Posts Tagged ‘unions’

I thought the next piece I did about unions would be on the infamous Card Check legislation. But there is a more pressing problem that I need to make sure you are aware of — namely, the “Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill”.

For the past year, this thing has been gathering steam. Its official name is the “Public Employer-Employee Cooperation Act”, which sounds innocuous enough. But, when you start to look at what it really is, it should make the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention. Essentially, the purpose of the bill is to put every police officer and firefighter in the nation under the control of union bosses. (Can you say “National Police Force”?) It will override state and local laws in 27 states to do it. But, hey, anything for Obama’s Big Labor buddies. Even worse, this is just the start of a plan to place ALL public employees, state and local, under union control!

IAFF logo

IAFF logo

Under the provisions of this act, no town, county, or state can “take a pass”. Even if they resist, ultimately they will be forced to hand over their public safety workers to the unions, else the Federal Government will step in. (Sounds like this could be a 10th Amendment issue, too. The Public Service Research Council is pursuing the (un)constitutionality angle.)

Do we really want to give Big Labor the power to tell police and firefighters when & where they can do their jobs? Do we want these public servants to have their careers at the mercy of labor leaders? Should they have to pay mandated union dues, whether or not they want to even join the union? Do you want your local public safety workers to be beholden to a federal union — deciding on jobs, pay, & benefits on a national scale — rather than to your local community and local laws? No, no, no, & NO!

When your police are ordered out on strike, who will defend your home and loved ones?

When union militants set up picket lines around fire stations, who will put out the fires?

We all know the kind of greed, corruption, and strongarm tactics that typically go hand-in-hand with today’s huge labor unions. Harassment and extortion are Standard Operating Procedure. There are the budget-busting, city-bankrupting pension & labor contracts that the big unions are able to negotiate through sheer force of numbers and the occasional payoff or threat of bodily harm. Then, there are the salaries and perks for the local union bosses themselves that have to be paid. Our states and municipalities are under enough financial burden as it is in today’s economy. (Remember, the powers-that-be have already added more healthcare-related expenses to the states. Cap-n-tax may be on its way, as well.) This would break many of them.

Take the city of Vallejo, CA, as one recent example. It went bankrupt last year, when almost 75% of its budget was spent on satisfying union contracts for police and firefighters! Much of the rest of California is in similar straits, with the state budget facing a multi-billion dollar deficit. But, instead of admitting they are partially to blame, union bosses threatened to strike!

IUPA logo

IUPA logo

This bill was introduced in the House as H.R.413 and is now on the Senate docket, too, as S.3194. Reid and Pelosi are both hot to pass it. While Financial Reform has distracted attention from it, the Police and Firefighters Monopoly Bargaining Bill could be up for vote any day now and is sure to be rammed through, just as Obamacare was. In fact, last month they tried attaching it as Amendment 4174 to the Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4899). (Grassroots action stopped it.) Unfortunately, it also has bipartisan support, with some — e.g., Scott Brown (R-MA) — thinking that it will “level the playing field for all first responders and set rules that can govern them equally.” (They really need to think this through better!)

As Mark Mix of the National Right to Work (NRTW) has pointed out,

[This bill] would create an almost unimaginable number of new ‘bargaining units’ at a cost impossible to estimate. The truth is, in places where Big Labor has control over public employees, union officials guarantee citizens pay more in taxes and get less for their tax money in return. Union bosses insist on more government spending, block service improvements for taxpayers, and push for outrageous demands that no union boss forcefully ‘representing’ workers in a competitive private business would dare to seek.”

This is a major power grab by the unions!

If you don’t want your state and local communities subject to increased financial burdens, possible loss of volunteer police & firefighters, potentially violent strikes and threats of strikes, corruption, coercion, and increased tension between the public and the safety workers that protect them, then help us kill this bill. First, read Warner Todd Huston’s IBD editorial, which gives a great analysis of the bill and its consequences. You can also visit the NRTW web-site for more info, maybe make a donation. Then, contact your representatives in Washington and tell them how much this bill stinks! No monopoly bargaining!

