Category Archives: Unions

Can We Build It? Not With Michigan’s Prevailing-Wage Mandate

Source: Can We Build It? Not With Michigan’s Prevailing-Wage Mandate – WSJ

The builders I work with are used to Michigan putting the thumb on the scale for labor unions. But we never expected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to go so far as to disregard the law. She has unilaterally imposed a prevailing-wage mandate on the biggest state construction projects, even though the state Legislature officially ended this policy in 2018. The nonunion construction companies I represent are no longer able to compete for these contracts fairly and openly. And we aren’t the only losers. Ms. Whitmer is lawlessly sticking it to taxpayers, too.

I was there when the Legislature repealed the prevailing-wage law. Before it happened, Michigan set a floor for the wages and benefits that construction companies had to pay for their contract bids to be considered. It was a blatant handout to unions, since it priced out the 80% of commercial construction companies that aren’t unionized. It also made no sense. Michigan apparently cared more about pay rates than it cared about safety records, quality, efficiency and the cost to taxpayers.

Killing the prevailing-wage law took a lot of work. Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed legislation making Michigan a right-to-work state in 2013, but he had little appetite to tackle this issue. So nonunionized construction companies led a citizen initiative under the Michigan Constitution. We collected tens of thousands of signatures, sending the issue straight to the Legislature. Lawmakers overwhelmingly stood with taxpayers, bypassing the governor and ending prevailing wage for the whole state.

People always nodded along. They wouldn’t pick the highest bidder to fix their own roof and they didn’t want politicians to spend more of their tax dollars on local projects than was absolutely necessary.

But economic common sense has nothing to do with Ms. Whitmer’s decision. She announced the reinstatement of prevailing wage in October despite a state law clearly repealing it. Now, whenever officials launch a project that costs $50,000 or more, they are less likely to pick a nonunion business.

More than 5,000 construction companies in Michigan aren’t unionized. The average company employs 50 to 60 workers. That’s tens of thousands of Michigan workers who are more likely to be stuck on the sidelines, when by law they have every right to be in the game.

Unsurprisingly, Ms. Whitmer has shown no sign of changing her mind. She also seems to be unwilling to explain the reasoning behind her actions. My organization filed a public-records request in April, asking for documents explaining why her action is valid. To date we’ve received no documents, only requests for delays. So with the help of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, we’ve filed a lawsuit asking state courts to throw out the prevailing wage.

Michigan law is clear: The prevailing wage is supposed to be dead. All my guys want to do is build the local library at the best cost to taxpayers. But before that can happen, a judge needs to throw the book at Gov. Whitmer.

Mr. Greene is president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, a trade group for nonunion construction companies in the states.

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A California Attempt to Repair the Crumbling Pillar of U.S. Education

The “teacher’s unions” have probably caused more damage to our country than about anything I can think of. The negative, life-long, impact the the poor educational system has had on America’s youth is off the chart. But I guess, 80 million Americans keep voting them in?? mrossol

WSJ 11/28/2021, by Andy Kessler

Public-school education has gone from bad to worse. In the Chicago Public Schools, only 26% of 11th-graders were at grade level in reading and math in 2019. Remarkably, the school system had a record-high graduation rate of nearly 84% in 2021. Those students must have had strong senior years! This is why over half of first-year community-college students in the U.S. take at least one remedial course in reading or math. In the U.S., 43 million adults are illiterate. This is a disgrace.

 

In pre-pandemic California, only 32% of fourth-graders were at or above proficient for their grade in reading. Only 19% of eighth-grade Hispanics read at grade level, and only 10% of eighth-grade blacks did. Those who find disparate impact everywhere should be screaming from the rooftops that public education is racist. Instead, silence.

