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OpenMarket: Labor and Employment

  • Will the players union sink the NFL?

    February 14, 2011 10:22 AM

    The Examiner

    "American Ills Not Caused by Unions," screamed a recent headline in the Detroit News.

    Really? OK, forget about the union-strong-armed public-sector salaries and pensions that have pushed entire states and municipalities to the brink of bankruptcy: State and local governments compensate workers an average $40.10 per hour, compared with the $27.88 average private-sector compensation, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, contributing to the massive projected budget deficits in states like New York and California ($10 billion, and $25.4 billion respectively).

    If unions and their allies in the media and government can convince the American public that deficits and debt don't matter, then maybe they can make the argument that unions are not the cause of our ills.

  • The Pitfalls of Unionizing the TSA

    February 12, 2011 4:18 PM

    Robert Verbruggen wrote recently about the downside of unionizing the TSA in the National Review, taking issue with the Obama Administration's decision to allow the agency to unionize even though past TSA heads regarded unionization as a threat to national security.  As he notes, "after a mere nine years in existence, the Transportation Security Administration rivals the DMV and the Postal Service as a played-out comedy cliché. And now the TSA is adding union bureaucracy to the mix."   As he notes, unionization has made matters worse at other federal agencies:

    "Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) — which, unlike the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service, is a federal law-enforcement agency that allows collective bargaining — illustrates the problem with letting unions interfere in disciplinary matters: The agency got into an arbitration war over how it could discipline an employee who literally fell asleep on the job.  Worse, CBP lost. And the websites of NTEU and AFGE are already competing to see which one can provide the longer list of TSA disciplinary actions it has overturned. (Before the determination instituted collective bargaining, TSA agents were nonetheless allowed to join unions if they wanted, and about 13,000 did.)"

  • PolitiFact: Obama Made False Claims About Health Care, Taxes, and Court Rulings

    February 11, 2011 9:30 AM

    PolitiFact, which earlier took Obama’s side about whether Obamacare is a government takeover of  health care, now is criticizing President Obama for making false claims about health care and taxes. In a pre--Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, Obama made the false claim that 12 judges have rejected "the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional." As PolitiFact notes, only "four judges have ruled on the merits of various cases challenging the health care law. Two ruled in favor of the administration and two against.” (Earlier, we explained why the recent ruling by a Florida judge striking down Obamacare was not judicial activism.)

    Obama’s problem with numbers isn’t new; during the 2008 campaign, he claimed that he had been to “57 states.” So he may not have been deliberately lying about this.

  • Transparency Bill Proposed Solution to Public Employee Pension Problems

    February 9, 2011 1:43 PM

    At a House subcommittee meeting discussing one proposed solution for public employee pensions, a transparency bill designed to trace federal and state funds set aside to cover pension guarantees. Lawmakers and media types weigh in on taxes, Social Security, and how their interest groups are affected by pension cures.

    Paul Ryan enters fresh from Bernanke's hearing, to quote the Federal Reserve chair's uncertainty as to when and how public employee pensions will be paid. This echoes Grover Norquist's statement earlier in the same conference that everyone's answer to the question of the day -- Will public employees get the pensions promised them by their states? -- is: We're pretty sure.

    Covering public employee pensions has become an enormous problem for states unable to cover even the going expense of running a government. California offered IOU's to some employees this year, and state employees whose pensions are guaranteed by the state are subsisting on promises and guarantees, but many have not been paid. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed this transparency bill as he exited the office of governor, according to a presenting Ways and Means committee member.

    Rep. Darrell Issa reminds the room that we will all pay for any failure. If one city or state fails, the entire country will bear the burden. Public employee pensions may not rise to the highest level on some conservative dockets, but as baby boomers retire, public budgets are braced to absorb the shock wave anticipated when the pension crisis hits.

    As with every area of the economy, uncertainty quashes growth. As go public employees relying on a lifetime of pension pay-ins, so goes America, relying on receiving checks from social security, not IOU's.

  • Common Sense: Making Union Officials Help Union Members

    February 8, 2011 2:49 PM

    Recently, there have been numerous protests about Republican legislation that it is supposedly anti-union and limiting the rights of workers. I don't buy it. Let us take a look at what conservatives are pushing for.

    In Idaho, the state and local governments are looking to eliminate project labor agreements, as well as eliminate union representatives being paid for negotiating union contracts on the taxpayers' dime. In Idaho's case this means allowing competitive bidding on government construction projects, not limiting bidding to union shops. Letting the free market determine the bids will save the state money. The proposal to do away with federal employees performing union work on taxpayer time is a no-brainer in this fiscal climate. This is a national bill proposal under the Federal Employee Accountability Act. These proposals seem to be motivated by fiscal responsibility, not resentment of unions or labor. The state cannot afford to pay more for a construction project than it has to and states cannot afford to pay public employees to negotiate contracts.

