Monday, November 23, 2009

'Not business friendly' Post #17 -You're going to have a union contract whether you want one or not!


Well, that's if Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop and the Northwest Ohio Building and Constructions Trades Council have their way.

Tomorrow the Commissioners have a resolution on their agenda titled: Incorporating Project Labor Agreements into Bidding Specifications for all County-Supported Projects.

Here's the summary:

Whereas this Board of County Commissioners is responsible for facilitating funds for social services, employers who contract to construct county-supported projects are effectively compensated with public dollars and should pay their workers enough so that those same workers might not also rely on taxpayer-funded social services. Applying project labor agreements on all county-supported construction projects, which will ensure workers on those projects are paid prevailing or union-negotiated wages, will also create more opportunities for our local working families, promote fair-bidding practices, protect area standards, avoid disruptions, delays and labor disputes, and create a higher level of workmanship on the aforementioned projects.

What does this really mean?

In a nutshell, if you're going to bid on a contract with the county, you're going to have to enter into a labor agreement with a local union for that specific project.

Talk about insanity and 'not business friendly'!

Additionally, the resolution has two lines - one for 'budget impact' and one for 'statutory authority' - where the costs to the county and the source of the authority for the resolution are cited. These two lines are blank for this resolution, so we have nothing to detail how much it will cost the county to implement, nor do we know if the commissioners even have the authority to institute such a provision.

Let's look at the 'assumptions' in the summary:

"...employers .... should pay their workers enough so that those same workers might not also rely on taxpayer-funded social services."

There are so many fallacies in this assumption, I'm not sure where to begin. So let's start with the basics. Employers should pay employees what they are worth in terms of the value of their labor. They should compensate employees based upon the work that is being done and how well the employee performs the assigned tasks.

But this resolution says employees should be paid based NOT upon those things, but based upon what the government has determined to be eligibility for certain hand-outs. This resolution states that employees should be paid so they make more than what the government determines is the maximum amount people can earn before they get such things as food stamps, Aid to Dependent Children, housing vouchers, heating vouchers, and a host of other hand-outs.

Of course, government has increased the amount of money you can earn and remain eligible. So does that mean that private employers must also increase their pay based upon a political decision designed to purchase votes?

Additionally, eligibility for many programs includes the number of dependents a person has. Should employers then base their pay on how many kids an employee has, even though that has absolutely nothing to do with the job the person is performing? And wouldn't an employer get into trouble for paying one woman more than another when they're doing the same job just because one has kids and the other doesn't?

Pay for workers should not be based upon some arbitrary factor established by government, especially when that factor (eligibility for 'social services') is completely unrelated to the labor being done.

Applying project labor agreements on all county-supported construction projects, which will ensure workers on those projects are paid prevailing or union-negotiated wages...

For most county projects, prevailing wages already apply. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find county projects under which prevailing wages are NOT applied. So this resolution will do nothing in that regard - though it sure does sound nice in the reso, doesn't it?

Prevailing wages are often based upon 'union-negotiated' wages - or at least incorporate those rates into the calculation, so to include the phrase 'union-negotiated wages' in the resolution is really just a duplication.

This is not just about wages, though that may be how it is advertised. No, this is about a host of other issues like binding arbitration, fringe benefits, no strike-no lockout, and all the other issues a labor agreement traditionally covers outside the scope of wages. This is about making sure all workers, whether they want to or not, are actually 'unionized' whenever they work for the county.

The resolution won't ensure the rate of payment for county projects, that's already being done under existing county policies in accordance with state law.

"...will also create more opportunities for our local working families ..."

It will? How? How does forcing union contracts upon workers create more opportunities for them? It doesn't. Employers and employees who have made a conscience choice to NOT be unionized will either be forced into a unionization contract or they won't get the county work. That's not 'creating opportunities.' That's punishing employers and employees who made a decision that unions and politicians don't like.

"...promote fair-bidding practices,..."