Despite these poor results, spending per student goes up each year. New York spent $25,139 per student in fiscal 2019. In California, it’s over $20,000. So why haven’t outcomes improved? Parents know why. Bad teachers don’t get fired. Because of tenure, even some capable teachers mail it in. Bad school districts don’t get fixed. Caps on charter schools, even those with proven records, limit their ability to put pressure on public schools. Teachers unions are all-powerful.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Welch is trying to improve California’s education system. He tells me we need “accountability of quality education.” You may recall the 2014 Vergara v. California decision, a suit Mr. Welch and others funded. Filed on behalf of nine public-school students, the ruling found that five California statutes related to teacher tenure, firing bad teachers and layoff policy violated the state’s Constitution. In his ruling, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu noted, “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

No matter. The California Court of Appeal reversed Vergara in 2016 stating: “With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes.” In the court’s view, the California Constitution guarantees merely a free public education.

So Mr. Welch was back where he started, with, he says, an “educational system that doesn’t prioritize its actions to educate the children to a degree necessary to function in our society.” Bad teachers are constitutionally protected.

But with his background as a logically thinking Cornell-educated engineer, he set out to prove bad teaching was “a constitutional violation.” In the Democrat-controlled California Legislature, that was going to be a tough sell. Teachers were the fourth-largest campaign contributors to California’s legislative races in 2020 behind energy, prison guards and healthcare. “The Legislature won’t listen to the people,” Mr. Welch grumbles.

Fortunately, Californians can change their constitution through ballot initiatives. And voilà, a group named Kids First including Mr. Welch filed the Constitutional Right to a High-Quality Public Education Act. Here’s the key provision: “And law, regulation, or policy, or any official action affecting students generally, which does not put the interest of the students first, shall be deemed to deny this right.”

Critics will focus on the lack of a definition for “high-quality public education.” Mr. Welch explains, “The metric for existing or any future legislation, and every school board decision, is ‘Does it make students better or worse?’ ” Pretty simple, yet I suspect it would be deadly effective. This would, by necessity, launch many lawsuits to challenge the status quo of tenure, of the inability to fire bad teachers and of everything else. It would become the guiding principle for any new legislation: Does it put kids first? “The corollary to this right is the existence of a high-quality teaching profession,” Mr. Welch says.

And then there is this provision: “The remedies for this right shall not include new mandates for taxes or spending.” It’s smart for two reasons. It will help the initiative pass, and history has shown that throwing money at the problem doesn’t work.

The cost? Around $8 a signature—they need a million to get on the ballot—plus the cost of the inevitable TV-ad battle with the California Teachers Association and its 310,000 members. That could get expensive.

I asked Mr. Welch why he wants to spend his time and hard-earned capital on this. “What we’re doing to our kids is horrific,” he says. “I can’t think of a greater loss of potential than the poor quality of education of our children. And all the other societal problems that come with it. The prison system uses educational outcomes—fourth-grade reading levels—to determine what size correctional facilities they’ll need.” Scary.

I think a successful Kids First ballot initiative would do more for “equity” than any government program. “The best way in making a productive functioning society is making sure everyone lives up to their potential,” Mr. Welch says. “Education is one of the basic pillars of American democracy.” That pillar is crumbling.

Write to kessler@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-crumbling-pillar-of-education-california-dave-welch-vergara-school-choice-charter-11638115242?mod=hp_opin_pos_2#cxrecs_s

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I fear for america

Yes, there are racists in America. Always have been and always will be.  But William Galston is likely closer to the truth in his analysis that there is something missing in American police organization that will not correctly address the “bad apples”, the bad cops who are the cause of an extremely high percentage of the problems.  And if the Police unions bear some of the blame, they need to own it too.  mrossol

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WSJ 6/3/2020. by William A Galston

Along with millions of Americans, including President Trump, I watched the video in which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before Floyd died. Although Mr. Chauvin knew he was being recorded, he appeared not to care. He must have believed that he could act with impunity. And why not? The 18 complaints previously filed against him had led to nothing more than two letters of reprimand.

