for their campaign donations and political support.3 The union representing many government workers, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was the largest outside spender of the 2010 elections.4

Allowing government employees to collectively bargain was opposed by prominent liberals like Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.5” Even George Meany, the president of the AFL-CIO, seemed to oppose collective bargaining for public employee unions, “The main function of American trade unions is collective bargaining, it is impossible to collectively bargain with the government.6

Collective bargaining is bad for taxpayers and has led to government growth beyond what is economically-supportable along with unfunded government employee health care and pension obligations in excess of $25.8 billion.7

The problem with collective bargaining is that government employees do not operate in a free market environment. Union workers do not compete in the same way as private sector workers (union and non-union alike).

Surprising to some, collective bargaining is not necessarily popular with union members. It is very popular, however, with union leadership. In 2005, Indiana Governor Daniels signed an Executive Order eliminating collective bargaining for state employees. At that time there were 16,408 dues paying union members. Today only 1,490 out of 28,700 are dues paying union members – 95 percent chose not to pay union dues when given the choice.8

The New Mexico Legislature must pass legislation to abolish public employee collective bargaining in the state. Employees are individuals and should be treated as such.

1Steve Terrell, “Lawmaker warns workers: State isn’t safe from GOP efforts to bust unions,” Santa Fe New Mexican, February 22, 2011,


3Daniel Disalvo, “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions,” National Affairs, Fall 2010,

4Brody Mullins and John D. McKinnon, “Campaign’s Big Spender,” Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2010,

5Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service,” August 16, 1937,; Read more at the American Presidency Project:

6Daniel Disalvo, “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions,” National Affairs, Fall 2010,

7J. Scott Moody and Wendy P. Warcholik, Ph.D., “Fixing New Mexico’s $25.8 billion unfunded retirement system.” Rio Grande Foundation, February 2010,

8Bob Williams, “Why government employee collective bargaining laws must be reformed now,” State Budget Solutions, June 5, 2012,

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One Reply to “Day 14: Encourage Excellence and Restore FDR’s Vision by Eliminating Costly Collective Bargaining”

  1. Collective bargaining for government union employees definitely needs to stop. The problem with it is who they are bargaining with. In the private sector, unions are doing their collective bargaining with the business, who are the ones paying the employees. But in the public sector the bargaining is done with politicians who are not the ones paying. It’s the taxpayer paying the bills, and they have no say in the bargaining.

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