Monday, September 3, 2007

After years of scheming, waiting, and investing forced dues into the campaigns of their handpicked politicians, Big Labor bosses believe they are just one step away from a big payoff.

Their goal is simple: Ram the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill (H.R. 980) into law by any means necessary.

Just before the August recess, under suspension of the rules, union-label politicians succeeded in passing the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill through the House.

Thanks to the union bosses’ propaganda machine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ran into little difficulty. Misguided congressmen from both sides of the aisle rushed to support the bill that union chiefs were claiming was “in the best interest of our nation.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Today, the bill resides in the Senate, where the real fight could begin any day.

Unfortunately, in the private sector, current federal law already grants union officials monopoly bargaining power over all employees in a so-called bargaining unit, regardless of the wishes of state and local officials and their constituents.

But fortunately at least, until now states and localities have always had the authority to negotiate and set policies for their own public employees. Should the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill pass, however, the federal government would effectively mandate monopoly bargaining over state and local public-safety workers in all 50 states.

That means police officers, firefighters and EMTs across the country would be forced under Big Labor monopoly control.

Under monopoly bargaining, union officials are the so-called exclusive representative. Individual workers must accept union representation and are explicitly forbidden from representing themselves.

This prohibition, enforced by fines and firings for violators, is the very foundation of compulsory unionism.

Local governments found not to be in compliance with so-called core provisions of this legislation would automatically be put under the jurisdiction of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).

Passage of this bill would overturn the laws of 26 states, including Virginia, and would strip localities of their ability to regulate these matters themselves. Quite frankly, passage of this bill would be a huge federal takeover of what are now strictly state and local functions.

Government unions imposing monopoly bargaining is a virtual guarantee that citizens will pay more in taxes and get less from their tax money in return, in effect busting state and local budgets to fatten the pockets of union officials.

In fact, a study conducted by Maryland’s Department of Fiscal Services found that monopoly bargaining would cost taxpayers between $1.3 million and $1.4 million in annual process costs for only 12 “bargaining units” of state employees.

H.R. 980 would create an almost unimaginable number of new “bargaining units” at a process cost impossible to estimate.

And in those states that have laws authorizing monopoly bargaining in the public sector, local officials have historically seen a huge jump in illegal strikes. Though illegal, union bosses effectively hold entire communities hostage by simply refusing to call off strikes until their demands are met. And their demands usually include amnesty for the lawbreaking.

Furthermore, officers of International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) union locals have an extensive track record of exploiting their monopoly power to punish “two-hatters,” professional firefighters who serve their own local communities as volunteer firefighters when they aren’t on the job.

In recent years, officers of IAFF subsidiaries in localities like Ft. Wayne, Ind., West Allis, Wisc., and all the major cities in Connecticut have wielded their monopoly-bargaining privileges to negotiate contract provisions that actually prohibit all professional firemen, union members and nonmembers alike, from volunteering.

The provision in Hartford, Conn., for example, subjects all of the city’s firefighters to “discipline” — including firings of those who aren’t swayed by less severe “discipline” — for “responding to department calls as an active member of… [a] volunteer fire department.” International IAFF President Harold Schaitberger and other IAFF officials clearly want H.R. 980 enacted in part because it would enhance their ability to crack down on two-hatters and, ultimately, shut down thousands of volunteer departments — at an immeasurable cost to the taxpayers.

Quite simply, this bill is a disaster from every angle. Passage would strip public-safety workers of their individual bargaining rights, massively increase costs, stamp out the proud tradition of volunteer firefighting, and threaten the safety of America’s communities.

That’s why all Americans must contact their senators and urge them to oppose the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.

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