Image 01 Image 03

The problem with public sector employee unions

The problem with public sector employee unions

is pretty well set out in this article in The Providence Journal about intimidation of legislators who are considering reforms needed to save Rhode Island from fiscal collapse (see my post yesterday for background):

Philip Keefe, the president of the second-largest state employees union, the R.I. Alliance of Social Service Employees, said recently: “If they attempt draconian changes, then there will be a price to pay. … If they say there is going to be a 15-year freeze on COLAs, that means war to us. That means that anyone [who] votes for something like that is not a friend of labor.”

“If you are not our friend,” Keefe said, “you are likely our enemy.”

During election year 2010, more than two dozen labor-backed PACs in Rhode Island collectively spent at least $472,880, according to a Journal analysis of reports filed with the state Board of Elections.

Some of the big-spenders: The state chapter of the NEA spent $93,584; the R.I. Federation of Teachers, a total of $35,256; the R.I. AFL-CI0 PAC, $32,106; the Cranston firefighters, $23,075; the R.I. State Firefighters Association, $25,250, while three different arms of the Laborers’ International Union spent a collective $63,362.

The problem with public sector employee unions is that unlike private sector unions, there is no arms-length bargaining.  Private sector unions cannot vote out the CEO, who is bargianing with private not public money.

And the CEO is not subject to these types of tactics:

No one knows better than one-term lawmaker Mary Ann Shallcross-Smith the potential risk that lies in wait for any state legislator who votes to cut pension benefits.

A freshman from Lincoln, Democrat Shallcross-Smith lost her House seat in the 2010 Democratic primary to a union-backed challenger, after voting to limit the annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) provided retired state workers, teachers and judges to their first $35,000 in benefits.

“They come right up to you at the State House and tell you how they want you to vote. … ‘You need to vote this way or we will find an opponent for you’ … and that’s exactly what happened,” said Shallcross-Smith in a recent interview.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


The union members who do this will eventually get what they deserve, and the voters who back them are paying (via their pocketbooks) for supporting such tactics. So I think everyone will get what they deserve. Lots of innocent people getting hurt, unfortunately. But the problem will solve itself – the cities will go bankrupt, the union members will lose everything. And life will go on. Hopefully with a lesson learned. I can’t see anything that’ll change the course of history on this topic – if there is, please let me know.

DINORightMarie | October 11, 2011 at 10:32 am

“They come right up to you at the State House and tell you how they want you to vote. … ‘You need to vote this way or we will find an opponent for you’ … and that’s exactly what happened,” said Shallcross-Smith in a recent interview.

Okay, so how is that not a RICO-type violation? It is, in fact, a textbook example of “special interests” controlling the politicians.

The main problem with public sector unions is, IMHO, that there is no representative at the bargaining table of the PEOPLE. The taxpayers are not represented by the bureaucrat managers; the public employees don’t see themselves as working on the taxpayer’s dime – and thus FOR the taxpayers.

It is as FDR said:

“… Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the government. 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 … The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for … officials … to bind the employer … The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives

“Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people … This obligation is paramount … A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent … to prevent or obstruct … Government … Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government … is unthinkable and intolerable.

Until the people of Rhode Island stand up against this, I don’t see this changing in your state, Professor.

Do the people of Rhode Island know the facts, what you have posted on your blog? That would be a first step, to get the word out – have someone in a media role (any newspaper of record in RI) print what you have said. Link and reference your blog. Maybe by a series of letters to the editor(s) of RI paper(s).

Also, provide written material and sources to all the state politicians – by mail, via email, etc. Also, send a summary mailer to all the households.

It takes organization and money – and a selfless Conservative willing to take this on – but that is the only way for the people to change – they must be informed. (That does not mean you, sir; I mean someone in RI with the political vision and who has a desire for RI to change and remain solvent; a Conservative who may consider running for office one day, perhaps.)

How will they know if no one tells them how bad it is – and how to fix it?

Then, if the citizens of RI choose to turn a deaf ear to the facts, the truth, then the great state of Rhode Island will indeed go bankrupt.

As Paul Ryan said about our federal fiscal crisis, “We face the most predictable economic crisis in our history….” That is true of Rhode Island, as well.

Before the bill limiting public sector unions collective bargaining rights was due to go into effect, my previous school district hastily negotiated new contracts with all of its’ unions. The president of the para-educators union posted on Facebook “Our school board came through for us.” Whose school board? I thought the school board was supposed to represent the people, not the employees. In the previous election the teachers union had vigorously supported the election of 3 new members.

Administrators will kowtow to the unions. Principals will whine that they need to fire the newest teachers while retaining older teachers, because that is what the contract says. But that relieves them of the responsibility of actually evaluating their teachers by talent.

School vouchers all the way.

[…] Jacobson: The problem with public sector employee unions […]

Soon they will run out of other people’s money. Then what? Federal bailout? Not if a strong Republican wins the White House and Republicans take back control of the Senate. Then all WE THE PEOPLE need to do is keep our dogs on a short leash. Oh, yeah, and get rid of the lobbyists by any means necessary. Legal means, of course.