Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

April 2, 2014

RYAN CUMMINS: How to deal with public-employee unions

An open letter to Indiana's city councils

(Continued)

On the other hand, if a PEU wants your “yes” vote, it should be prepared to prove its costs. In addition, you, on behalf of your constituency, can reasonably demand that a union justify why it is engaging in functions that can be provided or are being provided by taxpaying individuals or companies in the private sector.

That means you can demand the union provide a comparison of its cost with those of a private provider. You can demand the costs be put to a market test by open and transparent bidding. You can demand that any compensation be based on objective, verifiable and understandable standards.

The list of such buyer demands can be endless. It is essentially the same one you go through, spoken or unspoken, whenever you buy anything for yourself — from a hamburger to a new house.

And keep in mind the true nature of taxation and the ultimate penalty that awaits any citizen who doesn’t pay up. Your constituents can’t say “no” to the sales your council negotiates. Only you can do that.

If you can summon the courage, you will be surprised how effective you can be in this regard. My experience is public-sector unions have little desire to compete. That is unfortunate because they would be better for it.

They’re on a gravy train and they like it — good for them but not so good for those paying for the ride. But if you can force a market test, i.e., competition and accountability in meeting high standards in return for fully justified compensation, you will begin a process of real change.

In any case, representing your constituents by protecting their purchases of public services is in accordance with every elected Hoosier’s oath of office. Nobody — mayor, unionist or citizen — can expect more of you than that.

Ryan Cummins, a business owner, is a former chairman of the appropriations committee of the Terre Haute Common Council.

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