Any public entity must balance various interests, and those who seek election to the leadership board for a city, school district, library district, port district or hospital district have an important responsibility to three distinct interests.
- Service recipients. Whether a library patron, crime victim, student or hospital patient, everyone served by government wants quality service. How available is the service? How capable are the employees providing it? What accountability exists for bad actors in government? How broad a range of services is available?
- Taxpayers. As the financiers of all government operations, taxpayers have a strong interest in effectiveness, efficiency, transparency, accountability and a limited scope of government. The nation’s founding documents create a host of checks and balances, including elections, to ensure the extraordinary power of taxation is restrained.
- Government employees. Most government services rely on a staff of public employees who also have interests which differ from taxpayers and service recipients. Their interests include generous compensation, job security and comfortable workloads. These are understandable interests, and the various objectives of government cannot succeed without public employees who are capable and motivated.
Government unions are a business with yet another interest — dues collection. Unions “sell” their ability to advocate for employee interests just as service providers in the private sector do, with several important exceptions. For starters, they’re never asked to compete with other unions since they have a monopoly in the workplace.
Nor are they bound by consumer protection regulations. Often, unions’ advocacy on behalf of the employees comes at the expense of the interests of those receiving government services.
Wage increases narrow the scope of services that can be provided with finite resources. Employee job security sacrifices accountability when the union guarantees that those who fail the public are shielded from consequences. Lighter workloads commonly mean reduced services for the public.
Striking the appropriate balance between these competing interests should be an important goal for policymakers.
To the Democrats of Skagit County, however, unions’ interest is the primary interest.
“If you’re thinking about running, a great first step would be to reach out to the union that represents the workers at Skagit . . ..”
From their perspective, before one can serve the public, a leader must first pledge allegiance to the dues collectors who often advance goals contrary to the interests of service recipients, taxpayers and sometimes even government employees.
Perhaps this advice from the party officials may have more to do with the prospects of securing some of that dues money as campaign contributions.