Tom McMasters for City Council

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The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee (AFSCME) Election Questionnaire         10 Oct 11

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I received an election questionnaire from AFSCME Saturday below I reproduce the survey and my responses.  They asked that it be to them by Wed so I did not get to edit a second time before I put it in the mail today.  When creating this page if I came across grammatical errors I changed them.  Sections or points I added are in blue font.  I've also added some links to other articles I've written in the past that might add some background on my thought process. 

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 Teamster while a part time UPS employee, no office held, 1985 Ė 1989 (give or take)

 

 I strongly support laws giving any public employee standing to join a union and participate in collective bargaining.  Wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment are legitimate subjects during collective bargaining.    

Read my article     I support the Tea Party, I support Unions 20 Feb 2011

 

 Part 1.  I have a personal prejudice that makes me believe strikes called because of real disputes do unrecoverable harm to both the worker and the sustainability of the work.  Therefore, I always campaign for union representatives to abandon the traditional strike and instead work to codify into law or contracts different systems based on financial costs.  For instance for private businesses, if there were an issue that warranted a traditional strike then union members could take a vote to ďstrikeĒ, if the vote is yes then union members would still go to work but then only be entitled to get paid the amount of money they would receive from unemployment / other strike insurance.  The rest of their wage would not be kept by the company instead this strike vote would trigger some financial obligation for the company.  For instance perhaps this strike vote might make it so the company has to purchase stock on the open market on behalf of the employee.  Instead of selling the stock at current prices the company must sell it so that the wages earned but not paid to the employee would be turned into stock in the company at 1/10 the market rate (stock not negotiable or redeemable for 10 years hence).  I havenít thought of an equivalent public sector system but Iím sure one could be formed.

 Part 2.  The binding arbitration flow diagram as codified before SB5 enumerated a process infinitely more fair than the one found in SB5.  I would improve the old system by better defining the criteria the conciliator must use when formulating a solution so that the desires of the community (as shown by votes on resolutions and referendums) are better represented within the solution. 

 

As with many questions of this nature the answer depends on the circumstances.  Individual agencies or communities often choose to lower their own financial obligation but at the same time increase the total cost for the taxpayer by converting public employees for private contracting.   For instance a long time city engineer might be earning $120,000 a year when they become eligible to retire.   Often the city will retire that official which makes them eligible to collect $90,000 from the retirement system.  Then the city might hire them back via a private contract paying $100,000.  This saves the city $20,000 a year but costs the taxpayer much more. 

 This question is also related to question 7.

   

Public employees and employers form a team to provide service to the citizens of the community.  As such open and frank communication between the employees and the employer is necessary to ensure the best working environment and a positive atmosphere for ensuring both appropriate representation and productivity.  

 

For many positions I do not have a philosophical preference for either - the main exception being law enforcement.  I believe law enforcement should consist entirely of people directly employed by government entities.

In general however the arguments for converting public sector positions to private firms produce a ring that prompts me to think that someone is looking to siphon of public monies so that investment speculators can profit by lowering the wages of those that produce the service.  Logically it doesnít make sense that we can pay the huge CEO fees and keep Wall Street happy without significantly lowering wages at the working level.   When it is possible for governments to save money by converting public position to private positions it is usually because the class of jobs has become dominated by long term employees.  Often this dominance by long term employees is detrimental to the class of jobs.  For instance if we get to the point where all the teachers have 30 years experience then the students miss out on the benefits of seeing a younger perspective.  Are there many 60 year old policemen that can chase down the criminals like a 25 year old? When this imbalance occurs converting from public to private positions works to correct this imbalance.  However, this is not an efficient means to achieve the proper balance of young, intermediate and gray beards necessary to ensure an organization provides the best service to the community.  

Many people do not understand the Social Security and State pension systems and how they interrelate.  It is a positive benefit for the State and its employees to have a well run pension system capable of providing better payouts.  If the State systems are well run and properly funded for the promised benefits then it makes sense to withdraw from the Social Security system and put those contributions into a system that earns more return.  However, it is important to the citizens that contribute to the Social Security system that those that choose not to contribute do not get back door opportunities to collect from both social security and state run systems.

 

I support the repeal of Senate Bill 5 because it is being promoted as one thing and in fact it will have the opposite effect.

This is an awkward position for me to take because on a strategic level I believe teachers should be paid more and technically I oppose SB5 because it will exponentially increase wages.  But I believe a strategic and managed plan to increase wages using sound arguments will be beneficial to the education of our students and to the teaching profession.  Accidentally giving public employees huge wage increases will only stress government resources and will not produce any appreciable benefit in education.  

Read my article SB5 will Bankrupt Ohio  Mar 2011

Additionally, the promoters of SB5 are wrong when they say teachers should pay at least 15% of their health insurance premiums.  This is because health insurance premiums are not taxable and employers do not have to pay unemployment and pension contributions on health insurance payments.  This makes it cheaper to for the employer to pay health insurance premiums than it is for the employer to pay wages and then have the employee pay the health insurance.  Strategically, I believe having health insurance premiums being tax free is the cause of runaway health care costs but until we get the federal government to change the tax laws it is cheaper for us to pay all the public employee health insurance premium than it is for us to pay them wages and then have them pay the premium. 

One thing I've been wondering.  How do you suspect the 15% of health insurance premiums will be calculated?  I suspect someone will calculate the average per employee and then apply this to all employee's evenly.  If this is true then the 22 to 26 year old teachers will end up paying 15% of the average premium.  Well the average employer based policy costs about $1000 a month.  This means these teachers will be paying $150 a month for their health insurance.  Before Obama care went into effect a 25 year old could get full health insurance coverage for about $100 a month.  Now that we have Obama care single teachers can stay on their parents health insurance plan for free until they are 26 years old.  Doesn't quite seem fair to charge the younger teacher $1500 a year when they could be paying $1200 and then charge the older better paid teacher that same $1500 when that teacher would be probably have to pay considerably more than $1500 if they went out on their own and purchased the policy.  I would be interested in knowing how recent contracts have been structured - after writing this paragraph I started wondering if teachers could opt out of the employer sponsored healthcare insurance.  When I was looking for a job after I retired from active duty, about half of the companies that offered me a position paid additional salary if the employee opted out of their health insurance plans.  I called the HH School system and indeed teachers can opt out.  I'm not sure if this is common for all government employee contracts but if available it would help some of the youngest single employees. If the contracts were also structured so that the older better paid employees paid a larger premium this would also be more equitable.  But again until the Federal government changes the tax laws it is better for the local government to pay all the health insurance premiums. 

  Read my article Sen Schumer - $1200 a Month for Young Adults 4 Apr 2010

Though there are no benefits to SB5 as written, that doesnít mean there couldnít have been a better attempt to change the current law.   Or more specifically the unions could recognize the problems with some of their current positions and proposed real solutions to be implemented during future contract negotiations. 

Read my article We are Ohio was Wrong not to talk with Kasich about SB5 Aug 2011

 

 Iíve read this question a half a dozen times on two different days and still canít tell the objective.   But I have posted your questionnaire with my responses on my website and I look forward to conversations that lead to more employee participation in the unions and union processes that optimize the value communities receive through government agencies. 

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Other Articles:  

 I support the Tea Party, I support Unions 20 Feb 2011

SB5 will Bankrupt Ohio  Mar 2011

Sen Schumer - $1200 a Month for Young Adults 4 Apr 2010 

We are Ohio was Wrong not to talk with Kasich about SB5 Aug 2011

Unions circa 1998

Read SB5 

 

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