At the end of the Romney Administration a proposal was floated to eliminate the Turnpike Authority. One rationale for elimination rather than reform was that only through wholesale elimination could the outrageous union contracts that have strangled its operations be invalidated. It is perhaps a good measure of my personal cynicism toward our current legislature that I never thought to wonder if that union defenestration provision would be included in this year's transportation reform. Apparently it has been. From the Boston.com article linked above:
"It eliminates all unions at the Turnpike Authority and takes no regard for collective bargaining," said Robert F. Cullinane, head of the teamsters local union 127, which represents toll-takers. "We thought we were voting for Democrats up here."Note well: this is not about the workers. The workers will have the opportunity to join and be represented by any number of the existing unions that are peppered throughout the state transportation workforce. This is about the union bosses who will suddenly find themselves stripped of the ability to call the shots at the Pike, an ability that they have grown to cherish and have exercised in sometimes appallingly brazen ways (see, e.g., the infamous Easter Sunday sick-out just two months ago). The workers won't lose their voice - the union bosses will lose some of their power, and about time.
The State House News has a little more detail on a letter-borne threat fired off by the head of the AFL-CIO today to the legislature:
In a letter to senators, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes said language in Section 142 of the bill "abandoned" protections for Mass. Turnpike Authority workers that had been included in the House and Senate bills. "This removes the voice of the workers' and the unions' they elected to join entirely from subjects that have been collectively bargained for decades," Haynes wrote, urging senators to reject the conference report. Haynes added in his letter: "There is no voice for workers on any board in the proposed MassDOT," the name given to the new transportation super-agency created under the bill. And he closed by saying: "All votes relating to these matters may be considered Labor Votes and calculated into Labor Voting Records upon which endorsements and levels of support are determined. Thank you."'Vote against us and we won't be there for you next year,' in other words. Individual legislators will be forgiven a collective shrug. 'What are they going to do? Endorse a Republican?'
Republicans who are understandably tempted to criticize this bill's shortcomings and oppose it on that basis ought to ponder Ronald Reagan's admonition concerning the occasional efficacy of taking half a loaf when it is offered and coming back for the rest later. This bill constitutes at least half a loaf.
"We thought we were voting for Democrats up here." Priceless.