An Opening for Labor Law Reform?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

At Issues and Insights is a piece that raises an intriguing possibility. Titled "Democrats (Accidentally) Make The Case Against Teachers' Unions," the piece notes an issue regarding police reform that Democrats have raised:

Image by Claudio Schwartz, via Unsplash, license.
In a recent interview about reforming the police in his city, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that "The elephant in the room with regard to police reform is the police union. ... We do not have the ability to get rid of many of these officers that we know have done wrong in the past due to issues with both the contract and the arbitration associated with the union." He said that it "sets up a system where we have difficulty both disciplining and terminating officers who have done wrong." [bold added]
The piece goes on to note that we can say the same of teachers' unions and other public sector unions, even quoting FDR on the issue.

For better or worse, the piece shows that modern American partisanship is a two-edged sword at best. Although it helpfully notes the broader application of the lessons we are learning about police unions to teachers' unions -- and notes that the allegiance of the latter to the left makes meaningful reform unlikely any time soon, the piece does not go far enough.

Labor laws have both made labor unions inordinately powerful and led to legislation in reaction -- like "right to work" laws -- that commits the same sin, of having the government interfere with the right to contract of employer and employee alike.

While, yes, we should apply what Mayor Frey has said about police unions to teachers' unions, we should also ask ourselves about the propriety of the government forcing (or prohibiting) employers from dealing with unions.

This violation of the right to contract is a more fundamental problem than whether a union blocks meaningful reform or which party a kind of union tends to support. Without it, neither problem would exist at all.

-- CAV

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