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public employment

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Following up on the sensational Blue Line crash at the Chicago Transit Authority’s O’Hare Airport terminus: “The CTA’s contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union authorizes the agency to fire rail operators who have had two serious safety violations in a short period of time [emphasis added], and officials said the two incidents when [Brittney] Haywood dozed off qualify her for termination.” Falling asleep just once at the controls of a train wasn’t enough! [CBS Chicago] More: Bill Zeiser, American Spectator.

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And the curious thing is, they’re from prosecutors. “The prosecutors’ office replaced part-time assistant prosecutors with full-time positions in 2011. Eight of the part-time employees who were replaced sued the city for age, race and/or gender discrimination, The Kansas City Star reported. … The eight former assistant city prosecutors filed their lawsuits individually and alleged different circumstances.” [Claims Journal]

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One would think the whole concept of the union-backed “correctional officers’ bill of rights” might have been thrown into disrepute by last year’s Maryland scandal, in which the statute was found to have entrenched problem guards even as the Baltimore jail descended into a scandalous state of gang-run corruption. But apparently not: the Pennsylvania House has unanimously (!) voted in favor of having that state adopt its own such “bill of rights,” weakening administrators’ power to investigate possible officer misconduct. Details of H.B. 976 here.

  • Minimum wage laws are sentimental legislation with all-too-real effects [Jeffrey Dorfman] “Our Business’s Response to California $2 Minimum Wage Increase” [Coyote, with more on a union angle on minimum wage laws] Some experience from Europe [Steve Hanke, more, Cato overview of minimum wage debate]
  • Connecticut fires state labor department employee who gamed system to get benefits for friend, then reinstates after grievance [Raising Hale] Oldie but goodie: union contract in Bay City, Mich. gave teachers five strikes to show up work drunk before being fired [Mackinac Center two years back]
  • Background of Harris v. Quinn, now before SCOTUS: Blagojevich and Quinn favors for SEIU [George Leef, Forbes, earlier here, etc.]
  • If you decline to hire applicants who’ve sued previous employers, you may face liability over that [Jon Hyman]
  • More on class action seeking pay for volunteer Yelp reviewers [LNL, earlier]
  • “Intriguingly, returns to skills are systematically lower in countries with higher union density, stricter employment protection, and larger public-sector shares.” [Eric Hanushek et al, NBER via Cowen]
  • “L.A. Sheriff’s Department Admits Hiring 80 Problem Officers; May Not Be Able to Fire Them” [Paul Detrick, Reason]

The Costa Mesa Syndrome

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2014

Reuters on the phenomenon of police harassment of local political opponents (earlier here, here, etc.) By no means are the reports limited to California:

There also have been allegations of intimidation by police in Cranston, Rhode Island.

On Jan. 9, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung announced that state police will take over an investigation into a flurry of parking tickets issued in the wards of two council members. The pair claim the tickets were issued as retribution after they voted against a new contract for police that would have given them a pay raise….

Major Robert Ryan, a spokesman for the Cranston Police Department, said: “The matter is under investigation, and pursuant to law enforcement’s bill of rights, no-one is going to comment on this.”

As readers may recall, those high-sounding “law enforcement bill of rights” gimmicks serve mostly to entrench law enforcement personnel against consequences or accountability for misbehavior, and thus have less than nothing to do with the Constitution’s actual Bill of Rights. More: Radley Balko.

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His two hats

by Walter Olson on January 2, 2014

An arbitrator overseeing negotiations between New York City and unions is also a fund-raiser for incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio [Capital New York]

The phrase “evoked the ‘military-industrial complex’ about which President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned the nation in a speech days before he left office in 1961.” [Times-Union]

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According to the Chicago Sun-Times, an Illinois prison official “with a lengthy criminal history” has returned to the state payroll despite a record of “lewd and inappropriate emails” on the taxpayers’ dime and falsifying an earlier job application [Chicago Sun-Times]:

…Still, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration struck a settlement with McCraven and his union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees….

In June, [after withdrawing a lawsuit] he then dropped a union grievance and accepted a 10-day suspension, got six months of back pay and was transferred to the job he now holds as senior adviser to the chief of parole with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Asked to explain why McCraven was allowed to stay on the state payroll, the Quinn administration cited the potential financial costs of losing a grievance case. …

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday that McCraven is working for the state prison system despite being arrested “at least” 24 times on charges including arson, illegal gun possession, attempted robbery, drug possession and aggravated assault.

