Archive for category Labor

Union Concessions Not So…Concessional

This morning, the Douglas County Federation of Teachers responded to the School Board’s thoughts on the state of contract negotiations. The response is notable, because it appears to walk back a number of concessions that the union had made in earlier negotiations.

The union’s justification, laid out in a letter to its membership (see below), is that since the Board wasn’t negotiating in good faith, it has the right to rescind these concessions pending either mediation, arbitration, confrontation, or litigation.

Particularly, it appears to renege on two issues that it had agreed to defer to to the courts: the matter of union heads being full-time employees on the the district payroll (although all current expenses would be borne by the union), and union dues collection by the district.

The language concerning the dues actually suggests that the union may feel that, because of this week’s Supreme Court decision slapping down the SEIU in California, it has no choice but to go to war over the issue.  The phrase no “legally cognizable justification” in this context basically means, “we think you’re wrong, but we can’t say why.”  By dropping the specious 1st Amendment claim they had made before, the union is essentially dropping the notion that this is contestable in court.  They may try, but they can’t win on those grounds and they know it.
Ironically, that may have made it harder to reach an agreement, if there were one there to be reached.  The union, realizing that it has no chance in the courts, is now turning to the NLRB or the CDLE for help, and is doing two things here.  First, it’s taking back the concessions, putting them back on the table in the case of mediation or arbitration.  (Of course, there is nothing to prevent the district from doing the same.)  Second, intervention by the NLRB requires that management not be negotiating in good faith, so the union is beginning to lay out its case.
They’re clearly doing so in the section on Full-Time Employees, where they continue to demand that their unions head stay on the district payroll, with the union picking up current expenses, even if they aren’t actually doing any teaching.  They do this by claiming that management is practicing an “unwarranted interference” in the union’s ability to choose its own representatives, which would be a violation of 29 U.S.C. § 157.  Any judge in his right mind would dismiss this out of hand; the fact is that the union could make up the benefit by providing its own pension plan for its own employees, or by setting up a 401(k).  Many unions do this, although the AFT currently does not, and the Ohio affiliate has even tried to argue that a pension plan is better both for the employee and the employer than a 401(k).  Any decent judge would rule this out of bounds; there’s no telling what the CDLE or the NLRB would do.
As for the ER&D training mentioned in that paragraph, this is a red herring, but it’s a complicated little red herring.  It appears that the union is also trying to argue that, by preventing the union heads from being “teachers,” it’s also preventing them from taking advantage of the union-developed ER&D training.  In fact, the ER&D training is paid for and owned by the district, while the content and administration are controlled by the AFT.  It appears that the union’s argument is that since the program is mandated by and paid for by the district, it can’t have oversight of how well that program is implemented – or establish the requirement – unless the person it’s overseeing is a teacher.  But it seems to me that this could be easily solved by a contractual relationship with the ER&D supervisor, with certain standards of performance.  The union has already agreed to supervision of its union heads in their roles of ER&D delivery; why this can’t be continued under a contractual relationship is beyond me.   But in claiming that the ER&D program is proprietary to the national AFT, and that those supervising it must be teachers, it’s probably trying to further its claim that the district is interfering in union affairs by refusing to employ the union heads as teachers at all.
In short, this letter isn’t a serious response, but it’s certainly a walk-back of previous concessions, not in preparation for a court battle it knows it can’t win, or for negotiations in which it has forfeited public support, but for mediation or arbitration that it hopes takes place on the friendly turf of the CDLE or the NLRB.
They’re planning to do this at least in part because the overwhelming majority of teachers have already signed individual contracts.  In the absence of a CBA, those individual contracts indicate that a strike would be considered “abandonment,” a costly process for the abandoner, who would have to reimburse the district up to 150% of salary for the cost of having to find a replacement.  It’s unclear to me as to whether or not arbitration or mediation would have to start before the expiration of the current CBA at the end of the month.

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Unintended Consequences

Should the NLRB prevail in its attempt to tell Boeing where it can and cannot build new plants and direct new work, it will, in the end, only make things worse for places like Washington State, not only for South Carolina.

Obviously, South Carolina would suffer, and while my sympathies for them are somewhat limited at the moment, owing to the results of this evening’s College World Series game, the fact is their workers haven’t done anything wrong by agreeing to work for a lower wage as opposed to staying unemployed.  Success by the NLRB will rob them of livelihoods, and likely force Boeing to swallow the loss and move the work overseas, to the extent possible.

