Public Unions

The Effects of Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector

New research seems to show adverse consequences from allowing collective bargaining for teachers and cops

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

What are the long-run consequences of allowing public sector unions to engage in collective bargaining? Less accountability and poorer performance according to some recent studies.

"The Effect of Collective Bargaining Rights on Law Enforcement: Evidence from Florida," by University of Chicago law professors Dhammika Dharmapala, Richard H. McAdams, and John Rappaport, suggests that police unionization may result in greater police misconduct. Here is the abstract:

Growing controversy surrounds the impact of labor unions on law enforcement behavior. Critics allege that unions impede organizational reform and insulate officers from discipline for misconduct. The only evidence of these effects, however, is anecdotal. We exploit a quasi-experiment in Florida to estimate the effects of collective bargaining rights on law enforcement misconduct and other outcomes of public concern. In 2003, the Florida Supreme Court's Williams decision extended to county deputy sheriffs collective bargaining rights that municipal police officers had possessed for decades. We construct a comprehensive panel dataset of Florida law enforcement agencies starting in 1997, and employ a difference-in-difference approach that compares sheriffs' offices and police departments before and after Williams. Our primary result is that collective bargaining rights lead to about a 27% increase in complaints of officer misconduct for the typical sheriff's office. This result is robust to the inclusion of a variety of controls. The time pattern of the estimated effect, along with an analysis using agency-specific trends, suggests that it is not attributable to preexisting trends. The estimated effect of Williams is not robustly significant for other potential outcomes of interest, however, including the racial and gender composition of agencies and training and educational requirements.

Turning from cops to teachers, a session at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association focused on "New Evidence on the Effects of Teachers' Unions on Student Outcomes, Teacher Labor Markets, and the Allocation of School Resources." This session featured several papers, two of which found (unsurprisingly) that unionization tends to result in higher salaries for teachers. The more interesting paper, however, was "The Long Run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining" by Cornell researchers Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen which found that teacher unionization has "adverse long-term labor market consequences for students." Here is the abstract:

This paper presents the first analysis of the effect of teacher collective bargaining on long-run labor market and educational attainment outcomes. Our analysis exploits the different timing across states in the passage of duty-to-bargain laws in a difference-in-difference framework to identify how exposure to teacher collective bargaining affects the long-run outcomes of students. Using American Community Survey (ACS) data linked to each respondent's state of birth, we examine labor market outcomes and educational attainment for 35-49 year olds. Our estimates suggest that teacher collective bargaining worsens the future labor market outcomes of students: living in a state that has a duty-to-bargain law for all 12 grade-school years reduces earnings by $800 (or 2%) per year and decreases hours worked by 0.50 hours per week. The earnings estimate indicates that teacher collective bargaining reduces earnings by $199.6 billion in the US annually. We also find evidence of lower employment rates, which is driven by lower labor force participation, as well as reductions in the skill levels of the occupations into which workers sort. The effects are driven by men and nonwhites, who experience larger relative declines in long-run outcomes. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we demonstrate that collective bargaining leads to sizable reductions in measured cognitive and non-cognitive skills among young adults. Taken together, our results suggest laws that support collective bargaining for teachers have adverse long-term labor market consequences for students.

I suspect both studies will prompt significant debate.

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  1. Collective bargaining is protected by the First Amendment.

    1. I don’t think so.

      “Nothing in the First Amendment or in this Court’s case law interpreting it suggests that the rights to speak, associate, and petition require government policymakers to listen or respond to communications of members of the public on public issues.”

      https://supreme.justia.com/
      cases/federal/us/465/271/

      And that’s just for the government. A private employer certainly has no constitutional obligation to listen to you personally, or to a collective of your choosing.

      Of course if your private employer wants to bargain with your chosen collective, then it would be unconstitutional for the government to forbid it. But the same would not apply to government employer ? the government has no 1st Amendment rights. The government can refuse to pay attention to you, and it can prohibit the parts of its body from paying attention either (within the limits of federal / state jurisdiction.)

      1. Since when did collective bargaining imply an entitlement for others to listen?

        The Supreme Court never even hinted that the Nazis had any entitlement for particular persons to attend thrir parade in Skokie.

        1. So you’re not basing your claim (that “collective bargaining is protected by the First Amendment”) on the free speech clause? Then what is the basis for your claim? It certainly can’t be the establishment of religion clause. Nor freedom of the press nor right to petition. The closest I can come is the right to assemble – but that right to assemble still doesn’t obligate the employer to listen to you. And until the employer is obligated to listen to you, collective bargaining is not protected.

