Category Archives: Collective Bargaining

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.

Leave a comment

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

More evidence that Ed Reform movement is about busting unions than about students’ learning

Thanks to Mark Rimple for the link below.

If you’ve seen the movie “Waiting for Superman,” you know what a disingenuous account of teaching and learning it is. If you haven’t, don’t watch it unless you need something to make your blood pressure go up.

Luckily (if I mean “luckily” about ten thousand times more ironically than you thought I did), director Steven Brill has published a new book called Class Warfare that (wait for it…) lobs the exact same anti-union attacks as the movie did.

I would formulate a response to it myself, but fortunately Richard Rothstein did it before I could, and substantially better. Read it here.

2 Comments

Filed under Advocacy, Arne Duncan, Collective Bargaining, Education reform, K-12 Education, Michelle Rhee, Public education, Public employee unions, Teacher unions, Tenure

Central Michigan University Faculty Back to Work… For Now [Reposting from State APSCUF]

Central Michigan University Logo

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association held a day-long work stoppage on Monday, the first day of fall classes. Students joined with faculty on the picket lines to encourage administration representatives to return to the negotiations table.

A judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt the stoppage, and professors at CMU were back teaching classes on Tuesday.

Both sides have traded accusations about the other side’s intentions. The administration has claimed the strike was illegal, while the faculty union believes the university is refusing to bargain.

The union president kept her focus on the students in a statement:

“We’ve filed unfair labor practice charges against the university citing their refusal to bargain in good faith. This is why the faculty is not where they really want to be – with their students.”

On Friday morning, the two sides will argue their cases to a judge, who will then rule on whether to make the temporary restraining order permanent.

With both sides far apart on financial issues, a state-appointed fact finder will hear from the union and administration and make a recommendation on an agreement. The hearing dates are set for September, but it could take months for a final opinion.

We understand the predicament of our 600 colleagues at CMU. Ultimately, everyone that pursues academia as a career wants to spend his or her time in a classroom – not on a picket line. We know that the CMU faculty want what’s best for their 19,000 students, and we thank them for standing up for their rights and the rights of their students to a high-quality education with professors who are paid fairly.

For those who’d like to express their support for the CMU faculty, Progress Michigan has posted a petition calling on CMU administrators to return to the negotiating table.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic Freedom, Advocacy, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Central Michigan University, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Public education, Public employee unions, Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

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

PASSHE and the US Education Delivery Institute (Part 2 of ???)

A couple of weeks ago, I did a pretty lengthy post beginning to lay out PASSHE’s (otherwise unannounced) participation in a higher education “initiative” (ahem) with an organization called the US Education Delivery Institute. As I wrote and started to pay careful attention to the language in their mission and elsewhere on the website, I started to get, well, irritable (something of an understatement!) at the coded nature of the language EDI uses to obscure its agenda, which seems to be squarely along the lines of the Bill Gates/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan “educational reform” movement (further evidenced by the fact that the Gates Foundation is listed as their primary funder).

Anyway, the kind of close reading of their site that I’d planned on doing has struck me as essentially fruitless. If you’re an APSCUF member or an academic at pretty much any advanced level, you can decode their site on your own; it’s not very oblique.

If you don’t feel like digging through it, all you really need to understand about their rhetorical approach is this: like the Gates Foundation, and like Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top, and like Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization, US EDI frames its mission in terms that are difficult to disagree with. I teach a course in Propaganda; we use the term “glittering generalities” to describe what I’m talking about. Who could be opposed to “student success?” Who could be opposed to “efficiency?” Who could be opposed to “excellence?”

So when US EDI emphasizes its mission of improving access to and retention in higher education for marginalized students, who (if you already teach at a public university, or community college, especially) would contest or dispute that as a goal? It’s the very essence of our reason for being, isn’t it? [Yes, this is melo-dramatic overstatement.]

So what’s the problem? I fully support the mission of providing access and high quality education to the Commonwealth. I’d love nothing more than to have a sustainable system that could do right by any student who wants a college education. But we don’t have that, especially while our Governor proposed in March to slash our state allocation in half (the budget bill about to pass the PA Legislature sets the reduction at 18%), and it’s, er, unclear how our system is supposed to educate more students and do it well while our funding is getting crushed under the collective foot of a state government that isn’t very interested in paying for much of anything. Or put another way, the “do-more-with-less” trope has been pushed beyond its logical extreme currently in PA.

The promise of deliverology is that it can help systems solve that problem. It can, that is, help us continue to do more with less by, well, as I try to explain it, I realize that based on the website materials, uh, er, I can’t really answer that question.

Neither can anybody else, it seems from any of the other systems that have joined up with US EDI. In our next episode, I’ll report on the results of some discussions I have had with colleagues in the California State and Connecticut state university systems. Let’s just say they’re impressions aren’t, er, positive.

