Labor Day

Once again it’s time to celebrate unions and labor in general. Labor Day was fought for and emblematic of all unions have done for the country: higher wages, weekends, shorter days, healthcare, better working conditions. Celebrating by taking the day off and being with friends and family is perfect, so go have a blast … just remember who made it possible.

I deserve it, you don’t

The Boston Globe notes that the leaders of the Boston charter schools make a fair amount (the second compares to 13 charter school executives who make $160,000 or more):

The median pay package for the top leaders of the 16 charter schools in Boston was $170,000 last year, making most of them among the highest-paid public school officials in Boston, according to a Globe review of payroll data.

By contrast, three members of Chang’s Cabinet made more than $160,000 in 2016, according to a Globe review.

and their employees make a bit less:

The average earnings for charter-school teachers, guidance counselors, and other educators who work directly with students were roughly $55,000, according to the Globe review. Average pay for teachers in the Boston school system is about $90,000.

Now look at how the leaders talk about the pay of the leaders:

Charter school officials say the large compensation packages reflect the competitive market for top school leaders and the need for special talent.

Harris, in a brief phone interview, said his compensation package was well-earned and reflected the 42 years he spent in public education.

During her tenure, Lam oversaw the school’s relocation from Brighton to Dorchester, its expansion from an elementary school into a K-8 program, and the addition of high-profile programs like EL Sistema, a popular Venezuelan music education program.

“Diana’s unique talents and experience as an accomplished visionary were essential to establishing the school and were reflected in her compensation,” Gary F. Gut, chairman of the school’s trustees, said.

Benjamin Howe, chairman of the trustees at Excel Academy, said the salary the board set for its CEO, Owen Stearns, the third-highest earner, was fair and reasonable and in the best interests of Excel, which operates four campuses in East Boston and Chelsea.

And how they talk about the pay of the teachers:

Charter school leaders say they would like to pay teachers more but the state does not provide them enough money to cover facility costs, forcing them to make up the difference in their operating budgets. The teachers in the independent charters are not unionized.

“Everyone I know wants to hire great teachers and pay them as much as possible,” said Shannah Varon, executive director of Boston Collegiate Charter School, who also leads the Boston Charter School Alliance. “I don’t know of any executive director who is trying to pad their paychecks and in doing so is hiring teachers who are green or paying them less.”

Somehow they are able to find the extra money to pay the leaders but it’s impossible to find it for the teachers. You might be surprised to learn that the teachers aren’t unionized.

For fun, let’s look at the school Shannah Varon works for, Boston Collegiate Charter School. It has, according to its website, nearly 700 students and has 7 executives on the list of people who make more than $100,000 per year. The top 7 executives earnrd a total of $849, 298 with Shannah topping the list at $166,496. I’m curious why paying  the executives a lot doesn’t reduce the amount that could go towards the pay of the teachers.

May Day Trump style

Yesterday was May Day, the annual celebration/protests for unions. Let’s see how Donald Trump celebrated:

President Trump proclaimed Monday to be Loyalty Day, a time for Americans to reaffirm their commitment to “individual liberties, limited government, and the inherent dignity of every human being” with Pledge of Allegiance ceremonies and a display of American flags.

Yup, he made an explicitly anti-union statement on a day for celebrating unions. It must make all those union people who voted for him feel great.

To see how to really celebrate May Day, go look at this post by Kevin Drum:

You’ve all heard of the Haymarket bombing and the Ludlow massacre and the Harlan County War. We don’t have any labor history quite like that here in Orange County, but we do have the all-but-forgotten Citrus War. On June 11, 1936, orange pickers in Anaheim, Fullerton, Tustin, and elsewhere went on strike, demanding better wages and the end of a corrupt bonus system.

Progressive journalist Carey McWilliams, who chronicled “the rise of farm fascism” in California during the 30s, wrote that the Orange County strike was “one of the toughest exhibitions of ‘vigilantism’ that California has witnessed in many a day….Under the direction of Sheriff Logan Jackson, who should long be remembered for his brutality in this strike, over 400 special guards, armed to the hilt, are conducting a terroristic campaign of unparalleled ugliness.” But it worked. As the terror campaign against the pickers escalated, union solidarity began to unravel. On July 27, pickers and growers reached an agreement that raised wages modestly but didn’t allow the pickers to unionize. After six weeks, the Citrus War was over.

What cutting costs means

I can see that people on the MBTAs Control Board don’t know how things work:

When the two cleaning companies contracted by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority cut costs this fall, they slashed the hours — and in the process, health insurance — for dozens of their employees, the agency’s general counsel said Monday.

For months, workers have protested the changes before the MBTA’s fiscal and management control board, saying many of their fellow employees have lost health benefits and don’t have enough cleaning supplies to do their job.

John Englander, general counsel for the MBTA and the state Transportation Department released figures confirming that close to 80 workers for the two companies, about 25 percent of the staff, were laid off or lost health insurance when their hours were reduced.

This came out of this:

Shortsleeve told Boston Public Radio Friday that he believes the administration of Charlie Baker’s predecessor, Deval Patrick, overpaid the companies the MBTA contracts with to clean its stations. He thinks the stations can be maintained for $36.5 million, instead of the $53.1 million that has actually been paid out.

