The Fourth International, a group which claims to lead the world socialist movement, recently lambasted labor unions for exempting themselves from so-called “workers’ rights” bills, including higher minimum wage and paid-sick leave measures. You see—as far-left as they are—this particular socialist group saw the obvious: big labor and their Democrat supporters’ true motivation behind “workers’ rights” legislation is not to help workers, but to encourage employers to unionize.
The cynical strategy behind the labor-supported bills is to make unionization a “low cost option for employers to avoid paying the otherwise mandated benefits.” More unionized employers means more union members which means more union dues, which means more campaign money for Democrat politicians.
Labor-backed Democrats in the state Senate revealed the true purpose of the minimum wage/mandatory paid sick leave bills when they rejected a bill that sought to level the playing field and offer workers’ rights to all, by eliminating the union exemptions. Sens. Bob Hasegawa (a Teamster for 32 years and head of Local 174 for nine), Steve Conway (UFCW Local 81 secretary-treasurer for 21 years) and Karen Keiser (communications director of the Washington State Labor Council for 25 years) all voted against passing SB 5332, the amending bill, out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
While Democrat lawmakers have been busy championing the minimum wage hike and mandatory paid sick leave bills during this legislative session – mainly in order to benefit their million-dollar campaign donors and drive more money into union treasuries -Republican lawmakers have been busy working toward greater government transparency. Specifically, opening up the secretive collective bargaining sessions – which allow elected officials like Jay Inslee to reward million-dollar campaign donors like the Federation of State Employees – to the taxpaying public.
Republicans’ efforts have meet with fierce opposition. That’s because, just like the “workers’ rights” bills, the secretive collective bargaining process greatly benefits big labor and their Democrat supporters… all at the expense of the public’s best interests, of course.
In the end, Republicans’ push for government transparency would curb the ability of governors to reward their top campaign donors with generous contract concessions made during secret collective bargaining negotiations. Last year, Inslee conceded pay and benefit hikes to state employee unions worth nearly a billion dollars. Making matters worse, as the current law stands, state lawmakers do not have a sayin contract agreements. They cannot propose amendments once the governor has reached an agreement.
Republican lawmakers want the public, media and lawmakers to be able to see what tradeoffs and promises are being proposed before the final agreements are reached. Democrats do not, because that level of government transparency does not benefit them.
In an effort to combat Republicans’ efforts, the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) has used ridiculous lines of attack, including the claim that Republican lawmakers are “attacking the collective bargaining rights of public employees.” Only in the self-promoting world of big labor can Republicans’ effort to create greater government transparency be labeled as an “attack.” The WSLC and Democrats cannot defend their position without attacking the concept of government transparency. So, they resort to unfounded—and simply untrue—accusations.
Well into the second special session, Republican lawmakers have not yet given up on their push for greater government transparency. Collective bargaining reforms remain an “ongoing issue in stalled budget negotiations between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican Senate.” That’s because Senate Republicans’ original budget “proposed a plan for state employee compensation that differed from the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) negotiated by Gov. Jay Inslee and state employee unions last year.”
Under the Republicans original budget proposal, every state employee would receive a flat $2,000 raise over the next two years rather than the percentage-based raises to state employees as specified in Jay Inslee’s backroom deals. The new approach would give a larger percentage increase to lower-paid workers and the state would save taxpayers about $75 million in the state’s 2015-17 budget.
Unfortunately, House Democrats were not impressed by the new approach. So, Senate Republicans have offered an alternate solution in their revised budget proposal. The Freedom Foundation,
“Labor unions and legislative Democrats cried foul, arguing that the Legislature can only reject or rubber-stamp the CBAs as negotiated, rather than proposing alternatives. While there was nothing illegal about the original proposal, a new budget proposed by the Senate last week takes a different approach.
“Rather than proposing an alternate state employee compensation plan, the new proposal funds all of the new state employee CBAs, but makes the funding contingent on passage of several structural reforms to the collective bargaining process.”
Republican state Sen. John Braun presented the reforms. They include:
- Open the collective bargaining process to the public.
- Restore the state Legislature’s rightful control over tax dollar appropriations by requiring the Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCER) to meet at least six times a year to discuss collective bargaining.
- Obligate the Office of Financial Management (OFM) to maintain a web library of state employee CBAs, thereby allowing taxpayers a look into how their hard-earned dollars are used.
- Eliminate interest arbitration as a means of resolving disputes in collective bargaining in order to prevent labor unions from making “exorbitant demands that an employer can’t agree to in the hopes that an arbitrator will award the union more than it could successfully bargain for.”
- Make it clear that “Individual Provider home care aides (IPs) are not eligible to participate in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), since these workers are considered public employees ‘solely for the purposes of collective bargaining.’”
- Define, once and for all, the concept of “financially feasible” in order to prevent the executive branch from using it as a political tool to “provide cover from its actions.”
In short, the reforms are a means to add “transparency, understanding and predictability” to the collective bargaining process. And, it’s for that reason that they have—once again—met with opposition from big labor and Democrats.