Sack the act!

Tell your friends!

Since the start of the recession, 8.4 million American jobs have been lost.

Last year, the Obama administration boasted that over 640,000 jobs had been “created or saved” by its economic policies — specifically, by the $787 billion “Stimulus Bill”. It took a lot of flak for that nebulous turn of phrase. How do you really identify those, anyway? Analysis by a handful of news organizations — e.g., the Washington Examiner — revealed that exaggerated claims by recipients of stimulus funds caused an overestimation by at least 94,000 jobs. It didn’t look good. So, in December the word came down that counting procedures were being changed and the “created or saved” phrasing was no longer to be used. If you go to http://www.Recovery.gov, you will see that the claim is now 595,000 “Recovery Funded Jobs Reported by Recipients” for last quarter. Interesting…. Oh, and it still doesn’t matter if the existing jobs were in any real danger of being eliminated.

So, what about the jobs that really ARE being created under the Recovery Act? Where are they? Well, many of them are in the public-sector. Not surprising, since 1/3 of the stimulus package was earmarked for state and local governments. And they are union jobs. In fact, public-sector union jobs have been increasing by about 10,000 a month of late. And the percentage of federal employees making $100,000+/year rose to 19% — during a recession, no less.

Y’see, private-sector union membership has been dropping drastically over the last 35 years or so. The past year alone saw 834,000 union members leave — and not necessarily by choice. As per the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR), “in 2008 and the first 11 months of 2009, unionized private-sector workers lost their jobs at more than double the rate of their private-sector non-unionized colleagues.” With so many union-workers in the private-sector losing their jobs, Big Labor desperately needs a boost to keep money in the coffers. That’s where their buddy Barack Obama comes in.

Barack Obama salutes

President Barack Obama saluting

As I’ve mentioned before, the President isn’t ashamed to admit that he is beholden to Big Labor. And he, along with the Democrats in Congress, is doing his level best to show his appreciation by increasing the power of the unions. If they can’t stop the decline in private-sector union jobs, then the “big government” party can just make more public-sector union jobs. For the first time, over half of federal employees are “under union boss monopoly bargaining control.” As always, more union jobs means more power and more dues for the unions. The unions, of course, spend big money — around $400 million to Democrats in the 2008 campaign cycle — to get and keep their liberal friends in public office, who in turn raise taxes and pass legislation that is favorable to unions. And the circle continues….

As Michael Barone points out in IBD, though, that circle may not be as unbreakable as it appears. “Public-sector employees are still heavily outnumbered by those who depend on the private sector for their livelihoods. The next Congress may not be as willing as this one has been to bail out state governments dominated by public-sector unions. Voters may bridle at the higher taxes needed to pay for $100,000-plus pensions for public employees who retire in their 50s. Or they may move, as so many have already done, to states like Texas. Obama’s Democrats have used the financial crisis to expand the public sector and the public-sector unions. But voters seem to be saying, ‘Enough.'”

Just an aside:  Would you believe the highest paid city government employee of Madison, WI, last year was a Metro Transit bus driver? He earned $159,258, including $109,892 in overtime and other pay. (That’s more than the City Comptroller, the Police Chief, or even the Mayor.) He and the other 6 city bus drivers who made over $100,000 each in 2009 can thank the union contract that gives the most senior drivers (who already are paid the most) first dibs for any available overtime. And there was a lot of it — $1.94 million worth! Well over-budget. But, why so much? The main reason is that, after using up all their sick leave (whether valid or not), Metro employees are increasingly taking advantage of the federal Family Medical Leave Act to get more time off. While the latter is not paid leave, the resultant absenteeism means someone else needs to fill in. The union contract also makes sure there are only a limited number of part-time drivers, and they are only allowed to drive morning & afternoon school routes. Thus, more opportunities for full-timers.

