Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Something for Issue 2 opponents to think about

I am a public employee who supports Issue 2 (SB5). Some of my colleagues think I am out of my mind; but my purpose in doing so is to ensure that state and local governments can remain on a sound financial basis -- a goal that is by its nature opposed to those of collective bargaining. In support of my position, I cite none other than that union hero, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service, August 16, 1937:
The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."

Public employees are comparably paid (to the extent jobs are comparable) to those in the private sector, and in many instances are better paid when medical benefits and pensions are taken into account. While we have had long periods of stagnant wages, we are not suffering compared to the population at large. 

Keep in mind also, that Issue 2 limits the scope of collective bargaining, principally to wages. It does not abolish it. With a few exceptions, it has nothing to do with public pensions. Its purpose is simply to ensure that state government has the freedom to keep the budget in balance with respect to employee wages and benefits. An overview of Issue 2 appears in Ballotopedia.

A Yes vote on Issue 2 upholds the limitations on collective bargaining provided in SB5, a No vote repeals them.

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