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Dennis Joyce

Joyce joined The Tampa Tribune as senior editor for metro in 2005 and later helped launch’s continuous news desk. He has worked as an editor and reporter in Arizona, Kentucky, Virginia, Idaho and Stuart, Fla. Email

Jeff Scullin

Scullin has worked for The Tampa Tribune since 2005, directing news coverage in Pasco County and serving as the paper’s Sunday editor. He has worked as an editor and reporter in Lakeland, Sarasota, North Carolina and California. Email

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Letters to the editor: Not automatic

Unions promote big government, USF prof’s research says

Posted Jan 5, 2010 by Dennis Joyce

Updated Jan 5, 2010 at 04:59 PM

Cato logo

Donald Bellante e-mailed us an attaboy for a story last week about which government agencies pay the most six-figure salaries, which was drawn from our online database, “Who’s on Your Payroll?”

Bellante is a professor of economics at the University of South Florida and has compared government and private sector compensation as far back as 1975.

Most recently, in September, he co-authored an article for the Cato Institute that takes its name from a California city in bankruptcy, “Vallejo Con Dios: Why Public Sector Unionism Is a Bad Deal for Taxpayers and Representative Government.” You can click here to read Bellante’s paper.

The Cato Institute, you’ll recall, is the libertarian think tank, founded in Washington, D.C., in 1977, and named for a series of pamphlets that “helped lay the philosophical foundation for the American Revolution.”

The title of Bellante’s paper tells you what he thinks of unions in government, but even the staunchest union man or woman will find the underlying research enlightening.

Here’s one example: Union membership is strongest at the local government level – where you find teachers, police and firefighters – and has remained fairly constant since 1983 even as union membership plummeted in the private sector.

But if you decide to click through and read the paper, be prepared for a powerful point of view.

Here’s a sentence from the introduction: “This paper shows how the unionization of government employees creates a powerful, permanent constituency for bigger government— one that is motivated, well funded, and organized. Now, as an economic downturn threatens state and local government revenues, officials who want to keep their fiscal situations under control would do well to look skeptically at public-sector bargaining. They should eschew public-sector bargaining when possible, or at the very least, seek to limit its scope.”

The Cato Institute targets public salaries, and especially pensions, in another paper now featured on their Web site: “Employee Compensation in State and Local Governments.”