The essence of self-government is the ability to know what your government is doing, who it hires and how it spends its money. But public employee unions have been — shamefully — seeking to prevent the public from learning such information.

Within the last year, state public employee unions sought to block — and then boycott — the Sacramento Bee for publishing the salary data of state workers. There is no more essentially public record than that. Now comes news from San Bernardino that the county is giving unions heads-up about public records requests in an attempt to block them.

Unions there are attacking newspapers that make requests for records on county employees. This is particularly outrageous because public records request from newspapers and the public are often the only way to learn how public employees and their unions behave. Public employee unions are exempt from the federal laws and regulations that require unions representing private sector workers to report on their internal finances to the U.S. Department of Labor.

These attempts to block disclosure — and intimidate newspapers that seek to serve the public — are likely to boomerang against unions and public employees. They are supposed to be public servants, and as such should welcome scrutiny. If unions keep this up, the appropriate response would be for Congress should pass legislation forcing public employee unions to comply with federal disclosure requirements. Congress also should look at increasing those requirements.