A sop to Big Labor

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to sneak through Congress the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, a deceptively named sop to Big Labor that would federalize the unionization process for local police, firefighters, corrections officers and first responders.

The federal system would supplant state collective bargaining laws -- or the lack of them -- and deliver untold thousands of new members to union bosses. Many cities, counties and states would immediately lose control of public safety wages to negotiators and arbitrators.

In Southern Nevada, collective bargaining has created the highest-paying local government jobs in the country. Generous salaries, guaranteed annual raises, easy-to-abuse overtime rules and gold-plated health care and pension benefits have broken government budgets.

All across the nation, cities, counties and states are confronting billion-dollar budget deficits and multibillion-dollar shortfalls in the retirement benefits they've promised to their unionized workers. Sen. Reid's bill would worsen the burdens put on private-sector workers and businesses and heap all-new unfunded liabilities on local governments.

Big Labor paid big money to elect Democratic candidates in 2008, and unions expected Democrats to deliver card-check legislation in return. Congress and President Obama wisely backed away from banning secret-ballot organization elections, but that infuriated unions.

Now, with Democrats at risk of sustaining huge election losses in November, unions are ready to spend piles of cash to save as many incumbents as possible. The Hill reported this month that AFSCME and the SEIU have committed $94 million between them to bail out mortally wounded Democrats, including Sen. Reid. But first, they want a gesture of good faith in return. That's why Sen. Reid is in a rush to get this horrible legislation passed.

Democrats have become the party of public-sector unions. It is their most important constituency. And they've made it perfectly clear that private-sector workers' first duty is not to secure their own standard of living, but to provide a better one for unionized public employees.

Instead of mandating collective bargaining for public safety workers, Congress should be working to ban collective bargaining for all government employees.