  • Politicans Using Crisis for Political Gain

    February 7, 2011 5:15 PM

    Here is a letter to the editor responding to the New York Times editorial "Their Real Agenda":

    The author claims politicians are using the financial crisis for their own ideological gain. This may be true. But it does not negate the fact that states are in financial crisis. The solution for dealing with the costs of public sector union employees is simple. Get rid of defined benefit plans and require government employees to contribute to their retirement and healthcare like everyone else. Retirement liabilities are a large portion of state deficits. If unions do not allow their members to renegotiate their current unsustainable contracts, which they will not, bankruptcy or severe cuts are the only options. A federal bailout of fiscally irresponsible states would just kick the can down the road. Again.

  • Another TSA Nightmare

    February 7, 2011 12:22 PM

    The writer Andrew Ian Dodge shares his painful experience at the hands of the TSA at this link. The TSA inflicted prolonged pain on him through completely unnecessary "kneeding and prodding" of his scar from a "colon cancer operation that went from" his crotch to his sternum. He still hurt a day later.

    Dodge wrote about the TSA's recent decision to block competing private companies from performing airline security screening, even though private airport screeners do better on customer-satisfaction and passenger-happiness measures than TSA employees. I wrote earlier about how the TSA's attack on private screening will harm innovation and passenger safety. CEI's Brian McGraw wrote about the TSA's recent decision to allow unionization of TSA employees, which TSA heads during the Bush administration had consistently opposed on security grounds.

  • TSA Given Approval To Unionize

    February 4, 2011 4:43 PM

    As the New York Times says, this is a debate that has been brewing for potentially a decade: the "right" for Transportation Security Administration workers to unionize. The American Federation of Government Employees followed up with a press release praising the decision:

    AFGE National President John Gage today released the following statement:

    "Today marks the recognition of a fundamental human right for 40,000 patriotic federal employees who have been disenfranchised since the inception of the agency.

    Calling the right to collective bargaining a "fundamental human right" is a recent development. This would imply that those who operate businesses do not have the "fundamental human right" of being able to choose which workers they employ, but who's counting.

    The collective bargaining is limited, in that they aren't allowed to strike or negotiate for pay. Not being allowed to strike is standard in many collective bargaining agreements for certain federal employees. I'm surprised by the lack of ability to negotiate for higher salaries, typically that is one of the defining functions of a union.

    The TSA has already shown a remarkable level of incompetence in stopping bombs from getting through (though good luck if you have a nail clipper, those things are dangerous and they'll get you every time). It seems that the historical argument of not letting them unionize due to concerns with competence, flexibility, etc. should still be correct. Furthermore, if anything, this is an argument that anyone at the TSA should be more concerned with making the appropriate changes such that BOMBS don't get through security check points before they move onto other problems.

  • The Double Edged Sword: How Union Leaders Support Policy that Hurts Union Members

    February 4, 2011 2:16 PM

    In the 2008 and 2010 elections, labor unions were one of the largest contributors and supporters of President Obama and Democrats. Union officials applauded Obamacare and have fought against repeal. Even with their immense financial support, unions, Obama, and the Democratic Congress were not able to pass their signature legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act (card check). But with Obama as president, it has not been necessary with the National Labor Relations Board acting as the union's regulator. On these two issues, unions have made it clear where they stand:

    "A vote in support of this amendment is a vote to raise out-of-pocket healthcare costs for working families and takes away critical consumer protections provided to Americans for the first time," SEIU urged senators to not repeal Obamacare.

    "The Employee Free Choice Act, John, is not just good for unions; it's good for the economy because it will bring more money into people's pockets across the board, so that everybody can spend a little more and create an economy that really does work for everybody," Trumka said. "And that's where we're going to go to."

    These statements are clear; unions support Obamacare and EFCA/card check. However, it has been reported that 40 percent of employees at companies receiving waivers from Obamacare compliance are union members. They need these waivers because the union members under Obamacare would lose their health care plans. Did union officials not realize the negative affects the bill would have on its members or was it a matter of incompetence? Neither bodes well for the rank and file union members.

  • When Unions Refuse To Take “No” for an Answer

    February 3, 2011 11:37 PM

    By Barbara Comstock/Capital Research Center

    In November 2010, Delta Air Lines Flight Attendants voted against unionization. This was the third time that the employees have defeated the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) in the past decade. Yet the union continues to challenge the votes and the will of the Delta employees and insists on holding up the integration of the merged company (Delta Air Lines and Northwest merged in 2008). If they can’t get a union by the voting process, the unions are demonstrating that they will use their political muscle to push for unionization by regulation and bureaucratic fiat.


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