Tag Archives: AFSCME

Rhode Island to unionize daycare workers

Last week, the Rhode Island legislature passed a law to permit daycare workers who receive any subsidies from the state to either form a union, or join an existing union such as the SEIU. While they would not be eligible for state pensions or health benefits, and not permitted to strike, the law allows workers to collectively bargain over subsidies, training and professional development and “other economic matters.”

Daycare workers represent a target population for unions. A new law in Minnesota permits daycare workers to unionize so home providers can advocate for higher subsidy payments from the state. In New York in 2010, Governor Paterson pushed for daycare workers to pay union dues to the teachers’ unions in his 2011 budget proposal.

With Rhode Island in the mix, 17 states now permit or strongly encourage daycare workers to unionize. In the rush to unionize private business owners, the ostensible benefits – a voice in the legislature to lobby for higher state subsidies – are touted – and the costs are ignored For example, in Massachusetts, if a private daycare owner accepts clients who pay with state daycare vouchers, the daycare provider must be represented by a union and pay dues. These dues are skimmed off of the state subsidy for low-income parents which is paid directly to the daycare provider. To avoid unionization, the provider would have to turn away low-income families who receive state subsidies for childcare.

The SEIU claims unionization will improve the quality of childcare and offers economic justice for workers. But, the most dramatic result seems to be this:  where daycare workers unionize, the SEIU immediately gains a windfall of new dues transferred from a program meant to help low-income families pay for daycare, (to the tune of $28 million in Michigan, where similar legislation was recently passed).

As James Shrek writes in National Review, one of the more remarkable things about this effort is that it represents a new strategy by unions. The target group for unionization are private individuals or business owners who are also the recipients of government benefits. For instance, at one point in Michigan, a parent receiving Medicaid to care for a disabled child could receive SEIU representation. Some parents found the only result was a reduction in their monthly Medicaid payments and no representation, effectively, “forcing disadvantaged families to pay union dues out of their government benefits.”

As Shrek notes, the Minnesota law, which authorizes AFSCME to unionize in-home daycare providers, also potentially covers short-term summer camps, and grandparents watching their grandkids, or “relative care.”

Shrek asks, does this tactic represent a sign of desperation on the part of unions who are actively seeking new members to the point of organizing, “unions of one”? With a growing number of states joining the trend, it is worth watching how these laws affect those people and families that the unions are claiming to help.





Illinois’ “Goldilocks” budget

This year Illinois’ budget is larger than last year even though the state anticipates a shortfall of  over $9 billion. The Civic Federation notes this is made possible due to overinflated revenue estimates.

The strategy to achieve balance includes a variety of one-shots, including delaying payments to vendors, reports Benjamin Stout of the Illinois Statehouse News.  To cover its huge pension liability the state is making a $4 billion payment into the system. For the past three years that payment was made with bonds. Other strategies: the state will take longer to pay Medicaid, and is banking on higher revenues from newly hiked income taxes. Kurt Erickson at the The Quad-City Times calls it, “The Goldilocks Budget.”

One representative is asking that AFSCME re-open its contracts to find cost-savings. The union is opposed to any contract re-negotiations.

Lawmakers sent Governor Quinn a $33.4 billion budget to sign, but the Governor wants to spend $36 billion. He is constrained as Governor. At this stage in the budget process, he can only line-item veto not add to the legislature’s approved budget. One representative suggests the Governor come back in the fall and ask for more money.

I’ve been having a look at Illnois’ 2012 budget and it is remarkable. Of note are the five strategies the Governor outlined to fix Illinois’ long-running structural deficits. This includes  the “Illinois Now!” initiative, a “jobs-creation program” financed by bonds which claims credit for creating 135,000 jobs. The rest of the strategy includes “strategic borrowing”, federal assitance, higher taxes, and small programmatic reductions.  Structural changes are nowhere apparent, in a state that will run out of assets to pay for pensions in a few short years.

In Miami, Detroit, and San Jose Unions Face Pay Cuts

NPR reports that cities and states are making significant cuts to public sector salaries in order to balance their books. To close Miami’s $105 million deficit, public employee benefits and salaries were slahsed by $80 million. They had little choice. City Commissioner Suarez notes without the cut employee costs would have been 101 percent of the total budget. Detroit’s Mayor Dave Bing is cutting salaries and benefits by 10 percent. (The culmination of a year-long standoff with AFSCME to cut wages)

Mischievious Factions: The New Unionism

There are two Executive actions to remember when considering the fiscal straits of many state and municipal governments.

E.O. 10988, signed by President Kennedy in 1962 allowedpublic sector workers to unionize. Since 1962  public sector unionism has swelled, creating what Rutgers economist Leo Troy calls, “The New Unionism.” Today 36.8 percent  of public sector workers belong to a union. (Union participation is most dense on the local level at 42 percent.)

In 1993, President Clinton signed the Hatch Act Reform Amendments, allowing government workers to engage in political activities, such as fundraising.

Put them together and watch the near-bankrupting of California and New York, with New Jersey not far behind.

Unlike private sector unions which must negotiate with private owners, as Fred Siegel and Dan DiSavlo writing in The Weekly Standard point out…” public sector unions have no such counterweight. They are a classic case of client politics…with influence on both sides of the bargaining table.”

Public sector union workers campaign and vote for politicians who then control pay and benefit negotiations.

Seigel and DiSalvo recount how this worked in Washington State. In 2002 the Association of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) got collective bargaining rules lifted. By 2005, their numbers doubled. More dues means more political influence. In 2004, Christine Gregorie was elected governor in a close race that was decided after AFSCME donated $250,000 for a recount. She quickly repaid the favor, negotiating salary contracts with double-digit increases.

The New Unionism is the faction politics that James Madison warns of in Federalist 10 – the only, “method for curing the mischeifs of the faction: the one by removing its causes, the other by controlling its effects.”

With the interests of politicians and their clients in such symbiosis, the extent to which such corrosive lobbying can be reversed depends on how much fiscal pain those ultimately paying for public services are willing to bear.