Federal workers have the statutory right to bargain collectively, but that right does not include salaries, benefits or any other item that directly affects government expenditure. According to the Constitution, government expenditure may be authorized only by legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president.
The executive order creating collective bargaining rights for federal workers was signed by John F. Kennedy. Daniel P. Moynihan, who at the time was a White House adviser, played a major role in drafting the order.
That simple rule should apply to the states as well, either by clarification of state law or by judicial determination.
I am hopeful that the president, who recommended a freeze on federal salaries without first bargaining collectively with federal employees, will endorse a policy that has enabled him to take initial steps to reduce federal deficits. He should not disparage governors who seek similar authority at the state level in order to help solve their own pressing fiscal problems.
-Paul E. Peterson