In my opinion, Unions in government aren't too much different from unions in the private sector. They have their pros and cons...the pros being protecting workers from management decisions that can be seen as 'harmful' to the employees,(outright firings, wage cuts, etc) the cons, the perception of them holding work 'hostage' to unrealistic demands. (for example, in an area where the average salary is $20 dollars an hour, to have a union demand that all their members MUST be paid at least $30 an hour, even for unskilled labor...all that does is generate a resentful attitude towards the union and its members and the population as a whole. I know we have a union here that has had a habit of going on strike, often with the attitude of 'what i'm paid isn't enough to live on'....well what they're getting paid for their assembly line work is more than I get paid with my college degree...so not much sympathy from me. I tend to feelt he same way that I felt about pro ball players whent they said 'hey, my 175,000 base salary just isn't enough'. You don't want it, I'll take it 🙂 )
Union leaders need to be cognizant of their surroundings and just the message that they are sending to the public as a whole.
I think there is the potential for a middle ground, but all sides need to be willing to look at the other side of the issue and attempt to understand them as well. If a state is in the need to make budget cuts, instead of outright digging their heels in and saying 'heck no you won't cut these peoples salary', maybe the union needs to say 'ok, don't like it, but how can we work with you to accomplish your goal while not totally sticking it to the employees?'
Government employees are often powerless. They don't get raises unless the legislature passes a law. They don't get any sort of bonuses unless the legislature passes a law. Some positions are protected by civil service protection, but others aren't. Unions can give employees a voice, but the union does need to be careful about what it says and how it says it.
As a state employee, some members of the public already hate me. I, in their eyes, sit on my butt all day. I take 4-5 breaks a day, i accomplish nothing, I am vastly overpaid for what i do. etc.
Well a union can combat that. They can educate and, in a way, be a PR engine. This is what this office does. This is the skills it takes. This is what it'd cost to have the same thing outsourced. This is why these people are needed. They can represent people, not just in the 'don't you dare cut their salary' attitude, but in a 'this is why these people and jobs are needed'.