One of the challenges facing New York City is that all of its labor contracts with unions representing city workers have expired. If Mayor Bloomberg is unable to negotiate any deals with the city's workers, he will leave his successor a possibly $8 billion problem in the form of retroactive pay increases (the equivalent of the budgets of fire, corrections, and sanitation departments combined). The mayor's office has said that it will only sign contracts where the unions forego retroactive raises, increase employee contributions to healthcare premiums, and provide incentives for workers to live healthier lifestyles. The Mayor needs to reduce healthcare costs, which are rising rapidly and threaten to crowd out spending on other priorities. Right now 95% of city workers pay nothing toward their health premiums.
The teachers union in Mexico, with some 1.5 million members, is one of the most powerful political entities in the country. Indeed, its' record shows just how far public sector unions can encroach on democratic government. In Mexico, the state does not know how many teachers in fact work for it because the union hires the teachers. Nor does it know how many schools there are, as the union largely runs them. Now that seems likely to change with the arrest of the union's leader Elba Esther Gordillo for embezzling somewhere between $160 and $200 million.
According to House of Cards, Netflix' dynamite new political drama, teachers unions exercise more influence over K-12 policy than Republicans. Democrats own the issue, and the direction of K-12 in America depends on a struggle between pro and anti union elements within the Democratic party.
As Illinois continues to struggle through a wave of copy-cat work stoppages in the wake of the disastrous Chicago Teachers Union strike, it should be noted that, far from the image of the ragged Norma Rae, a lot of teachers union operatives are making a pretty good living for themselves. According to union financial reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, there are more than 120 employees of the Illinois Education Association, or IEA, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, or IFT, earning more than $100,000. This does not include staff from local unions.
Teachers at a number of school districts in Michigan have called in sick so that they can travel to Lansing to protest the vote on Right-to-Work. At least Warren Consolidated Schools, the Taylor School District, and Fitzgerald Public Schools are closed today as a substantial number of their teachers march on Lansing.