In reading about your beloved Governor Christie (pbuh) and the effupedness of the NJ budget, I’ve been meditating about the overwhelming burden of public sector unions. They’re pretty much set to bankrupt NJ, CA, and just about every other state in the longer run. So my question to you is this: if a politician had the intestinal fortitude to do to the unions what they’re doing to the states, what could he do? Labor law is set on the federal level, is it not? So a state could not pass a law that dissolved the state’s agreement with the union. What could they do, if anything?
Interesting questions. ‘Puter’s going to do his best with this, but encourages any labor lawyers (or uppity union thugs) to correct him if he is wrong.
Yes, federal labor law trumps state labor laws, to the extent they are inconsistent. But many states do have extensive labor laws and regulations of their own. For example, New York has the so-called Scaffold Law, which states that contractors and homeowners are strictly liable for any worker fall that occurs on a work site from a height, whether it’s a step stool or a fifty foot scaffold. So if your employee decides to stand on an empty five gallon bucket to install electric wiring and falls, you’re on the hook.
That’s a bit off topic though. Generally the National Labor Relation Act controls unionization throughout the United States, including public sector unions, though that was not its original intent. Many states offer additional laws regarding public sector unionization. For example, New York has the Taylor Law (mandates binding arbitration in the event of an impasse) and the Triborough Amendment (public unions cannot strike, but their contracts and guaranteed raises and step increases remain in effect until a new contract is reached).
And, in a fit of pique, New Yorers screwed themselves by enshrining in the state Constitution the requirement that pension benefits, once granted (i.e., once you enter the system) can never be reduced. Article V, § 7 provides “[a]fter July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”
Directly answering D.T.’s question now, ‘Puter thinks state politicians, if they had the cojones, could do a lot. In New York, they could repeal the Taylor Law and its Triborough Amendment. They could enact legislation forbidding unionization of public sector employees, or in lieu thereof, forbidding strikes for public sector employees, and freezing pay in the event of an impasse. No arbitration either.
But the one thing, at least in New York, that would make the public sector union problem much, much more tolerable would be to repeal Constitution’s Article V, § 7. New Yorkers could then replace it with the following: “Any pension or retirmenet system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a defined contribution plan. Defined benefit plans are hereby outlawed. This amendment shall apply retroactively, except to the extent a defined benefit plan has already been earned.” That would clear up much of the public funds burden associated with unionization.
Let them unionize. Just make it absolutely unpleasant. At least that’s what ‘Puter thinks. Hopefully, that at least gets at the gist of D.T.’s question.