Bloated State Budgets Thanks to Big Labor Contracts

Bloated State Budgets Thanks to Big Labor Contracts

The Fiscal Times' Liz Peeks investigates how union budgets have busted state budgets and asks "Is it possible that the real divide in the United States today is between unions and… everybody else?." The answer, unfortunately for taxpayers, is yes. From Bloated Union Contracts Have Busted State Budgets: Consider the issues making headlines: education reform, busted state budgets, the battle to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, free trade agreements,Occupy Wall Street, the fight to make Indiana a right-to-work state. What these stories have in common is the waning influence of organized labor and the all-out battle by union leaders to hold on. Take the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top initiative. Education Secretary Duncan recently warned that several states, including New York, might not receive monies earlier awarded through that program because they have not followed through on required reforms. The stumbling block? Teacher evaluations. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out new education initiatives in his recent State of the City address, among them a proposal to give $20,000 raises to the best teachers, in return for changing the way educators are evaluated. Today, teachers are rated either satisfactory or unsatisfactory; 97 percent fall in the former category. UFT President Michael Mulgrew immediately denounced the plan, describing Mr. Bloomberg as “lost in his own fantasy world of education.” Mr. Mulgrew may be the one living in a fantasy world. Pressure to boost our country’s public schools is one of the rare priorities on both Republicans’ and Democrats’ to-do lists. Americans are appalled by our plummeting world education rankings, and by our graduates’ lack of preparedness for today’s job market. While the decline in our schools stems from a number of sources, most reformers – including Secretary Duncan – see the intransigence of unions on the “job for life” rules that perpetuate mediocre teaching as a major roadblock to progress. Likewise, the recession has forced politicians to confront bloated public employee contracts that have torpedoed many states’ budgets. Estimated at over $3 trillion, the underfunding of state and local pension plans has been described as one of our most serious fiscal problems. Voters now understand that unless elected officials overhaul pay and benefits packages they will face soaring taxes or reduced services.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D-Big Labor)

Gov. Mark Dayton (D-Big Labor)

Trey Kovacs looks at Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's quest to empower union bosses by any means necessary: Minnesota State Senator Mike Parry (R-Waseca) recently caused a stir with strong accusations against Governor Mark Dayton. “It’s no secret that the labor unions helped buy the Governor’s Office for Mark Dayton… he began to return the favor, most recently by trying to help unionize some of Minnesota’s in-home, private child care providers,” said Parry in a fundraising letter. Sen. Parry’s allegations elicited a strong reaction from Dayton, who called it “inaccurate and deeply offensive.” A review of the facts, however, shows that the real reason the governor is so upset: the truth hurts. Since 2005, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have been trying to organize child care providers Minnesota. Associated Press found that AFSCME wrote a $125,000 check to Gov. Dayton’s Recount Fund once restrictive campaign contribution limits ceased. Combined AFSCME and SEIU PACs contributed $14,000 to Dayton during his campaign. The Minnesota Family Council calculates that Big Labor stands to gain up to $3.3 million a year in dues from unionizing child care providers. On November 15, Gov. Dayton issued Executive Order 11-31, calling an election to unionize all licensed, registered, and subsidized child care providers in the state. In defense of his order, the governor claimed that holding a union election would ensure that union membership would be “voluntary” and that child care providers not eligible to vote for unionization would be unaffected. Opponents countered that union dues will be compulsory and costs will rise. For the most part, child care providers are self-employed. So how could they be unionized? Dayton and the unions have a simple solution: declare them state employees because they receive state aid to serve needy children. Under their view, anyone who receives any form of state aid qualifies as a state employee. To push back against this power grab, on November 28, a group of 11 child care providers sued to block Dayton’s executive order, arguing that it violates state and federal laws. The National Labor Relations Act and Minnesota Labor Relations Act do not allow employers to form, join, or assist labor organizations. The Minnesota Labor Relations Act indicates that a union cannot gain exclusive representation of workers, unless a majority of workers choose union representation. Dayton’s mandate blatantly violates that provision, as it excludes a majority of child care providers from the voting process. Only 4,300 government-subsidized providers will cast ballots, but a vote for unionization could also force the state’s 6,700 non-subsidized child care providers into a union. As a result of the suit, Minnesota District Court Judge Dale Lindman issued an injunction to postpone the union election. He stated that laws must be passed by the legislature and remarked that the order “strikes me as being very harmful to the parties that are involved.”

