Paying More Now So We Can Pay More Later

From the Goldwater Institute, on the amount of money we in Phoenix are paying in taxes to support union management costs

Phoenix taxpayers spend millions of dollars to pay full salary and benefits for city employees to work exclusively for labor unions, a Goldwater Institute investigation found.

Collective bargaining agreements with seven labor organizations require the city to pay union officers and provide members with thousands of additional hours to conduct union business instead of doing their government jobs.

The total cost to Phoenix taxpayers is about $3.7 million per year, based on payroll records supplied by the city. In all, more than 73,000 hours of annual release time for city workers to conduct union business at taxpayers’ expense are permitted in the agreements.

The top officials in all of the unions have regular jobs with the city. But buried in the labor agreements are a series of provisions for those employees to be released from their regular duties to perform union work.

For top officers, the typical amount of annual release time is 2,080 hours, a full year of work based on 52 weeks at 40 hours each. They continue to draw full pay and benefits, just as if they were showing up for their regular jobs. But they are released from their regular duties to conduct undefined union business.

Union officials say the time is a good investment that leads to a more productive workforce. Critics say it amounts to an illegal gift of taxpayer money.

The "more productive workforce" line is just hilarious.  99.9% of the this work very likely is against the best interests of taxpayers, either raising future salaries or enforcing productivity-killing work rules or preventing the termination of incompetent employees.

I understand that there are similar provisions in some private union contracts, but if I was a shareholder in these companies I would be outraged about those as well.  As it turns out, private companies that have these deals tend to be among the most dysfunctional and uncompetitive in the country (e.g. GM).

What's particularly ugly about this is that it is so reminiscent of a number of Soprano's episodes, with the mafia guys all sitting around in no-work and no-show jobs at taxpayer expense.


  1. Mark:

    I have already commented on how the Democratic Party/Union arrangement is just like organized crime. But, these union arrangements are spectacularly wasteful and it is sad that the public is so unaware how their money is wasted. Everything the government does is at least 25% more expensive just because of union graft.

    What we need to go forward is the rationalzed, efficient public-private partnerships in providing government services. The great example is Warren's park management company. There is no reason why the state has employees that provide most of the services they do. Private enterprise would be much more efficient. We will not be able to afford the government services we need if we are forced to pay the price government charges.

  2. NL_:

    From an economic standpoint, this isn't all that different from paying higher salaries to workers, who then pay higher dues to the union, which then hire stand-alone workers to do the same tasks. Except that this structure allows the legislature to fashion a budget with a lower nominal value (which is obviously worrying from a democratic transparency standpoint). But unions themselves are an issue, however they extract wealth from the productive economy. The real problem is the quasi-governmental monopoly powers bestowed upon all unions.

  3. ParatrooperJJ:

    That's a pretty standard union clause. I don't know about this particular instance, but the time usually comes from the union taking vacation hours from all the union members and giving them to the union time bank.

  4. Mike G.:

    You need a Scott Walker down there!

  5. Smock Puppet, Union Supervisor, La Cosa Nostra Employment Services:

    >>>> with the mafia guys all sitting around in no-work and no-show jobs at taxpayer expense.



    Yu got a problem wid dat?

  6. Smock Puppet, Union Supervisor, La Cosa Nostra Employment Services:

    ... I mean, if yuze does, I can send Guido and Luigi over der to, y'know, like discuss t'ings wid ya, if yaz gets my meanin'...

  7. smurfy:

    "What’s particularly ugly about this is that it is so reminiscent of a number of Soprano’s episodes, with the mafia guys all sitting around in no-work and no-show jobs at taxpayer expense."

    Except that instead of sitting around the strip club, they're sitting around a bargaining table stuck in a boring-ass meeting. From my experience at the table, I say the fact that meetings are involved is not really the problem. The problem is that there is often a lack of true adversarial relationship between management and the union such that the taxpayer has no effective representation at the bargaining table. When you're talking about shared benefits, it's often collusion. But, in this era of concessions, the taxpayer may well benefit from extending negotiations. Consider it an investment in the future. And what's the alternative? Impose contract changes under government fiat? How libertarian.

    Don't forget, the guys on the other side of the table are getting paid too (so I guess the numbers look even worse).

  8. Smock Puppet, Professional Clue Rhabdomancer:

    >>> Impose contract changes under government fiat? How libertarian.

    LOL. Libertarian is
    a) No government unions at all. What the hell do government employees need a union for? If you don't like the job's pay or conditions, get a real job instead. VERY libertarian.
    b) No pay for union members performing union functions. If the union thinks it's worth doing, let the #$%#$ union pay for it out of their own finances. VERY libertarian.

    Funny how you went right to the most retarded, senseless alternative as the only possible alternative. You appear to be very talented at constructing straw men. I predict a great future for you in scarecrow manufactories. Keep that in mind during any job searches.

  9. smurfy:

    puppet - a, i largely agree with. Conditions unions were originally purposed with combating are now largely covered by law. Like they can't make me buy my own PPE per OSHA so I don't really need my union arguing for that one any more. And frankly, I'd like to have my dues back. On that cheap shot at the end, remember that friction works both ways. My brother manages a strip club. At the extreme end of low friction employment markets- yeah that was on purpose- all you get is flakeyness. Like I tried to say earlier, the missing element in union discussions is the third party to the contract: the taxpayer/ rate payer/ customer.

    Check your knee jerk anti-union bias for a sec. It caused you to miss the bulls eye. Where I actually erred in my argument is that it is perfectly consistent with liberty minded principles for the government to modify contracts that it itself is a party to.

    Back to why I disagree with the OP. None of that budgeted money has to be spent. Extend the contract, tell your managers they don't get to fire anybody this year. but, I think in this down economy with the large anti-union bias time is right to go all in and get every concession you can and get every employee with questionable performance out. Money well spent. Yeah you have to pay your employees to show up at meetings, man bites dog.