“For the last three years, the prior administration, for a variety of reasons, had been overpaying against those contracts as opposed to enforcing them on a performance basis,” Shortsleeve said. “What we’ve done, and what we’ll start on August 31, is simply to enforce those contracts on a performance basis, which means those companies are on the hook.”

Shortsleeve said that the MBTA does not employ janitors directly, and so any resulting layoffs will be the decision of the cleaning companies the agency contracts with and their labor unions–not the MBTA’s.

The reason they added money to the contract the last time was the private companies made big cuts in pay and benefits last time. This means that Brian Shortsleeve agreed to these cuts knowing it would lead to layoffs and cuts in benefits and he didn’t care.

It also comes straight out of the attitude of one Charlie Baker:

“I don’t care if a service is provided publicly or privately. What I care about is performance, productivity,” and that public money is “well spent,” Baker said.

Notice there’s nothing about treating employees well. He doesn’t care.

A conundrum

The conventional wisdom (which is often wrong, but I’m too lazy to look this up) is that Donald Trump did well among people who are worried about stagnant wages, loss of benefits, and the loss of jobs overseas. This is why he did better with union households than the last few Republican candidates.

There is one set of groups whose purpose is to protect workers–unions.

And Donald Trump and the newly ascendant Republican Party are anti-union:

Trump has expressed support for so-called right-to-work legislation, which allows workers to avoid paying union dues. Republican leaders in Congress have consistently sought such a change at the national level.

Among his concerns, he listed a Supreme Court case this year in which public-sector unions scored a victory related to funding organized labor – but only because the court deadlocked 4-4. The appointment of a new conservative judge by Trump to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia could change that.

in September the Obama administration finalized an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide sick leave to workers, as well as rules expanding the types of data employers are required to provide on pay. A separate Labor Department rule expanding which employees are eligible for overtime pay is scheduled to take effect next month.

Those actions drew criticism from business groups, and all could be reversed under a Trump administration.

Steven Bernstein, a partner at law firm Fisher Phillips, which represents employers, said the Trump administration and Congress may also target recent NLRB rulings that allowed workers to picket on private property, expanded the type of worker activity protected by federal labor law and gave graduate students the right to unionize.

“It’s also fair to assume that Trump will be inclined to repeal a host of executive orders supporting unions,” particularly rules that apply to federal contracts, Bernstein said in a statement.

I guess I don’t understand how these people think: they are worried about their jobs, benefits, and pay so they vote for someone who is against the groups that are fighting for workers? Do they think that businesses will just give them higher pay and better benefits out of the goodness of their hearts?

Only Unions pressure anyone

It’s interesting how things work when people talk about issues where unions weigh in:

Perhaps she was honestly torn. As Michael Jonas pointed out in CommonWealth magazine, the Massachusetts senator is a longtime proponent of school choice. In her 2003 book, “The Two-Income Trap,” she endorsed a system of vouchers to support attendance at any public school.

But in a statement put out on Monday, Warren said that she will be voting no on Question 2. “Many charters schools are producing extraordinary results for our students and we should celebrate the hard work of those teachers and spread what’s working to other schools,’’ she said. But, after hearing from both sides, “I am very concerned about what this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind.”

Warren can play an important role in this debate. I only hope her decision really is about equal opportunity for all and not about caving in to union pressure.

The writer, Joan Vennochi, says:

When it comes to Question 2, you can put me down as “conflicted.” This campaign pits suburbs against urban communities and unions against business groups that despise organized labor. All supposedly in the name of “the children.”

and yet nowhere does she seem to question anybody who is voting Yes on Question 2 even though its backers will be spending millions to push it. It’s interesting how that works.

The MBTA and Labor Day

So, Monday was Labor Day. Let’s see what happened the next day:

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is considering the privatization of driver and maintenance worker jobs, a prospect that could lead to the layoff of hundreds of employees, as it tries to cut into a multimillion dollar deficit.

The MBTA’s fiscal and management control board, which oversees the agency, told legislators in a report that MBTA management is focusing on drivers, operations employees, and maintenance workers — particularly for buses — because those areas account for about 85 percent of the MBTA’s operational costs.

Such privatization could mark Governor Charlie Baker’s most extensive effort to outsource MBTA jobs to date. It follows the T’s decision to pursue privatization of its warehouse and cash-counting operations, which potentially could eliminate more than 100 jobs.

Joe Pesaturo, a T spokesman, said that privatization “remains a critical tool” for the T as it seeks to close a $100 million deficit.

The day after Labor Day the control board decides is a good time to start pushing to weaken labor. They seem nice.

Update: It seems the report came out on Saturday.

Update 2: Here’s Charlie Baker last year:

“I do not want to privatize the T. I do not want to slash services,” Baker said, testifying about his plan to install a fiscal and management control board and free the transit agency from procedures required before state services can be privatized.

Baker said he hopes to supplement the T with privatized service, and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack suggested areas that would be difficult or impossible under the current privatization requirements.

Pollack said she would not be able to convert the new late-night weekend train and bus service to smaller, private buses, and said there are questions about whether the T could contract for fare agents on the commuter rail.

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