Before I became an ink-stained wretch, I was a fourth-generation government worker on Capitol Hill and the executive branch. My father was a civil servant working for the Air Force at Tinker Field in Oklahoma City, and a grandfather and great-grandfather were rural mail carriers in East Texas.

So I bow to no one in my respect for public service. It's in part because of that respect that I approach Mallory Factor's new book, "Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind." It hits the shelves on Tuesday.

Factor's case rests on understanding that there is a fundamental difference between private-sector unions and those in the government work force, even though both are in fact private organizations.

In the private sector, the company owner knows he risks losing customers and income if he holds out too stubbornly against union demands, so he is motivated to find common ground with labor leaders if at all possible.

Similarly, the labor leaders know that if they make their product -- the work of their members -- too expensive, they will price the company out of the market and jobs will disappear.

Factor explains why it's different in the public sector: "In theory, when unions negotiate contracts for their members, unions sit on one side of the bargaining table, and government officials representing the taxpayer sit on the other side."

That's the theory. Here's the reality, according to Factor: "The government officials on the other side of the table may be beholden to the same unions against which they are negotiating. Unions effectively end up sitting on both sides of the negotiating table."

It's the taxpayers who have to pay the bills for the agreements that government employee unions and officials sign that aren't represented at the table.

Government employee unions are the most powerful segment of the best-funded special interest in American politics, Big Labor. As Factor points out, unions collect an estimated $14 billion in dues annually, more than half of which comes from government workers.

The unions then take enormous amounts of that revenue -- more than $1.2 billion in 2010 -- and spend it electing candidates (virtually all of whom are Democrats) who will say yes at the bargaining table, and defending like-minded incumbents against challengers who might say no.

The unions also turn out thousands of members as campaign volunteers knocking on doors, registering voters, manning telephone banks and engaging in the multitude of other tasks required to win an election.

Elections have consequences. That's why federal workers make on average $126,141 in salary and benefits -- more than twice the private sector average. One in five make at least $100,000 just in salary. And they almost never are fired.

Sooner or later, the bills for such extraordinarily generous compensation have to be paid. That's why so many governments at all levels either face bankruptcy or are rapidly approaching financial calamities that will force draconian cuts in police and fire protection, road maintenance and other critical public services.

What's next? "Make no mistake, the government employee unions have bigger plans still," Mallory warns. If they aren't stopped, their next forced unionization targets will be everybody who receives a government benefit check. Think Social Security beneficiaries, veterans, Food Stamp recipients and so forth.

Mallory reminds us that taxpayers in Wisconsin rejected union fanaticism and recently gave Gov. Scott Walker a tremendous recall election victory. Indiana recently became the 23rd Right-to-Work state.

Those were big wins, but there's a long road ahead in what Mallory calls "the great battle of our time."

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.