There has been a lot of discussion and confusion as of late about the role of government unions. What does collective bargaining look like for government workers? The Heritage Foundation has released a new factsheet that explains everything you need to know about Government Unions, what they do, and what they won’t tell you.

For government workers, collective bargaining gives unions a monopoly on the government’s workforce. The government may not hire non-union workers. In the 28 non-right-to-work states (which includes Wisconsin), this means that unions can force government employees to pay union dues or get fired.

There are major differences in collective bargaining for government workers and private sector workers. In the private sector, unions bargain with owners to redistribute the profits created by the company. Governments make no profit. The only thing government workers bargain for is more tax dollars.

It wasn’t always this way. Collective bargaining with the government is a relatively new concept.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned us about the dangers of a government strike which he called “unthinkable and intolerable.” The president of the AFL-CIO, in 1955, said it was “impossible to collectively bargain with the government”.

What is happening in Wisconsin is that Governor Walker (R-WI) is trying to reform collective bargaining. He wants to give the voters more influence on where money is being spent. He is not eliminating collective bargaining or “busting” the unions. This is an important battle to fight because there are lots of states are facing large budget shortfalls. This is simply a measure to balance the budget and avoid layoffs.

You can download the pdf of this fact sheet here.