Labor Unions The Fall Guys In Central Falls, R.I. Fall

Remember the Rhode Island city that fired the entire staff at its high school last year, only to hire them back several months later?

That was Central Falls, the subject of a current Wall Street Journal Cross Country column:

‘The City With a Bright Future’—$80 Million in the Hole

In the late 1960s, Rhode Island’s public employees got the right to collective bargaining. It was all downhill from there.

Welcome to Central Falls. Motto: “The City with a Bright Future.” Population: 19,000. Median household income: $22,000. Elevation: more than $80 million under water.

Visitors to this tiny town on the banks of the Blackstone River would never guess that it was once a prospering manufacturing hub. Thousands of Irish and Scottish immigrants flocked here in the 19th century, drawn by opportunities to work in the mills and mines. But since Rhode Island’s public employees received the right to collectively bargain in the 1960s, government unions have driven Central Falls into the ground.

Nut graf:

Last year, labor costs made up roughly 70% of Central Falls’s budget. (The finance director of Pawtucket, a neighboring town, tells me theirs is closer to 53%.) Unable to pay its bills, Central Falls wanted to declare bankruptcy, but the state intervened and put the town into receivership.

No question labor unions in America are their own worst enemy: intractable, myopic, and tin-eared.

But is it really that simple: Abolish labor unions and municipal problems magically disappear?

Sounds more simple-minded, don’t you think?


Image: Christian Science Monitor

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