SEIU Siphons "Dues" from Michigan Medicaid

SEIU Siphons "Dues" from Michigan Medicaid

Outrageous.  That is the only way to describe the SEIU's latest scheme to paid their coffers: If you're a parent who accepts Medicaid payments from the State of Michigan to help support your mentally-disabled adult children,  you qualify as a state employee for the purposes of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). They can now claim and receive a portion of your Medicaid in the form of union dues. Robert and Patricia Haynes live in Michigan with their two adult children, who have cerebral palsy. The state government provides the family with insurance through Medicaid, but also treats them as caregivers. For the SEIU, this makes them public employees and thus members of the union, which receives $30 out of the family's monthly Medicaid subsidy. The Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) deducts union dues on behalf of SEIU. Michigan Department of Community Health Director Olga Dazzo explained the process in to her members of her staff.  "MQC3 basically runs the program for SEIU and passes the union dues from the state to the union," she wrote in an emailobtained by the Mackinac Center. Initiated in 2006 under then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., the plan reportedly provides the SEIU with $6 million annually in union dues deducted from those Medicaid subsidies. “We're not even home health care workers. We're just parents taking care of our kids,” Robert Haynes, a retired Detroit police officer, told the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Our daughter is 34 and our son is 30. They have cerebral palsy. They are basically like 6-month-olds in adult bodies. They need to be fed and they wear diapers. We could sure use that $30 a month that's being sent to the union.”

SEIU Siphons

SEIU Siphons "Dues" from Michigan Medicaid

Outrageous.  That is the only way to describe the SEIU's latest scheme to paid their coffers: If you're a parent who accepts Medicaid payments from the State of Michigan to help support your mentally-disabled adult children,  you qualify as a state employee for the purposes of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). They can now claim and receive a portion of your Medicaid in the form of union dues. Robert and Patricia Haynes live in Michigan with their two adult children, who have cerebral palsy. The state government provides the family with insurance through Medicaid, but also treats them as caregivers. For the SEIU, this makes them public employees and thus members of the union, which receives $30 out of the family's monthly Medicaid subsidy. The Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) deducts union dues on behalf of SEIU. Michigan Department of Community Health Director Olga Dazzo explained the process in to her members of her staff.  "MQC3 basically runs the program for SEIU and passes the union dues from the state to the union," she wrote in an emailobtained by the Mackinac Center. Initiated in 2006 under then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., the plan reportedly provides the SEIU with $6 million annually in union dues deducted from those Medicaid subsidies. “We're not even home health care workers. We're just parents taking care of our kids,” Robert Haynes, a retired Detroit police officer, told the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Our daughter is 34 and our son is 30. They have cerebral palsy. They are basically like 6-month-olds in adult bodies. They need to be fed and they wear diapers. We could sure use that $30 a month that's being sent to the union.”

Barack Obama, President of the SEIU

Barack Obama, President of the SEIU

Barack Obama is an effective president, unfortunately not of the United States but of the SEIU argues Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer: Unions — particularly public-employee unions — support illegal immigration because it serves their interests to have a permanent class of people who are financially dependent on the government. The sad secret about private-sector unions is that they are dying.  All they do now is drive up the cost of doing business, thereby preventing their own members from getting hired. Arizona is what we call a “right to work” state. As mandated by the Arizona Constitution, Arizonans are free to join a union or not — it’s their choice, not some union boss’s command. And interestingly enough, when employees are given the choice of whether or not to join a union, they increasingly say no. These workers understand that the rigid workplace rules and regulations that unions promote are bad for growth, bad for competitiveness, and bad for jobs. More and more workers recognize this. That’s why in the private sector, where employees have a real stake in the success of the businesses they work for, only 7.5 percent of workers are unionized. By contrast, more than 36 percent of public-sector workers are unionized, and more than 42 percent of local-government workers. That’s because public-sector workers in the federal government don’t have to worry about unemployment. Ever. In many federal agencies, the primary threat to job security is actually death. Democratic-party bosses love government workers because each of those workers must rely upon the health and growth of government to pay his salary and guarantee his benefits. If the government contracts or shuts down for any reason, those workers are out of a job. And public-sector unions love the Democratic bosses because they keep on growing government. The more people the Democrats can put on the payroll, the more voters they can lock up for their candidates. That gives public-sector unions like the SEIU (which includes huge numbers of public employees) unbelievable leverage. Because the party bosses want to keep government workers employed and happy, they’ll give the unions just about anything they want. And the best part (for them) is that it doesn’t cost them a thing. The taxpayers pick up the tab. Liberal politicians spend taxpayer money to grow government; the unions keep voting for (and contributing to) Democrats, and the Democrats stay in office so they can spend more of the taxpayers’ money growing government. It’s a simple, corrupt, mutual back-scratching circle. How does illegal immigration play into this? Most illegal aliens work hard. That is not in dispute. But the unfortunate fact is that most illegal aliens are also unskilled and uneducated. Unskilled workers have higher unemployment rates and lower earnings. Many rely on government programs to help support them and their families. Much of this access to the welfare system by these households is gained through their American-born children, who are U.S. citizens. That means more government, which means more public-sector-union members. Even if, in the short term, more illegal immigration means fewer union jobs, the unions are okay with that. It is a strategic cost they are willing to bear. Because they know that if the Democrats keep winning, they will give the unions subsidies, grow government, and employ more union members.