Union Aces: Communists and Jesse Jackson

Tuesday is bound to be an exciting day at the Ohio statehouse, with an alphabet soup of unions, Organizing for America, and every other leftist group you can name hauling their members downtown to demand that taxpayers prop up public unions into perpetuity. Wednesday will be fun, too, with the AFL-CIO, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and Progress Ohio flying beloved non-huckster Jesse Jackson into town!

What do the unions hate about Senate Bill 5 (other than “everything”)?

The radical measure to abolish the right, established in 1984, of public employees to bargain over wages, hours, working conditions, health care, and pensions, would also eliminate seniority as a basis for pay increases and layoffs, increase employee contributions to health care and pensions, abolish the right to strike and allow the state to permanently replace workers who do strike.

Sometimes knowing who supports a cause can tell you a lot about it; that quote, for instance, is from Communist Party USA. Note the conflation of union power with workers’ rights, and ask yourself whether the union position differs from the Communist Party’s in any way.

I’ve already thrashed the talking points from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which are thin gruel given the AFSCME’s massive budget. What lines are Ohio Education Association (OEA) bosses feeding the union’s membership? Here are the first 5 from an email sent out last week:

Teachers did not create the recession and stripping us of our rights won’t fix it. Stop fighting partisan battles of the past and stop the scapegoat of public employees.

So much wrong in two sentences. Fine, public employees didn’t create the recession – does that mean unionization is a net positive? The rights-stripping bit sounds awful, until you remember the unions must keep teachers dependent in order to get paid. The “partisan battles” stuff is a non-starter: the OEA had no trouble with partisan battles during the 2010 election cycle, when they were spending $1.6 million to keep their politicians in office.

SB5 will make teaching unattractive and will make it difficult for Ohio schools to attract and retain high quality teachers.

Unemployment in Ohio is above 9%. State records show 1,460 people paid more than $75,000 – plus benefits – in Columbus City Schools in 2010. 1,109 were paid over $75k in the Cleveland Metro district. 533 were paid over $75k in Cincinnati City Schools. Those numbers aside, has the OEA ever complained about high tax rates driving citizens away?

Collective bargaining works and is good for kids. It allows two groups to come together and discuss issues and come to a consensus on those issues. Teacher’s working conditions are student learning conditions.

Collective bargaining works for the unions. What would prevent teachers from discussing and resolving issues with their districts in the absence of richly compensated OEA officials?

States with strong unions and collective bargaining laws have higher ranked education systems than those who don’t.

Citation? Based on what metrics? How much higher ranked? At what cost? If I buy a $125,000 car, it’s probably going to be faster than one that costs $15,000. Fat lot of good it does me when I can’t make the payments.

Educators, like all public employees, are an integral part of the fabric of Ohio’s communities. Senate Bill 5 weakens Ohio. Rather than creating jobs, this legislation will hurt local communities, reversing Ohio’s positive economic outlook.

This one is repeated proudly by government unions from sea to bankrupt sea, and it’s my absolute favorite. Where do public employee salaries come from? If Ohio raises taxes to prevent pay cuts and gird unsustainable defined-benefit pensions, every dollar will come from a company or individual who would’ve spent or invested it without the unions skimming off the top. Dollars do not become more valuable simply because the government has moved them around.

The OEA must realize they won’t get enough mileage out of “but we’re really not paid that much!” in the current climate, so they mix in some Economics for Socialists to add a veneer of fiscal responsibility. With a little luck, Ohio’s Senate GOP will vote like grownups, recognizing the current temper tantrum as all bark – and SB 5 will remove the unions’ teeth.

Let’s close with this cheerful rally recap from Communist Party USA (emphasis mine):

[…] the unions answered by printing up and wearing red t-shirts reading “No on SB 5″ and “Kill the Bill” at the third hearing, and shouting “Red means No” as rightwing Tea Party representatives testified on the need to curtail “big government.”

I’d probably avoid red altogether if I were a Communist, but hey, I’m a buzzkill.

Cross-posted at that hero.

This IS Payback

To Republicans wary about Senate Bill 5 and hesitant to offend unions crying over “payback” for years of campaign spending, let me offer the following: Senate Bill 5 is payback.

