Collective Bargaining Update
Government employee salaries and benefits are financially unsustainable in nearly every state, as Lawmakers can no longer ignore the unfunded pension liabilities and unfunded retiree health care obligations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor, as of December, 2010, state and local government employees received benefits that were 69 percent higher than those in the private sector. StateBudetSolutions.org research showed that state and local government employees earn $13.85 per hour in benefits compared to the private sector workers who earn an average of $8.20 per hour in benefits.
If these unsustainable cost drivers are not addressed, states will be unable to meet payroll and thousands of state employees and teachers will have to be laid off in the next few years. The collective bargaining battle continues to be played out in the states, particularlyin the Midwest.
Wisconsin will hold an important State Supreme Court election on Tuesday, April 5. If the people reelect Justice David Prosser, conservatives will maintain control of the court. If he is not reelected, liberals will have a majority vote on the court. In addition, in what is seen as a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker's bid to strip their collective bargaining powers, several university faculties in Wisconsin have voted overwhelmingly to join the American Federation of Teachers. Also in the Badger State, Democrats are preparing to file a recall petition against Sen. Dan. Kapanke, who os one of eight Republicans targeted for his vote to restrict collective bargaining for most public sector workers in the state.
Indiana Democrats returned to the State Capitol on Monday, March 28 Since the walkout began on Feb. 22, 2011, Republicans killed a "right-to-work" proposal that would prohibit union representation fees from being a condition of employment and have agreed to changes on several other bills, such as capping the number of students who could use taxpayer money to attend private schools through a voucher program. Although Indiana Republicans originally envisioned the largest voucher program in the nation, they agreed to cap the program at 7,500 students in the first year and 15,000 in the second year. Indiana Republicans also agreed to raise the dollar amount at which projects were exempt from the state's prevailing construction wage law $250,000 the first year and $350,000 the second year they also agreed to delete a provision that would have exempted schools and universities from the prevailing construction wage law.
Michigan Governor Snyder signed legislation providing sweeping new authority to state-appointed administrators who take charge of the operations of a troubled community or its school system, known as emergency managers. Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor all have emergency managers, as does the Detroit school system. Under the law, the emergency managers have the authority in 2012 to cancel provisions in contracts covering public employees. An emergency manager may request that an entire contract be thrown out, and a decision that would be made in conjunction with the state's treasurer. Michigan's current treasurer is Andy Dillon, a Democrat who is a former speaker of the Michigan House.
As I discussed here, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 into law on March 31, significantly altering the state's collective bargaining landscape. I discussed some key provisions of the bill here, but it is worth noting that the bills many other collective bargaining provisions:
- It permits public employers to not bargain on any subject reserved to the management and direction of the governmental unit, even if the subject affects wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.
- The law also prohibits an existing provision of a collective bargaining agreement that was modified, renewed, or extended that does not concern wages, hours, and terms and conditions from being a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.
- It also prohibits a collective bargaining agreement from prohibiting a public employer that is in a state of fiscal emergency from serving a written notice to terminate, modify, or negotiate the agreement.
- Prohibits an agreement from containing a provision that requires as a condition of employment that the nonmembers of the employee organization pay to the employee organization a fair share fee.
Collective bargaining is an issue outside the Midwest, too. The Oklahoma legislature passed HB 1380, ending the "trial de novo" process. Republicans believed that process impaired the ability of public school districts to fire educators based on poor performance. The legislation provides for a "fuller hearing in front of the local school board," but ends the option for direct appeals to district courts. The Florida House of Representatives approved a bill banning automatic deduction of union dues.
Filed Under : Union Issues & Employee Benefits