Monday, February 21, 2011

The Domino Theory and Public Employee Unions

The Domino Theory didn't hold up for communism; it's better suited to what's happening in North Africa right now. It also may apply to the situation in Wisconsin. Even our non-Tea-Party State is teetering.

I've written before about hated unfunded mandates; the Taylor Law always makes the list. This law arose in the mid-60s in response to a walkout of city transit workers. Essentially, in exchange for giving up the right to strike, public workers gained permanent rights to bargain collectively.

The parts of the Taylor Law that school boards and municipalities tend to dislike include the Triborough Amendment of 1982, which states that the steps written into a contract must continue even if the contract is under negotiation or if negotiations have stalled. (This does NOT mean that raises continue, as has often been misstated.) Districts and municipalities think that this is a disincentive to negotiate in good faith. In fact, it was instituted partly as a means of fair play: If unions can't strike to protest the stalling of negotiations, employees likewise can't change the conditions of employment. It was also instituted because, despite the Taylor Law, unions continued to strike. The amendment reduced that dramatically.

Considering how many times districts in this area have reached impasse, and how many times they might have gone on strike were it not for Triborough, we may have got off easy. Nevertheless, the perceived cost of this amendment is one of the primary reasons the governor and legislature in our Blue State are looking hard at our own public employees' rights to bargain collectively. Be careful what you wish for....

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