June 21, 2008

State Employee Unions to Vote on Contract Compromise

Marc Comtois

Governor Carcieri and his administration is remaining tight-lipped concerning a potential state worker contract proposal negotiated with several union leaders. Instead, we're finding out the information from union leaders who don't like the plan. According to the ProJo:

The agreement was reportedly negotiated by Council 94 executive director Dennis Grilli, AFL-CIO secretary treasurer George Nee and Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island.

The decision to send the proposal to the membership of Council 94 was made over the objections of union president J. Michael Downey, who led the opposition on Thursday when it was first presented to — and unanimously rejected by — the presidents of Council 94’s member locals.

The Journal also got a hold of the proposed agreement, and have made it available on-line. doesn't sound like this is going to be smooth sailing.

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Not a chance in hell the leeches vote for this. All a game.

Posted by: Mike at June 21, 2008 10:17 AM

A quick read indicates progress, but certainly nothing draconian compared to the prevailing conditions encountered by those of us out here in the real world of the private sector.

The co-shares / co-pays are relatively low to average; they get raises every year (which will also increase their pension benefits).

They may squeal like stuck pigs, but no reason whatsoever to feel sorry for them - the only thing that is occurring is that the real world is just beginning to intrude on their fantasy world of annual and perpetual increases in pay and benefits.

Posted by: Tom W at June 21, 2008 10:57 AM

feel lucky you have a job

Posted by: johnpaycheck at June 21, 2008 11:46 AM

Let's see... The average worker gets 2.1 % per year over the next 4 years. The co-pays increase by a larger amount equating to a net loss in pay for the average worker.

Meanwhile cities and towns will increase property taxes by at least 4% per annum over the same period because the General Assembly refuses to act responsibly. Gas, Electricity and Home heating oil will continue to climb at a rate far higher than 2.1%.

Anyone notice that the General Assembly saw fit to take $17,000,000 from the state colleges and universities and another $2,400,000 from the RI Scholarship Fund and transfer almost equal sums to the Judiciary’s Budget?

Why was the Judiciary’s budget was the only one to go ‘Up'. Gee, I wonder why? What could that be about? Any members of the legislature have legal problems lately?

And looming in the background are the “friends and relatives" of the powers that be. You know the incompetent ones pulling down in excess of $100K.

Will they feel the pain as much a secretary at RIC or DMV who makes about $40K and gets to be abused by the public, called a leech, and any other number of derogatory epithets?

Go after the political hacks that are costing this state millions instead of the “average” worker who tries to do a good job but lives in fear of political retribution and intimidation.

Posted by: Aldo at June 21, 2008 8:31 PM

I get a kick out of this supposed "real world" of Tom W's. Last I checked all workers were paying the same increases in energy and housing and food while wage inequality widens. The wealthy have gotten richer as the rest of us have lost ground. Pitting worker against worker does distact attention from the glaring Gilded Age- like inequality. Belittling unions of workers helps that cause. If you're not rich and you think you want to live in Tom W's real world then you're nuts. If you're not rich and think that another workers gains is whats keeping you from moving ahead then you've been brainwashed. If you're not rich and get angry about the deal that a public employee gets relative to your own where do you direct your anger? Where the rich tell you?

Posted by: Phil at June 22, 2008 9:27 AM

Phil / Aldo,

In the Real world, people lose their jobs, lose benefits, go without raises.

RI's unemployment rate has skyrocketed, and it is not from Public employees losing their jobs.

In the Public E/E Union world, they NEVER go without a pay increase. And when the FINALLY begin to share in the ever increasing costs of their healthcare, you call it a "takeaway".

How about being thankful they've had it as good as they have all these years. The rest of us have been paying for not only the increases in our own healthcare, but also the increase in the Public employee's healthcare. Making them pay isn't a "takeaway" ...it is just putting them where they should have been all along.

With respect to your rants about the "rich" (who ever they are), why don't you just become "rich" yourselves if it is so damn easy? That would solve your problems, wouldn't it?

Posted by: George Elbow at June 22, 2008 9:50 AM


There is nothing wrong with anyone wanting to improve their lot in life; indeed that is the very heart of the capitalist system.

But there is a huge distinction between public sector workers and private sector workers.

The public sector is not market-based – its revenue comes from compulsory taxation. Those employed in the public sector are insulated from competition; do not have to provide a service for which anyone would voluntarily contribute (e.g., would RI’s welfare bureaucracy be as large if funded by a voluntary check-off box on our tax returns?); and government workers need not be concerned that their employer might become uncompetitive and go out of business.

Further, in those states where unionization of public sector workers is permitted, the inevitable consequence is that the public sector unions “elect” management, and so “collective bargaining” becomes a charade, as the union(s) effectively sit on both sides of the table. While a valid case can be made for collective bargaining in the private sector, the record shows that permitting it in the private sector is a slow-motion disaster. Even FDR, whose “New Deal” spawned the National Labor Relations Act (unionization in the private sector) opposed public sector unionization, which is why it didn’t come along until the 1960’s.

