Editorial: Third party of first importance - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Editorial: Third party of first importance

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Posted: Sunday, July 1, 2012 5:00 am

The Coeur d’Alene City Council will spend wisely if it commits funding to a third party to negotiate contracts with its three unions.

This Tuesday night, the Council is expected to consider investing $8,000 to $12,000 in an attorney who would represent the city in bargaining sessions with the Coeur d’Alene Police Association, whose contract with the city expires in September.

Committing $135 an hour for 70 hours to a local attorney is sure to stir up those who believe the city already spends excessively. That it’s a union issue with the money coming from taxpayers on both ends of the hose — paying a third party to negotiate with a public employee group — will add a little more gasoline to the bonfire of anti-tax passions.

But if the city is going to be tied to unions at all — and Coeur d’Alene is the only one in Kootenai County that is, since 1999 — a third-party negotiator is imperative. The existing negotiations are so fatally flawed, any other option would be an improvement.

As it stands now, contracts with all three of the city’s collective bargaining units — the police, the firefighters and the catch-all Lake City Employees Association — are negotiated on behalf of the city by three of its department heads. The problem? Those department heads and the few city employees who have chosen not to join a union all receive the same raises and added benefits as the unions they’re negotiating with.

That puts the city’s negotiators in the enviable position of improving their lots right along with those sitting across the table from them. In essence, they’re negotiating against themselves, and there’s not much motivation for talking yourself out of a nice fat raise or better benefits.

The current negotiation method, of course, reeks of conflict of interest. Even if the city’s negotiators work feverishly to keep wages and benefits within a reasonable range, the perception of conflict remains and hard feelings with fellow public servants can fester. Only a third party can help.

Even then, not everybody will be happy. If the police union receives pay raises and/or additional benefits that some citizens consider too generous, the third-party negotiator will be criticized as too soft and the City Council will be charged with passing the buck and making itself less accountable to the community.

So be it. In our view, the council will improve confidence with its more reasonable constituents by no longer using its administrators to bargain on the taxpayers’ behalf, and it will get three key administrators off the hook of negotiating in an arena where they’re damned one way or the other.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • the floorist posted at 12:58 pm on Mon, Jul 2, 2012.

    the floorist Posts: 331

    I hear ya, "Humanist...

    I generalized the most affected local unionized organizations which is what I'm basically referring to in this case. I'm pretty sure teachers take a 191/1 pay cut for every sick day they use...I don't think they accrue days. Being a firefighter/paramedic has its pluses and I know only because our daughter is one. Granted they work and train constantly, but they have the luxury of working approx. 10 (24 hr.) days a month AND most have jobs or businesses on the side. Our daughter (and her engineer fiance') accrue time and are obligated to "cover" others' shifts for when they each use their accruals. Therein is the balance, a firefighter off duty is covering for a firefighter using their sick time. At first glance it seems fair, but it's really not because a sick day is still being paid.

    Another perk to salaried jobs is comp time. I forgot to mention that and it falls on the shoulders of those who are administrative, typically. Contract salaries inherently always have stipulations for these situations, but again...it's still a double edge sword when the job can be done and comp'd for.

    That's kinda' in a nut shell what I blathered about before...

    ...welcome back, Humanist...we missed you while you were away.. ::wave::

  • messos posted at 5:47 am on Mon, Jul 2, 2012.

    messos Posts: 29

    Just one more thing, upon reading the famed letter to Mr. Steward, if FDR was so against unions, why would he be congratulating a federal employee's union on it's 20th Anniversary?

    The above link is for those who want to read the entire letter and draw their own conclusions about its intent.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 5:43 am on Mon, Jul 2, 2012.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    And I have seen firsthand what unions do to working environments. Workers that don't work get protection, drunks that do a bad job get protected, and workers that excel can get nothing extra for their hard work.

    They pay a substantial due each month, and for their money get told who they need to vote for. The union cares less about the health of the company that pays their way, and in most instances chokes the life out of perfectly viable AMERICAN companies. The workers get spoiled on overinflated wages; and when they lose thier jobs they realize that they'll never get another job paying as much money, so the rest fo their life become one great disappointment after another, job wise, until they turn into alcoholics or drug addicts.

    IN the days of Henry Ford, unions were necessary. In today's world, they are not only unnecessary; but are fully contrary to trying to bring manufacturing back to America. Unions are bad, period.

