Category Archives: AFSCME

Right to Know request from National Educational Services

Folks, just in case anybody wonders about the two emails from our Right to Know Compliance Office about the request for our salares, office numbers, phone numbers, and home addresses–revised today to allow us to opt into sharing that information rather than having to opt out–

The organization asking for that information is called National Educational Services, and the original request came from somebody named Janine Fye.

Following the lead of the English Department Secretary (thanks, Mary!) who had the good sense to Google the name, I did the same. NES appears to be a mixture of TIAA-CREF and AFLAC for educators; they offer insurance plans (life insurance, disability, disability supplemental, etc), retirement plans, help with fundraising campaigns on campuses, a whole swath of services. I don’t get any inkling they’re more evil or sinister than any other corporation that does what they do.

Once I learned this, I emailed VP Mixner to ask what their rationale for the RTK request is. He explained that it’s “internal research”; I’ve replied to that message asking if “internal research” means something else in legal-land than it does in research-land. They want information about people who don’t belong to their plans, which is about “external” as I can imagine. I just sent that message, but if anybody is curious about the response, ask and I’ll post it.

Anyway, the reason I’m posting this entry on the blog is so that if you’re trying to decide whether to “opt in” (re: Tuesday’s email about the revised RTK request), I figured you should have at least a dim idea of what you’d be “opting into.”

My opinion on the fact that our RTK people didn’t tell us that themselves? I’ll sit on that.

Oops, that probably gave me away, didn’t it?

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Follow the Money, Right to Know

Let’s hope this isn’t precedent setting

Not the news I wanted to wake up to on an otherwise pleasant Thurs morning. In today’s Inside Higher Ed, a story about a unionized cadre of part-time instructors (the union is an AFSCME affiliate) at the City Colleges of Chicago who have ratified a contract including merit pay for “student outcomes” (read: standardized test results); the merit pay replaces their longevity raises.

I’m willing to listen to the union’s explanation for why they accepted this, but the way it’s reported in this story isn’t very convincing. And any educational plan that Rahm Emmanuel endorses is probably horrible.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, AFSCME, Collective Bargaining, Contingent faculty, Inside Higher Ed, merit pay, Public education

Starting to think about strategy and tactics for the upcoming budget battle

As you should know by now, Governor Corbett has put in a request that PASSHE return about $20 million of our 2011-2012 budget allocation to the state. That’s on the heels, remember, of a 19% reduction in our budget already, and in spite of a sizeable rainy day fund that’s designed precisely to respond to situations like this one.

You should also know by now that the Governor’s next budget proposal address is scheduled for February 7. In it, we have no reason to believe he’ll do anything other than propose idiotically draconian budget cuts again for next year. Clearly he has no interest in the health or quality of public higher education in his state, even though his job mandates that he must. And just as clearly, nobody in the Office of the Chancellor or the on the Board of Governors seems inclined to fight with him about this anywhere near as avidly as the situation calls for. Their track record is terrible, so we shouldn’t expect much help from that direction. As long as we have an unsettled contract situation, anything the state does to butcher the budget strengthens PASSHE’s bargaining position (in their myopic calculus), so…

It’s clear, therefore, that just like last year, the brunt of beating back these budget attacks falls on the students, faculty, staff (thank heavens AFSCME is generally pretty well-organized!), and communities in which our universities operate. The people who actually depend on the success of the universities, that is, in the most direct and obvious ways have to be the ones who keep it from being devastated by any number of politicos who seem simply not to care what happens to it. As long as junket jobs exist, and as long as there’s a system that acts as a pawn in the chess game that seems to pass for budget and policy debates in the Commonwealth, they’re happy.

With all that said, although we have a lot of work to do over the next several months, I want to emphasize in the rest of this post one basic concept that I think needs to frame everything else we do. And that concept is, as I put it in a Facebook post to a KU student activist–

Remember who the opposition is: the Corbett Regime and their neo-liberal allies in the Chancellor’s Office. Not the people who disagree about whether it’s better to do civil disobedience or voter registration.