While a public sector is essential when “right-sized” and when it sticks to its proper duties, the experience here in RI (and elsewhere) is that it becomes both monopolistic and parasitic, harming the “working families”

As Rhode Island’s public sector pay and benefits have leapt far beyond those of equivalent private sector jobs, the taxes necessary to support that largesse increasingly are directed from operational functions (e.g., road maintenance) to payroll / benefits; and the spiraling tax increases have caused a continual stream of companies (i.e., employers) to leave this state, or not establish a presence here in the first place. As jobs leave, “working families” suffer.

Above market pay and benefits in the public sector don’t help “lift up” private sector workers. Rather the taxes drag them down. If a private sector worker went into their boss asking for a raise because their neighbor who works only 35 hours a week at the Registry of Motor Vehicles makes far more pay and benefits, they’d be laughed out of the office. Their employer has to compete with what his/her private sector competition is paying – out of what is left from the employer’s revenue stream after taxes.

I’m all for lifting the pay and benefits and economic outlook for private sector workers (unionization is not the answer to that, but that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion) … and from that benchmarking to make public sector pay and benefits comparable.

But we can no longer afford RI’s public sector workers to live in a bubble of pay and benefits far in excess of those of the taxpayers who feed them.

Demonizing “the rich” makes for a nice sound bite, but it is a red-herring.

Posted by: Tom W at June 22, 2008 10:12 AM

>nion(s) effectively sit on both sides of the table. While a valid case can be made for collective bargaining in the private sector, the record shows that permitting it in the private sector is a slow-motion disaster.

Typo - sorry. Should have said: "While a valid case can be made for collective bargaining in the private sector, the record shows that permitting it in the public sector is a slow-motion disaster."

Posted by: Tom W at June 22, 2008 10:17 AM


Steve Malanga had an interesting article a week or so ago on Real Clear Markets. He looked at the NFL -- a completely unionized operation -- and found that the distribution of player incomes was about equal to the distribution of U.S. incomes. In other words, he found the same concentration at the top. He then extended his analysis to baseball, basketball and hockey, and again found the same thing.

Any thoughts about why this is the case, despite 100% unionization of the workforce?

Posted by: John at June 22, 2008 10:24 AM

Tom W.,

Well said!

Unfortunately, me thinks your words are lost on too many people who's only experience is the Public Sector. They haven't a clue what it goes on the world outside of the entitlement minded insular world of the Union.

Competition & merit aren't even in their vocabulary. Those words were replaced by one simple word the day they joined the Union ...ENTITLEMENT.

Posted by: George Elbow at June 22, 2008 10:27 AM


Employees within professional sports are "rich". Phil will tell you they don't count, as they are the enemy. Try to pay attention.

Posted by: George Elbow at June 22, 2008 10:33 AM

>Steve Malanga had an interesting article a week or so ago on Real Clear Markets.

He's written some great stuff on City Journal.

"The Mob That Whacked Jersey - How Rapacious Government Withered the Garden State" is a super read for all Rhode Islanders, for it EXACTLY describes what is also occurring in this state:


Posted by: Tom W at June 22, 2008 4:22 PM

An excerpt from the Malanga NJ article mentioned a moment ago - sound familiar?

But today Jersey is a cautionary example of how to cripple a thriving state. Increasingly muscular public-sector unions have won billions in outlandish benefits and wages from compliant officeholders. A powerful public education cartel has driven school spending skyward, making Jersey among the nation’s biggest education spenders, even as student achievement lags. Inept, often corrupt, politicians have squandered yet more billions wrung from suburban taxpayers, supposedly to uplift the poor in the state’s troubled cities, which have nevertheless continued to crumble despite the record spending. To fund this extravagance, the state has relentlessly raised taxes on both residents and businesses, while localities have jacked up property taxes furiously. Jersey’s cost advantage over its free-spending neighbors has vanished: it is now among the nation’s most heavily taxed places."

Posted by: Tom W at June 22, 2008 4:24 PM

Professional sports and player salaries are controlled by the same economic forces that we all are subjected to. The many highly motivated workers who struggle at the bottom of the wage structure with the few stars getting the outrageous contracts (non union negotiated) The 100% unionization
arguement does'nt account for either the role or power of that union. It does'nt appear to have much of either.

Tom W
How does bringing up the wage inequality that exists and pointing out to people that their anger should not be directed at public employees demonize the rich?

I would add to your libraries Paul Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal.

Posted by: Phil at June 23, 2008 6:17 AM


Who & how do you define the "rich"? Are you talking about Public Employees who retire in their 40s & 50s without paying their fair share for health-care?

How are they getting a break? Are you referring to the overly generous and unsustainable benefits paid to these Public Employees, many of which are "no shows" like PFD Pwesident Lazy-Ass Pauly "No Show" Doughty.

Most importanlty, if being "rich" is so easy (apparently they don't have to work hard, they don't have to sacrifice, they don't have to take risks, they don't have to work long hours, etc.), it seems to me that the answer to your ills is to go become "rich". It's very easy to do. The hardest part is that you'll be expected to carry all the lazy and less industrious, less self-motivated folks on your back.

Better yet, you could drive all the "rich" (along with the jobs they create & sustain) out of the State and region. Then I assume you and the other "non-rich" would do what, create collectives to survive?

Posted by: George Elbow at June 23, 2008 6:39 AM
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