Collective bargaining a bad bargain for citizens, says Buck

Olympia, WA - 2/13/02 - The Democrat-controlled state House passed a bill Wednesday night to give state employees collective bargaining rights a move that Rep. Jim Buck said would put unions in control of one-fourth of the state s budget, and move bureaucracy ahead of the state s most critical needs. House Bill 1268 would allow state worker unions to negotiate salary and benefits packages directly with the governor, excluding the Legislature from any oversight in the bargaining process.

Buck, R-Joyce, said the measure would put government employees at the head
of the line in the budgeting process, leaving education, public safety,
health care and other essential services to compete for what might be left
after the unions have helped themselves.

During floor debate, Buck told House members he was particularly troubled
by the fact that citizens and the Legislature would be shut out from any
role in deciding how $5 billion of taxpayers money is used.

"I am sure state employees think collective bargaining is a good thing for
them. But I have to ask, who will do the collective bargaining for the
senior citizens in rest homes in my district? Who will do the collective
bargaining for the elderly who are concerned about their Medicaid
reimbursements? Who is going to bargain collectively for the disabled, or
the folks worried about their prescriptions?

"This is a big question, and I don t like the way the answer looks. This
bill gives the governor and the unions control over $5 billion of taxpayers
money. This is the same governor who proposed a budget that gives raises to
state employees while cutting Medicaid reimbursements for nursing homes,
pharmacies, and programs for the disabled and mentally ill," he continued.

"The Constitution gives us we who serve in the legislative branch the job
of bargaining for the people we represent. I am here to do the bargaining
my constituents sent me here to do, and I will not vote to give one ounce
of that authority to a governor who has demonstrated he can t handle it,"
Buck concluded.

In order to make up a growing budget deficit, Gov. Locke has proposed
severe cuts in public safety and human services, including programs for
senior citizens, the developmentally disabled, and low-income families.
Buck said that in the face of declining revenues, collective bargaining
will ratchet up costs and further hamper efforts of lawmakers struggling
mightily to find ways to fund vital services and programs.

"Once the labor bosses start dickering behind closed doors with the
governor, we ll see already tight resources siphoned away to pay for the
ever-increasing demands for hikes in state employee salaries and benefits,"
he warned. "Accountability falls by the wayside. After the governor and the
labor bosses cook up an agreement, the Legislature would only be able to
vote yes or no, and could not change any of the conditions."

Buck noted that in states where it is permitted, collective bargaining has
been a proven loser. In Maryland, New York and Alaska, seniority, not
productivity, is the measure of job performance. A binding arbitration
agreement has driven Hawaii deep into debt, and recent government worker
strikes have hobbled state services in Alaska, California and Minnesota.

Governing Magazine s annual survey of state human resource management has
consistently ranked collective-bargaining states among the lowest in
performance and productivity.

House Bill 1268 passed the House 54-43 and will now be considered by the

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