April 9, 2010

As if we didn't know who calls the shots in RI

Marc Comtois

So the long-awaited supplemental budget has finally made it's way to the RI House floor. According to Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, “This is a budget where everyone shares a little bit of the pain." Well, at least, that was the plan:

Changes are possible in the coming days, as evidenced by one reversal by Democratic leaders over the course of four hours on Thursday, a day characterized by closed-door meetings among the Assembly’s Democratic elite.

Fox shocked public-sector unions when he confirmed at roughly 4:30 p.m. that the budget plan would require municipal employees to contribute at least 15 percent of their health-care premiums in new contracts.

An hour later, AFL-CIO President George Nee vowed to spend the coming days “aggressively lobbying every member of the House” to reverse the plan, characterizing the move as “a totally unacceptable intrusion into collective bargaining.”

The outcome, according to Nee, could have political consequences: “This is an election year,” he said. “It could be a factor in how endorsements are made.”

By 8:30 p.m., Democratic leaders had confirmed that the co-share requirement had been stripped from their budget plan, a victim of a final round of negotiations among House and Senate leaders, according to House spokesman Larry Berman.

Nothing much to add.

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So the powerful unions once again play the GA like marionettes

Posted by: Roland at April 9, 2010 8:46 AM

GOOD! Demonizing unions does not work. The only reason there are still jobs here in RI is because of the unions. So the next time you see a union member you should thank them

Posted by: Andrew Wasser at April 9, 2010 9:34 AM

HA HA HA HA! Good one Andrew. Except you're about 8 days late.

You're a funny kid. Thanks for the humor.

Posted by: Patrick at April 9, 2010 9:37 AM

Demonizing unions?This is merely an attempt to get municipal unions to share some burdens with the rest of RI's residents.Is it asking too much Mr.Wasser?I was a public sector employee union member for 27 years and always paid a co-share(and it was significantly more than 15%)and was grateful for the coverage.
Things have changed.Maybe when the pension payments don't show up in direct deposit a light will go on in some peoples'heads.
Mr.Wasser-are you a public employee or one of those "organizers"?
Just remember,Nee will NEVER lose his personal gravy train.Crowley won't either-those types always get taken care of.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 9, 2010 9:41 AM

It is time for Rep. Schadone to step up and call on his supporters to move a floor amendment to put the 15% co-pay back. If that move fails, then they should be prepared to supprot the Governor when he vetos the bill for not going far enough!

A divided House is not so easily controlled. The minority party and the Schadone democrats have power here, if the Governor will help them with a veto threat.

Is the Don that brave? We shall see.

Posted by: John at April 9, 2010 10:39 AM

Excellent point, John. Have you called/emailed Schadone to recommend that?

Here is another sterling example of the moral ground inhabited by the NEA. It is not a high ground:

from cbs.com:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't laughing about a teachers union's memo that hints of his death.

The memo is the latest salvo in a war of words between Christie and the union over wage and benefits concessions.

The Record of Bergen County obtained the Bergen County Education Association memo that includes a closing prayer:

"Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."

Association president Joe Coppola says the "prayer" was a joke and was never meant to be made public.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak says there's nothing professional about the group.

Meanwhile, Drewniak says the governor is also considering reopening union contracts to try to get salary concessions at the institutes of higher learning.

Unionized employees at the schools deferred a 3.5 percent increase last year when former Gov. Jon Corzine reopened their contracts.

College and university officials are considering cuts to staff and programs to offset a $173 million cut to higher education in Christie's proposed budget.

On Tuesday, Christie extended a deadline for school districts to receive additional state aide in exchange for teachers agreeing to wage freezes.

Posted by: BobN at April 9, 2010 10:52 AM

It's not the 15%. Its the state government opening negotiated municipal contracts and imposing a fee on people with no regard to contractual law. Nobody liked it very much when the federal government did something similar with the health care legislation. There are obviously big differences, but the fundamental ideology remains the same, union, public, private, whichever. I haven't had time to form a more cohesive argument but will give it more thought as the night progresses.

Posted by: michael at April 9, 2010 8:55 PM

Michael, if you want to get down to the final analysis of the issue, either the unions re-open negotiations voluntarily, or local governments will file bankruptcy and the contracts can be unilaterally rejected, including all of their terms including minimum staffing and work rules. Which is easier for the unions?

Posted by: BobN at April 9, 2010 10:06 PM

The deal was for future contracts that wouldn't have done anything for this year's budget, and was actually a pretty bad idea to begin with. What is to stop future general assembly's from imposing a zero copay for heathcare on municipal contracts, or a $100,000 minimum salary?

Posted by: michael at April 10, 2010 6:12 PM

Michael, I'll agree with you that it is not legitimate for the GA to legislate the details of labor contracts, although they have done so many times already. The only proper action by the state is to remove the statutory mandates in labor contracts so that the various employers and unions can be free to negotiate.

It is still true that there isn't enough money to pay for the rich terms in these contracts, and realistically there never would be from the moment they were negotiated. That bad faith bargain, vis-a-vis the public, can only be repaired by renegotiating the contracts. Once again, on the bottom line, whether it is done in or out of bankruptcy court, it will happen.

Posted by: BobN at April 10, 2010 6:30 PM

"It is still true that there isn't enough money to pay for the rich terms in these contracts, and realistically there never would be from the moment they were negotiated."

Perhaps some, definately not all contracts are too rich to pay for. If Providence can't afford to pay a firefighter $50,000 a year with a group health plan that they administer and a 1/2 pension after 20 years they shouldn't have advertized the terms of employment in the Providence Journal nineteen years ago.

Posted by: michael at April 11, 2010 3:11 PM
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