10/29/07

Congress promotes unions over workers

The Democratic congressional majority continues to pay off its campaign debts to organized labor, which spent lavishly to elect Democrats in 2006. That means helping unions and hurting workers.

On the Senate agenda is the House-passed Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007 (H.R. 980). Several Republicans who don't want to appear to be against "employer-employee cooperation" back it.

Of course, on Capitol Hill titles disguise the true purpose of legislation, such as H.R. 980. Washington would override states and localities to mandate unionization of emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and policemen across America.

Union representation in the work force has been falling ― down to only seven percent of private sector workers. But union membership among government employees has jumped to 36 percent. Many public safety departments, too, are unionized, with about half the states agreeing to union "exclusive representation."

Warns James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation: "The collective bargaining framework pits employers and employees against each other. Sometimes it leads to greater cooperation, but other times it creates conflict and strife."

He points to illegal strikes by unionized teachers and transit workers. The reason why public sector unionization so often has deleterious consequences is two-fold. One is that government is a monopoly, so if unions capture control of the local or state authority, they can impose their agenda on the public.

Moreover, politics amplifies the power of well-organized interest groups. Concentrated interests, such as public employees, have an incentive to spend lavishly to win elections and influence government decisions.

The public, for whom the costs are much more diffused, is far less able to organize in opposition.

Thus, it's no surprise that with both House and Senate in Democratic hands organized labor is attempting to get through politics what it cannot win in the marketplace.

Today state and local governments are free to set the terms of negotiation with employees. But H.R. 980 would shift oversight of state and local labor relations with public safety employees to the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

State and local rules found to be out of compliance with the measure's "core provision" ― namely, monopoly bargaining by unions ― would be supplanted by federal diktat. Uncle Sam would preempt 26 state and untold local laws.

The likely result would be an upsurge in wage expenses. States and localities would pay substantially more to compensate workers as well as to comply with debilitating work rules.

Equally serious is the likely upsurge in strikes, which have typically increased four-fold after states approved monopoly union bargaining. Although the bill includes a strike ban, such provisions are typically ineffective since unions typically demand an amnesty.

H.R. 980 also would preclude state and local governments from placing critical issues beyond negotiation. Under the proposed legislation, public employers would have to negotiate on every topic other than state "right-to-work" laws and pension benefits.

Yet public safety work raises unique issues. For instance, Michigan and Wisconsin deal with public employee unions, but the former requires merit-based promotions for police officers; the latter applies that principle to most of its workforce. That would become impossible.

Another pernicious impact of H.R. 980 would be to virtually end the practice of professional firefighters serving as volunteers. Although professionals usually take the lead in more urbanized areas, only 12 percent of the nation's 30,000 fire departments are made up entirely or primarily of professionals.

Volunteers make up nearly three-quarters of all firefighters. Notes Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee: "officers of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) union locals have an extensive track record of exploiting their monopoly power to punish 'two-hatters,' professional firefighters who serve their own local communities as volunteer firefighters when they aren't on the job."

Moreover, whenever possible the IAFF negotiates contracts that ban volunteering by professionals, even on their own time.

H.R. 980 would have another pernicious impact, effectively opening the wallets of hundreds of thousands of public employees to union officials for use in political campaigns from city hall to the White House.

Expanding forced union representation across the nation would create yet another employee piggy bank for organized labor.

If employees want to join a union, they should be free to do so. But they should not be free to force their union on other workers or employers, especially in sensitive public safety positions.

Even more so, the federal government should not decide labor policy for every city, county, and state in America. Washington should mind its own business.

(koreatimes.co.kr)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails