Unions are a huge federal/state battleground....
The latest front is New York City, where a bus-driver strike has crippled transportation to/from public schools. The workers, under private contract, are on strike because when their contract expires in June the city wants to bid out the new contract. The cost per pupil of the current drivers: $7,000 per child.
Bethany Mandel's CommBlog piece (link above) adds telling detail:
While thousands of New York City parents have been inconvenienced, the strike has hit the city’s disabled students the hardest. The New York Daily News reported on the heartbreaking reality for students who rely on school transportation to provide them with physical therapy and social interaction. The strike has left these vulnerable students homebound indefinitely, setting back progress they may have been making not only educationally, but also physically and emotionally.
The former head of the MTA (the city’s transportation authority), Joe Lhota, recently announced his bid for mayor as a Republican, immediately shaking up the field of contenders. On Fox 5 New York this week Lhota commented on the strike,
These are private sector bus drivers who want to be treated as civil servants. That’s a very, very slippery slope that we’d go down. This is a contract arrangement between a private company… and these bus drivers. These bus drivers aren’t like transit authority workers, they are private sector workers, but they want the same benefits… The mayor is absolutely correct. The courts have held that what the union is asking for is illegal. You should not negotiate when something is illegal.
This strike is going to go on for a long time. The only card the drivers have to play is the inconvenience card. They’re looking to make life so unpleasant that parents rise up and demand the city cave in.
The drivers have to do this because the strike itself is a desperation ploy. They don’t have a legal leg to stand on. Three court decisions in the past two years have made it clear the goal of their action — preserving certain “employee protection provisions” amounting to lifetime job security — is illegal.
He traces union history back to the watershed bargaining year of 1979:
The ruinously expensive contracts governing the city’s schoolbus system date back to a 1979 strike, which followed the city’s attempt to create competitive bidding and lower the city’s costs, which were as insane then as they are today.
Back then, it cost the city $224 a day to transport handicapped children — the equivalent of $700 per day now.
The drivers stayed out for three months, and the city finally caved. It effectively ensured lifetime employment for unionized drivers no matter what private company they worked for. Contracts with the companies were renewed without competitive bidding.
The collusion between the union and the companies to bilk the taxpayer was so obvious that in 1995, the last time a mayor sought to fix the problem, Rudy Giuliani openly said the unions were nothing more than “stalking horses for employers” — in cahoots to keep the contract deals intact.
J-Pod foresees that if the unions do not get their way they will eventually take to the streets and create chaos. Sadly, likely he is right.
National Review alumnus (mid-'60s) George Will flags another key battle over the next few years: stopping union coercion of dues from workers unwilling to pay them. Writing in the aftermath of December's adoption of "right-to-work" laws by heavily unionized Michigan:
unions’ frenzy against this freedom is as understandable as their desire
to abolish the right of secret ballots in unionization elections:
Freedom is not the unions’ friend. After Colorado required
public-employees unions in 2001 to have annual votes reauthorizing the
collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public
Employees declined 70 percent. After Indiana’s government stopped in
2005 collecting dues from unionized public employees, the number of
dues-paying members plummeted 90 percent. In Utah, automatic dues
deductions for political activities were ended in 2001; made voluntary,
payments from teachers declined 90 percent. After a similar measure in
Washington state in 1992, the percentage of teachers making
contributions fell from 82 to 11. The Democratic Party’s desperate
opposition to the liberation of workers from compulsory membership in
unions is because unions are conveyor belts moving coerced dues money
into the party.
Nationwide, resentment of union power has been accumulating like steam in a boiler. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past four years “nearly every state . . . has enacted some form of pension changes” clawing back unsustainable benefits promised to unionized government employees. The most conspicuous battle was in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived organized labor’s attempt to recall him as punishment for restricting collective bargaining by unionized government workers. After Walker’s reforms, Indiana under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels became the 23rd right-to-work state and the first in the industrial Midwest.
Will notes that poorly-run neighboring Democratic states induce others to choose a different path as to worker coercion and political extortion by public sector unions seeking to preserve unaffordable pension benefits. He tartly concludes:
liberals who, with solemn self-congratulation, call themselves
“pro-choice” become testy when the right to choose is not confined to
choosing to kill unborn babies. They say the right to choose is not
progressive when it enables parents to choose their children’s schools
or permits workers to choose not to fund unions’ political advocacy.
Democrats who soon will celebrate two of their party’s saints at Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners should jettison either their opposition to right-to-work laws or their reverence for Jefferson, who said: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
The president is, needless to say, against voter efforts to free themselves from noxious union practices. Hence the action in the states, where, Jonah Goldberg tells us, is the GOP's best chance to turn things around.
Bottom Line. Prepare for intense conflict between unions and forces seeking freedom of choice for all. Fasten your seat belts.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Economy, Conservative Politics