Last month 13 guards and 12 others were indicted on charges of letting a gang effectively take over management of the Baltimore City Detention Center; according to the indictment, corrupt guards allegedly smuggled in drugs, cellphones and other contraband and had sex with the gang leader, several becoming pregnant by him. Since then the public and press has been asking what went wrong. A Washington Post editorial suggests one place they might look:
The absurd situation described in the indictment took root at least partly because of a “bill of rights” for corrections officers, backed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and enacted by the Maryland legislature in 2010 at the behest of the guards union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. This bill of rights grants extraordinary protections to guards, including shielding them from threats of prosecution, transfer, dismissal or even disciplinary action during questioning for suspected wrongdoing.
While Gov. O’Malley has sought to minimize the relevance of the 2010 law, the Post notes that FBI recordings suggest that a guard who was deemed “dirty” was transferred to another facility, rather than fired — transfers-instead-of-firing being a less than optimal way of dealing with public employee corruption, but one typical of systems with strong tenure entrenchment. AFSCME, which boasted at the time of its “relentless lobbying” on behalf of the law, is now doing damage control.
For a second time, labor unions and their allies have failed to unseat a member of the majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which badly undercuts their chances of getting the court to invalidate Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10. I’ve got details at Cato at Liberty.
Then what do you think he does? “Carroll then started a business that cleans up gory crime scenes, a New Jersey Watchdog investigation found. Yet the state continues to pay him a disability pension for life, a sum that could total $1 million or more.” [Morris County, N.J.; Mark Lagerkvist, Reason]
Broward County, Fla. transit bus driver Larry Moore “was disciplined 19 times” and “was held responsible for nine accidents with other South Florida drivers.” After a so-called last-chance warning in 2008 he “went on to be disciplined seven more times, for five preventable accidents and two clashes with customers, county personnel records show.”
The Sun Sentinel reported earlier this month that one driver, Charles Butler, who cost taxpayers $73,005 in a lawsuit settlement, was involved in 21 accidents while driving a county bus. Twelve were deemed preventable, and 10 involved him hitting another driver. He is still driving, despite having reached the firing threshold. …
[Transit director Tim] Garling said the county follows the union contract, which calls for progressive levels of discipline.
A brief history of the “law enforcement bill of rights,” pushed for by police unions and adopted in many states beginning in Maryland in 1972, which entrenches problem cops who have not actually been found guilty of a felony [Mike Riggs, Reason]
P.S. Josh Barro writes via Twitter (adapted), “I don’t buy this. Worker participation is voluntary, and if it looks like they’re paying into a slush fund, they’ll withdraw. I’d worry more that CALPers will start offering a tax-backed defined benefit to private workers, atop public promises. I think it would be a fine idea to let people participate in the CALPers investment fund, with the participant bearing all risk. Big pension funds do have real administrative cost advantages over 401(k)s. The problem is they get in the risk-shifting business. The bill says California must ‘secure private underwriting and reinsurance to manage risk and insure the retirement savings rate of return.’ I think that means there’s no reliance on a taxpayer guarantee — risk must be borne by a private firm and therefore priced right.”
P.P.S. Scott Shackford at Reason has further analysis, calling attention to “guaranteed return” language as well as to the AP’s description of the program’s must-make-an-effort-to-get-out structure: “The program directs employers to withhold 3 percent of their workers’ pay unless the employee opts out of the savings program, which can be done every two years.”
Parsippany, N.J. hired a new town clerk last year, but her tenure does not seem to have proved a long or happy one: four office employees soon filed complaints against her, “charging her with making racial, sexual and religious statements that left them feeling uncomfortable in the workplace,” and she filed counter-complaints. “All of the grievances were dismissed by township administration, and both sides filed suit against the town.” Now the town has paid $200,000 to resolve the former town clerk’s claims, which she has not elaborated publicly on advice of counsel, while the status of the office workers’ $4 million claim is not clear. [Parsippany Patch via NJLRA]
Why is the U.S. Department of Labor funding Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC), a group that stages protests in front of restaurants and has “harassed” patrons? Rep. Darrell Issa wants to know [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, Daily Caller]
Connecticut public workers who wrongly took food stamps get their jobs back, and no, you can’t read the arbitration decisions [Raising Hale]
Michael Fox’s pioneering employment law blog turns 10;
cracking the head of a handcuffed suspect, beating juveniles, hiding drugs in his police car, stealing from suspects, defying direct orders and lying and falsifying police reports. He once called in sick to take a vacation to Cancún and has engaged in a rash of unauthorized police chases, including one in which four people were killed.
Although he’s “joked about his record of misconduct,” the “Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association has successfully fought Bosque’s dismissals.” [Miami Herald via Tim Lynch, Cato Police Misconduct Project] However, we know from Canadian Auto Workers economist Jim Stanford’s recent column in the Globe and Mail that in right-to-work states, which include Florida, unions are “effectively prohibited.” So it seems there’s no need to worry about a Florida police union’s having too much power.
The Toronto Globe and Mail prints my letter to the editor correcting some misrepresentations of U.S. labor law by Canadian Auto Workers union economist Jim Stanford. The text of the letter as it ran, slightly abridged, in the paper:
Jim Stanford says that in the 23 states with “right to work” laws, unions are “effectively prohibited; indeed, in right-to-work states, private-sector unionism is virtually non-existent” (Wisconsin’s Disease Crosses The Border – July 3).
This would come as a surprise to millions of employees in those 23 states who join and are represented at their workplace by unions. In Alabama, for example, which has had a right-to-work law since 1953, 183,000 workers (about 11 per cent of the labour force) are represented by unions, including 84,000 workers in the private sector. (source)
Emboldened or otherwise, Republicans in the states have no authority to alter the 1935 Wagner Act or other federal laws. In states like Wisconsin, they have sought to alter laws prevailing in about two-thirds of states that prescribe collective bargaining by public employees; these laws are of much more recent vintage than the New Deal, often dating to the 1960-85 period. Given Franklin Roosevelt’s well-documented skepticism toward collective bargaining by government employees, it is no surprise that he did not see fit to build any such element into his New Deal.
Walter Olson, senior fellow, the Cato Institute, Washington
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