Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ridgeway: I did some research; what happened in Wisconsin can't happen here

Sometimes our elected officials astound me. In her latest report, Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, assures us that she did some research and found out that Missouri is not like Wisconsin and that what is happening in that state cannot happen here.

What she fails to address is why she and her fellow legislators are coming down so hard on public employees, including teachers, in a state that does not have collective bargaining and does not have the "out-of-control" benefits given to public employees in other states.

Hopefully, someday Mrs. Ridgeway can do a little more research and answer questions for which people do not already know the answers. Most of us were well aware that Missouri is not Wisconsin:

Wisconsin has recently been the focus of national attention as democrat members of their senate left the state in order to prevent votes on state employee union issues. Scenes of angry state employees have been shown on the news as well as people spending the night at the Capitol. Since every state, including Missouri, has a significant work force I wondered if such a situation could occur here.

After doing some research I found there are different policies in place here in Missouri than in Wisconsin. Instead of being a collective bargaining state for public employees, we operate under meet and confer laws. Unlike Wisconsin, very little is negotiable through union bargaining for public employees in Missouri. Most of our state employees are not represented by unions and all are covered under Missouri’s merit system. This means wages, benefits, and retirement are not subject to union negotiations. There are clear and uniform wage classes and retirement benefits and requirements for all state employees. Benefits such as health insurance options are the same for all employees. One difference between union and non union state employees is typically the union will provide assistance in the event of a grievance or leave hearing. As a result of meet and confer laws, unions are sometimes given representation on personnel boards and commissions.

State employees in Missouri are not allowed to strike, although there are no penalty provisions in place if they do. Under provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, workers involved in a legal strike are provided certain rights and benefits. Since a strike by state workers in Missouri would be illegal, they would not be eligible for these.

Legislation has been filed in Missouri which would declare vacant the seat of any legislator who left the state for the purpose of avoiding a vote or other official duties. The vacancy would be treated as they are currently by holding a special election.

Currently, with a vote of ten senators, the Missouri Senate is authorized to send anyone anywhere to bring back a senator who has gone AWOL. Additionally, any costs incurred would be billed to the senator so as to not cause any expense to taxpayers. This provision is contained within the rules of the Missouri Senate.

There should be a sacred trust between public employees and the public itself. Public employees generally enjoy better job security, protection, and benefits than their private sector counterparts. In return, taxpayers expect them to be faithful to the duties entrusted to their care.

As a general rule, our state employees are dedicated individuals. As with any large employer, the state occasionally finds a few bad apples. In that event, such workers’ employment can be terminated pursuant to Missouri’s merit system. We should expect no less from our elected officials.

No comments: