June 18, 2010

Thoughts about public safety employer-employee cooperation act

For clear evidence that the Senate Republican caucus contains a not inconsiderable number of lunatics, check out this story from Kris Maher in the WSJ (you’ll notice that I read the paper very closely today — blame the iPad app):

The Senate is moving closer to passing legislation that would require states to grant public-safety employees, including police, firefighters and emergency medical workers, the right to collectively bargain over hours and wages. The bill, known as the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, would mainly affect about 20 states that don’t grant collective-bargaining rights statewide for public-safety workers or that prohibit such bargaining.

And here’s the clincher:

The bill, backed by at least six Republicans in the Senate, prohibits strikes and leaves to states’ discretion whether to engage in collective bargaining in several areas, including health benefits and pensions.

My strong inclination would be to banish all six from the Republican caucus, but that could be too hasty a judgment. How can we understand the non-logic of those who are even considering voting for the scandalously bad bill? Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska dares to call the bill reasonable.

Republican Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska called the bill “reasonable.” “For several years now, we’ve seen the benefit of a similar policy in Nebraska which prevents public employees from going on strike while helping to establish reasonable compensation ranges.”

Many Nebraskans also tout the benefits of the state’s unicameral legislature. One wonders if Sen. Johanns will now impose unicameralism on the rest of the 50 states, or if he will decide, in what we might call the “Nebraskaization Initiative,” to identify policies that have succeeded in Nebraska and forcibly impose them on the rest of the country. And then we learn the following:

The other Republican co-sponsors in the Senate are Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

I’ve long believed that the Republican Party should allow for more ideological diversity. But I’m not sure that principle should extend to the embrace of politicians who fail to understand the virtues of a federal system, in which states are given room to pursue a wide variety of different policy approaches. The extent of the power-grab defies belief.

If the legislation passes and states choose not to grant the minimum collective-bargaining rights outlined in the bill, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which oversees labor-management relations for federal employees, would step in and implement collective-bargaining rights for these workers.

Organized labor — increasingly dominated by public-sector workers — sees this as compensation for the failure of their card-check effort. The losers in this scenario will be taxpayers.

“If states and localities have chosen not to go in the direction of collective bargaining, that should be their right to do so,” said Neil Bomberg, a lobbyist for the National League of Cities. Currently, 15 states don’t grant collective-bargaining rights to public-safety workers on a statewide basis, two states, Virginia and North Carolina, prohibit such workers from bargaining, and four states allow collective bargaining for firefighters but not for police.

Notice that Virginia is on the list. Remember that Washington Post editorial from a few weeks back, “A tale of two counties”?

Virginia law denies public employees collective bargaining rights; that’s helped Fairfax resist budget-busting wage and benefit demands. As revenue dipped two years ago, Fairfax officials froze all salaries for county government and school employees with little ado. By contrast, Montgomery leaders were badly equipped to cope with recession. County Executive Isiah Leggett took office proposing fat budgets and negotiating openhanded union deals after he succeeded Mr. Duncan. Then, as economic storm clouds gathered, he shifted gears and cut spending — while still trying to appease the unions.

Essentially, this legislation would deny other states the opportunity to escape the vise-like grip public employees have placed on taxpayers in Montgomery County and other jurisdictions around the country. Rest assured, the focus on police officers and firefighters is only an entering wedge. This legislation will also undermine Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels successful efforts to reduce spending and improve the cost-effectiveness of public services. A while back, Josh Barro suggested that police unions were becoming the new teachers unions. I’m a great admirer of the women and men who risk their lives to protect public safety. But I’m not an admirer of union leaders who use goodwill for public safety officers to negotiate wage agreements that really will endanger core public services. We shouldn’t accept bullying by public school teachers, and we shouldn’t accept bullying by police unions either. SOURCE: National Review

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