Today's News and Commentary–January 2, 2015
New York City’s police unions are denying that an organized work slowdown is underway to protest a perceived lack of support from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. According to media analyses of police department statistics, arrests across the city have dropped dramatically since the execution-style murder of two police officers in Brooklyn by a gunman who apparently considered the killings an act of vengeance for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Police union officials attribute the drop-off to (1) safety rules issued by the department in the wake of the killings requiring twice as many officers to handle arrests, (2) a diversion of manpower to monitor and safeguard frequent demonstrations relating to the events in Ferguson and Staten Island, and (3) spontaneous discretionary reluctance on the part of individual officers to pursue arrests with the same vigor out of concern for their safety or due to their mourning for their fallen colleagues.
The NLRB Acting Regional Director in Boston has dismissed complaints from the Communication Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers alleging that FairPoint Communications acted in bad faith and therefore committed an unfair labor practice when it declared the parties at an impasse and implemented its last, best offer in late August. New England employees of the communications company, which provides phone, internet, television, and other services, have been striking since October 16 in an effort to resist FairPoint’s insistence on $700 million in concessions from workers in a new collective bargaining agreement. The CWA and IBEW have said that they plan to appeal the Acting Regional Director’s decision to the NLRB’s General Counsel in Washington, Richard Griffin. If the dismissal stands, the strike will be considered “economic” in nature, as opposed to against an unfair labor practice, and FairPoint will therefore be permitted to hire permanent replacements for the striking workers. FairPoint has been using a huge number of temporary contract workers to handle its customer service and maintenance needs during the strike and has faced escalating complaints about the quality of those services in recent weeks.
Former star Enron trader John Arnold is the leading bankroller of efforts to cut public employee pensions, according to Politico. Enron’s 2001 collapse, and the illegal and frankly unconscionable actions of that company’s executives in the lead-up to that collapse, wiped out $2 billion of its own employee pension funds and cost public employees whose pension funds invested in Enron an additional $1.5 billion. Arnold was not one of the executives convicted of fraudulent felonious conduct in the wake of that company’s implosion.
In an opinion piece in the Bangor Daily News, columnist Jim Fossel calls for Maine to become the first New England state to enact a right-to-work law, arguing that such a law, if enacted as part of a package of “aggressive reforms that truly do open Maine for business,” would give the state a competitive advantage in luring business relative to its Northeastern neighbors. The prospects for such a law are uncertain, however. Although conservative Republican governor Paul LePage was reelected to a second term in November and Republicans took control of the Maine Senate, Democrats did retain a majority in the Maine House of Representatives, albeit a significantly narrowed one.
And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican believed to have 2016 presidential ambitions who pushed through a law that effectively ended public sector collective bargaining in that state, made clear in an interview that he has not decided whether he would veto or sign a right-to-work law if the Wisconsin legislature were to pass one. Walker has previously called the right-to-work issue a “distraction” and stated that it is not a priority for his second term, but he has not said explicitly that he would veto a bill if one landed on his desk.