* Now, let me be perfectly clear,… I have no problem with a person taking sick leave or earning a nice living, regardless of who they work for, as long as it’s fair and honest.

About a month ago, Mark Mix wrote an op-ed column in the Washington Examiner, explaining why his organization is suing the Obama administration. Who is Mark Mix? He is the President of the National Right to Work (NRTW) Legal Defense Foundation, “a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by abuses of compulsory unionism.”

For several months now, the NRTW has submitted multiple requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for Department of Labor documents that would reveal the special deals and provisions being given to Big Labor. President Obama is on record as stating that he “owes” the unions for helping him get where he is and he aims to pay them back. The NRTW figures the public has the right to know just what has been promised to the unions — thus the FOIA requests. And, with all of Obama’s pre- and post-election promises of “transparency” and responsibility in what is supposed to be the most ethical administration in history, that shouldn’t be a problem, right? There can’t be any conflicts of interest, right? Don’t bet on it.

Here is some of what Mix has to say:

The foundation’s concerns about possible conflicts of interest start right at the top with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who held a leadership post at American Rights at Work, a group funded by the AFL-CIO and the powerful Service Employees International Union.

The foundation is also seeking information on the role of former AFL-CIO lawyer Deborah Greenfield, now a high-ranking Department of Labor official. Before the election, Greenfield filed suit on Big Labor’s behalf to stop the implementation of some modest disclosure requirements for union officials. Now she’s in charge of gutting those same reporting guidelines.

In his first full day in office, Obama pledged that his appointees ‘will not for a period of two years … participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to their former employer.’ Yet Labor Secretary Solis was given a free pass, even though she helped oversee ARAW’s intense lobbying program while serving as a member of Congress (itself a congressional ethics problem).

Meanwhile, as a lawyer with the AFL-CIO, Greenfield sued the Department of Labor over the very regulations she is now rolling back.

No wonder the administration continues to stall the FOIA requests with one bureaucratic roadblock after another! They never thought anyone would actually check up on them and hold them accountable. This is just one more indication of Obama et al.’s lack of integrity and a desire to consolidate more & more power among those who agree with their “progressivist” vision for this nation. (Note: Don’t forget the Obamacare provision that will force unionism of all healthcare professionals and give more money & control to the unions.)

If this concerns you anywhere near as much as it concerns me (and the NRTW), please help by passing this info along, bringing it up in conversation, subscribing to the NRTW’s free email newsletter (www.NRTW.org), maybe even making a donation. Let’s fight for our right to work without forced dues and intimidation by unions that no longer work for the people they supposedly represent. And, let’s support those who work to expose injustice and keep the politicians honest.

P.S.  There’s a post over at The Foxhole blog with some good info about Big Labor benefiting from the “Stimulus”.

Impact on doctors: There are three major points to consider here. First, America already has a shortage of doctors, particularly primary-care and family practice physicians. Even doctors are advising their own children to go into another profession. One of the biggest reasons for this has been the outrageous costs of malpractice insurance – in many cases $30,000/yr or more for generalists, $70,000-150,000 (or more) for many specialists – to help guard against lawsuits in an increasingly litigious society. As much as 25% of the money paid for health care is spent on ‘defensive’ medicine and documentation, which also takes up a lot of a doctor’s time. Unfortunately, there is no medical liability reform (aka ‘tort reform’) included in the Obamacare legislation to alleviate this. (By the way, some states have successfully reformed their tort systems, like Texas and Indiana, so there are workable ways to do this.)