  • messos posted at 5:32 am on Mon, Jul 2, 2012.

    messos Posts: 29

    I have always been interested in organizations for labor. I have always felt that it was important that everyone who was a worker join a labor organization, because the ideals of the organized labor movement are high ideals.

    Elenor Roosevelt. American Federationist. Workers Should Join Trade Unions. 48 (March 1941): 14-15

    I bet they had some interesting debates at dinner.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 10:50 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    Yeah, nonsense, and I know nothing since my family have all been union for the last 50 years. You know a lot less than I do about the subject, Martman.

    As to what governments will "do" to their workers if "unchecked", let me explain some of this to you, since you don't get it.
    Government workers have GUARANTEED jobs. That means that if the economy is bad, they're fine. No worries, just do your job & chances are you'll keep it. Now; as a result of UNIONS, not only do you keep your job, but it pays FAR better than private sector wages, and comes with vastly better benefit packages AND retirement packages.
    Know why that is?
    Because NO ONE is representing the people that PAY the wages to government employees.
    NO ONE is standing up for the people that pay the taxes TO the government employees.

    On this vitriole you spout about private corporation trying to effect elections, sure they do, BUT there's a HUGE difference between voting for someone who will make your COMPANY more profitable & voting for someone who has the ability to pay you more money. Socialists & Communists have ALWAYS been huge union supporters, as what they do is "collective" in nature, and a natural fit of working "for the people". You know; the "People's Army" etc.

    I take nothing away from people that work for government, as police, firemen etc, but telling me that they all need to be union or they won't make any money is just bunk.
    Unions ARE bad for America in every way, and according to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the ultimate purveyor of spending tax dollars, unions should never be allowed to represent PUBLIC workers.
    He was correct, 100%. Unions have no place in government.

  • local res posted at 10:37 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1164

    Voxpop the problem is that public employees negotiate both side of the discussion.

  • local res posted at 10:35 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1164

    Pay the fire dept and police dept a fair wage and then tell them raises only when the taxpayers can afford the raises. 95 % of the balance of the city employees should be terminated. There jobs can be done by the private sector for less money.

  • taxpayer posted at 10:33 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    taxpayer Posts: 333

    joe idaho is anti everything, all bashing and no solutions

  • martman posted at 9:35 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    martman Posts: 14

    What utter and complete nonsense Joe. From the Memphis sanitation workers in the 60's to the first responders at The World Trade Center public employees have seen what local, state and the federal government will do to them if left unchecked.

    Of course unions try to affect elections. So does Intermountain Forest Industries and IACI, but you don't call them corrupt, just working people.

    Calling unions socialisst and communists is absolutely absurd hyperbole.

  • Humanist posted at 9:24 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    Humanist Posts: 3098

    Quote The Floorist: "employees combine these days to lengthen holiday weekends and vacations. "Use it or lose it" is total BS because naturally they'll use it."

    I don't think that's true for the most part. It's up to the employer to confirm that when the employee is using sick leave (and they're always accountable somehow and have to call in sick) and when they're not. Sure, some people always try to abuse any system, as in any society, but your assumption is that people are always dishonest and will always abuse the system. I work for a large (7000+), international software company and there is no concept of sick leave. If you are sick, you are honest about it and you stay home. AND you get paid. And it works.

    If someone is sick, then we should do the right thing and pay them for that time that we know they would otherwise be productively working. And we deserve to receive the same when it happens to us so we spread the burden evenly. As a society, we need to help each other out instead of saying "it's every man for himself and it's just tough luck that you can't work right now." Something just feels very wrong about that to me when I consider it in the context of humanity.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 4:58 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    Oh no you don't "voxpop".
    Unions are NOT "just a collective group that negotiates for their members".
    What unions do is CORRUPT systems entirely, they affect elections, to purely their benefit, and NOT the public's. They hold utter control over elected officials, as they holds much sway over how wel government itself operates, on a local OR Federal level.
    Unions are posion to America, they are backed by socialists, and communists, around the globe. When unions win; average Joe loses, period. Teh mantra they spout about raising wages is just garbage; the vast majority of union jobs in America are government jobs, and the reaosn for that is that business wants NOTHING to do with any unions.
    We get rid of them, liek a previous poster siad that Wisconsin did, and it will HELP America.

