April 21, 2006
New York City, of all places, may be bucking the trend of granting public-sector unions whatever they want with little accountability, says the Wall Street Journal.
Last December, the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority stood up to an illegal strike threat to force some concessions in unsustainable union benefits. The Transit Workers Union struck for three days in violation of the law, and the outcome of contract talks is still unclear. But this week the union was ordered to pay a price of a different sort:
- Justice Theodore T. Jones of the State Supreme Court levied a $2.5 million fine for the illegal walkout. But the real hammer was his ruling that the union's right to the automatic deduction of dues from workers' paychecks should be suspended for 90 days, and possibly longer.
- The transit union collects about $20 million a year in member dues. And automatic checkoff is the key to its riches and thus to its political clout. The last time the union lost its dues-checkoff privileges, after a strike in 1980, it had a terrible time collecting those dues voluntarily, despite a state law requiring union members to pay them.
The union says that losing automatic dues-collection will be crippling. But the penalty for an illegal strike is supposed to be severe, even though it has always proved temporary in the past. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has estimated that the three-day strike last December cost the city $1 billion in forgone business. In that light, the fine and lost dues seem mild, says the Journal.
But why should the TWU have its dues-checkoff privileges restored at all? Let it raise its money the old-fashioned way -- by providing a service that its members are willing to pay for, says the Journal.
Source: Editorial, "Union Dues," Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2006.
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