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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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Thursday, April 5, 2012
Did you know that the State of Minnesota is currently spending more than $140 million in taxpayer dollars on state employee contracts that were not negotiated? In Minnesota, a provision in law states that when a contract expires, that contract simply continues until a new one is negotiated. That means that if a new contract has not been negotiated before their current one expires, AFSCME and MAPE, as well as employees of school districts, counties, and cities, basically have their contracts placed on autopilot. It’s a good deal for them, but a bad deal for the taxpayer. Think about it. Basically the state or local government has no leverage whatsoever with their employees. Heaven forbid it try to reduce pay or benefits if times are tough; the employees can simply say ‘no’ and hold out for a contract better than the one they currently have because there’s no incentive for them to negotiate. They’ll continue to get the same salary, plus new progression increases and additional health benefits, until their employer finally gives in and pays them even more money – regardless of the employer’s economic situation. There are five different state contracts currently on autopilot, all nine months past expiration, all with no real sense of urgency to renegotiate because the paychecks continue coming in. Recently, the Minnesota House approved a bill I’m chief authoring that would provide equal leverage in the collective bargaining process and put public employees on a level playing field with private sector employees when it comes to negotiating their next labor contract. The bill provides that a contract term will not continue in effect after the expiration date stated in the contract, and the parties may not agree to extend or honor a contract term beyond that date if the contract term would provide a wage or salary increase or provide an increase in the dollar amount of the employer contribution for insurance. The legislation is supported by the Minnesota School Boards, the League of Minnesota Cities, and the Minnesota Inter County Association. Taxpayers are being steamrolled by continuing these expired contracts. It’s safe to say Minnesota has wasted hundreds of millions – and likely billions - of dollars over the years simply because these contracts have remained on autopilot. Sometimes a little private sector perspective is helpful. Just think, if the expired public sector labor contracts had actually included progression decreases (cost of living reductions, steps and lanes that decrease compensation, and added employee responsibility for health insurance costs), similar to what has been experienced by the private sector. That would mean that any expired contracts would automatically continue into the future with additional decreases in employer contributions to compensation in these areas. In that case, the unions would be breaking down the doors of the capitol coming forward with this very same change in law. It’s time to stop this fleecing of Minnesota and create a collective bargaining system that actually encourages collective bargaining. This will not occur until we end the process of continuing expired contracts that apply these automatic, unnegotiated increases.
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