“Public employee unions make enormous contributions to our states and citizens,” Barack Obama said in defending the Wisconsin state’s public workers unions’ assault against the Governor’s economy plans. “Contributions” for sure. Unions contributed $400 million to his 2008 campaign and state, county, and municipal employees contributed $90 million to Democrats in 2010.
Obama made clear almost the moment he took office that he was union-owned. On Feb. 6, 2009, he signed Executive Order 13502 establishing Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). They require contractors on any large project to hand over exclusive bargaining control to pay inflated wages and benefits to unions, undermining a fair bidding process.
Money speaks louder even than the frenzied shouts of thousands of
union slackers. The White House wing of the Democratic National Committee reportedly was in full support of the union siege in Wisconsin, bringing in protestors from around the country.
No matter how the current battles between public-worker unions and various state governments turn out, public-sector employees face growing resentment across America in the future. The major reason: everywhere in the country public employees—whether union members or not–are seen as over rewarded in pay, benefits and pensions compared to compensation for Joe and Jane Average Citizen. This disparity is especially true on the West Coast and in the North East.
Most state governments are sitting in red ink and increasingly desperate as to how they can bring balance to their budgets as required by all the states except Vermont. Governors and legislatures are examining every means of trimming costs, including reducing overly generous rewards for public unions. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia face budget shortfalls in 2012.
While some of the unknowing sympathize with the union position that they should cling to their bargaining rights–as if they had the weight of human rights–few know what the provisions of any union contract are.
For instance: in Wisconsin, elected union delegates or alternates to the biennial convention of the union “shall be granted time off without loss of benefits, not to exceed a total of 10 workdays to attend such convention.” The time off may be charged to vacation credits, holiday credits, compensatory time or to administrative leave without pay and without loss of benefits, as the individual employee may designate.
The union shall be allowed to prepay the retirement contributions for employees who are on leave of absence without pay for contract negotiations.
Local union officers and stewards may use existing telephone facilities during non-instructional hours for union business. Likewise with e-mail facilities.
The benefits go on and on.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission Feb. 24 repealed a policy favoring unions for school-construction. The former Democrat administration allowed school districts to require using project labor agreements (PLAs), mandating employment of union workers. Ohio spent $9 billion to build schools since 1997. The Democrat appointee stepped down, after a state inspector general found the former union official abused his position by helping unions land construction work, according to a Columbus Dispatch story.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, the city is struggling to close a $483 million deficit. But the 2,200 unionized bus drivers and rail operators are due to get an automatic annual raise costing $9 million. Their work rules allow them to be absent without notice and still collect overtime for the week. The Municipal Transportation Agency could save $3.1 million a year by plugging payroll leaks and eliminating $500,000 in salaries for six employees who work full-time on union affairs, according to a audit, wrote the San Francisco Examiner last May.
Some bizarre union rules seem to last forever. Limits on the duties performed by school custodians under a contract in New York City with Local 891 of the International Union of Operating Engineers
have been complained about for 30 years, according to a story in November in the New York Post. The union contract limits the painting of buildings to 20 percent of what’s required and of walls only “to the height of 10 feet.” Another rule limits the number of broken tiles a custodian can replace per month.
Multitasking is a technique whereby workers have and use a range of skills that are appropriate for more than one work process. The skills are used on a project or within an organization. Multitasking provides enormous labor productivity and an advantage for contractors. But it is forbidden by typical union work rules and, by extension, PLAs.
In Obama’s Chicago, the Regional Council of Carpenters sued in June to stop a new state law aimed at overhauling operations at McCormick Place, the city’s exposition center. The union claims the law’s imposition of work rules and conditions violates the federally protected rights of the carpenters and their private employer to reach terms of employment through collective bargaining, so reported the Chicago Tribune. The new state law gives exhibitors the right to put together their own exhibit booths.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board blasted the Obama Administration last May for funneling federal construction contracts to Big Labor through project labor agreements (PLAs). With a bare 15 percent of the country’s construction workers unionized “the other 85 percent will have to forgo federal work for exercising their right to not join a union. This is a raw display of political favoritism and at the expense of an industry experiencing 27 percent unemployment…”
It’s also a lousy deal for taxpayers as well as job seekers.