There are going to be actions of all kinds happening on our campuses over the next few months. Some of you will find some of them distasteful–either because they’re too aggressive or not aggressive enough; because they’re ‘paralyzing by analyzing’ or underinformed; because somebody didn’t coordinate with somebody else before scheduling two events at the same time. You get the idea.

But understand this. Every time you dismiss or attack somebody who’s on the same side you are because you don’t like their tactics, you’re making the Governor’s attacks work better. Unfortunately for sane people everywhere, Governor Corbett and his allies have easier pathways to make things happen than we do. They have convenient access to the channels of power that we don’t. We only make it worse for ourselves when we squabble and bicker with, rather than collaborate and encourage, our allies.

More to come, I’m sorry to have to say…

 

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, AFSCME, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Contract Negotiations, Corporate University, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

Public unions and budget deficits

Although facts and evidence don’t much matter to the controlling factions on most Capitol Hills these days, it’s never a bad idea to marshall them anyway.

David Moberg’s “The Wrong Target” (In These Times, 10/14/2011) summarizes and highlights the results of a recent study out of the University of California at Berkeley, making clear that public unions are not at all responsible for state budget deficits; neither are public unions responsible for skyrocketing numbers of state jobs (although I don’t see why that’s a bad thing–but that’s just me).

Some highlights from the article (but you should look at the whole thing, which isn’t very long, and at the study on which it’s based):

   •    Public workers have been a steady share of the workforce from 1979 to 2011—averaging 14.2 percent of the entire workforce and ranging from 13.6 to 15.2 percent (slightly increasing typically following a recession simply because private workers disproportionately lost jobs).

•    State and local government employment for every thousand residents rose very slightly from 1990 to 2001 (from 60.8 to 64.2 workers for a thousand residents, virtually all in local government), then remained flat through 2009.

•    Comparing states with the highest and lowest rates of unionization, the researchers found that from 1990-2009 there were more public employees for every thousand residents in weak- or non-union states than in states densely unionized. Also, there was faster growth in weakly unionized states, especially from 2001 onwards when the ratio of public workers to the population declined in the most unionized states.

•    Ultimately, the data seem to show no correlation between union density and public sector employment. (Jacobs suggests some rural, lightly populated and big states that also have few public unions may have a higher ratio to serve a dispersed population.)

•    Public worker total compensation has not been growing as a share of state expenditures. Indeed, worker wages and benefit declined as a share of state spending from 1992 to 2002, then remained stable (according to a study from the Center for American Progress).

•    As many studies have demonstrated, state and local government workers earn less in wages and benefits than similar private sector workers. Moreover, in recent years private sector labor costs have risen faster than costs in the public sector—a remarkable record considering the widespread wage stagnation and cuts in both pay and benefits in the private sector.

 

So the next time somebody tells you that public sector unions are bad for the economy, here’s a solid block of evidence to the contrary. We can only hope that evidence starts to matter sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Advocacy, AFSCME, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Communities, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Teacher unions, Unions

Why we love our union, part 933844050433276

This newspaper article came across the Philly Activist listserv this morning. Unfortunately, there’s no publication info so I can’t link to it. It’s credited as an AP wire story with some author/contributor info at the bottom, so I believe it’s real.

Collective Bargaining in US South

Union bargaining just a dream for many gov workers

(AP)  JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Whenever Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has asked lawmakers to weaken benefits for state employees, his proposals have met little resistance from workers.

Mississippi is among those states — many in the South — where most government employees do not have the right to collective bargaining, the benefit that has caused a political upheaval in Wisconsin and has become a national flashpoint for those who argue that public employee benefits are too generous.

Those states provide a snapshot of what life is like for government employees who do not have the same union clout that workers in Wisconsin and some other states are desperately trying to retain.

“We’ve been holding on by a hair through the political process,” said Brenda Scott, head of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, which has no bargaining power but provides a voice for state government workers to air their concerns before the governor and Legislature.

