Opinion

When the public employees union snubs you, is that a bad thing?

People who receive compensation from government revenues have begun to make it clear that Democratic Party politicians must go along with their demands for higher taxes to protect their jobs and meet their expectations for higher compensation.

The Committee on Political Education of the Washington State Labor Council held its convention last weekend to determine which candidates would be endorsed by the unions.

Since unions representing state and local government employees are such a powerful political force in this state, their influence at the convention led to refusals to endorse several Democrats now in office.

Our state legislators didn’t fare well, assuming it’s an advantage to be endorsed by public employees who depend on them for their jobs and compensation.

Voters who recognize that public employees receive their compensation from taxes we all pay might also figure out that the taxpayers need people in office who deem the public’s interest to be at least as important as the special interests of public employees.

Being endorsed by a union organization that is heavily influenced by public employees isn’t necessarily an advantage, except among those who haven’t figured out where the money has to come from.

Of course, Rep. Jan Angel (R—26th District) wasn’t endorsed. The unions figure there’s no advantage in endorsing a Republican when they seek to use the Democratic Party to obtain the pay and benefits they desire.

It is also no surprise that Sen. Tim Sheldon (D—35th District) isn’t on the list of favored candidates.

His more conservative ideas don’t sit well with many Democrats in office, much less with the public employee unions.

But it is a little surprising that the unions refused to endorse Sen. Derek Kilmer (D—26th District), Rep. Larry Seaquist (D—26th District), Rep. Kathy Haigh (D—35th District) and Rep. Fred Finn (D—35th District).

If you’re keeping score, you notice it’s a clean sweep.

Not one of our state legislators won the unions’ endorsement at the Committee on Political Education convention.

It’s not that they are unfriendly to “labor.” When a vote of two-thirds of those at the convention is needed to win an endorsement, the government employees can essentially blackball anyone they dislike.

And it’s easy to be disliked by government employee unions — all it takes is resistance to their demands for higher taxes, more government jobs and higher compensation.

For quite a while, the combination of collective bargaining rights and union involvement in political campaigns has given the public employees what they want.

Their collective bargaining agreements with the governor resulted in pay increases even in this “Great Recession.”

Many people think the medical insurance benefits paid to federal Civil Service employees are pretty good. Federal employees pay about 25 percent of the premiums for their coverage, and the public pays the rest.

State government employees pay only 12 percent of their premiums, and the public pays the rest.

Even when the economy was growing at a healthy pace, state and local government revenues could hardly keep up with increases in government employees’ total compensation.

The strange thing about the attitudes of public employee union members is their apparent belief that legislators who try to implement policies to foster economic growth are not “friends of labor.”

People who must earn a living in the private sector of the economy should see things a little differently.

For them, it ought to be easy to recognize that a growing economy provides a better opportunity to earn a living.

When taxes take too much out of the private sector to provide the “living-wage jobs” so prized by public employee unions, neither the public nor public employees are well served.

Our local legislators all appear to know this — and have acted accordingly.

Come November, we’ll see whether the unions’ effort backfires.

The absence of a union endorsement should make it easy for voters to identify the candidates who have been representing the public’s interest.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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