          1. Freedom of association?

            1. Not enough.

              There is no right to collective bargaining unless the employer is legally obligated to negotiate with your association. The right to association by itself can not provide that obligation.

              1. The 1st Amendment generally does not impose obligations on others to listen, and collective bargaining is no exception.

                Employees of a company have the right to assemble and collectively petition their employer for higher pay.

                But no rights are violated if the state refuses to prohibit the employer for firing those employees.

              2. The right to bargain collectively is independent from the power to bargain collectively. The right comes from the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association, combined with the freedom of contract. As long as those three things exist, labor unions can and will exist.

                The *power* to bargain collectively though, most of the time comes from the ability to strike. It is an ability as long as people cannot be compelled to work. And that power is made effective by an unwillingness of people to be strikebreakers on account of human solidarity (as well as the thought that, if people are striking, that might not be a good place to work at), and the difficulty of training and acclimating such a large number of people at once.

                Any principled system that pays more than lip-service to libertarian principles must allow for unions to exist, and must allow them to make contracts with employers with the same validity as any other contract. I would argue that laws restricting that process contravene essential human liberty, and have served to create a labor establishment that has become overly co-dependent on the state.

        2. Since when did collective bargaining imply an entitlement for others to listen?

          Well, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “bargaining.” The 1st Amendment certainly gives you a right to invite your employer to listen to your demands, whether you choose to make them personally or by appointing someone else as a spokesman for you and your fellow workers. But if your employer doesn’t choose to turn up and listen, and if your constitutional rights do not somehow extend to making him listen (which they don’t), it’s difficult to see how this amounts to “bargaining.” It looks a lot more like baying at the moon (which, for the avoidance of doubt, I agree you have every right to do.)

          And likewise from the other direction. If your employer chooses to communicate with you directly, in person, or by mail, or by email you don’t have a constitutional right to insist that he communicate with your union instead.

          So I’m not disputing that the constitution allows you the right to speak via a voluntary association you have joined, as well as personally. But speaking is not bargaining. You need two sides to participate in bargaining.

          1. I understand. So, thete is a right to collectively petition the government, but no entitlement for the government to listen.

            1. “I understand. So, thete is a right to collectively petition the government”

              The right to petition the government is not particularly relevant to the public sector union issue.

              On many constitutional issues the government stands on a different footing when acting as an employer than it does when acting as the government.

              A government employee has no more right to petition the government than any other citizen.

              The government acting as an employer has no more obligation to listen to it’s employees than any private employer.

    2. Maybe ‘petition for redress of grievances’ but that can’t possibly be interpreted to apply to unions because it would ONLY apply to public sector unions in that case – and the entire amendment would make no sense. Congress can’t infringe on this stuff – except to pay a small group for it?

    3. Incorrect
      All of FTC and half of Justice are tasked with preserving the principles of free markets.
      That means many small agents, free flow of information, no monopolies and so forth.
      Those who understand even a smattering of Greek know that “no monopolies” mean no collusion among workers to withhold their services from the challenges of free markets.
      Unions are merely a temporary indulgence whose excuse is to balance the perceived power of employers.
      Your indulgence has expired.
      And that applies most emphatically to the public sector where there is NO excuse for employee collusion against the interest of taxpayers.
      If that is unclear, glad to restate with small words.

      1. The NLRB exempts unions from the Sherman Act.

      2. If your claim holds any water, than business combinations of any size should be eliminated. And every industry and trade association should be outlawed.

        The enforcement of the Sherman Act has grown weaker at the same time as unions have shrunk. The double-whammy of this has created an environment of businesses oligolopolies and no organizations outside of the state to check their powers.

    4. Private unions are categorically different from so-called “public” unions. In the private sector negotiations occur between the unions and the people who have to bear the cost of the unions demands. In the “public” sector, union members sit on both sides of the table to determine how much cost the tax payer must bear.

      1. Not true, at all.
        But keep holding on to your delusional ideas.

        1. In my 50 years of Gov’t involvement it is essentially true that management of public institutions do NOT hold the line at all with raise and salaries. They are smart enough to KNOW that as their staff makes more, in the end so will they! They also know if they oppose a raise for rank and file, when they want a raise there will be extra resistance.
          Saying “not true at all” is the totally DELUSIONAL position!

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    6. No. The right to join a union is protected by the First Amendment. The privilege of collective bargaining (i.e., the ability to force your employer to listen and take them to arbitration/court if they don’t bargain “in good faith”) is purely a statutoy creation.