SB 5 pays back the Ohioans who voted for a more fiscally-responsible Senate. It’s payback to the hypocrites at the AFSCME and OEA who pay themselves millions of dollars every year to fight Ohio’s local governments, school districts, and state agencies. It’s payback for parents, teachers, and taxpayers whose voices are muted by the bullhorns of national organizations dedicated to failed Progressive policies.

GOP Senators, please review Matt Mayer’s testimony from the Feb. 15th SB 5 hearing and consider my humble suggestions:

  1. Remove any impact on police, highway patrolmen, and firefighters
  2. Revoke collective bargaining rights from all other state and local government employees

These changes would leave room to debate pay, insurance, and pension policies, undermining union rhetoric by creating a distinction between unionization and other rights. The 1983 law allowing government employees to unionize was a mistake, and only by removing the largest unions from the equation can Ohio hope to find a fair, sustainable middle ground. As I said last fall:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.

Wait, that was another detestable small-government conservative – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Academics hot for unionization should be challenged to list the protections a union offers which couldn’t be extended through legislative means. Leftists quick to foist higher taxes on “the rich” should be asked to explain why union bosses – whose businesses chiefly produce lobbying, higher labor costs, and their own salaries – deserve taxpayer support. Government employees should explain why their benefits should remain insulated amid $8 billion in deficits and an unemployment rate above 9%.

If they’re demanding even more of our tax dollars, shouldn’t government unions be able to justify why they exist in the first place?

Cross-posted at that hero.

DNC Complain-Train Rolling Towards Ohio

Unfazed by the failure of his stimulus bill, the judiciary’s decimation of his health care boondoggle, and the “shellacking” his party took in November, President Obama forges on with unaffordable proposals guaranteed to result in higher taxes. You know the old saying: spare the taxpayer, spoil the dead horse of Progressive policy.

Happily, the president still finds time to consider those of us in flyover country. After releasing a budget containing more of the obscene federal spending we’ve all grown to love, President Obama offered his centrist, sage insights into Wisconsin’s government union circus:

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions”

With news that Obama’s team at Organizing for America is playing a role in Wisconsin protests – siding with unions in opposition to state leaders elected not six months ago – should we expect the same in Ohio? Yup:

Now folded into the Democratic National Committee, Obama’s campaign group Organizing For America is already actively engaged in Wisconsin and is beginning to ramp up organizing efforts in Ohio, though observers say the latter process is about a week behind that in Wisconsin.

Columbus Business First notes that President Obama will be in Cleveland for a small-business summit next Tuesday, February 22nd. Though the topic is innovation and that’s not exactly a union trademark, look for the president to chime in on Senate Bill 5. Speaker Boehner suggested the Organizer-in-Chief butt out, saying, “Rather than inciting protests against those who speak honestly about the challenges we face, the President and his advisers should lead.” Anybody expect Obama and his people to take that advice?

The president’s campaign coordinators and fans have an impressive ability to describe DNC-organized agitators as “grassroots,” illegally striking teachers as “walking their talk,” and union monopolies as “workers’ rights.” But then, President Obama is a man who knows which side his bread is buttered on. As union boss Andy Stern of the SEIU has said, “we spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama — $60.7 million, to be exact — and we’re proud of it.”

Cross-posted at that hero.

OEA Suddenly Cares About Students

While the AFSCME is stuck acting like all its members are police and firefighters, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) has the ultimate defense: Think of the children! Too often, this line is all it takes to deflect criticism, allowing the OEA to resume talking about the terrible things that would happen to teachers absent unionization.

See, for instance, the OEA press release opposing Senate Bill 5:

“The Ohio Education Association (OEA) is gravely concerned that the Ohio Senate is not making Ohio’s children a priority. In a tough economy and facing a major budget deficit, Ohio must focus on the essentials, and nothing is more essential than giving our children a quality education that prepares them for good jobs.”

It’s tough to track proficiency test scores due to gaps in Ohio Department of Education data, but graduation rates fluctuated from 80-87% during the past decade while spending persistently increased. Federal data hardly support the “more money means more learning” school of thought. But, “giving our children a quality education” is a better pitch than “continuing unreasonable pay to tenured union members.”

Who but a union would insist merit pay is the wrong way to encourage hard work and reward the best educators? That anyone capable of enduring several years as a teacher should have a job for life, with longevity raises on top? That charter schools and vouchers should never be tried? As with AFSCME Council 8 & Local 11, the OEA stands between Ohioans and the services our tax dollars fund.

