Editorial: Public-sector unions, take a bow (and then retire)

Posted 4/18/19

Public-sector unions should step on stage, take a bow under thunderous applause, and exit stage left. Then they should leave for good.

The unions have enjoyed a run of dominance more impressive …

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Editorial: Public-sector unions, take a bow (and then retire)

Posted

Public-sector unions should step on stage, take a bow under thunderous applause, and exit stage left. Then they should leave for good.

The unions have enjoyed a run of dominance more impressive than any competitor in the history of any sport. If they were a professional athlete, it would be time to celebrate their incredible accomplishments, put their bust in the hall of fame, and let them retire, knowing they have changed the course of history.

Originally created to defend and uplift public-sector employees who were not given enough respect or rewards, relative to their private-sector peers, the unions have done their job — and then a lot more.

Their members are very well compensated for the work they do. They can often look forward to 12 or 15 percent compounded raises, three years ahead of time, while those in the private sector wait and wonder and are told times are tough and the raises, if any, are slim.

Even though they’ve given a little ground and begun to share the cost of their medical and dental benefits, public-sector employees typically enjoy Cadillac plans with minimal out-of-pocket costs — plans their private-sector peers never see.

Among today’s workers, public-sector employees have the most secure retirements. While the majority of private-sector employees fret about whether they can afford to put any money aside for 401(k) plans, the union employees can rest easy, knowing guaranteed pensions that last decades and often have cost-of-living adjustments await them upon retirement.

Then there are the many, many “perks,” which can be as simple as getting paid to stay home on your birthday, or elaborate scams, such as firefighters playing games to maximize overtime payouts for all.

Examples of public-sector scandal and corruption are common, from sheriffs spending years on disability and full pay, to firefighters gaming the system to retire at inflated salaries, to teachers, police officers and others double-dipping to collect full-time pensions and full-time salaries in their golden years. These shenanigans don’t occur because public-sector workers are bad people; they occur because the systems allow them to, the contracts have loopholes, and an unscrupulous minority take advantage of them.

If the unions took their bow and retired, their members could collect no raises or additional perks for a decade and still remain at the top of the pay scale for their industries. Their members would be well-compensated, highly respected and secure in their retirements.

Taxpayers cannot afford these unions for much longer. The game is over. The unions have won. They won a long time ago. They can leave knowing they accomplished all they set out to — and a whole lot more.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.