Emilio Rocca

Post image for Unions Outgunning Opposition In Michigan

Organized labor is driving hard to enshrine collective bargaining right in Michigan State constitution. If Proposal 2 passes this November, they will have done just that, taking Michigan closer to a Mediterranean-style rigid and disastrous labor market.

So far, it looks like they are succeeding and no wonder, based on how much money is being spent by Unions and their allies. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supported by the Joyce Foundation (that strives for improving public policies in the Great Lakes region), published precise figures on the financial activity of the committees involved in the November ballot. As far as the collective bargaining issue (Proposal 2) is concerned, three committees are involved. The proponent committee, “Protect our Jobs,” lobbies for enshrining collective bargaining in the state constitution, while two committees, “Michigan Chamber PAC II” and “Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution,” oppose all the ballot questions.

By the time the MCFN release was issued, July 27, POJA has raised $8,143,307 from a long list of Michigan unions and spent $1,153,619 by that time, mainly for personnel. A partial list of unions and their expenditures include:

  • UAW: $1,250,000
  • UAW Solidarity House: $1,028,480
  • Michigan Education Association: $585,681
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME): $500,000
  • American Federation of Teachers-Michigan: $460,000
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters: $333,334
  • MEA Professional Staff Association: $300,000
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: $252,574
  • Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters: $250,000

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Post image for Work ‘til You Drop: Is This The Next European “Welfare?”

As Europe’s population ages, its widespread entitlement commitments will generate huge burdens on governments’ budgets.

The economic consequences are easy to foresee: just think of how pension and health expenditure, whom almost everybody is entitled to, could be financed. But what about the political consequences of an aging population? As the population ages in a democratic system, it will become increasingly difficult to reform entitlements of which an increasing number of people are taking advantage.

Forget about economic efficiency: the path of reforming the welfare state would be blazed by political constraints, leading somewhere rather unappealing, especially for future generations. Should we call this majority dictatorship — or rather, elderly dictatorship?

Take the case of pensions. In most European countries, pensions systems are unfunded: revenue collected annually for social security is what is being shared by those who are entitled to receive pension. An aging population implies that, ceteris paribus, more pensioners should be sustained by fewer workers.

How can we defuse this ticking bomb?

The best way to address the pension long-term unbalance would be moving to a funded system based on private retirement accounts. But allowing a worker to switch his social contributions to an individual account, in total or in part, implies lesser resources to be shared by current retirees. And financing the promised pensions by issuing bond is obviously not a possibility for a continent overwhelmed by public debt.

This means that such a reform would have little possibility of being implemented in Europe, as retirees in most European countries rely on pensions as their largest source of income: in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain an unfunded, public retirement system covers all employees and provides them with 75 percent of their retirement income. In United States, this first pillar of the pension system is less sizeable and provides, on average, 45 percent of a retiree’s income.

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As the Chicago teachers’ strike is entering its second week, Mayor Emanuel has pledged to seek an injunction with the court to force instructors back to the classrooms. The mayor maintains that those workers are committed to public duties and it’s illegal for them to strike. (Which mirrors Ronald Reagan’s attitude towards government strikers.)

Lucky for Emanuel, he is not a mayor of an Italian city like the one I live in, Torino. His power would be much weaker. In Italy, threatening mass firing would be immediately dubbed as fascist and courts would not back his stand against strikers. Article 40 of my country’s constitution in fact guarantees every worker a “right” to strike.

A considered critique to this constitutional provision was already given in 1965 by renowned Italian legal thinker Bruno Leoni. According to Leoni, a strike cannot be considered a crime but neither can it be considered a right. That’s because striking is not just absence from work: striking is absence from work in the presence of a contract. So how could failing to perform a contracted duty being considered a right?

What’s worse is that for Italian government workers, this right to strike that guaranteed to each is accompanied by a strong protection from firing. In Italy, a public-sector worker can only be fired for a serious disciplinary reason, not for low performance, not even for overt absenteeism.

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Post image for Unions Seek To Make Michigan A Mediterranean State

On September 5, the Michigan Supreme Court gave a green light to the so-called “Protect our Jobs Amendment” (POJA) for the November 6 ballot. The proposed amendment text would make collective bargaining a constitutional guarantee, and any state law that brought any limit to it would be repealed. But critics warn it will give more power to unions as well as prevent the state from ever passing a “right-to-work” law impeding unions from demanding dues from employees.

Supporters of the initiative claim that this amendment to the constitution will bolster workers protection. That’s what can be read on ProtectOurJobs.com: “Collective bargaining protects all Michigan’s families, giving workers the right to negotiate fair wages and benefits.” On the site, a testimonial states: “A Constitutional right to collective bargaining gives workers’ a voice at work and a seat at the table with management. We support this important right and the ballot proposal to ensure it’s there for Michigan’s citizens.” A scapegoat is easily found in CEO’s: collective bargaining “helps level the playing field for employees so that CEOs aren’t the only ones benefiting from a company’s success. They make millions while the people who actually do the work have seen their wages stagnate and cut.”

Behind this propaganda is a whole bunch of money: unions have donated more than $8 millionAs Michigan Live reports, the UAW in Washington has donated $1.25 million, with the Detroit-based UAW Solidarity House adding $1.25 million as well. The Michigan Democratic Party contributed $250,000.

I was born in a very regulation-friendly country, Italy, and I can tell you that this will not work. If Michiganders want to “protect their jobs,” passing laws may bring some temporarily relief for some workers, but ultimately will lead the labor market down the wrong path.

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