This is part of a larger pattern. Civilians have lodged more than 2,600 complaints against Minneapolis police officers since 2012, the Journal reports. Only 12 have resulted in disciplinary action, and the most severe penalty was a 40-hour suspension from duty. It is hard to believe that the facts underlying so many complaints warranted no more than this.

Rioters Torch the Rule of Law

00:00 / 23:14

Writing in these pages on Monday, Robert L. Woodson, a veteran African-American leader, recalls his work decades ago with the National Black Police Association, which recommended requiring police officers to restrain or even arrest other officers who were using undue force against civilians. “Loyalty and commitment to the rule of law should prevail over loyalty to fellow officers,” Mr. Woodson writes.

This did not happen in Minneapolis last week. The three other officers on the scene did nothing to restrain Mr. Chauvin and said almost nothing to persuade him to alter his conduct. It is hard to believe that they would have behaved this way if Mr. Woodson’s unarguable principle had been an enforceable rule in their department.

In some ways, Minneapolis was ripe for this incident. The city’s income gap between white and African-American households is among the widest in the country. Minorities are significantly underrepresented in its police force. Only 8% of its officers live in the city—almost none in minority communities—compared with a nationwide average of 40%.

Although Minneapolis has had its share of reformist police chiefs and elected officials, change has come haltingly. As in many other cities, the police union has protected its members against discipline and dismissal. The current head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis was named in a racial-discrimination lawsuit brought by a group of black officers, including the city’s current police chief.

Despite its special history, Minneapolis is far from unique, which helps explain the eruption of protests across the country. The U.S. has a pervasive problem. Bolstering federal criminal and civil laws against police misconduct is part of the solution—if the attorney general is committed to enforcing them vigorously. But the bulk of the response must take place at the state and local level, starting with Mr. Woodson’s proposal. And while officers charged with misconduct are entitled to due process, police unions should be deprived of the power to thwart needed disciplinary action.

Sadly, Americans’ response to these episodes has become routinized. We repeat, accurately, that most officers are dedicated public servants doing their best, under difficult conditions, to protect local residents and preserve public order. We insist, as we should, on preserving a bright line between peaceful protest, which is the right of every citizen, and violence against lives and property. And we recognize, rightly, that when arson and looting occur, minority-owned businesses are often the principal victims.

But Americans have been mouthing these sentiments for decades, and nothing has changed. A structural problem requires a structural response. We need one urgently.

I have long regarded 1968 as the worst year for America since the Civil War. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the violent protests it sparked; the killing of Robert F. Kennedy and the Democratic Party’s subsequent self-immolation at the Chicago convention; intensifying controversy over the Vietnam War, which divided classes and generations; George C. Wallace’s racist and populist presidential campaign, which garnered 13.5% of the popular vote and 46 electoral votes—these were but some of the milestones in that annus horribilis.

April 1968. Smoke was billowing in the distance—from the South Side—as I drove in Chicago, where I was a student at the time. I remember saying to myself: It can’t get worse than this. For more than half a century it didn’t—until now. A health crisis, an economic crisis, and a racial crisis have converged to produce a clear and present danger to American democracy. U.S. enemies abroad cannot contain their glee; America’s friends regret our plight—and fear for the future of a world order that was built on a foundation of American power, principles and persistence.

Adam Smith famously remarked that there is “a lot of ruin in a nation.” But there are limits, and we are testing them. Previous crises have always summoned the leadership the U.S. needed. Will our current crisis do the same? I’m not sure. I fear, as never before, for the future of my country.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/ive-never-been-so-afraid-for-america-11591139729?mod=opinion_featst_pos3

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WHO SHOULD BAIL OUT NY?

WSJ 5/18/20220

Democrats want a $915 billion budget bailout for states and cities, and the leading lobbyist is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. His main public antagonist on the subject is Florida Senator and former Governor Rick Scott. Both men were first elected Governor in 2010, so let’s do the math to consider which state has managed its economy and finances better over the last decade.

