Politicians Hand More to Public-Sector Unions

Published August 1, 2007

The expansion of public-sector collective bargaining is happening again, this time in New York and Missouri.

Following a nationwide trend, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) wanted to organize New York’s day-care workers. In May 2007, Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) signed an executive order permitting them to represent independent day-care providers.

Also in May, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the state’s government employees have the right to engage in collective bargaining with the state, reversing 60 years of policy. Existing law required governments only to “meet and confer” with employee organizations. Agreements made during such meetings were not binding.

The new ruling says any agreements made are binding. It does not compel the sides to reach agreements, however. In Missouri, public-sector workers are prohibited from striking.

The ruling begins a new era in Missouri politics because public-sector collective bargaining goes hand-in-hand with political activism. Critics of the ruling fear when unions cannot get their way at the bargaining table, they will work to put people in office who will give them what they want.

Sources: “Babying Unions; Spitzer’s Day-Care Disaster,” Manhattan Institute, http://www.nypost.com/seven/05152007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/babying_unions_opedcolumnists_e_j__mcmahon.htm; “Collective Bargaining for Missouri Teachers,” Education Intelligence Agency, http://www.eiaonline.com/2007/05/collective-bargaining-for-missouri.html

Dilemma: To Post or Not to Post Salaries

When the Kanawha County (West Virginia) Schools Board of Education decided in February to post employee salaries on its Web site, the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) said teachers are not comfortable with the move.

“For teachers, this is just a nuisance. But nobody likes to see their salaries published on a Web site,” said Kym Randolph, director of communications for the union.

But in light of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., a U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down on May 4 that requires workers to file Title VII complaints of pay discrimination within 180 days of the pay adjustment, the labor movement as a whole is advocating Congress require employee salaries to be posted in every workplace.

It is unfeasible, labor officials argue, for workers to become aware of pay discrimination and collect the necessary evidence within the time allotted.

The two contradictory stands highlight an inherent conflict in the labor movement. Salary and benefit disclosure works in favor of those seeking proof they are being discriminated against, but it works against high-paid teachers and government workers who perpetually claim to be underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked.

Sources: “West Virginia Salary Posting Raises Unions’ Ire,” The Heartland Institute, http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=21245; “Supreme Court Says Workers Have Only 180 Days to Challenge Discrimination,” AFL-CIO Blog, http://blog.aflcio.org/2007/05/30/supreme-court-says-workers-have-only-180-days-to-challenge-discrimination/; “Show Us the Money,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/04/opinion/04reed.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Shrinking Enrollments, Not Budgets

Do smaller student populations reduce school costs? A study of Massachusetts data on school enrollment, staffing, and expenditures from 1999 to 2004 found the answer is “no.”

“The Fiscal Impact of Mixed-Income Housing Developments on Massachusetts Municipalities,” prepared by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts, found while school enrollment stayed flat during the study period, expenditures skyrocketed 28.6 percent and full-time equivalent staffing increased 8 percent.

Two school districts managed to increase their expenditures by 25.6 percent and 32.8 percent while enrollment dropped by 12 and 6 percent, respectively.

The study concluded, “In short, there are clear fiscal pressures on municipalities due to educational costs but there is no evidence that student enrollment growth is the cause of the budgetary problems.”

Source: “The Fiscal Impact of Mixed-Income Housing Developments on Massachusetts Municipalities,” http://www.donahue.umassp.edu/docs/fiscal-impact-mix-housing

Ryan Bedford ([email protected]) is a labor analyst with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.