Exciting OEA Facts, Fiscal 2009
  • $22,771,159 paid to union officers and staff — equal to $176.71 per member
  • 143 union employees paid more than $70,000
  • 117 union employees paid more than $100,000
  • 12 union employees paid more than $150,000
  • Executive Director Larry Wicks paid $208,469
  • Executive Director Dennis Reardon paid $202,997
  • $8,151,341 spent on benefits — less than 36% of the amount disbursed to union officers and staff
  • $25,000 given to Policy Matters Ohio, a far-left Cleveland think-tank (09/23/2008)
  • $10,000 sent to Colorado education union (10/17/2008)
  • $10,000 sent to Oregon education union (10/27/2008)

The OEA also found $1,614,690 in the couch cushions to donate to Democrat campaigns in the 2010 cycle, according to records from the Secretary of State.

It comes to this: should we buy the OEA’s sales pitch about outsized union influence being the route to effective education? Or should we resist demands to further increase taxes, disassemble the union machine, and allow teachers, parents, and school districts to make their own decisions? This is what an attorney might call a leading question.

If you need more convincing that public unions are no good for Ohio, see Matt Mayer’s 02/15/2011 testimony before the Insurance, Commerce, and Labor Committee of the Ohio Senate.

Cross-posted at that hero.

Union Bosses Love Unions

Predictably, government unions are up in arms over Senate Bill 5. In a startling twist, union bosses are arguing that taxing Peter to generously compensate Paul is both fair and economically responsible!

“These lower wages and benefits are going to have an impact on our communities. In order to have a healthy community, you’ve got to have good jobs.” – Bruce Wyngaard, Associate Executive Director, AFSCME Local 11

Public union boss Bruce Wyngaard has a good job – to the tune of $94,337 in 2009. Lots of other American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 11 staffers have good jobs, too: the union paid its employees over $5.8 million in 2009. Taken from 30,870 members, that’s the equivalent of nearly $190 per member.

This guy was paid $94,337 in 2009, and wants your taxes increased.

AFSCME Council 8 President John Lyall will testify against Senate Bill 5 on Thursday. Lyall was paid $155,482 in 2009. Think he’ll mention that while he’s railing about spending cuts? Excluding payments to officers such as Lyall – and $148,265 for First VP Robert Mitchell – AFSCME Council 8 employees were paid more than $5.7 million in 2009. Annual disbursements to union employees equaled more than $155 per member.

Left: $155k in 2009. Right: $148k in 2009. Both: Want your taxes increased.

For context, the unions spent less than half as much on benefits – pensions, medical insurance, etc. – as on union pay in 2009. AFSCME Local 11 spent a little over $2.5 million on benefits; AFSCME Council 8 spent less than $2 million. Is it unreasonable to conclude the primary service provided by government unions is the enrichment of union bosses?

No wonder “leaders” like Bruce Wyngaard and John Lyall insist that without unions, government employees would endure random firings, no benefits, and a steady diet of discount cheese! Anything to keep pressure on the enemy (“the taxpayer”) and off the characters earning six figures on member dues.

Leftists have proven time and again that getting rich on the backs of others doesn’t preclude you from preaching economic redistribution and decrying personal freedom. AFSCME officials will complain till their complainers are sore about Republican attacks on government employees. Fact is, public union reps are chiefly concerned about public union reps.

Cross-posted at that hero.

AFSCME’s Very Own Truth

Guest post by j.hart.

In their fight to raise Ohio’s taxes, Council 8 and Local 11 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) enjoy the backing of a national union. Facing criticism from conservatives around the country, the AFSCME has built an adorable little website that features videos produced by the far-left BraveNew Foundation (a Media Matters partner presumably unfamiliar with the work of Aldous Huxley) and aims to highlight the misery caused by a shortage of government spending. This should be fun.

Change in Ohio General Revenue Fund expenditures. Guess Which Line is Inflation!

If there’s one fact you’ll never hear from the AFSCME, it’s that government spending growth routinely outpaces the Consumer Price Index. In Ohio, the differences have been dramatic (view chart source) – but eons of huge spending increases don’t prevent the union from shrieking about a year or two of minimal cuts. Another fact the AFSCME considers a lie? Government agencies fared awfully well during the past recession:

Overall, the public sector shrank by 118,000 jobs (0.5 percent of the January 2008 workforce). As a reminder, the private sector lost 7.2 million jobs (over 6 percent of its January workforce) during that time.

