Changing the scope of what is subject to union contract bargaining for RI public employees
On the Tuesday evening Matt Allen WPRO show, Matt interviewed State Representative and House Minority Whip Nick Gorham about Gorham’s bill H-7664, which would redefine the scope of issues subject to bargaining for RI public employees.
During the interview, Gorham noted that there are very different approaches across the 50 states as to what issues are subject to bargaining by public employees. At one end of the spectrum, some states do not permit any such bargaining for certain public employees. Unsurprisingly, RI is at the other end of spectrum, where current law says the following is subject to bargaining for all public employees: wages, benefits and all other terms and conditions of employment.
Gorham notes that current RI law disenfranchises management, such as school superintendents and principals, and creates the structural incentive which results in the state spending significant financial resources while getting only meager results on its investment. As I have written for years about the teachers’ union contracts, RI overpays for under-performance and has created an entitlement mentality instead of a focus on performance.
Gorham’s bill would limit the scope of what is subject to bargaining to only wages and benefits, applying such a scope definition to fire fighters, police officers, state police officers, correctional officers, certified teachers, municipal employees and 911 employees. The bill would place RI in the middle of how the 50 states approach public employee bargaining. And, by default, leave the remaining issues of how they get their respective jobs done to the people who actually do the work – instead of union officials.
Ed Achorn had this broad observation about the current conditions in RI and how this entitlement mentality has gotten the state into a very deep hole:
…Thanks in part to unsustainable benefits for public-employee unions, the state confronts a budget deficit of a half-billion dollars or more. And it cannot effectively tax its way out of the nightmare, since its radically high taxes (including property taxes) have already driven out jobs, businesses and many middle-class taxpayers, cutting revenues and leaving Rhode Island one of the few states in recession, while Massachusetts right next door adds jobs and boosts its tax revenues.
Rhode Island, with its beauty, superb location, intellectual infrastructure and potential for port activity, should be one of America’s booming places. Instead, its politicians have left its citizens living in fear that they will lose their jobs or be forced to pack up and leave.
The kind of thinking that brought about this economic debacle also prevails in public education. Thanks to state labor laws that tilt the playing field against taxpayers, and local officials who consistently give away the store in contract negotiations (either deliberately or because they lack the intensity and experience of their well-funded foes), the Ocean State pays one of America’s highest tabs per pupil for public schools, and gets generally mediocre results. And when even more money is invested in the schools, it seems to go into the pockets of special interests in the form of unsustainable benefits, rather than getting to students in the form of new books, science labs, sports, art, music and first-rate teaching.
It doesn’t have to be this way, Mr. Gorham argues…
Indeed, it does not.