Washington State would suffer, though, as well.  The delays – possibly years of them – caused by this frivolous lawsuit, will give their competitors time to catch up and carve away pieces of market share, long-run sales which are extremely difficult to get back.  This is especially true in a capital-intensive industry with a long product development cycle.  The profits from the 787 sales would not only recoup Boeing’s investment in the plane, but fund development of their next generation of jets as well.  The workers in Washington, counting on the work that would have gone to South Carolina, will find that work diminished, as well as the work in their existing shops.

Worse, while businesses that are already mired doing work in heavily-unionized states might have to shift work overseas, or fold altogether (the option of opening new plants in affordable states having been foreclosed), who in their right minds would start doing business in Washington if they didn’t have to?

Of course, this all falls under the rubric of Bastiat’s Seen and Unseen.  What’s seen is the few jobs that will trudge, unhappily, back to Seattle.  What’s unseen as all the jobs that will never materialize there in the first place.

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The 49th Parallel

How many states can be 49th?  Let us count the ways.

A few years ago, my friend Ben DeGrow noticed that whenever the subject of budget restraint touched on public education, the state teachers union would immediately make one of two claims: either the state was 49th in school spending, or would be after the change was made.

You’ll notice that I declined to name the state in question just now.  That’s because this claim was being made, simultaneously, all over the country by various Education Associations.  Apparently, we are all 49th now.

Nebraska, welcome to the club:

Two of the state’s largest public employee unions gave a hearty thumbs down Monday to a new proposal generated by state business groups to reform the state’s much criticized labor court, the Commission of Industrial Relations.

Officials who represent state K-12 teachers and state employees said the new plan would “eviscerate” collective bargaining and force down public employees’ wages as much as 15 percent.

Karen Kilgarin, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska State Education Association, said the plan would put Nebraska at 49th in the nation in teachers’ salaries.

First of all, there’s the obvious question of who’s 50th.  I mean, if you’re the least bit skeptical about this claim, you’d think that would be the first thing you’d ask, if only so that you could have a good laugh at their expense when you were filing your story.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Scenes From Lincoln’s Union Rally

So why is the IBEW out there at a rally dominated by AFSCME and SEIU?

“Keep your government hands off my…government pension!”  Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

I wonder if he knows the history of the Davis-Bacon Act?

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How To Help In Wisconsin – Now

Game on.

We all know about the efforts by unions and other lefties to recall eight Wisconsin Republican state senators, and to overturn the results of last year’s election, and this year’s vote to limit public sector unions.

You may not know about another effort to do so by politicizing a race for the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.  Unlike our justices, who need only face retention votes, Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices run against each other in nominally non-partisan elections.  Via National Review:

The Greater Wisconsin Committee is preparing to throw $3 million into the judicial election to defeat Prosser — not because it is feared that he will fail to administer the law impartially, but because it is feared that he will. To that end, Wisconsin Democrats are working to install one of their own on the court and, if the GWC ad is any indicator, they are prepared to do just about anything to win. Because of legal restrictions, Prosser cannot solicit contributions to aid his campaign under this onslaught. But you can help his campaign by helping the Wisconsin Club for Growth (donate here) or donating to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (donate online here; fax donation form here).

It is important that conservatives nationwide make this campaign their own.

Indeed it is.  The elections is next Tuesday, April 5, and the day before, Monday, April 4, unions across the country plan to hold “events.”  It’s quite clear that the “event” in Wisconsin will be little more than a campaign rally for Prosser’s opponent.

As Ross Kaminsky has pointed out in recent days, what’s needed is a national effort here, not just against the recall efforts (that will come later), but also for Justice Prosser.  If successful here, unions may succeed in cowing the one Republican they need in Ohio’s State Senate to kill a bill limiting public unions in that state.  You can forget about making progress in California.  And they’ll feel a free hand to go on the offensive in places like Colorado, where thus far, efforts to organize state workers have more or less been a bust.

State legislators across the country will learn a lesson about who’s in charge, and their resulting unwillingness to take bold positions will demoralize the Tea Party movement at a critical moment, and deny citizens victories over would-be aristocrats at a moment when we had all the political momentum, and stretch these battles out for years.

The Left picked this battlefield because it looks like the friendliest turf around for them.  If they can’t win in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see where they can win.  If we can win in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see where we can’t.

Folks, we’ve seen this movie before, right here in Colorado, where it was test-piloted and perfected: it’s called “The Blueprint,” and this is it on a national scale.  It’s a scaled coordination of resources at a point where they can make the most difference.  In fact, this may even be the national rollout of that plan.  Here’s State Senator Randy Hopper on Fox News:

HOPPER: Well, I can tell you in my district the person that’s heading up the recall effort in my district was doing some work on behalf of either the administration or big labor in Colorado prior to moving into my district to do my recall.