3 Comments

Filed under Academic Freedom, Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Collective Bargaining, deliverology, PASSHE, Program elimination, Public education, Retention, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, US Education Delivery Institute

How academic managers SHOULD feel when they fire people

Via our comrade Kevin Mahoney at KU–

Graham Spanier, President of Penn State, said in a recent interview that the PSU funding cut is like to cost jobs “in the scores” in the university’s Agriculture school (it has to do with the fact that the positions aren’t funded such that increased tuition can recover them–there’s not a lot of detail in the article).

Anyway, as opposed to ANYTHING I’ve heard from PASSHE management as they’ve been retrenching faculty, fighting the union to stop us from getting preferential hiring for retrenchees (as the CBA demands), waving around the threat of further retrenchments as a negotiations tactic, and generally behaving reprehensibly cavalierly about other people’s lives…

pant pant pant…

… Faced with looming layoffs and firings, President Spanier says:

“The longer it takes, the longer we postpone getting to the savings. At the same time, we’re trying to be very fair to our employees and come up with ways to help them find other positions, severance, health benefits,” he said. “These are good people who work hard and really care.”

As I said on Kevin M’s Facebook page when he posted the article this morning, why the hell does Spanier sound downright heroic simply because he acknowledges that firing people is bad for them?

All I hear from PASSHE management is that the top priority is to “protect educational quality” in face of budget cuts. At the local level (and presumably at the state level also, but I haven’t talked with anybody about this), we’ve been pushing at every Meet and Discuss for management to recognize publicly that protecting jobs is also a high priority. While management nods and smiles, the commitment magically never gets made.

Graham Spanier is no hero. But at least he recognizes, and is willing to say so, that there’s a very high human cost to the state’s attacks on higher education.

It’s long past time for PASSHE to figure this out and to act accordingly.

1 Comment

Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Graham Spanier, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Retrenchment, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

How public employees in UK respond to bad pension deals

From this morning’s Guardian, reports of thousands of public workers striking over pension cuts.

Not that I’m advocating any such thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Public employee unions, public employees, United Kingdom

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…

Leave a comment

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

Tentative Budget Deal Reached

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting on Friday morning that the PA Legislature and Governor Fracker have reached a tentative deal on the state budget.

The preliminary reports are not good for us, although the numbers aren’t yet very precise. The article indicates that the “state-supported” universities will take a 19% hit, but doesn’t distinguish between PASSHE and the state-relateds. So we don’t yet know exactly what will happen to us.

If that 19% is even close to what we see when the numbers are released, we’re going to have lots of work to do protecting our system from the kinds of Draconian cuts we all know PASSHE already wants to make. Yet again, our state government has provided the cover under which our Chancellor and Board of Governors can radically overhaul our whole system, while pretending that it has anything whatsoever to do with economics.

As a pacifist, I usually am very stridently resistant to military metaphors, but in this case, … Oh hell, I still can’t do it.

But now at least the circular logic of management is laid bare: “We can’t afford to pay for anything [except more managers and management salaries]. Why not? Because we just gave all the money away. See?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

A member of the “Educational Reform” Cabal busted pushing anti-union legislation

Ever since the Educational “Reformer” gang (Gates, Duncan, Rhee, Obama) started getting serious airtime in the national discussions about education, it’s been clear that their agenda requires defanging teachers’ unions. All along, the “Reformers” have insisted that they’re not anti-union, but that unions protect “bad teachers” by making them difficult to fire; unions create expenses (salaries and pensions) that are untenable; unions fight against changes in teaching load and class size in spite of clear violations of “efficiency” as a godterm, etc.

Those of us (myself included) who have described the cabal as “anti-union” have, at times, been criticized for overstating the position. It usually goes something like this: “If the unions would just be less, well, unionish, then we could work out reasonable solutions to these problems.”

Well, as if I needed clearer evidence of the gang’s anti-union proclivities, this morning’s Daily Kos reposts and explicates some evidence that Michelle Rhee’s organization, the Orwellian-named Students First, actively participated in crafting the Michigan legislation that all but eliminates collective bargaining rights for teachers. Students First provided agenda points for the legislation, and staff members vetted language in the bills, all while telling the press that they had nothing to do with the bills.

While this news comes as no surprise to those of us who have been following this (ahem) movement over the last couple of years, it may seem only tangentially related to APSCUF or higher education. And that’s probably true, technically. However, it adds another piece to the threat posed by the US Education Delivery Institute (which I wrote about last week and am preparing another post on currently), which is part and parcel of the same movement. Don’t underestimate, even for a moment, the extent to which these folks are not on our side.

I’m not going to claim that they hate students, or that they’re sadists, or any of the easy overstatements. Their specific motives for busting the chops of unions are beside the point, at least at the moment.

What’s on point is that we have to counter the message, at every turn, that unions support bad teaching, that we protect colleagues at the expense of students, that we oppose evaluation systems that determine quality, and so on. With the kind of money the Gates Foundation is throwing at them, with the kind of bully pulpit Arne Duncan has as Secretary of Education, we’re facing a serious challenge. And knowing that members of the cabal are participating directly in anti-union activities ups the stakes for us that much more.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, deliverology, K-12 Education, lobbying, Michelle Rhee, National Education Association, Public education, US Education Delivery Institute