Balance Through Transparency – Part 2
In writing about how increased transparency can help improve government labor relations, I thought it might be useful to illustrate two ways government labor relations can become problematic. The first situation is one where the relationship between a government union and government becomes toxic, making it hard for government employees to deliver public services.
David Richard, a former fire captain and union member in Saint Louis County, told me that somewhere along the line the collective bargaining process became “infected.”
“The union became radical,” David told me. David believes a firefighters union can serve a good purpose, but the situation in many districts has become too adversarial. “The district needs a dialogue, a common ground.” And with the infected relationship between management and the union, ordinary procedures, such as employee review, are compromised.
“I was torn between my duties as a captain and my duties as a good union member,” David said of the employee review process. As a captain, he had the duty to review employees, but as a union member, he had a duty to protect his fellow union members. As the union became more militant, it became increasingly difficult for him to play both roles.
What’s the big deal? People complain about their union being too radical or too soft all the time.
The difference here is that we’re talking about our government.
If a traditional private-sector union is too radical and labor relations suffer, then it’s only a private company that suffers. It’s bad for employees and owners of that company, but society as a whole can always buy Toyotas instead of Fords. If government labor relations suffer, then citizens serviced by and paying for that government entity are stuck with the consequences.
More on this to follow…