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OpenMarket: Government Unions

  • Illinois' Narrow Road to Pension Reform

    March 28, 2016

    On March 24, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a Chicago pension reform bill that sought to address the city’s considerable pension shortfall. In addition to posing a setback for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to fix the city’s finances, the ruling highlights a problem some states face in attempting to bring their pension liabilities under control.

    As the late, great Yogi Berra would put it, last week’s ruling was déjà vu all over again. Last week’s ruling echoes a May 2015 case, in which the court ruled unanimously that SB1, a modest state pension reform law enacted during the administration of Governor Pat Quinn ran afoul of...

  • The Public Pays for Union Political Activity

    March 21, 2016

    Taxpayer dollars in state and municipal governments across the country are, normally without public knowledge, used to subsidize government union political undertakings. Clearly, this is a misuse of the public’s limited resources.

    The latest example, The Baltimore Sun reports, a Howard County, Maryland audit finds:

    According to the Feb. 24 investigation, four employees of the sheriff’s office improperly used union leave, thus granting Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald “county-subsidized campaign labor” not available to his opponents.

    Union leave, which allows government employees to perform union business on the taxpayers’ dime, was used to influence the 2014 primary and general...

  • House Oversight Committee Demands Agencies Reveal Union Subsidy Data

    February 19, 2016

    On February 12, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent out letters to federal agency heads to provide more information on union “official time.”

    They sent the letters in order to inform the public of a practice they likely are unaware of. That is every work day, federal employees are freed from performing their governmental duties and instead perform private union business—void of any public purpose. Taxpayers pay for these employees’ wages, pensions, health care benefits, office space, supplies...

  • Labor Policy Developments to Watch in the New Year

    January 22, 2016

    Labor policy reform was a fast-moving issue during in the past year. At the federal level, labor policy became more tilted in favor of union organizing, while state reform was a mixed bag.

    The National Labor Relations Board changed how union elections are conducted, made determining who your employer is a tough question, and made company email systems a union organizing tool.

    Outside the Beltway, Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state, giving workers the right to forgo paying union dues to a union...

  • Union Subsidy Eliminates So-Called "Free Rider" Problem

    January 6, 2016

    On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that could provide right to work protections to state and municipal employees across the nation—meaning public employees cannot be required to pay dues to a union or risk being fired.

    At issue is whether government employee unions should be to compel non-members to pay “agency fees,” which cover the costs of collective bargaining, as a condition of employment, in lieu of dues. The current forced dues precedent was established under the 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.    

    This case is all about worker freedom. No worker should...

  • Will SCOTUS Friedrichs Case Lead to Member-Only Unions?

    January 5, 2016

    Government employee unions have a lot at stake in Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association—especially access to millions of dollars in compulsory “agency fees” from non-members. Worried about the Court ruling for the plaintiff, some union leaders and left-leaning pundits are considering their options.

    One possibility is member-only unions, explored in a November 2015 Century Foundation paper, which notes the advantages for individual union members when unions try to attract them, rather than corral them through compulsory agency dues.

    “One benefit to the members-only...

  • In Friedrichs v. CTA, Supreme Court Can Strike a Blow for Free Speech

    January 4, 2016

    Oral arguments in one of the most important Supreme Court labor cases in years are set for January 11, with potential major implications in the one area where unions remain strong—government work.

    The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, was brought by a California school teacher who objects to paying for representation she doesn’t want to an organization that pushes a political agenda she doesn’t support. The plaintiff, Rebecca Friedrichs, seeks a remedy to unions’ ability to compel non-members at a unionized workplace to pay for union representation.

    Unions collect those non-member payments, known as “agency fees,” in lieu of full-fledged union dues, supposedly to address what they call the “free rider” problem of the union having to...

  • Workers Deserve Labor Law Reform

    September 4, 2015

    Unions use Labor Day as an occasion to remind workers of their past good deeds and deploy their usual rhetoric claiming to have workers’ best interests at heart.  

    In theory, labor unions represent workers in order to secure better working conditions and compensation, but unions don’t always work that way. Unfortunately, unions always negotiate one-size-fits-all contracts that make them the sole representative of those workers. Besides bargaining for contracts that are not responsive to all workers’ needs, labor unions commonly advocate for more coercive power that harms worker rights.

    Unions use their vast political funds to advance legislation and regulation that keep in place an outdated system of exclusive representation where workers lose autonomy in contract negotiations at organized workplaces—ensuring that individual workers have no right to negotiate with...

  • Democrats vs. Government Unions

    December 29, 2014

    If late House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s famous saying that all politics is local has a corollary, it may be that politics is at its most substantive at the local level. While the people’s elected representatives in Congress—many from safe districts—trade ideological barbs, state and local elected officials often have to deal in the language of dollars and cents, as they weigh policy decisions that directly affect their constituents.

    That in turn creates different conflicts than those found on Capitol Hill. And nowhere is that more visible than in the growing conflict between state and local Democratic elected officials trying to put their governments’ finances in order. As the Manhattan Institute’s Daniel DiSalvo explains:

    Public...

  • CalPERS: It Came from Sacramento

    October 7, 2014

    “Heads I win; tails you lose.” That essentially sums up the relationship the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) has long enjoyed vis-à-vis the Golden State’s elected officials. Now it is finally facing a serious challenge.

    Last week, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that cities must treat bondholders and pensions in like fashion. Judge Christopher Klein of the Eastern District of California said he would decide by the end of October how to apply the ruling to the bankruptcy of the City of Stockton, but it seems unlikely that pensions will escape cuts altogether, while bondholders are forced to take haircuts. 

    As The New York Times reported on the case:

    ...

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