Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Intended or unintended consequence?

On September 27, 2007, Governor Patrick signed a bill allowing the card-check form of organizing for public employees in Massachusetts. As reported by the State House News Service:

Gov. Deval Patrick thrilled a roomful of labor activists this morning, signing a new law that allows unions to organize without holding elections, but instead circulating cards. Patrick later waved off questions about the bill robbing anti-union workers of their rights, saying, “I think . . . the time for debating this bill is over. It’s been passed, it’s been signed. It is about making it more straightforward for people to organize in the workplace, and that was its intention, and we intend to see that that intention is carried out.”

Now, it appears that the law would apply to the organizing of teachers in the state's charter schools. Was this its intention, or an unintended consequence?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

intended!!!! When they organize those schools they will grind to a halt just like the public schools thereby making them unable to sustain themselves and bolstering the public school argument. Aghhh!! Successful competition in today's global economy demands flexibility and unions are anything but that. No easy answer for sure here but there's got to be a better way than a pre-historic labor union approach!!

Anonymous said...

Isn't this going to affect BIDMC vis a vis the SEIU, or whatever they are called?

Paul Levy said...

No, it does not apply to us.

Anonymous said...

This legislation is an abomination, and the failure of the our media "watchdogs" to call attention to this travesty is the equivalent of profwessional malpractice. You can bet that if right-leaning organizations were try to rob people of the right to a secret ballot, the bow-tied cabal on Morrissey Blvd. would braying in unison.

As long this state's voters continues to support single-party rule, this is what we get, and what always get what we deserve.

anon 8:39 said...

Oh, sorry; I missed the PUBLIC employees part.
ps your firing physicians post was copied on to The Health Care Blog.

N Turnbull said...

Paul,

I believethe card check option is already the law for charter schools in Massachusetts. When charter schools were being discussed, one of the key issues was that employees who had already joined together into unions might lose protections. So the Commonwealth gave charter school employees the right to card check.

Are you opposed to the card check? Virtually every other industrialized country uses the card check as the major way of determining whether a majority of workers have decided to join together as a union. If you don't like it, why not????

Paul Levy said...

Because I believe in secret ballot elections, where people cannot be intimidated. In the US, authorization cards have been used to determine that there are a sufficient number of workers interested in having the election. Then, the election is held. It has been this way for many decades.

BTW, I don't believe that you are correct with regard to the process of creating a new union in a charter school, i.e., before passage of this particular law. That is certainly the impression of charter school administrators and board members from who I have heard.

ed burke said...

Whether charter schools are affected or not by the new law, the larger issue is the lack of discussion and debate at the State House prior to enactment. Out of 200 legislators, about 175 are Democrats. None of them voted against the bill. With the backing of the leadership in the House and Senate, SEIU expected the rank-and-file to fall on their swords, and they did.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the union a big supporter/contributor of the Governor's candidacy? This doesn't seem to pass the sniff test.

N Turnbull said...

Since this isn't my area of expertise, I checked with more knowledgeable folks, including Ron Marlin, who was the legislative director of the Mass AFL-CIO at the time the charter school law was enacted.

Here is the statutory cite from MGL, c. 71, section 89(aa)
(available at http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/71-89.htm):

aa) Employees of charter schools shall be considered public employees for purposes of tort liability under chapter 258 and for collective bargaining
purposes under chapter 150E. The board of trustees shall be considered the public employer for purposes of tort liability under said chapter 258 and
for collective bargaining purposes under said chapter 150E; provided,
however, that in the case of a Horace Mann charter school, the school
committee of the school district in which the Horace Mann charter school is
located shall remain the employer for collective bargaining purposes under
said chapter 150E. Teachers employed by a charter school shall be subject to
the state teacher retirement system under chapter 32 and service in a
charter school shall be "creditable service" within the meaning thereof.

A charter school shall recognize an employee organization designated by the
authorization cards of 60 per cent of its employees in the appropriate
bargaining unit as the exclusive representative of all the employees in such
unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Paul Levy said...

So, is the change that it is now down to 50% from 60%?

ERMurse said...

Card checks are needed in may circumstances because once enough cards get signed and an election is on the horizen the intimidation of employees starts. It takes a variety of forms from isolating select groups or individuals branding them as trouble makers and giving targeted concessions or favors to others. The basic divide and conquer stratagy. If employeers remained impartial and treated their employees equally and equitably there would not likely be a union organizing drive to begin with.

Paul Levy said...

Intimidation is likely to occur during a card check process -- in the other direction. The only way to assure a fair result is for people to have the right to vote in the secrecy of a ballot booth -- under the authority and supervision of a federal agency. Our code of conduct reflects the responsibilities that both employers and unions are expected to follow under federal law.

It is odd that a process that we accept as so right -- i.e., secret ballot elections -- in other realms of American life is so denigrated by some in this case.

Elliott said...

Mr. Levy,

Your consistently anti-union bias makes me respect you less. You may think you are being reasoned and dispassionate; simply responding to unfair attacks upon your integrity by SEIU, but I think you are ignoring the inherent tilt in your opinions which comes through with every blog post you write on this subject.

watchingindisbelief said...

In response to Elliott's comment above, I think it is strange that someone would respect you less for being open about what you think and inviting questions and comments. If anything, I have less respect for your silent colleagues, who either haven't the spine to respond, or are hoping that you'll get the wind knocked out of you. Or maybe they're hoping to not rock the boat with the various political interests in town? I admire you for having the gumption to be clear about where you stand. If a lowering of respect is due to any party here, I'd think the dubious prize should go to the party that is trying to denigrate the reputation of a community organization that has made a tremendous comeback in recent years, and that is a beacon of caring and compassion in the healthcare world.

I've been around Boston a while, and am surprised that anyone who knows your history and track record would call you anti-union. I think that here, in this particular organizig case, you are simply doing your job as CEO - advising your staff on what you think is best for the organization (while maintaining respect for their right to choose), and trying to protect the reputation of your organization from a union that has a tremendous amount of resources allocated to its tactics (which, from what I can tell so far, are unseamly at best).

Finally, let me be clear here, lest folks jump to conclusions - I am not anti-union. There is a place for unions in society - perhaps less so than in the days of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" - but that decision should be left upto workers to decide in a way that allows them privacy and protection. Does anyone else see the irony in the fact that the union is now trying to portray itself as in favor of elections, when it has previously tried to push card checks - and continues to push for this change at the federal level?