The second point is that, under the proposed legislation, doctors will be paid much less. Currently, insurers decide (or negotiate) what percentage of full price they will reimburse a hospital, physician, pharmacist, or other health care professional for a particular drug, procedure, examination, test, or consultation. Such rates are typically about 50-80%. Put another way, the doctor must write off roughly 20-50% of the “list” fee (i.e., what someone without any insurance would pay). When your overhead already runs 60-70% of revenues, that really eats into your income, as well as the viability of your practice. In a 2008 survey conducted by The Physicians’ Foundation, 82% said that if proposed cuts to Medicare reimbursements went through, their practices would no longer be sustainable. But, it gets worse….

For programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the government unilaterally decides how much they will pay – typically 60-80%, but sometimes as low as 20%. In the TPF survey, 36% said Medicare reimbursements were less than their cost of providing care and 65% said Medicaid reimbursed less than their cost. (This is why many doctors are reluctant to take very many patients on government programs. Some simply don’t take them.) Plus, most managed care plans tie their reimbursements to Medicare’s fees, often paying providers just 20-30% more than Medicare does. Under Obamacare, the “public plan” would reimburse only about 5% more than the Medicare rates. The more people get put on this government-controlled insurance, the less doctors will be earning. Thus, one of the major incentives to go into, or remain in, medicine will erode away. (Especially when one considers the high debts one must pay off at the beginning of a medical career and the enormous insurance rates, overhead, etc., throughout one’s career.)

Here is an excerpt from a blog post by a board certified, private practice oncologist, that gives an excellent “insider’s view”.:

It’s quite simple, really: very hard work, and declining income. Private practice physicians have seen a fall of approximately 30% since 2004. Worsening economics are right around the corner. Given the extraordinary expense of chemotherapy and supportive therapies, combined with reimbursements that just exceed a wash, it will become impossible to deliver outpatient care in more than half the venues in the United States quite soon. And then, simply put, the senior physicians will quit….

Specialists, and underpaid generalists will hang it up years ahead of their planned exit from medicine in just about any system that the Obama administration is likely to devise. They’ll scarcely need to ration care: there just won’t be anyone around to deliver it. Government will kill the golden goose, and then blame it upon everyone and anyone else. As usual.

Is it any wonder that a cash-only system is being adopted by more and more medical practices? Not having to deal with insurance claims and related paperwork saves time and money. Will this even be an option in an era of government-mandated, government-structured health insurance?

In addition, the President has already been asking Congress to grant the Executive Branch – in the guise of an ‘independent’ advisory board – more power to recommend (dictate?) Medicare reimbursement rate modifications. These rates now vary from region to region, where local legislators often help decide what they will be. The proposed new board would end this practice, handing more control to the federal government.

Thirdly, there is a development that is only just now coming to light. When you think of people who belong to unions, you don’t usually think of doctors and other medical professionals. (Well, maybe nurses.) But, that may change. It seems some congressional friends of Big Labor slipped some “last minute” provisions in the proposed bill that will force hundreds of thousands of physicians, surgeons, and other health care workers to unionize. This will mean millions (billions?) of dollars in new union dues going to union war chests, to be spent on new bureaucracies to influence health care policies and negotiations, more corruption, and financing of the Big Labor political agenda. (Of course, unions will get favored treatment under the legislation, but not necessarily in the better interests of the average union member.) And if you object to Obamacare and/or compulsory unionization, you may find yourself on the wrong end of intimidation and other strongarm tactics of persuasion. (Just ask Kenneth Gladney, who recently spent a couple days in the hospital recuperating from a harsh beating at the hands of union thugs, when they found him handing out anti-Obamacare “Don’t Tread On Me” flags.)

So,… Obamacare is supposed to cover millions more people, but it does nothing to encourage people to go into medicine. Instead, it will cut costs by underpaying hospitals and physicians for their services. Plus, it will force health care professionals to unionize, thereby inserting more bureaucracy, corruption, control, and unnecessary expenditures into the mix. (Can we afford to have our doctors pressured or ordered to go on strike?) Hmmm. If, at the very least, you don’t see long waits and decreased quality of care in our future, you’re just not paying attention.

< to be continued… >