Labor Watch

Are Taxpayers Paying for the Politics of Public Unions?

Taxpayers everywhere expect their government to devote tax dollars to activities that benefit the public. From funding a national Army to feeding the poor, taxpayer dollars are expected to be used to build a better society. Unfortunately, government at every level has been ignoring this expectation, and no example makes that clearer than so-called “release time” for members of government-worker unions.

Release time is a practice that allows government employees to conduct union business on the taxpayer’s dime. That’s right, all over the country, taxpayers foot the bill for “public servants” who are actually functioning as union agents, in which capacity they aren’t conducting public business but are serving a union as they negotiate contracts, participate in grievance procedures, attend union conventions, and engage in other activities totally unrelated to any public purpose or civic duty assigned to their job.

But as reprehensible as it is for tax dollars to be spent to fund “normal” union activities, release time may even force taxpayers to fund political activity they may oppose. Public employees working on release time often lobby elected officials, advocate for specific legislation, or provide support to political campaigns. All this occurs while you and I pay for their “work.”

And to add insult to taxpayer injury, the political activism conducted on release time is almost exclusively dedicated to increasing government spending. Which leads to increased government hiring, which leads to increased public union membership, which leads to more union release time.

This vicious cycle of cronyism only incentivizes government-worker union members to maximize their release time while minimizing their attention to the actual duties entrusted to them. When this happens, taxpayers like you and me suffer, economic growth is stalled, and union bosses get rich off of ever-increasing membership dues.

So to answer the original question: yes. You, the taxpayer, are paying for the politics of public unions and the price is going up each and every day.

For more on union release time, you can read the June edition of “Labor Watch” here.

This blog post was adapted from the June edition of Capital Research Center’s “Labor Watch,” by Trey Kovacs.