The AFSCME site features several “fact sheets” rife with the sort of dubious logic I’m learning to expect. As with most talking points, there are great laugh lines among the sparsely-cited figures and bald assertions. From The Truth About State and Local Budgets:

With expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which pumped billions of much-needed stimulus dollars into the economy […]

Much-needed stimulus dollars! From The Truth About Public Service Workers’ Pensions, a document which includes exactly zero citations:

Pension funds, unlike 401(k) plans, may be rebuilt over a period of decades because they cover a wide range of employees in terms of age and years of service.

“Sure it’s a Ponzi scheme, but we’ve got all kinds of time!” Priceless. From The Truth About Collective Bargaining for Public Service Workers:

The public is best served by public employees whose first loyalty is to their job, not to a political party. In the public sector, collective bargaining insulates employees from politics and patronage.

Insulates, indeed: the AFSCME gave over eighty million dollars to Democrats in the last campaign cycle. In the public sector, collective bargaining funnels taxpayer dollars to Democrats and gives politicians every incentive to patronize union bosses. Concluding that this best serves the public requires tortured logic, even by AFSCME standards!

There are really only three facts these fact sheets establish:

  1. The AFSCME thinks government should be bigger
  2. The AFSCME wants more of your money to make government bigger
  3. The AFSCME is happy to demonize anyone who suggests government should be smaller

Cross-posted at that hero.

Government Unions vs. Ohioans: Fight!

Guest post by j.hart. Cross-posted from that hero.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents a marriage between union bosses and Democrats that barely benefits dues-paying members, and thoroughly screws everyone else. Previously, on that hero:

The brokenness of Ohio’s current system cannot be overstated. When an agency votes to unionize – amid promises of unsustainable benefits – an extra layer of bureaucracy is permanently added between that agency and the taxpayers who fund it. Republicans cooperate with the union out of cowardice, and Democrats cooperate out of necessity; the AFSCME spends big, big bucks:

WSJ graphic

Wait, I’ve changed the subject! That outrageous Wall Street Journal chart uses national numbers, and it’s unfair to paint Ohio’s AFSCME affiliates with the same brush.

Maybe AFSCME Council 8 and AFSCME Local 11 truly exist to build solidarity among oppressed government workers. Maybe they’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul, while electing Pat to keep the scam running smoothly.

The latest available Department of Labor reports are for 2009. Campaign contribution data are from the Ohio Secretary of State.

Government Union Democrat campaign contributions, Jan. 1 2009 – Nov. 1 2010 Staff/Officers with gross pay exceeding $70K Staff/Officers with gross pay exceeding $100K
AFSCME Council 8 $435,152.86 *
39 14
AFSCME Local 11 $518,327.86 *
41 3

* Updated 02-19-2011 to include contributions to Democratic candidate and Party committees

It’s possible that I’m clueless, but $70,000 is a lot of money for someone whose vocation is standing up for “the little guy.” Six figures is an amount of money that makes me feel a little sick, especially when I remember this is our money. Contrast their class warfare rhetoric with their paychecks, and it seems fair to conclude public union bosses treat dues-paying members less as clients than as convenient money-launderers.

Need more numbers to think about when you see sad-sacks on the news holding “Save the Safety Net” signs, complaining that Ohioans won’t give more of our hard-earned dollars for their gilded retirement accounts or their salaries untethered to reality? In 2009, 1,812 state employees pulled down $100,000+. In 2010, 1,813 public school teachers were paid $100,000 or more. If times are tough for members lower on the totem pole, they should look to their wealthy union brothers for a hand.

Or, I could establish a new union! We’ll start by targeting the members of AFSCME Local 11 — 30,870 workers, as of their 2009 annual report. I won’t give a dime of the members’ money to politicians or Policy Matters Ohio (“a Cleveland research group,” in the words of The Columbus Dispatch), and as a matter of fact I won’t take dues at all. There: instant 1.25% raise for everyone! As bonuses I also won’t offer a Ponzi scheme retirement plan, or lobby for selfish, short-sighted policies that will make Ohio financially weaker.

Public employee collective bargaining in Ohio should be defined down dramatically, or repealed outright. Does the Ohio GOP have the stones to do it? Call your state senators and representatives!