“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.”
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
In an email conversation leaked this past week by the left-leaning advocacy group Progress Michigan, Mackinac Center senior legislative analyst and CapCon commentator Jack McHugh wrote, “Our goal is (to) outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan, which in practical terms means no more MEA.” Despite wariness of public-sector unionization by progressives like President Franklin D. Roosevelt and former AFL-CIO union leader George Meany, the statement kicked up a storm, generating at least two press releases from groups that favor forcibly unionizing workers.
Regular readers of CapCon know that we have provided extensive coverage of government employee unions and the results of the policies they have put into place. The following is a list of the top 10 stories we have covered in the past year directly relating to the unionization of government employees or the results of policies advocated by public sector unions.
- “Parents Forced to Pay Union Dues, Lawmaker Rakes In Health Care Money”: Robert and Patricia Haynes take care of their two adult children, who are stricken with cerebral palsy. The children receive Medicaid money from the government in which the state takes out hundreds of dollars per year to send to the Service Employees International Union, which is a government employee union. Robert says the union does “nothing” for them. “We take care of our kids at home,” Haynes continued. “There aren't any working condition issues. There are no raises to negotiate. There aren't any union issues involved. But the money keeps being taken out of our checks anyway.”
- “Occupy … Government Union Offices?”: In Michigan, public employee salaries have risen 23 percent over the past few decades while private-sector wages have decreased by 20 percent.
- “Taxpayers’ K-12 Money Diverted to Union Business”: Statewide, 39 school districts pay out several million dollars per year to teachers who spend at least half of their time on union business.
- “31 Gym Teachers Earn More Than Town Police Chief”: In Utica, the fire chief earns $73,440 and the police chief earns $79,000, but they are trumped by 31 physical education teachers from the local school district. The district closed four elementary schools while facing a $33 million deficit, but the vast majority of its gym teachers earn more than $80,000 per year in salary alone.
- “Troy Gym Teacher Pay Trumps Nationally Recognized Science Teacher”: Since most public school district union contracts act as a one-size-fits-all, teachers are paid based on longevity and degree level, not on how well they do their job. In Troy, this means that seven gym teachers make more money than Rebecca Brewer, an AP biology teacher honored as the ING national Innovative Teacher of the Year.
- “Royal Oak Schools: Buses Or Cadillac Health Care?”: The district eliminated bus services for students, saving $593,162 per year, but could have saved $894,707 by simply ensuring that employees pay 20 percent of their own health care costs. Taxpayers continue to pay 100 percent of the premiums for teachers’ health care.
- “Ten Total Fires and $30K in Average Overtime”: Superior Township firefighters were all paid more than their supervisor thanks to hefty overtime pay.
- “Average Lansing Teacher Missed 3.5 Weeks of School Last Year”: In the Lansing School District, the average teacher was absent 17.6 days during the 2010-11 school year. By comparison, LSD students can face legal action by the district if they accumulate more than 10.
- “Less Than 0.001 Percent of Tenured Teachers Fired Over Past Five Years”: Allegations of kissing students, head-locking children, sexual misconduct, drug use and distributing alcohol to minors was not enough to keep Michigan school districts from paying out millions to get rid of problem teachers in the past five years because of strict union-backed tenure rules.
- “Four School Districts Spend $525K in Attorney Fees Trying to Remove Four Tenured Teachers”: L'Anse Creuse Public Schools spent $158,522 from 2008-2010 to remove one tenured teacher. Swartz Creek Community Schools has spent $140,525 so far in an ongoing case to remove a teacher. Farmington Public Schools spent $116,830 to discharge a teacher in 2009. Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools has spent $109,000 removing one teacher.
In a Weekly Standard piece by professors Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo titled "The New Tammany Hall," the problem of public employee unions is described:
Unlike private sector unions, the sheer number of workers represented is not the linchpin of [the public sector unions] influence. Private sector unions have a natural adversary in the owners of the companies with whom they negotiate. But public sector unions have no such natural counterweight. They are a classic case of "client politics," where an interest group's concentrated efforts to secure rewards impose diffused costs on the mass of unorganized taxpayers.
Michigan Capitol Confidential stories from this past year contain many examples of why government employee unionization is inherently corrupting and can result in a quid pro quo between the employees (the union) and the employer (the government). If government unions want to know why we feel their organizations can be a problem for Michigan taxpayers, they don’t need leaked emails: They should just read CapCon.