Tea Parties don’t like to be astroturf (as opposed to the Left, which merely has an aversion to looking like astroturf), which sometimes leads them to be resistant to coordination. And independent-mindedness is a virtue.  But in situations like this, it plays right into the strengths of union-led activism: their ability to coordinate money and activists on whatever scale is necessary, their exemption from many campaign finance restrictions, and the fact that they’re an easy address to find.

It is necessary – now – to contribute to these advertising efforts, and to the recall campaigns of affected senators.  No Republican, Tea Party, or activist event should go by without passing the hat.

It’s hard, raising money for someone else, out of state.  But that’s where the battle is.

It’s hard, raising money for an election, when you’re not a party member.  But it’s one thing to punish Republicans in office for doing the wrong thing.  It’s another thing altogether to let the other side punish them for doing the right thing.


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A Wind-Assisted “Win”

In track and field, when a runner has the wind at his back, and records he sets don’t count.  Of course, in track, the win is still fair, because all the runners run under the same conditions.  With the press, it’s always uphill and against the wind for Republicans and Tea Parties, downhill and wind-assisted for Democrats and unions.

In a previous post, I put up a little retrospective of some of the more troubling behavior by Wisconsin public servants, aided and abetted by college students, Organizing for America, and the DNC.  I doubt whether even Mike Littwin would be able to claim this as a “win” if most of the country had seen these events as they were happening.  The national media, which goes out of its way, if necessary, to make up stuff about Tea Partiers, was rigorously careful not to expose the American public to these scenes.

What are perceived as heavy-handed tactics often have a way of backfiring.  (In Pennsylvania during the Constitutional ratification convention, for instance, dissenting members of the convention fled the scene to deny the convention a quorum, and two of them had to be hauled back bodily to Independence Hall to get the 2/3 necessary for business.  This, along with the refusal of the press to publish speeches critical of the Constitution and the refusal of the convention’s official journal to record all the speeches, forced the Federalists to tread much more carefully in succeeding states, particularly Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia.)

But they don’t usually backfire when the targets are unsympathetic louts.

Just to pick on Mike a little, the last lines in his column suggest that the DC Democrats might find the inspiration and spine to make bold entitlement reform proposals from the events in Wisconsin.  This makes no sense.  In Wisconsin, the Democrats were defending the insupportable and unsustainable status quo.  Failing to deal with entitlements, as the President has failed to do, would be more in keeping with that strategy.

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Kudos to Shawn Mitchell and Ted Harvey for voting against Ellen Golombek to head the State Department of Labor and Employment.  After all, it’s what she advocated when opposing Bill Owens’s appointment of Vicki Armstrong in 1999.

But the Denver Post story more or less missed the point.  Again.  Not all unions are created equal.  She headed up the state AFL-CIO, sure.  But that’s an organization that’s been declining in membership and importance for pretty my entire lifetime.  It did damage in its day, but can do far less now, given than less than 7% of the private workforce is unionized.  There’s a case to be made against unions in general, but that case has been already been won.

Golombek is far more dangerous because of her political strategizing as the SEIU’s director of government affairs, which goes completely unmentioned in the Post report.  Public employees can do valuable work, but their unions are designed to use your tax dollars to pick negotiating partners willing to make you work until 70 so they can retire at 55.

Colorado WINS’s efforts to unionize state employees have thus far been a bust.  Expect them to get a boost from political advocates with their hands on the levers.

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Home and Away

With’s radio subscription, I find that I enjoy listening to the opponents’ broadcasts, not just for the variety, but also because I’ve never really warmed to the local guys here in Denver.  I guess I’ve been spoiled by Jon Miller and Joe Angel all those years for the Orioles.  I always liked Charlie Steiner at ESPN, and have kind of missed him since he left to go do the Bums games.

In any case, on tonight’s KABC broadcast for the Dodgers, the LA Federation of Labor was running pro-union ads, not only boosting “union jobs,” but also putting pressure on Diane Feinstein to vote for the Employee Forced Collectivization Act.  The spot claimed that it would make it easier for workers to unionize, which is indisputably true, although it would be more accurate to say that it would make it easier for unions to force workers into unions.

Still, it’s an interesting place to be advertising.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have never really had an image as a blue-collar team, unlike the Brooklyn Dodgers.  So it’s unclear how much of their target audience the Lords of Labor are reaching with these spots.

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