Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The "me-too" clause

When it comes to union negotiations, government unions have it made. Most contracts with public unions contain what's known as a 'me-too' clause. Meaning that anytime a union within the government's jurisdiction gets a benefit, the other unions get it too.

In some instances, this is politically expedient...if you're able to negotiate a 2% pay increase with one union, you've got better standing for sticking with a 2% pay increase for other unions.

But in other instances, such provisions are extremely costly and negate the value of the concept of 'negotiation.'

For example: If a union decides that it wants a revision to its vacation schedule, they may be willing to give up something in exchange...it's all a matter of what particular item is most important to its members. In the 'negotiation' process, the union requests the vacation revision and the administration says, we'll trade that for a consolidation of job descriptions. After discussion, an agreement is reached...not as much vacation as was originally requested and not as many reductions in job descriptions. Both sign off on the agreement.

However, other unions see only the additional benefit - never the compromise which allowed for the extra benefits. The 'me-too' thinking comes into play when other unions start saying that they now get to have the additional vacation time. And rarely does the administration say...okay - but you also have to give up what the first union gave up. No - they just give in and everyone gets the additional benefit. And the cost is even greater than just for the unions because employees not in or not eligible for union membership often get the additional benefits as well. After all, you can't let your administrative and exempt staff have less of a benefit than those they're responsible for...

What we need in government is more leaders who are willing to take a stand on this issue and require unions and their staffs to look at the whole picture and not just the 'gains' that come from negotiations. We need more unions (there are some) who realize that all negotiated 'takes' are accompanied by negotiated 'gives' and elected officials who are willing to insist upon true negotiation any time that a union wants the same benefits another union has achieved.

COMING UP: Last week, after reading an article on Glass City Jungle, I started working on a post about PERS pickups...I'm still waiting for the information from the City, but it looks like the issue will be discussed at the next Toledo City Council meeting according to this Toledo Blade article about the Council's agenda review meeting. I was promised the information by noon Thursday, so look for the post (or an update) after then.

13 comments:

Hooda Thunkit said...

That "Me-too" clause can be deadly, unless all of the other conditions that accompanied the change should also follow to any other union invoking the "me-too" clause; fair is fair. . .

Maggie Thurber said...

very true, hooda.

Lisa Renee said...

I'm glad you are following this Maggie, I look forward to what you have as an update.

Maggie Thurber said...

thanks, Lisa...

-Sepp said...

I was never too big on unions. My dept at work is making the consideration now.

Maggie Thurber said...

-sepp, hopefully you'll get the ability to take a secret vote and not just have your employer agree to a card check...

tm said...

Maggie, what unions do this?

Maggie Thurber said...

tm - in City of Toledo, I believe that AFSCME (both line unit and supervisory), Police (TPPA and TPCO), Fire, and the units in the Clerks office which are a separate AFCME local and UAW.

In the County, there is the UAW, Sheriff-he has 2, AFSCME - may have forgotten one or two at EMA... but they don't all have the same wording.

And my experience in the county was that when the contracts didn't have a me-too clause which REQUIRED similar benefits, the concept was used as part of the bargaining...I don't have a problem with that being part of negotiations, because admin can use the concept as a reason NOT to give out benefits (saying 'if I give this you, I'll have to give it to everyone and we couldn't afford that...)

The UAW has a similar type of process with their representation at the big three where they negotiate with one company and then ask for the 'me-too' with the other 2. But I believe I read somewhere (Toledo Talk perhaps?) where our local JEEP UAW unit wasn't covered under the national contract.

tm said...

Thank you Maggie, i understand now. In my opinion it's things like these that give all unions a bad name. And i will totally agree (even though i am a union girl) that sometimes they ask for unreasonable terms. Like UAW (Delphi?) (no offense to anyone out there) but i remember reading something online that when they proposed the pay cuts to stay in business the workers said they couldn't live on $25 an hour!

Maggie Thurber said...

tm - I don't blame unions for asking for such clauses or using comparisons in negotiations. But I do blame leaders and unions for expecting something for nothing - for thinking that the benefits gained through negotiation with one union should then be awarded to all unions - and non-bargaining employees - without any of the corresponding give-and-take.

Rusty said...

The total strike against the City of Toledo (July 1, 1979 I think) was the beginning of the end for the City.

I remember standing on my front porch and watching smoke billow from several large fires (the trade unions burned a non-union construction site near the Museum), and keeping a loaded shotgun inside the door because there was no signficiant police or fire protection for two days.

That was the real kick off for the sprawl and the deterioration of the City.

The young folks might not remember.

-Sepp said...

Rusty is referring to the plaza hotel which was firebombed by a guy named Chambers from local 50 from what I remember.

The strike of'79 made things pretty interesting around here since some people went into "fool" mode thinking the police were non-existent. I also remember that the fireworks got cancelled too and going to see a display put on by FM104 at the now long gone Jesse James drive in.

darren stambaugh said...

The me too clause is a provision that is very dangerous! I understand how and why this clause originated, but I am discouraged at how it has evolved. I believe the "me too" to be nothing more than a union buster in current day negotiations. Unions are supposed to be able to come to the table and negotiate a contract in good faith. The "Me Too" prevents this. By this, I mean, management should not be influenced by what another union has in their contract "a me too" when trying to reach an agreement with a different union. This stalls negotiations and ties managements hands. A "me too" should only be upheld within the union that has it, not outside on anther local. Sorry for ranting. The me too clause makes me angry!

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