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“Even though they received back-pay, they are now suing the government….Their attorney said that late payment violates the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act and they’re now owed damages – adding up to hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars per worker.” [Mike Conneen, WJLA]

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  • Reminder: Second Amendment rights run against the government, not against your employer or other private parties [Eugene Volokh]
  • Invasion of privacy? Employees continue to win awards and settlements by way of surreptitious recording devices in workplace [Jon Hyman]
  • Gov. Brown signs bill creating overtime entitlement for California nannies, private health aides [Reuters, L.A. Times]
  • Does rolling back a benefit under a public employee pension plan violate the Contracts Clause? [Alexander Volokh, Reason Foundation]
  • Even as anti-bullying programs backfire, some propose extending them to workplace [Hans Bader, CEI, earlier]
  • Background on Harris v. Quinn, SCOTUS case on herding family home carers into union fee arrangements [Illinois Review, earlier]
  • “California unions target business-friendly Dems” [Steve Malanga]

We are supposed to be reassured that this kind of abuse is rare because only about one NSA employee a year gets disciplined over it. But is there good reason to think all the instances of this abuse get caught and result in employee discipline? [WSJ, Bloomberg]

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Public employment roundup

by Walter Olson on August 14, 2013

  • “Retirement benefits cost Connecticut more than half of payroll” [Raising Hale] Jagadeesh Gokhale, “State and Local Pension Plans” [Cato] “In the report Krugman cites, the researchers note (repeatedly) that the trillion-dollar figure is very likely a dramatic understatement of the size of the unmet liability.” [Caleb Brown]
  • California: “Bill would reinstate state workers who go AWOL” [Steven Greenhut]
  • Eyebrow-raising federal salaries at unaccountable-by-design CFPB [John Steele Gordon, Commentary]
  • “North Carolina Ends Teacher Tenure” [Pew StateLine]
  • Not all states would benefit from a dose of Scott Walkerism, but Massachusetts would [Charles Chieppo, Governing]
  • “Prison Ordered to Hire Back Guards Fired over an Officer’s Murder Because Everybody Else Was Awful, Too” [Scott Shackford]
  • “New York State Lags on Firing Workers Who Abuse Disabled Patients” [Danny Hakim, New York Times] NYC educators accused of sex misconduct can dig in for years [New York Daily News]
  • “Pennsylvania’s GOP: Rented by Unions” [Steve Malanga, Public Sector Inc.] NYC’s Working Families Party expands into Connecticut [Daniel DiSalvo, same]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on June 25, 2013

  • NLRB comes to grief again in D.C. Circuit, this time on posting rule [Fox, Adler]
  • Departing executive director of D.C. labor board: higher-ups pressed for discrimination against conservatives, whites [Hans von Spakovsky, Examiner]
  • “Dollar General: Discovery request would give client list to plaintiffs lawyers” [West Virginia Record]
  • Dems do themselves little credit by blocking legalization of flextime [Ramesh Ponnuru, Washington Times]
  • “Government Crowded Out: How Employee Compensation Costs Are Reshaping State and Local Government” [Daniel DiSalvo, Manhattan Institute]
  • Thanks to California Supreme Court, SEIU can tell dissenters we know where you live [DC Examiner, Legal NewsLine] Recalling a furor over member privacy and databases at another large union, UNITE HERE [Labor Union Report, "pink sheeting"]
  • “The fact that it took forced austerity measures for Greece to fire even *corrupt* public servants speaks volumes.” [Christian Science Monitor via @radleybalko]

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IRS scandal roundup

by Walter Olson on May 28, 2013

  • List of times IRS officials misled public [FactCheck.org] Ongoing link roundups by Paul Caron at TaxProf;
  • Four agencies piled onto Texas tea partier’s business. Happenstance? [Jillian Kay Melchior] Some Tea Party groups seeking (c)4 status pursued electioneering; unnamed former IRS officials defend agency’s practice [Confessore, NYT] IRS denial of non-profit status to Free State Project [Atlas]
  • “Maybe one side of an issue is considered more political than the other.” [Tim Carney] “To me, the real story is the low status of the Tea Party.” [Arnold Kling]
  • “Too Hard to Fire Misbehaving Bureaucrats?” [Conor Friedersdorf, Chris Edwards, Hans Bader]
  • President is lucky he’s not CEO of big company, or he’d need to seek legal advice re: “Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine.” [Daniel Dew, Heritage]
  • IRS also drawing fire for flagging high share of families taking adoption tax credit; abuse rate proved low [USA Today]
  • Do federal agencies treat FOIA requests even-handedly? [Examiner/CEI on EPA, Daily Caller on FCC]

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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. More: “those protections left officers at the jail without fear of sanctions for allegedly smuggling contraband or having relationships with inmates, the FBI said in an affidavit.” [Baltimore Sun] Union-allied lawmakers defend the measure [AP]

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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.