No - it won't promote fair-bidding practices. It endeavors to make unionized shops more attractive because their costs are traditionally higher than non-unionized shops. Fair bidding is to allow each company to put together the best proposal and to rate them on what they say they can do. What's even more fair to the taxpayers footing the bill is to select the less costly qualified bid.

But if not enough unionized workers are being hired because the costs of their contracts drive up the overhead of the company and result in a higher bid for the project, then politicians step in and try to spin a burdensome and unfair practice as somehow being more 'fair.'

I wish Commissioner Ben Konop, the sponsor of this resolution, was as concerned about taxpayer money as he is unionization of county workers. If he was, he'd never insist upon an arbitrary increase in costs just to satisfy a local union.

"...protect area standards..."

The only way this could be true is if unionized workers are inherently better at doing a job than non-unionized workers are. And we all know that 'unionization' is a far cry from a fair determiner of ability. In fact, many unions have reputations for protecting bad workers while non-unionized employers have a reputation of having an easier time in firing a non-performing employee.

Besides - this resolution doesn't mandate standards - it just mandates a union contract for a job.

And then there is this little phrase from the actual contract proposed to be signed if this resolution passes:

...protecting the area standards for wages and benefits realized through the process of collective bargaining by imposing union scale for all work covered by this Agreement.

Apparently, the 'standards' the unions are interested in are the ones for wages and benefits.

"...avoid disruptions, delays and labor disputes ..."

Well, I suppose since there is a no-strike/no lock-out clause in the agreement the resolution requires, this could be true. However, we've all seen labor disputes, delays and disruptions even when union contracts are involved, so there is no way this resolution can promise or ensure such.

"...create a higher level of workmanship on the aforementioned projects."

How, exactly, is a higher level of workmanship created? It doesn't say. In fact, this appears to be promotion of the fallacy that unionized workers are better skilled than their non-union counterparts. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that one person is more qualified to perform construction work simply because they're in a union.

The factors that relate to workmanship are training, experience, and ability. Simply having a union card doesn't ensure the skill of the individual, even if they've participated in union-sponsored training. In fact, there are plenty of training programs that are not union-sponsored that produce equally- or better-skilled individuals. The test is in the individual - not the card they carry in their wallet.

So, again, we have a statement that cannot be supported with fact and the proposed resolution contains no provision for guaranteeing the statement.

But the worst part of this is the fact that all workers will have to pay union dues to the union while employed on the county projects. Yes, that's right. This is a pay off to the unions to get them more money. As a condition of employment they must be a union member during the duration of the project. Section 3.4 of the proposed agreements states:

Upon being presented with a written authorization form by an employee covered by this Agreement, the Employer will deduct from the wages of such employee and remit to the Union all initiation fees, dues, and representation fees in accordance with the signed authorization.

There are other onerous provisions in the actual contract as well. If the employer doesn't make the mandated payments to the union for certain fringe benefits, the contract requires the county to withhold those amounts from any payment they'd be making to the company. The county would then pay the union directly. If the union negotiates other contracts with greater benefits while the project is on-going, those new terms of wages & benefits are applied to the county project - retroactively, if necessary. That means that costs for the project can never be known because, at any time, a union may engage in negotiations with other employers and any agreed-upon terms automatically apply to the county project as well.

There's also the standard union access clause that grants a union representative unescorted access to the work site at any time. They also get to designate stewards for the work.

Do these provisions make any sense to anyone but a union????

There is nothing in this resolution that will even remotely address the items it claims in the summary. All it will do is add to the cost of government projects by imposing unnecessary mandates on bidders. And with the county facing a $10 million deficit and planning to dip into the stabilization fund, is this really the time to increase the cost of projects?

In this economy, commissioners shouldn't do anything that adds to the cost of government, even under the guise of 'helping' 'working' families. I'm part of a 'working' family that is tired of footing the bill for preferential treatment for unions and other special interests.

You should read the entire resolution as well as the 'proposed contract' the resolution calls for.

And then you should do two things:

1) Call your commissioners and ask them who wrote the contract. I'd bet any amount of money that Ben Konop didn't - but that the union did.

