IRONY THRONE: Union Transparency Bills Pursued by ALEC Groups Operating in Complete Secrecy

Posted by on Thu, May 14, 2015 @ 09:05 AM
 A rash of “collective bargaining transparency bills” have popped up in state legislatures across the country, each being pushed by think-tanks that answer to dark money donors. Most recently in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Foundation pushed for the passage of a bill which would require public employers to post proposed collective bargaining agreements online at least two weeks prior to their signing. It would also require the state’s Independent Fiscal Office to analyze the cost of any collective bargaining agreement proposed for state workers. In Nevada, a similar set of bills passed the legislature last week and is currently awaiting a decision by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Pennsylvania and Nevada are only the latest states to advance such legislation, and they appear to be part of a coordinated national effort directed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In fact, “state policy networks” in nine states have put forward collective bargaining transparency bills. Eight states already have a form of this law on the books: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. Each state that has passed their version of the law has a conservative think-tank that provided the misinformation needed to pass the law. Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation is simply one example of the far-right’s dark money octopus that answers directly to ALEC. These state policy networks act as right-wing lobbies in plain sight, and ironically use their lack of transparency to push collective bargaining transparency bills, among other legislative detritus. Take for example this Idaho Press article, “Collective Bargaining gets more transparent.” After providing a questionable history of how unions “carved out” their right to “secret meetings” in the open meetings acts through “political pressure,” the author cites a report from the ultra-conservative Goldwater Institute to back its claims about collective bargaining transparency. There is no mention of the Goldwater Institute’s involvement in the state policy network, let alone that it answers to ALEC. The article’s author is Wayne Hoffman, Executive Director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is also part of the state policy network. In Pennsylvania, the Senate approved two collective bargaining transparency bills on a 29-19 party line vote. The bills were co-sponsored by Senator Mike Folmer, who has a history of sponsoring bills that are almost word-for-word copies of ALEC model legislation. In 2011, Sen. Folmer was called out by Keystone Progress for attempting to pass off his “High-Risk Health Insurance Pool Act” as his own. The timing of the bills makes even more political sense since Gov. Tom Wolf is currently negotiating with AFSCME, UFCW, and SEIU, all of whom have contracts that expire on June 30th. As Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) said during debate: “I’d have a heck of a lot more respect for people if you just got up and said, this is what we want to do, we want to bust up the unions. We want to make it more difficult for working men and women to get a living wage in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Transparency in government is a righteous pursuit, but this lopsided mistreatment of unions is clearly intended to make them less efficient and curtail their power at the bargaining table. The fact that the laws are being lobbed by organizations and politicians who benefit greatly from exploiting secrecy makes them dually difficult to swallow.

Topics: legislation, Union Labor

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