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  2. As someone who has actually done collective bargaining for management in a large urban school district, I think a lot of the problem is sheer incompetence on the part of management. The unions train their negotiators in technique. Management does not and typically assigns responsibility to HR who can’t do anything right. The unions also coordinate across school district lines while management does not. A favorite technique of the unions is to settle with the weakest district and then use that to leverage settlements at stronger districts. I remember challenging a neighboring district (whose finances I made a point of knowing) as to where the money was going to come from for their settlement. They had no clue. Districts don’t understand the concept of total compensation which is a powerful negotiating tool. We tried to school our neighbors. We had a vague understanding that step increases were salary increases but they were completely at sea when it came to health insurance. For our part we even dragged retirement into the mix. And district administrators are far too timid in the presence of board member who have been elected with union support. When the union would try that, I would toss them a quarter and tell them to call someone who cared.

    So bash the unions all you want but remember there are two signatures on a contract.

    1. Government is immune to market accountability. Businesses can go bankrupt if they cave in too much to unions; governments seldom do. Too many school districts are far too big to be held accountable to voters, and elections, with their single vote standing for everything over the next several years, are a poor substitute for the near instantaneous market accountability.

      Vouchers are probably the only feasible near-term way to get any market accountability, and that only applies to school districts.

      1. There are other types of accountability than market accountability.

        Indeed, political accountability is often informed by market metrics.

        1. False. In markets, the people who bear the cost of the transactions in those markets are the people making those transactions. In government, tax payers bear the cost, without having a say in the transactions. Market metrics are given lip service by politicians, but stop lying that politicians are constrained by costs the same way private actors are in private markets.

          1. Of course politicians are restrained by cost.
            They have to come up with the money from somewhere and raising taxes is a very good way to not get re-elected.
            Not to mention that the amount they pay their employees takes away from money for their vote-buying schemes, like “homeless” projects and figuring out ways for them to walk away from government “service” much wealthier than they were, when they entered.

        2. What is political accountability???? Other than occasional scandal there is NO accountability from the political class.

    2. The real problem with government employee collective bargaining is that public employee unions are frequently used by politicians as a money laundering vehicle. You give the union an unreasonably good contract, they give some of it to you in the form of donations and campaign labor, and perhaps under the counter kickbacks.

      And, as it isn’t even their money that’s being laundered, they don’t even have reason to strike a good deal.

      1. Your claim is the hackiest and saddest of all the nonsense involving public sector unions. “Money laundering”. Please. It doesn’t even stand up to the most basic review.

        For example, if true, we could expect every municipal, county/parish, and state government to be bending over backwards to give public sector unions whatever they want. And not only would there be no “right to work” laws anywhere, the movement would’ve never even gotten to its first committee hearing. In fact, public sector unions are weakening just like he labor movement at large, and are under constant attack. And in the 21st century, it’s a helluva lot easier being elected to office while walking on the backs of public sector employees than it is walking hand in hand with them.

        When the labor movement enjoyed public support, elected officials behaved more favorably towards the labor movement. But those days are long gone and it will take at least another few decades before people realize what they turned their backs on (if they ever do again). If your “Money laundering” is the “real problem” with public sector unions, then there is no real problem with public sector unions.

        1. “For example, if true, we could expect every…” This is not a proof. We could expect some tendency in that direction, which may or may not defeat other effects.
          If you want to disprove “money laundering” claims, you might want to deal with the large number of cases of unions doing exactly what Brett mentioned.

          1. I didn’t see any cases listed in Brett’s comment. I saw a broad assertion.

            Of course it could be true, just like big donors getting huge tax breaks, some of which they funnel back to the politicians who give them the tax breaks.

            But hey, freedom of speech and whatnot.

          2. Circumstantial evidence against the claim rests on my side. But since there’s a large number of cases supporting the claim, you and Brett should have no problem finding one and declaring it definitive.

            1. Do you think it’s not true that public sector unions campaign for, donate to, and vote for particular candidates?

              1. Do you think it’s not true that a huge number of organizations campaign for, donate to, and support candidates who will treat them favorably?

                1. How many of those other organizations then sit down and negotiate contracts with the politicians they helped elect?

                  1. Many of them.

                  2. Elected officials do not negotiate employment contracts. They set guidelines for negotiations, and they sign-off on contracts, but they do not actually negotiate anything. And being that there are far more private organizations than public sector unions, access to politicians is heavily favored towards private interest groups. Particularly among politicians who work against the labor.