2) Tell the commissioners that if they really want to destroy business and employment opportunities in the region - pass this resolution, for that's the outcome if they do.

Pete Gerken: pgerken@co.lucas.oh.us
Tina Skeldon Wozniak: twozniak@co.lucas.oh.us
Ben Konop: bkonop@co.lucas.oh.us
Phone number: 419-213-4500

5 comments:

Mad Jack said...

Labor unions are not a bad thing during times of prosperity. If not for labor unions wealth would never reach the middle class, which would be bad for all of us. All of us in the middle class that is.

The trouble is that the labor union has a blind spot. The union officials think that we're still at the hog trough, and we aren't. We taxpayers are poor. Broke, even. The thing to do during times like these, when there is too much available labor and not enough jobs is to allow the market to dictate the cost of labor. Then, later on when private industry rushes in to take advantage of the cheap labor, there will be a labor shortage thus driving the cost of labor up. Industry will pay - to a certain extent anyway - and the unsatisfaction of human wants (greed) will cause the formation of labor unions which in turn will eventually bankrupt industry, causing high unemployment and allowing the cycle to start over again. The trick is to break the union at the right time.

Anyway, that's the way I see it. Pardon me while I get a refill.

Maggie?

Maggie Thurber said...

Mad Jack - Unions have done much good over the years. In fact, many of the laws we have today about workplace safety, etc... are a result of the efforts of unions.

However, much of their advantages are no longer relevant because they've been so successful.

This resolution from the commissioners is objectionable because it removes CHOICE. It says that even though you and your employer may have chosen NOT to join a union, you must - basically - join a union if you want a county project.

It's also protectionism in that it seeks to mandate union terms on all, when those who have chosen NOT to have union terms may be able to offer a better price to the taxpayers. If unions are at such a disadvantage in terms of their costs, the 'government' shouldn't protect them from competition by mandating those costs on all other companies.

Konop, in presenting this resolution, is doing the union's bidding - not the taxpayers.

And in doing the union's bidding, he is directly opposing the conscience choice many Lucas County workers have made.

This is another example of government mandating your behavior toward what they want and away from the decisions you've already made.

skeeter1107 said...

Maggie,

Your article brings up a number of points. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

1. Isn't there something in the Ohio Revised Code that governs and controls the authority of County Commissioners? If so, does it give a county authority to restrain trade or limit the pool of competing bidders?

2. I find it perplexing that on the same day they are discussing budget cuts and the potential for laying off county workers, they want to consider something that will get us "less for more?"

3. I'm neither for or against unions. When it comes to business, use of everything from labor to work methods to equipment must be justified in it's use. Labor unions must justify their existence and usefulness in today's business environment. My question is "Does this heavy handed proposal concede that the Union's role in business is difficult to justify?"

Maggie Thurber said...

Skeeter:

1) yes, the ORC governs what the commissioners can do. If the code is silent on an issue, the commissioners have no authority. However, over the years, county commissioners have tried to place restrictions on the award of contracts. While they can't pass a law about doing business with the county, they have some leeway when it comes to conditions contractors must meet when bidding. It's a huge gray area and hopefully, if passed, will be challenged in court.

2) Yep - my point exactly. They're going to consider a measure that increases costs at a time that they're laying off peope and dipping into reserves to cover a $10 million deficit. That's smart! NOT!

As my friend Warner Todd Huston wrote in the link at the bottom of this post, "Only the tiny mind of a Democrat can see the difference."

3) I believe so. If union firms need this type of protection, they are admitting that they really can't compete in today's market. Personally, I think they can compete and do so effectively without such provisions. But that just means this is about the money the unions will collect from these 'temporary' union members.

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Maggie,

"These two lines are blank for this resolution, so we have nothing to detail how much it will cost the county to implement, nor do we know if the commissioners even have the authority to institute such a provision."

No matter, it will still pass.

Unfortunately, it's a socialist world out there these days. . .

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