That quote comes from Ellis Hankins of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, who commented for my recent Carolina Journal story about S3194, Sen. Harry Reid’s bill that would force states and local governments to collectively bargain with public-sector public safety workers. Hankins and his organization have multiple concerns, including unchecked congressional power.
When the story was published online last week, there had been no movement on Reid’s bill. However, today’s News & Observer indicates there may well be action soon.
I urge you to read the entire Carolina Journal story. If the bill becomes law, every North Carolinian will be impacted. Here’s a piece:
S. 3194 would override North Carolina General Statute 95-98, which for 51 years has prohibited public sector collective bargaining. S. 3194 would let public safety employees choose to be represented by a union and have their hours, wages, and terms and conditions of employment determined by collective bargaining. Supervisors and managers would be exempt.
The North Carolina League of Municipalities estimates 28,000 municipal and county law enforcement workers and paid firefighters would fall under the bill. The State Office of Personnel puts the number of public safety positions in state government at nearly 3,800, including members of Highway Patrol, employees of the State Bureau of Investigation, and others.
“From my experience, it would be costly to local governments,” said Wayne Bowers, city manager of Greenville and former city manager of Gainesville, Fla., where collective bargaining is law. “We had one full-time labor relations person, we had a staff assistant to that labor relations director, we had one city attorney who spent just about full time on labor relations issues, and we occasionally had to hire outside attorneys.” Cost to Gainesville: roughly $250,000.
Mint Hill Police Chief Tim Ledford, president of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, believes collective bargaining would bring tax increases and layoffs. NCACP opposes the bill. Ledford, once a union official in a different industry, says he understands rank-and-file officers see collective bargaining as a path to higher compensation. However, his experience showed him union contracts hurt good workers by protecting slackers: “With unions, everybody gets the same across the board.”
Compensation costs will rise with a unionized public sector work force, according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies for the Cato Institute. In the Cato report Public-Sector Unions (PDF), Edwards writes that after adjusting for state-to-state differences in the labor market, “public-sector unions increase average pay levels by roughly 10 percent.”
I also urge you to read this Legislative Alert issued by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. It explains county concerns about S3194 and collective bargaining.
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