                2. Those campaigns, donations and support don’t amount to a “hill of beans” compared to the amount that a politician needs to get elected.
                  And, using the public sector union that I was associated with as an example; we gave to all of the incumbent politicians, even the ones who weren’t disposed to “treating us favorably”, because their vote counted, when it came to approving the negotiated contract.
                  Believe me, when I tell you, those negotiations are truly that and not simply giving whatever the union asks for.
                  If it was, salaries and benefits would be far greater than they are.
                  Politicians have uses for public moneys far more important to them than paying their employees large amounts and the amount available is finite.

            2. The claim of “money laundering”, by organizations, whose books are easily accessed, is ridiculous on its face, especially the part about “under the counter kickbacks”.
              If there’s one thing that can be said about municipal finances and those of their employee unions, it is that they are easily obtained, in fact, in the former, publicly disclosed on a regular basis.

        2. In Most local elections the endorsements of police and fire carry great weight, they only endorse corrupt politicians who agree to support their demands in advance of the election.
          Very corrupting and damaging to most local elections and a factor of why so many scumbags get elected.

    3. And a favorite technique of the municipality is to settle with the weakest union to use as leverage against the stronger ones.

    4. The unions also coordinate across school district lines while management does not.

      Before the rapid post-WW2 suburbanization, individual schools were often independent self-governing entities. ‘Districts’ existed mostly in the South (to enforce Jim Crow), New England (influence of Horace Mann which moved governance more to the state level) and bigger cities. But there were 130,000+ governance entities – local parents/neighbors and other part-timers/volunteers were the school board. They did the hiring/firing of teachers/admins and decided curricula and mill rates and budgets and such. And the elementary school, middle school, and high school all had their different school boards (which incentivized interested parents to volunteer for school board duty – while THEIR Sam/Sally are in school).

      Suburbanization consolidated all of that into school districts – probably nec then because it required state-level construction/bond financing. But the result was more state-level influence over education. By 1960, maybe 20,000 governance entities. Which now involves too much for volunteers/parents. It becomes professionalized and full-time – and that then opened the door for teachers unions.

      Stating the problem as you do implies further consolidation is good. I think the reverse is true.

      1. Those 130,000 different entities would have also incentivized teachers into school governance – but as individuals not as union reps. ie highly respected HS teacher with ideas is exactly who one would expect to be chosen to be on the HS school board

  3. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we demonstrate that collective bargaining leads to sizable reductions in measured cognitive and non-cognitive skills among young adults.

    That must be quite a demonstration.

    1. It’s plausible, the authors are at reputable places, and the data sets are solid. My main issue us that this seems contrary to a long series of findings that characteristics of schools have pretty meager influences on various types of student “outcomes.”

      [I post as one who kids graduated from a designated “dropout factory” in South Carolina, a state that does not allow teachers’ unions yet manages to be 1st in the nation in the percentage of high schools so designated]

      http://hosted.ap.org/specials/…..index.html

  4. “The only evidence of these effects, however, is anecdotal.”

    I see. Well, I’m sure exploiting a quasi-experiment should verify that collective bargaining… well, apparently it shows increased disciplinary actions against Sheriffs Department employees, which demonstrates less accountability. Or something.

    The straight line from work protections for teachers to dumber students is brilliant, though. Clearly there can be no other external and internal factors there. Maybe next the AEA can explore the obvious link between collective bargaining for teachers and mass shootings in the US?

    1. If you want to disagree with the stats and how they demonstrated causation, go study the report and do it. Otherwise you’re just rejecting something because you don’t like to hear it.

      1. The link only goes to the schedule of the AEA meeting. It does not go to the paper.

        Besides, why is it wrong to reject something because you don’t like it, but OK to accept it, equally uncritically, because you do.

      2. In fact, it’s the conclusions I dispute.

      3. See loki below.

    2. The straight line from work protections for teachers to dumber students is brilliant, though. Clearly there can be no other external and internal factors there.

      Maybe there are other factors –

      but there is no question in my mind that our education system is failing horribly when we have to hire teachers who have the right degrees in ‘education’ (and are thus union) vs teachers who are actually good at math or science.

      And THAT is where collective bargaining is directly responsible for the decline of education.

      1. The opposite is more likely to be true.
        Unions tend to want to ensure their members are competent. It is the hiring – completely out of the control of a union, which can only represent those already hired – that has devolved into “diversity” guided goals and make-work projects, and that is wholly in the control of the politicians.

