From Phoenix to Pima County, politicians and public-sector unions routinely agree to put union representatives on the government payroll, paying them millions of taxpayer dollars exclusively for union work, renewing these agreements year after year.
And no wonder — everyone at the bargaining table wins: Unions secure funding and elected officials secure union support. But taxpayers — who have no seat at the table — lose.
To restore honesty and fiscal responsibility to local government, the collusion must end. And courts can help.
There was a time when the law proudly proclaimed that: “Public offices are a public trust to be held and administered with the exact justice and the same conscientious regard for the responsibilities involved as are required in the execution of private trusts.”
This was more than rhetoric. Courts didn’t hesitate to void government contracts when a public officer used “funds or powers entrusted to his care for his own private gain or advancement.” Likewise, the risk of corruption led courts to rule that it was against public policy for anyone to be paid for brokering a government contract.
If enforced, these legal principles could roll back collusion between local government and public-sector unions. Government would be prohibited from paying union representatives for negotiating terms and conditions of public employment, and public officers would be barred from approving union contracts in order to advance their political careers.
Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Money for nothing: Phoenix taxpayers foot the bill for union work
Goldwater Institute: Tool Co. v. Norris, 69 U.S. 45 (1865)
Goldwater Institute: Smith v. Bowman, 184 Mo. App. 549 (Mo. Ct. App. 1914)
Goldwater Institute: Selections from A Treatise on the Law of Municipal Corporations (1911)