End the Secrecy in Public Union Collective Bargaining

January 25, 2013

In 11 states, secret government union collective bargaining is law, a lack of oversight that should be corrected.  This lack of oversight often leads to unions employing strong-arm tactics to receive higher wages and benefits at taxpayer expense, say Nick Dranias, Bryron Schlomach and Stephen Slivinski of the Goldwater Institute.

  • Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico and Wisconsin all require collective bargaining to take place outside the watchful eyes of elected officials and the news media's watchful eyes.
  • About 2.5 million Arizonans, more than 40 percent of the state's population, live in municipalities that keep collective bargaining with government unions secret.
  • Arizona pays its hourly employees approximately 20 percent more than what workers earn in the private sector.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that state and local government employees earn 43 percent more than their private sector counterparts.

The monopoly unions exert over labor is strengthened by collective bargaining laws that enable this pay gap between public and private workers to exist. Because of these strong laws, government unions are able to extract compensation and concessions that are not found in the private sector.

  • Among these 11 states, most of which are right-to-work states, there are growing calls for increased transparency in the bargaining process.
  • The American Legislative Exchange Council has endorsed model standalone legislation that would improve transparency but opponents of this legislation label it as attempts at "union busting."
  • Seven states -- Oregon, Texas, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and Maryland -- have strong transparency stipulations in place for some or all of their government unions.

Even when transparency in bargaining is enacted, government unions still have access to public records of government finance and can assess what the municipality can afford. Unions around the country have a lot to lose if transparency becomes the guiding principle for collective bargaining negotiations.

  • Dranias, Schlomach and Slivinski believe that all bargaining should take place at open meetings.
  • All meetings should be documented verbatim and those documents should be available as part of public record.

Taxpayers and budgets everywhere will benefit if transparency and accountability is required in government union collective bargaining.

Source: Nick Dranias, Bryron Schlomach and Stephen Slivinski, "Airing Out the Smoke-filled Rooms: Bringing Transparency to Public Union Collective Bargaining," Goldwater Institute, January 17, 2013.

 

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