      2. The opposite is more likely to be true.
        Unions tend to want to ensure their members are competent. It is the hiring – completely out of the control of a union, which can only represent those already hired – that has devolved into “diversity” guided goals and make-work projects, and that is wholly in the control of the politicians.

        1. This is NOT true with government and schools, and you should know better, Nothing a union does contributes to teacher competency, but lots that they do insures incompetent teachers stay on the job.

      3. The opposite is more likely to be true.
        Unions tend to want to ensure their members are competent. It is the hiring – completely out of the control of a union, which can only represent those already hired – that has devolved into “diversity” guided goals and make-work projects, and that is wholly in the control of the politicians.

      4. Yes, what this country needs is more self-taught teachers and less educated teachers. Math and science are all just somebody’s opinion anyway, so there’s no reason why I should be denied a job teaching just because I don’t have those fancy Jew York City teaching credentials.

        1. Sure. You keep convincing yourself that K-12 is doing a fine job as is re math/science – we can keep losing well-paid jobs when employers realize that’s shit and decide to expand ops in Asia instead. Or when those students go to college – find they have to take a couple years of remedial math/science to get into actual college-level work and decide to major in education instead and become – teachers.

          Keep up the good work.

        2. It would be nearly impossible to have less educated teachers than we have. The bottom half of liberal arts grads is not a great place to pick from. Why is a degree in education worth 10 cents?
          An older person with a lifetime of experience could teach way better than a green no nothing freshly minted from the indoctrination mills

          /

  5. So, the usual. People datamine a study (and I’m sure that they didn’t have a goal in mind …) and the usual suspects come out to say what they already know to be true, regardless of what the issue is.

    Looking just at the issue of police, the matter is, of course, complicated. Many states have some sort of Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, which can often hamper investigations into police misconduct. The blue wall of silence applies whether or not there is union, or if a member is part of a union. Because LEOs work for the government, there is always a constitutional aspect as well regardless of government involvement (see, e.g., Garrity Rights). Anyone who has read the VC for any length of time, or read the “Short Circuit” roundup, knows that police officers are often immunized from civil suit even under heinous fact patterns under 1983 (and even when they aren’t, they are usually indemnified). Heck, even if they shouldn’t be, judges will sometimes put their thumbs on the scale – look at the recent 11th Circuit opinion just cited where two judges reversed for a new trial based on an argument no party raised.

    That said, I would concur that unions can protect bad apples at the margins. They have to – it’s the duty of fair representation. A union can’t pick and choose only the good ones to defend.

    1. It is, however, fascinating to me that during this time of relatively stagnant wages, there are so many that think that the worst problem we have is unions. What? You think that the concomitant hoarding of record profits by corporations with the destruction of unions and the working class is a weird coincidence? Eh, whatever.

      1. If we could just get rid of unions and illegals, we’d have the national capitalist utopia we deserve!

      2. Not all unions, just the ones every taxpayer has to pay for. The piece tacitly acknowledges the difference, yet you don’t. But you can’t say that the rise of teachers unions has had a net positive impact on student achievement. It hasn’t.

        You’d think that it would be easy to fire a police officer who makes a questionable (and sometimes grave) decision to pull their service weapon and kill someone who wasn’t a threat to them. But it rarely happens. We should expect more from our public servants, especially if we are going to be providing them money and benefits for life.

        1. While a structural argument is better than the ‘it’s obvious’ argument many on here are making, I still have trouble buying it.
          Taxpayers aren’t paying for public unions any more than customers pay for private unions.

          All you issues with unions are like you’re blaming defense attorneys for crime.

          Heckuva metric to use ‘net positive impact on student achievement’ to evaluate a teacher’s unions.
          What about teachers? Teachers deserve representation versus management. If you allow that school administrators are super dumb elsewhere (and I hope you do), why are they suddenly blameless?

          The problem with indemnifying cops is not causally connected only to unions. It’s a much deeper and deeply historically rooted problem than that.

          1. Taxpayers aren’t paying for public unions.

            How do you come up with that? Taxpayers pay for everything that makes up the public sector. Unions are a subset of that sector. So taxpayers have to be the ones who pay from the them.

            Sources of income, either public or private, pay for everything.

            1. Sources of income, that is, taxpayers or customers, pay for everything, in case that wasn’t clear.

            2. If the public wants a service, then whatever wages they need to pay people in order to provide that service is something they are on the hook for. If all the workers group together and demand a certain wage, then the public that asked for the service must pay that, or else they will all leave, and eventually find other occupations. If the citizenry don’t want to pay that price, then they should not ask the state to provide that service.

