PROUDLY SERVING MEMBERS THROUGHOUT CHELAN, DOUGLAS & OKANOGAN COUNTIES
It certainly seems to me, most people would agree that transparency and freedom of association are concepts that taxpayers not only embrace, but also expect from our local government--most specifically as they relate to the collective bargaining negotiations that occur between local government and public employee unions. After all, it’s our taxpayer dollars that are being negotiated, right?
Consider the recent changes in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana, where they forced an end to mandatory union contributions for state employees, or closer to home, in Waterville, where teachers chose to cut ties with the teachers union--the WEA. Taxpayers, employees and many elected officials alike are fed-up with the stranglehold that public unions have placed on our government at all levels!
Overall, I believe taxpayers expect the work of the People to be conducted with transparency--something that the Open Public Meetings and Public Records Acts both help to ensure. Similarly, why should we not expect that negotiations between local government and labor unions be conducted in the public realm, rather than behind closed doors?
When meetings like these are open to the public, representatives on both sides are held accountable: union representatives to their members and elected officials to the taxpayers. It, too, seems likely that such scrutiny would help to curb the excessive pay and benefit extremes we’ve all likely heard about. Not unlike any small business, public employees are the single largest expense to local government--to the taxpayer.
Now, consider the notion of freedom of association, or, “the right to work”. Public employees should have the right to work without being forced to join or belong to a union. Such a choice should be voluntary rather than mandatory as a condition of employment.
Similarly, doesn’t it seem reasonable that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for things like union training days for public employees, when such an expense could and should be borne by the union itself? After all, is that not an activity that a member should expect their dues to cover?
Lastly, since local government employees are being paid by the taxpayers, should the public not expect uninterrupted service? Public-sector unions striking and essentially holding local government and the public hostage is unacceptable and should be prohibited.
While most will agree with these precepts, many simply shake their heads while proffering a, “well, what can be done about it?” Just as the old adage about eating an elephant goes, so, too, the effort to reform out-of-control labor unions--one bite at a time.
As an example of this, in the City of Chelan, there is currently an effort afoot to engage citizens--through a signature gathering effort--to petition the City Council to enact both the transparency and the collective bargaining protections that I’ve mentioned. While there is no expectation that this effort will amount to the cure-all, it is, however, one bite along the way to eating that proverbial elephant!
So, in answer to the question that each of us might have, “well, what can I do about it?”, consider joining other like-minded people and engaging in an effort similar to the one going on in Chelan. Doing so, changes the perspective from that of, “what can I do about it?” to, “what can WE do about it?” When together, WE take action, something really can be done to push back in a meaningful way. I challenge you to get engaged!
Marc S. Straub, CEO
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