The Lector has avoided weighing in on the discourse about S. 3194: officially the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act.” The main reason was my laziness. As a political hack, I knew what I would read about the bill on any given day was slanted one way or the other. As a lawyer, I knew that I would only have to live with what was passed by Congress not the labor or management spin. Either way, I was waiting on the end result before really getting engaged.
If it passes, public safety employees in anti-employee states will get a boost in their efforts at recognition of their rights. Fire and police in states that already sanction collective bargaining will see very little change unless the state law in effect is substantially inferior to the federal law.
Both sides have been spinning this piece of legislation to the point of absurdity, but the management side has certainly won the grand prize for lies and deception.
By management I mean the “right to work” anti- employee political factions who are insanely fearful of losing the death grip they have on the "second class public sector workers" of this country. These “factions” are typically right wing conservatives and tea baggers; however, there are some Democraps who would like to see S.3194 fail as well.
Naturally, nearly all management oriented lobbying groups oppose S. 3194 because that is what they do. It is their job to oppose worker rights. The more professional groups tend to publicly take a somewhat less fraudulent stance in opposition but not all.
The Internet and other media are inundated with nearly identical scripted stories about the “Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill.” Each details the horror of what will happen when public safety employees are given the right to participate in their professional careers by deciding whether to form a union and voting on whether to become part of the collective bargaining process. The scripts refer to big labor and union bosses who will place police officers under their thumbs and bankrupt local government. The scripts claim firefighters will watch buildings burn while on strike if the poor public agencies do not succumb to their greedy demands.
Googling the term “Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill” produced 1,020,000 hits. Right wing bloggers are having spasms as they draft pretty much the same story of how the world we know it will end if S. 3194 passes. Letters to the editor, in what is left of newspapers, abound with the same distorted message. The public is being encouraged to plead with their elected officials to save them from the ever dreaded scourge of collective bargaining.
Here are some sad examples of the false “facts”:
The current state of public sector collective bargaining law is a mess that needs attention. There is no federal law for state and local public employees like the NLRA (passed in 1935) which requires a certain level of conformity among the states and applies the rule of law to a subject that is fraught with dispute.
Here are some facts:
• Twenty-six states that allow collective bargaining for public employees are: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
• Twelve states have laws that provide bargaining rights to specific groups of workers (e.g. state workers, teachers, or firefighters) but not to all state and local government workers are: Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
• Twelve states do not have collective bargaining laws for public employees and some actually forbid collective bargaining. They are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
What troubles me most is not that management opposes S. 3194. I would not expect anything different. It is the extent to which the right wing conservatives will lie and distort the facts to try to win the battle against worker rights. I actually know the facts about public sector collective bargaining, and I know the world will not end with the passage of S. 3194. Neither will the problems associated with terms and conditions of employment in anti-worker states come to an end, but it will be a start in the right direction.
Too many of the firefighters and law enforcement officers in this country want to align themselves with single issue conservative causes. These misguided brothers and sisters continue to support those who seek to dominate and harm them. That is the classical definition of a tragedy.
And oh yes, have a nice Day?
Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
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