Across the South, governors like Barbour and state legislatures dominated by conservative lawmakers find it relatively easy to chip away at public employees’ benefits or eliminate government jobs because most state employees in the region — even when represented by a union — lack collective bargaining rights.

Nine of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of public employees eligible for collective bargaining are in the South, according to data compiled by Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and David Macpherson of Trinity University in San Antonio. Their research shows only about two in five public employees nationwide have the type of collective bargaining rights that have drawn fire in Wisconsin and other states.

To be sure, government jobs are still seen as more secure and desirable than most private-sector jobs even in states where public employees do not have the right to collective bargaining. In Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation, state workers get 10 paid holidays a year, their sick days and vacation days can be rolled over from year to year, and they can retire after 25 years of service under a defined benefit plan. They also have a certain level of civil-service job protection.

But those workers have fewer protections and generally less generous compensation and benefits than public employees represented by collective bargaining. While pay and perks vary greatly among states, the primary benefit is that governors and lawmakers cannot unilaterally impose changes, such as pension reforms, without going to the bargaining table, nor can they impose lay-offs without following union tenure rules.

In California, where most state employees are covered by collective bargaining, negotiated labor contracts allow state workers to retire, collect their pensions and then return to work, allowing them to make more money than before. They also can purchase more lucrative pension benefits before they retire.

Two independent government auditing agencies in California have recommended reforming the state’s pension system, even for current employees, but unions there have vowed to sue if the governor and Legislature try to enact reforms outside the bargaining process.

Governors and lawmakers in states without collective bargaining can make such changes without consulting workers. Pensions for new public employees in Virginia, for example, were shifted last year from the traditional defined benefit — the type of pension that many governments say they no longer can afford without major changes — to a 401(k)-style system similar to that used in the private sector. The change was made with little fanfare and no organized opposition.

In North Carolina, some state workers are represented by a local of the Service Employees International Union, but the group has no bargaining power. That leaves employees with no real say over how many jobs would be shed this year due to budget cuts — Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue has recommended eliminating 10,000 state government jobs, 3,000 of them currently filled.

In 2009, Perdue signed legislation that made sweeping changes to the state worker health insurance plans, creating higher premiums, deductibles and copays without having to get consent from an employee union. Barbour, a Republican with possible presidential ambitions, came into office on a promise to shrink Mississippi’s state government and reduce employee benefits. Unencumbered by union contracts, he has scored a number of successes.

He persuaded the Legislature in 2004 to temporarily erase civil-service protections for corrections employees, which allowed the prison system to fire workers and trim the payroll. Mississippi lawmakers also voted last year to make public employees put 9 percent of their own pay into the state retirement system, up from 7.25 percent, and they’ve made government workers hired since 2006 pay more for their health insurance than their longer-serving colleagues.

Barbour defends his actions as tilting the balance of power away from unions and toward the side of state taxpayers. He said he supports Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for government workers.

“When they have collective bargaining in Wisconsin, on one side of the table there’s state employee unions or the local employee unions. On the other side of the table are politicians that they paid for the election of those politicians,” Barbour said. “Now, who represents the taxpayers in that negotiation? Well, actually, nobody.”

In states without collective bargaining, public employees are “completely subject to the power of the governor” because lawmakers often don’t want to get involved labor disputes, said Ed Ott, who has been active in the New York labor movement for 42 years and is a former executive director of the New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO.

“It’s really about a balance of power between employer and employee,” said Ott, a lecturer on contemporary labor issues at the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute. “Without any collective bargaining rights, you have no ability to say, ‘Whoa, why don’t we try something else?'”

Maryland and Tennessee have hybrid systems. Some Maryland employees are represented by unions and have the right to bargain with the governor, but there is no binding arbitration and no right to strike.

“We call it collective bargaining-lite L-I-T-E because they’re not as strong as what you see in a number of the northern states,” said Sue Esty, assistant director of the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Teachers in Tennessee have the right to collective bargaining, but other public employees do not. That is still too much for Republicans in that state’s Legislature, who have wide majorities in both chambers and are looking to quash teachers’ bargaining powers.