              1. The public didn’t ask for the service of public employee unions, and didn’t ask the state to provide that ” service. “

      3. Public sector unions are a problem because they impose a huge financial burden on state governments, especially the costs of generous health and pension benefits. But ignore technological disruption, our mediocre educational system (caused in no small part by unions), etc. and bash corporations for “hoarding” profits if that makes you feel better. Let’s follow the example of Greece and see how it works out. No doubt Bernie and the experts can make it all work this time around.

        1. Wow, I haven’t seen a Greece reference since what, 2015 maybe?

  6. public unions should be illegal. They use public funds to elect representatives that then give them raises which they use to reelect public officials. Their very nature is corrosive and corrupt.

    If private unions get out of control the company goes bankrupt, but somehow all of our taxes are supposed to go up to pay for gold plated public pensions?

    1. The proof of your narrative seems to be your narrative itself.

      Tidy!

      1. The proof of my narrative is the many millions of dollars they unions spend each year, combined with the unsustainable public pensions almost everywhere. those donations aren’t out of the goodness of their heart.

        anyway, a minute of googling will get you tons of articles on this issue.

        try

        “public unions and out of control pensions”

        1. Private pensions are also high. I’m not sure unions are the ones we need to blame…

          The idea that public unions are bad because public unions are spending money on things is still a tautology.

          I can find articles – you are not alone in your opinion. But as is pointed out elsewhere on this very thread, the evidence is scanty.

          Add in the convenience of unions being foes of Republicans, and public employee unions being the strongest remaining unions, and you have the danger of partisan objective-oriented reasoning.

          You may be right, but you should work harder to prove it. As in, at all.

          1. “Private pensions are also high.”

            You’ve got to be kidding me. Private pensions have gone the way of the dodo. They have almost all been replaced by 401k’s and the comparable contribution rate is much lower. There are public “servants” retiring at 50-55 with 100% plus of salary.

            1. …Are you comparing current private pensions to past public pensions?

              And I guess you didn’t read the rest of my comment, about obscuring causal connections?

            2. “Google”; how pensions work – even public sector ones – and you will learn that they have the same structure. Money is contributed by the employee, and the employer, into a fund. The money is invested and, after an employee works for a certain number of years, they receive the benefits that the fund can afford.
              Don’t pay any attention to the phony “unfunded liabilities” argument – that is a metric based on the impossible scenario of no further money being paid in, or earned through investment, while all the employees would obtain their full benefits. No pension system has the kind of principle to cover that.
              Those places, where they are severely “underfunded”, are due to the politicians failing to make their contributions, especially when the investments didn’t cover the amount needed. You’ll note that this issue became highlighted when the market crashed in 2008.
              Don’t blame the unions, or the employees. They have their contributions deducted from their pay. The politicians are the ones who have the discretion to contribute, or not.

              1. Except your ‘lock box’ model is not how it’s actually worked, or do work. Pensions were a value added benefit in addition to salary that was negotiated for. Nowadays it’s mostly 401K or like plans, but that was not the case in the past.

                For instance, my Mom got a GM car ten years after her dad, a retired GM salesman, died. Yeah, GM has some pretty big pension problems acting as a headwind to their profits. They screwed up.

                Those places, where they are severely “underfunded”, are due to the politicians failing to make their contributions, especially when the investments didn’t cover the amount needed.
                That’s just making stuff up. Not that there isn’t a bunch of pay-for-play, but if you’re going to generalize, you’ll need something other than cynical supposition to back it up.
                =========================
                I don’t know who makes pension policy. But one place I will place blame on politicians is California. It’s single party rule has indeed lead to some ridiculous pensions for members of the CA Democratic inner circle – no unions needed!

              2. “Don’t pay any attention to the phony “unfunded liabilities” argument – that is a metric based on the impossible scenario of no further money being paid in, or earned through investment, while all the employees would obtain their full benefits. No pension system has the kind of principle to cover that.”

                wrong. Unfunded liabilities is the shortfall AFTER taking into account expected returns and continued funding that’s the problem.

                Moreover, the expected rate that the actuaries use to calculate the liability is often VERY unrealistic. John Maudlin has done a number of very good articles on this issue.

                “Don’t blame the unions, or the employees. They have their contributions deducted from their pay. The politicians are the ones who have the discretion to contribute, or not.”

                The problem being that the required payouts require unrealistic contributions and/or returns. But that was always some other guys problem as the chickens would come home to roost later.

