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New Wason Center Poll: Virginians “support pot legalization, paid sick leave;...

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A new poll is out this morning from the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University, and as usual it shows that...

Does Governor Northam’s Push to Delay Enactment of Labor Reforms Make...

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by Cindy Virginia WILL someday drag herself up from the bottom of the list of places to work—but she sure isn’t moving up without a...

More Than 30 Virginia Local Elected Officials Announce Support for Collective...

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From the labor coalition, “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain” More Than 30 Virginia Local Elected Officials Announce Support for Collective Bargaining for All Public Employees RICHMOND,...

Video: Watered-Down Collective Bargaining Bill Reports from Senate Commerce & Labor...

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See below for video from a little while ago, as a watered-down version of Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D)'s HB582 - "repeal the existing prohibition...

Fairfax School Board, Loudoun Supervisors Vote in Support of Collective Bargaining

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From the coalition, "Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain" Fairfax School Board, Loudoun Supervisors Vote in Support of Collective Bargaining Reporters, wanted to be sure you saw...

Fairfax County Becomes First School Division in Virginia to Officially Recognize...

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Nice work last night by the Fairfax County School Board (see video, below) - the *all-Democratic* School Board, I might add. :) As Providence...

A Case for Repealing Virginia’s Ban on Public Sector Collective Bargaining:...

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by Brian D. Teucke Collective bargaining is a standard labor practice that allows labor unions to represent employees and negotiate the terms of employee contracts...

LET’S BE FAIR: Unions, Jobs, Deficits, and Debt

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"I work for a private company, I had to take a pay cut, it's only fair that public workers do, too." Well, isn't that true?  Isn't that fair?  The concept of "fairness" does not occur in Nature. Fairness is an entirely human invention. Anyone who has watched tiny children in action knows that even the youngest has an innate idea of what's fair, especially when it applies to themselves individually, and their toys.  As we grow older, our sense of "fairness" grows more subtle, and tends to expand, sometimes to the sophisticated level of rationalization to excuse personal greed (when one is on the receiving end of more toys), and perpetual victim-hood (when one is not on the receiving end of more toys). What does fairness have to do with unions in Wisconsin, or jobs, or the current fad of concern for budget deficits/debt ("it isn't fair to saddle our grandkids with paying off our huge debt")? Answer: a lot.

What's considered fair by a human being is completely determined by what is included in the description of the situation; in other words, what is within the framework. The one who draws the frame, deciding what to include and what to leave out, is the one who will determine what is "fair." In the current discussion of the deficit, the budget, and so-called entitlements, the corporatists and the Republican Party have completely dominated the discussion.  Why? Because they have created the issues, defined the terms, and decided what is to be included in the discussion.... the mass media and the Democrats, including President Obama, seem to have completely accepted their terms of debate.

Let's look at how the fairness frame of each topic has been designed, and what happens if you change the frame to include other factors, or exclude a factor or two currently included.

Public versus Private Workers in Wisconsin

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One tactic used by Republican Governor Walker of Wisconsin and his corporate sponsors is a campaign to turn non-public and non-union workers against the unionized public workerss.  It has had some success, at least at first, not only with Wisoncsin workers but with the general public across the country. It is an obvious "divide and conquer" tactic, which plays on jealousy under the comforting banner of fairness, i.e., "since I had to suffer a paycut in this recession, why should I pay taxes to support the public workers? Let them suffer, too;" or "We all have to suffer to bring down the deficit;" or "Government spending is out of control; we have to protect our grandkids who will have to pay off our debt."

Listen to this interview of Frank Hammer (former President of the UAW) by Paul Jay of The Real News Network. Ask yourself: Since the recession was caused by Wall Street and the banks, it was not caused by the workers (unionized or not), why aren't Governor Walker and the Republicans enhancing revenue through taxing the big banks, Wall Street, and the super-rich perpetrators of the crash, instead of only targeting spending, and only spending on workers and the middle class at that?

It seems that, at least in Wisconsin, other workers are beginning to ask those questions, and there is speculation about calling a general strike---- first time in generations such a tactic has been used in the U. S.

Virginia Is No Wisconsin

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Virginia will never have the situation we see unfolding in Wisconsin. Is that because Virginians are so ably willing to compromise with one another and work for the common good? Hardly. Instead, Virginia made sure that it emasculated its public employees almost forty years ago. When there was the first sign of public servants being effective in bargaining collectively with their localities, the state moved aggressively to quash them.

Back in the 1960's and early 1970's, Virginia had a history of some of its more sophisticated localities bargaining collectively with employees. Up to one-third of teachers were bargaining with localities. In Arlington County the government had collective bargaining agreements with unions representing firefighters, teachers, other school employees, school administrators, and county employees. The system was working just fine. However, the state filed a legal action against Arlington, arguing that it had exceeded its powers under the Dillon Rule because it bargained with its employees.

A decision in 1977 by the Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia v Arlington County, determined that no locality could bargain with any organization representing its employees. The court didn't stop there. A short while later, the court also outlawed binding arbitration for disputes between a school board and employees. The General Assembly even refused to allow so-called "meet-and-confer" situations between employers and employee organizations.

What Virginia teachers and public employees now have is just a toothless "grievance procedure." This procedure allows an employee to file a grievance relating to some work-related episode. The employee is allowed to be represented, such as by an association leader (because of federal law), but the final decision on the validity of the grievance is in the hands of the employers, not an unbiased third party.

So, Virginia will never have the situation we see unfolding in Wisconsin. However, Virginia's example surely explains why the brave people in Wisconsin refuse to give up their rights to organize and to bargain as a group.