Nationwide there is a growing movement in open labor negotiations to the public so they can observe and see exactly how the local Government entity is spending the local tax payer dollar. While this may be a distance away in California, many states are moving towards policies where contract negotiations are no longer held behind closed doors, but rather, conducted in open meetings where members of the public, unions, and other Government employees can sit in and watch. In the last year, laws have been passed and implemented in Colorado, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Washington, and even Nevada requiring open meetings and open records in all contract negotiations meetings for all public sector labor organizations. Some states have added requirements that websites be set up to post the most recent proposals and counter proposals as the bargaining process continues.
Large unions are arguing that it’s “anti-labor/anti-worker law” but both the public sector employer and union will have a tough time arguing in the long run that transparency is damaging. The basis of this movement are various economic studies that show Government workers nationwide have received double or triple wage growth over the last 15 years compared to their private sector counterparts. A number of studies also show that public sector employee total compensation exceeds most comparable private sector job classifications, when comparing total compensation includes wages and all fringe benefits. A recent study by the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that compensation for Government workers nationwide has grown 21% since 2000, compared to 9% in the private sector. And finally, perhaps the most damaging evidence is that most public sector managers, often elected officials, frequently receive the same or better wage and benefit increases than those they approve at the bargaining table for the rank and file employee.
As a long term strategy the public sector employee organization should embrace the open and transparent collective bargaining process as a means of demonstrating to the public the value of the services they perform. Most independent employee associations will benefit from this public enlightenment. Only the institutional unions tend to profit from keeping the process secret.