  7. So I had time to skim the linked-to police officer report … and it is so very, very bad. I don’t even know where to start.

    To begin with, every single assumption they make is questionable. But more importantly, they seem to have failed to understand the subject matter. Two things stood out to me-

    First, they include a but about how Florida is a “right to work state” (see Section 3), and making conclusions based on that. What they fail to understand, which they might have if they had even skimmed the opinion they were using, is that Florida actually has profound protections for unions in the public sector, see Fla. Stat. sec. 447, including a separate administrative body for dealing with them (see PERC).

    Next, the decision they are citing is a narrow one- this didn’t mean that these counties (and the departments) became “unionized.” Instead, it extended the ability to collectively bargain to a very small subset of the department – deputy sheriffs. The only issue was whether they could be unionized (as employees) or not (as managers). The reason there was a “three year rollout” was because, assumedly, CBAs were being re-done to include them in the bargaining unit.

    So … you really have to ask if they really found a robust result that they are claiming from extending unionization from ALMOST ALL OF THE FORCE to a few additional people. And if so … wow. Because, man, that’s saying something, isn’t it?

    1. So, I did more digging, and I made a mistake (it does happen!).

      While there are many more employees than deputies, depending on the county, deputies can make up half the department (or more), and may have the most contact with civilians. See, inter alia, Broward County (5800 employees, 2800 deputies). I apologize for that error, and retract the second part of the argument.

      1. Interesting contribution, and I think both studies are enlightening, but are our statisticians really making emphatic claims based on a single mid-sized examination? The very first thing I though was, “great. I want another dozen studies to verify this.” Like the point about FL having some confounding factors, even a well-controlled study is sometimes wrong.

    2. My complaint was the effort to correlate collective bargaining – a completely internal process – with citizen complaints, which come from outside.
      Are we to believe that increased protections, which are not generally included in contract negotiations, through collective representation, encouraged officers to treat criminals worse?
      The most that a contract can include are requirements of due process, required by existing law, which may have been denied, previously. No contract can require a grant of immunity, that would go counter to laws on the books.
      Armchair lawyers’ opinions notwithstanding.

      1. “Are we to believe that increased protections, which are not generally included in contract negotiations, through collective representation, encouraged officers to treat criminals worse?”

        Why do you find that difficult to believe. It makes perfect sense that a lack of effective accountability would increase misconduct.

  8. I can see what your saying… Raymond `s article is surprising, last week I bought a top of the range Acura from making $4608 this-past/month and-a little over, $10,000 this past month . with-out any question its the easiest work I’ve ever had . I began this five months/ago and almost straight away startad bringin in minimum $82 per-hr

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    1. ^^^ The strongest example yet of the harm caused by teacher’s unions. ^^^

      1. For clarity, the above was in response to a deleted version of “I bought the Winchester mansion after working only three hours!” posts.

  9. I can see what your saying… Raymond `s article is surprising, last week I bought a top of the range Acura from making $4608 this-past/month and-a little over, $10,000 this past month . with-out any question its the easiest work I’ve ever had . I began this five months/ago and almost straight away startad bringin in minimum $82 per-hr

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  10. What job has 20,000 applicants, yet the salary for that job is almost 100% greater than the rest of the industry? Why a police job in municipal union strong Suffolk and Nassau Counties in NY. 20,000 applicants for at most 400 jobs, yet the salary is double the going rate. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05…..2cops.html

    Market forces alone would drive that salary into a sane equilibrium on par with the rest of the state and country, but no. We have to curry favor with the group repping the heroes in blue at the expense of the taxpayers. Well, Trumps new tax code will possibly choke off the endless raising of property taxes to pay for sweetheart backroom deals raising cop and teacher salaries.

    1. I’m out of free NYT articles, and your post is largely incoherent. Can you explain further please?

  11. “I suspect both studies will prompt significant debate.”

    I assume that’s a joke. Debate requires that people of different opinions discuss a topic. No one from the left nor the mainstream media will even acknowledge that these studies exist.

    1. Do you just add ‘another example of a liberal coverup’ to everything you agree with?

      No shortage of the left on this thread. Including some pretty boss debunkings!
      And the media rarely discusses individual sociological studies.

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  13. I remember going to school and there was ample supply of paper and pencils. By the time my children went to school, I had to supply everything except text books. Was that a result of teacher CBA?

  14. By law, Germany prohibits collective bargaining for tenured teachers or other tenured public sector employees. Why not do the same in the US?