In 2010 New York’s population of 19.378 million was larger than Florida’s 18.8 million. By mid-2019 Florida had grown to 21.48 million, according to the Census Bureau, while New York had barely increased to 19.453 million. Yet Mr. Cuomo recently signed a budget for fiscal 2021 of $177 billion that is even bigger than last year’s, papering over what was a $6 billion deficit before the coronavirus. Florida’s budget for fiscal 2021, not yet signed by new Governor Ron DeSantis, is expected to be about $93 billion.

Democrats in Albany are claiming to be victims of events that are out of their control. But they have increased spending by $43 billion since 2010—about $570,000 for each additional person. Florida’s budget has increased by $28 billion while its population has grown 2.7 million— a $10,400 increase per new resident.
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New York has a top state-and-local tax rate of 12.7%, while Florida has no income tax. Yet New York has a growing budget deficit, while Mr. Scott inherited a large deficit but built a surplus and paid down state debt. The difference is spending.

New York’s spending on worker retirement benefits has nearly doubled since 2010 and is six times greater than Florida’s. Its debt-service payments have also doubled. Albany’s biggest cost driver is Medicaid, which gobbles up 40% of the state budget—twice as much as education. Florida spends about the same on schools as on Medicaid.

Blame New York’s cocktail of generous benefits, loose eligibility standards and waste. New York spends about twice as much per Medicaid beneficiary and six times more on nursing homes as Florida though its elderly population is 20% smaller. Many New York nursing homes and hospitals are organized by unions, which use their political clout to drive generous pay and benefits.

Mr. Cuomo in 2014 expanded Medicaid as part of ObamaCare to able-bodied individuals earning up to 133% of the poverty line. Florida didn’t. While the federal government initially picked up 100% of the ObamaCare expansion tab, New York is now on the hook for 10%, which contributed to this year’s $4 billion Medicaid shortfall.

New York spends about $76 billion a year on Medicaid—three times more than Florida. Swelling Medicaid costs have squeezed spending on transportation, causing Empire State trains and roads to fall into disrepair. Florida has found money to pave potholes and increased transportation spending 10 times more than New York between 2010 and 2019.  Mr. Cuomo pleads poverty by claiming New York is a “donor” state to the federal government. But federal dollars account for about 35.9% of New York’s spending compared to 32.8% of Florida’s, according to the Tax Foundation. New Yorkers pay more in federal taxes than what Albany gets back because the progressive federal tax code hits high earners the hardest and New York still has many high earners. The “donors” are individuals, and the money isn’t Mr. Cuomo’s.

In any case, many high earners are moving to lower-tax states. New York lost $9.6 billion in adjusted gross income to other states in 2018 while Florida gained $16 billion. Workers are following jobs, and vice versa.
The rate of private job growth in Florida has been about 60% higher than in New York from January 2010 to January 2020. Finance jobs expanded by 25% in Florida compared to 9.7% in New York. By our calculations, New York would generate $10 billion more annually in tax revenue if its personal income had grown at the rate of Florida’s over the last decade.
New York’s future has been discounted before, but the coronavirus may be its most serious economic challenge. Many service businesses are learning they don’t need as many workers in the office and can save money by downsizing. Morgan Stanley has said it intends to reduce office space in New York City, and Twitter has told employees they can work remotely as long as they want. Many restaurants were struggling before the coronavirus due to New York’s high minimum wage, taxes, rents and suffocating regulation. Some may now close permanently.
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Mr. Cuomo no doubt realizes all this, which is why last week he cited a repeal of the $10,000 limit on the state-and-local tax deduction as his top request from Congress to keep more high earners from leaving. He also wants $61 billion in budget relief, which the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon notes would cover projected deficits for four years assuming spending increases by 4% annually.

The policy question is why taxpayers in Florida and other well-managed states should pay higher taxes to rescue an Albany political class that refuses to restrain its tax-and-spend governance. Public unions soak up an ever-larger share of tax dollars, but Albany refuses to change. Mr. Scott is right.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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