Laura Seitz, Deseret News
The AFL-CIO's We Are One members rally at the Utah State Capitol on Saturday, April 2, 2011.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned about the pitfalls inherent to public sector unions and their relationship with the people their members are employed to serve.

"Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied," he noted. "Such action, looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable."

Unthinkable, intolerable, and inevitable.

In several states, including Utah, such unions are free to pursue the "unthinkable and intolerable course" feared by President Roosevelt and strike without consequence. Too often, paralysis of government, or the threat of the same, becomes just another bargaining chip.

Public unions will go to great lengths to extract increasingly large concessions from the taxpayers who pay their salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public workers make an almost 43 percent higher hourly wage than comparable private sector workers.

This is not to say that unions have no place, but rather that public sector unions have a unique responsibility that is not shared by their private sector union counterparts. Private unions, negotiating with private employers, are only accountable to their members and to the businesses that compensate them. Public sector unions, on the other hand, derive all of their wealth from tax revenues, which gives them an additional level of accountability that they are often loathe to acknowledge.

Case in point: A growing movement would allow public sector unions to conduct their collective bargaining in secret. They refer to any attempt to increase transparency as "union busting," and insist that the hard-knuckle tactics that characterize these negotiations should be hidden from public view. In 11 states and many local municipalities, this is already legal, and union leaders hope to expand this bargaining power into all 50 states. This ought to be opposed every time it's raised.

Consider that union leaders paid by the public are negotiating with elected officials also paid by the public, but they paradoxically maintain that the public who is paying has no right to know what is going on. That is ridiculous, and it should never become the law in Utah or anywhere else.

It's easy to see why both unions and elected officials may want to be shielded from legitimate taxpayer scrutiny and oversight. What's less obvious is why any voter would be willing to stand for it.