    1. Well, to be honest, I think that most people in America would gladly trade the other protections that both public and private employees in Germany have, as well as their very successful public-sector unionization, for what we have.

      Is that what you are proposing?

  15. I also find that there are another thing or two that is caused by public unions and that comes from the politicians. When it comes to contract renewal of the contracts the politicians are dealing with other people’s money. Then when one tosses in the idea that if these politicians are not to tight fisted with that money they can get votes and support from the union and its members. That is one reason that so many retirement accounts are so underfunded for these government service unions. It is easy to promise these benefits (high salaries and large retirement) but when these politicians are back on the job of financing these retirement there is not enough money so they don’t fund the fund fully. Now a better for these public unions to have a retirement account where they contributed to the account and the state or federal government office would contribute to it also maybe with the option for a matching of upto a certain amount contributed by the employee. That would make the budget for retirement known and easier to plan for. It would also be better for the employee.

    1. Curly, are you under the impression that public sector employees don’t contribute to their pension funds?
      That would be the very rare circumstance.
      And those employee contributions are taken, directly from their paychecks, so that end of the funding is known and reliable.
      Where the funds fall short is when the politicians fail to live up to their end of the bargain, when the investment income drops below a level where, in the past, they didn’t need to.
      Don’t blame the unions, or the employees, who take what is offered, frequently in lieu of pay raises.

  16. So I’m going to follow up on my prior comment, re: the Florida study and LEOs. So, I am going to start my saying that I am skeptical, both given what I understand of the authors, as well as the piece; they seem to keep reaching for conclusions (and slanting their language), and to the extent the consider conflicting information, they raise it only to dismiss it without reason (perhaps the worst example I will get to). But I have a more fundamental problem with the study, and it has to do with the design of the study and datamining. Let us assume that it is true; if so, it would be a remarkable finding. Incredibly remarkable. Because what it means is that mere participation in a union makes an individual a “bad cop.” Really. Which should definitely require further investigation! So let’s break this down-
    The study is looking at a subset of Florida Counties that were affected by the William decision; prior to it, a few counties would allow deputies to be unionized; after it, all counties had deputies as part of the bargaining unit. So far, so good. We have a control group. Next, using the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) statistics, they looked at complaints in the affected counties. …contd.

  17. Next, if you look at their statistics, you will see that the total number of complaints across all counties is fairly miniscule, and the “lag effect” (a coefficient) is either negative or barely positive in every year … except 2006. Looking further, you can see a graph showing that in 2006, there was a spike in complaints against Sheriff’s Offices in Florida.

    Now, we also know that in 2006, the Broward County’s sheriff’s office was rocked by a scandal involving falsely reporting crime statistics. Something that, um, pre-dated unionization. And resulted in a lot of “other” complaints to the FDLE. Which also explains the “fraction of complaints by source” category. Am I sure that this is the spike? No. I don’t have the dataset that they used, and I’m just speculating.

    However, it seems somewhat evident that a spike in 2006 accounts for a decent part of their findings. And while I appreciate their findings, the setup to the study just doesn’t make sense to me.

  18. To accept this, you’d have to think that the exact same LEOs who were already there, suddenly became “more lawless” just because they were in the process of negotiating a CBA. Now, I could accept a lot of things- for example, that it became harder to remove bad cops. But this … just doesn’t make sense to me. To try and explain this sudden spike, and to say that this cause the increase in complaints, seems more like trying to fit data into a pre-existing mold than it does trying to understand the data, especially given the relatively small sample size.

  19. Now that I’ve talk this issue to death, I’m going to say that I’m prepared to accept that there is some confirmation bias on my part, and there are things I might not know because I am not familiar with their sample. And, of course, I think any finding requires further investigation.

    But in both the rhetoric of the article, the seeming lack of knowledge of public sector unions in Florida, and what appears to be some questionable decisions in design, I have to question whether there might be some confirmation bias on the part of the authors as well. Most importantly, I think it would be, at the very least, interesting if the authors looked at the data to see if there were any particular “spikes” that might have affected a fairly small sample set.

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  21. The reason that there should never be public unions is that politics becomes heavily involved and people get elected and give in to union demands that are ridiculous. I am not sure unions have a place in today’s world but it sure does not belong in government.

  22. The problem with government paid employees bargaining with government paid employers is there is no real representation of the voters or the country. The bosses are never held to any worthwhile standards and it is easier to give away other people’s money (taxpayers) to a group of employees (the most under-worked and inefficient organizations in existence) who are nearly impossible to hold to any real standards. No wonder collective bargaining does not work in government jobs.

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