In neighboring Illinois, a government union representing Chicago transit workers is suing the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for refusing to let union members pass out fliers in support of one of the candidates in this week’s runoff mayoral election.
From the Chicago Sun Times:
The Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 241 and 308 filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court, arguing that the CTA violated workers’ freedom of speech by prohibiting the “Transit for Chuy” flier from break rooms.
But CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the ATU is the lone CTA union “seeking to violate long-standing state laws that prohibit political activities on government property and government time, at taxpayer expense.”
Setting aside Chicago politics, I see this fight as an illustration of the often-overlooked fact that government unions are uniquely political actors. Government unions are one of the most important special interests in contemporary politics. They have special access and privileges, and, as taxpayers, we pay for them. A union’s whole purpose—to influence employer decisions on behalf of its members—is political when the union represents government.
In Missouri, public agencies may meet with unions and set policies in closed sessions. Also in Missouri, government unions may hide their financial and political activities, while traditional unions have to disclose this information to the public.
The framework for American collective bargaining was created to protect industrial workers from progressive-era robber barons. Is it a good idea to allow government bureaucracy the same legal privileges? If we’re going to give government unions this kind of power, we should at least hold it in check with a modicum of transparency.