  • voxpop posted at 3:46 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Sooooo many people in Idaho think the bane of all existence are unions. Unions are just a collective group that negotiates for their members. What they get is entirely due to what they are given by those on the other side of the table. Cities like Stockton promise something, time marches on, then they welch on the promise. Don't blame the union for what cities give in to. Blame mayors, and council members, and dept heads. If the job is so simple then they can fire those who strike and hire others. If cities don't want to pay for holidays, or pensions, or health care - then don't. The govt should no more control union membership than they should give tax breaks to business.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 1:58 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    A less expensive and better 3rd party solution, would be to tap into the jury selection system and pick 12 members of the public to represent the taxpayers, pay then $10 per hour, and have the city attorney or a judge available for mediation and advisory.With a 7/5 vote needed for approval of any vote.

    Even better just decertify the Unions all together, and create a base line of Salary and benefits. Then allow department heads to send requests for raises with justifications to a volunteer citizen board appointed by the council. This would take all politics out of the issue and allow the creme to raise to the top in all levels of public servants.

  • mister d posted at 12:49 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    I think if public sector workers got the same compensation and benefits as federal employees, there would be no need for unions at the state and local level.

  • the floorist posted at 12:42 pm on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    the floorist Posts: 331

    Why it should fall on the employer (taxpayers in this case) to afford paid sick days is the first thing I'd cut. It's real basic...I don't work, I don't get paid. Yes, it's a luxury to me that companies and ESPECIALLY the government's workers are granted X amount of sick days per month and after accruing several days employees combine these days to lengthen holiday weekends and vacations. "Use it or lose it" is total BS because naturally they'll use it.

    As part of any salary this one small factor costs huge sums of money. Burger King isn't going to give its fry cooks paid sick time any more than I would consider paying an employee to fake being ill and paying that person 15+ days a year to not work on top of their paid vacation allotment. Again...I don't work, I don't get paid...unions are all about advocating free money. It's a double edge sword and society is spoiled...

  • cgent47 posted at 8:09 am on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    cgent47 Posts: 192

    "The process of collective bargaining, cannot be transplanted into the public service," Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, "I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place" in the public sector. "A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government."
    ---Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Governor Walker has stated a fire and it will burn across America and public sector unions will loose their power nation wide. In tough times tough measures are necessary to balance budgets. Wisconsin is a win for the taxpayer. Republican or Democrat

    Coeur d alene should follow Wisconsins lead.

  • rationaldiscussionplz posted at 8:05 am on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    rationaldiscussionplz Posts: 266

    Ditching the unions would be an excellent first step toward more efficient, motivated public workers. Until that time, yes. It becomes necessary to have 3rd-party negotiations.

  • 986crazy posted at 7:40 am on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    986crazy Posts: 411

    The logic has one fatal flaw. Historically, management has been compensated at a higher rate than the union with which they negotiate. Why? The reason is obvious.

    "Those department heads and the few city employees who have chosen not to join a union all receive the same raises and added benefits as the unions they’re negotiating with."

    Would you expect the department heads to take less than those they supervise? Those who choose not to belong to the union should be left on their own to negotiate their own wages/benefits/working conditions. To do anything else amounts to those "few city employees" supporting socialism by taking something they didn't pay for.

  • I Carry posted at 7:34 am on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    I Carry Posts: 456

    Let us all remember that the city of Stockton, California just filed bankruptcy---a major reason was the unions are costing sooo much, the city ran out of funds. Many other cities are facing the same issues.
    I remember the times I wore the colors of a fire department proudly. Now the firefighters wear the colors of their union. Everybody loves a firefighter, but it's a little harder to admit everybody loves a union. Are the new police badges going to have SEIU, AFL/CIO engraved on them?
    Police and firefighters are a unique group of people--they're the folks running towards an incident when all the sane people are running away from it. Police and firefighters need to be compensated fairly, but common sense needs to rule.
    JoeIdaho---A sugesstion would be to just do the limit-smile and wave-and know you just cut the city earning a few dollars. AHHH, see? Don't ya feel better now?

  • JoeIdaho posted at 6:13 am on Sun, Jul 1, 2012.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    I think they should DEFINITELY use a third party to PROTECT the people FROM the police unions. It only makes sense, and the Police department needs to reprioritize their efforts anyways, setting up speed traps on Hwy 95 at I-90 is just one case of how dumb thier tactics are.
    MAYBE the pd can investigate REAL crimes instead of using "traffic enforcement" as a way to fund the city?

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