Bargaining reform

Senate Bill 342, sponsored by state Sens. Michael Roberson, Barbara Cegavske, Greg Brower, et al., aims to restore some common sense to the collective bargaining process.

According to the legislative counsel’s digest, government supervisory personnel are currently required to be members of different bargaining units from the employees they supervise. But SB342 would go further, excluding all school administrators and heads and supervisors of local government departments from being members of unions, at all.

This reform is long overdue. Too often, members of public-sector administrative unions negotiate deals with employees — supposedly on behalf of taxpayers — on which they then piggyback their own contracts and raises.

In addition, under SB342, local government employees would get to decide for themselves whether to have their employers deduct union dues from their paychecks.

Under SB342, both the initial and final offers of the union and of local government managers in wage and benefit negotiations would have to be made public, finally allowing taxpayers to determine whether their elected and appointed city and county officials are really fighting to keep costs down — and how sensible to economic reality our municipal workers have been in their demands.

The bill would also prohibit the use of public money to pay union representatives for their work, requiring instead that local government employees who are members of unions pay their own negotiators.

In the interest both of fiscal sanity and of casting some light on negotiations where the public has a vital interest, all these reforms make good sense.

The state’s current budget gap — not so different from those of many of our neighbors — is Exhibit One that the current system is out of joint. Senate Bill 342 would be a solid step back toward a sustainable fiscal path.

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