My wife was forced to be an SEIU member for a while, and wow what a bunch of bozos. They were literally so wound up over who was going to campaign for their selected politicians (they were pushing Bonior over Granholm at the time) that they had no time for actual union business.
I agree on the public employees and unions. In the current form, they drive California behavior, where Gray Davis agreed to one ridiculously gold-plated contract after another in exchange for the army of public employees voting for him. CalTrans dump truck drivers getting $120K+ pensions with built-in inflation adjustments and zero out-of-pocket health/vision/dental for life.
I can support public sector unions, with the following adjustments:
1) Public sector unions cannot in any way, shape, or form - directly or indirectly - participate in, endorse, contribute, or make recommendations about the political process. Or in other words, the unions don't get to select or have influence over those with whom they negotiate.
2) Any form of compensation that exceeds the norm for the private sector (pay or benefits) must be approved by the voters at large in a referendum. Yes, defining the "norm" will be tough, but there's plenty of benchmark data available.
3) Public contracts must include language that allows for reductions in compensation and/or benefits in response to sustained reductions in tax revenues, meaning that when the economy cycles downward and compensation is reduced in the private sector, the public sector is affected as well - taxes are not raised in a bad economy to avoid impacting public employees.
4) Annually, pay for all public employees is to be published - including direct pay, and indirects like pensions and insurance costs. While names should be omitted for sake of privacy, the taxpayers need to have ready access to see what public employees make, to address persistent fallacies such as poverty-stricken schoolteachers and cops who are barely scraping by. Since they're paying the taxes, the taxpayers need to see where that money is going.
This is the Pub. Leave common sense at the door.