Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Washington Political Paybacks Threaten North Carolina Local Governments

While Mecklenburg County struggled to create a budget to fund schools, keep teachers in classrooms, and maintain our library system, not to mention a host of other basic human services, U.S. Senator Harry Reid has found a way to pay back the union bosses for the millions of dollars they invested in funding national election campaigns in 2008. Reid has attached an amendment to a war funding bill called the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 413) where our public safety workers would be represented by collected bargaining mandated at a federal level. Reid deems this measure a matter of national security.

This federal legislation would supplant state collective bargaining laws and deliver thousands of new members to union rolls which have suffered over the years. Many municipalities, counties, and states would immediately lose control of public safety wages to negotiators and arbitrators. Currently, if a local police or fire department wanted to dismiss an officer, that decision is made within that department. If H.R. 413 is approved, no local government or department can remove the officer without appealing to the federal government or a source far removed from our area and unfamiliar with the needs and interests of our town or county. Local towns will no longer be able to determine pay scales and benefits and will lose all control; as will voters having a say in local matters where your tax dollars are required.

Sen. Harry Reid

Recently, I had a chance to address this bill and the potential unionization of our public sector employees with many members of our state delegation. The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce is strongly opposed to both this bill and the Employee Free Choice Act, a benign name which disingenuously cloaks the fact that real choice is removed from the employee’s options. Both bills would threaten North Carolina’s Right to Work status and our ability to attract companies and corporations as an economic incentive.

I had a chance to meet with Ellis Hawkins of the N.C. League of Municipalities. The league and nearly all of North Carolina’s local governments are vocally opposed to collective bargaining in the public sector. All three North Mecklenburg towns of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville have urged the delegation, both at the state and federal level, to oppose this measure.

Hawkins and his group have stated that this legislation is an expensive and unfunded mandate. “It’s going to result in the same services being delivered at a much higher cost.” Hawkins pointed out that the Town of Vellejo, California is a poster child for what can occur when local officials have no control over their own budgets and flexibility to reign in costs. In 2008, Vallejo declared bankruptcy after unions refused to negotiate contracts.  Three-quarters of Vallejo’s general fund budget went to public safety worker compensation. A bankruptcy appellate panel from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the city was insolvent and ordered the changes to the agreements.

While public safety workers need to be fairly compensated, creating more bureaucracy in the already difficult job of managing our public workers while adhering to tight local budgets, will only disrupt vital public services and lead to further tax increases on the backs of residents and business owners.

Union Bosses

Union bosses see their last best hope in filling their rolls and pocket books is to get this legislation approved while the politicians they helped get elected are still in office. It has been reported that two unions, the AFSCME and SEIU, have committed $94 million between them to fund campaigns in the coming election and bail out wounded incumbents who will support their position.

However, a change is sweeping this nation and voters are responding, electing candidates in primaries who are more focused on representing the people than the parties themselves; candidates who put the interest of their constituents ahead of political paybacks, union bosses, and “business as usual” politics. Senator Reid’s bill violates the most basic principle of American democracy and that is local control. His bill needs to be defeated and it must start at home. Please call Senators Hagan and Burr along with your local Representative and urge them to vote “No” to collective bargaining for public employees.

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July 6, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , | Leave a comment