The Tennessee Education Association, which represents 52,000 teachers, has said the proposal is political payback by Republicans because the group has given more financial support to Democratic candidates over the years.

Gov. Bill Haslam has not signed on officially to the movement by his fellow Republicans, preferring to focus on teacher tenure, expanding charter schools and other issues he says are necessary to improve academic performance. But he also sympathizes with their intent to give the Legislature as much leeway as possible to control costs without having to submit to union negotiations.

“My job in the state of Tennessee is just like when I was running a company,” said Haslam, a former president of Pilot Corp., a family owned national truck-stop chain. “It’s to bring in the very best people to work, to provide the very best product we can, at the lowest price.”

Like its neighboring states, Alabama does not allow public employees to bargain collectively, even though associations representing teachers and state workers have had some success working with the Legislature

Lawmakers have approved cost-of-living raises and maintained health and retirement benefits that are better than those offered by most private-sector employers in the state.

The two organizations, which traditionally have supported far more Democratic candidates than Republican ones, have come under attack since Republicans gained control of the Legislature in November. Since then, a new law has stopped the organizations from using payroll deductions to raise money for their political action committees and any other political activity, greatly reducing their influence.

When the Legislature convenes Tuesday, one of the House Republican leaders will push a bill to provide state-paid liability insurance for education employees. Currently, the Alabama Education Association supplies this insurance as an incentive for teachers to join.

“Obviously what they are trying to do is discourage members,” said Paul Hubbert, the association’s executive secretary.

___

Schelzig reported from Nashville, Tenn. Associated Press writers Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va., Gary Robertson in Raleigh, N.C., Brian Witte in Annapolis, Md., and Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Public employee unions, public employees, Vouchers/School Choice

An exceptional response to the attack on public unions

From this morning’s (Sat 6/25) New York Times:

An op-ed called “Public or Private, It’s Work” by Garrett Keizer contends that the (primarily but not exclusively) conservative attack on public employees is misguided at best, insidious at worst. You should read the whole thing, but I want to highlight two points.

In responding to the claim that public labor and private labor are qualitatively different, Keizer says:

The two-labors fallacy rests on an even shakier proposition: that profits exist only where there is an accountant to tally them. This is economics reduced to the code of a shoplifter — whatever the security guard doesn’t see the store won’t miss. If my wife and I have young children but are still able to enjoy the double-income advantages of a childless couple, isn’t that partly because our children are being watched at school? If I needn’t invest some of my household’s savings in elaborate surveillance systems, isn’t that partly because I have a patrol car circling the block? The so-called “public sector” is a profit-making entity; it profits me.

I don’t imagine that many of you who read this blog or its sisters haven’t made this argument before. The value of our work isn’t necessarily in the capital it generates, but in its good as a public service. Nothing new here, but the way Keizer puts it is powerful.

Another of those arguments that many of us have made repeatedly is that up against the extremely high pay that wealthy owners and managers give themselves in the private sector, who, exactly, in the public sector is being paid a lot? Or as Keizer says:

Right now C.E.O.’s of multinational corporations earn salaries as much as a thousand times those of their lowest-paid employees. In such a context complaining about “lavish” public sector salaries is like shushing the foul language of children playing near the set of a snuff film. Whom are we kidding? More to the point, who’s getting snuffed?

A healthy dose of perspective to kick off your (well, at least my) Saturday morning…

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Public employee unions, public employees

Tentative Agreement for AFSCME

Details haven’t been released yet, but several press outlets are reporting that AFSCME and Corbett’s negotiators have reached a tentative agreement.  None of the stories I’ve seen are more detailed than this one.

What that means for APSCUF is unclear. In the last couple of contract cycles, the AFSCME settlement has had pretty clear impacts on ours regarding salary and benefit structures, but that seems less likely this time. That’s not to say there aren’t indicators in the agreement, but what they are seems less obvious.

More to come as we know more about what’s in the settlement. Conventional wisdom is it’ll take the AFSCME rank and file about 2 weeks to organize and vote on the agreement.

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