The advantages of unions

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As I've mentioned before, we have a very major budget crunch facing the State of Washington. As WWU gets a good chunk of its funding from the State, this affects us as well. We've been told to expect an overall general fund budget shortfall of around 13% if I'm remembering right. This is a lot.

A week or so ago the Governor released her budget that she'll be submitting to the Legislature. It is guaranteed that there will be differences (and very likely major differences) between what she submits and what she'll ultimately sign. This budget does not include any new taxes.

As a brief aside, Washington has a referendum process where citizen-proposed initiatives can be put before the people for vote. In the past, any new taxes passed by the Legislature have almost always been thrown in front of the Initiative bus and run over. The State, therefore, is very gun-shy about tax increases. It is not surprising that the Governor is passing onto the Legislature the responsibility of suggesting that perhaps raising revenue is a way to get out of this mess.

However, the budget proposal does not include funding for contracted pay increases for certain unionized worker classes. Unsurprisingly, the unions are starting to sue for breach-of-contract. It's a bit puzzling that they're doing it now, when the proposal is just a proposal and no power beyond the power of suggestion, but they're doing it anyway.

This can lead to an interesting possible side-effect in the next 2-4 years as this budget crisis unfolds. If the unionized workers get their contracted increases and us salaried professionals don't get our annual cost-of-living increase, we could (er, will) see cases where the promotion for a classified job into an unclassified job results in a pay-cut. In the last 2 years I had a sizable salary increase because the classified workers underneath me on the org-chart were given a sizable pay increase by the Legislature. I got the increase in order to prevent a salary inversion. If the classified workers get their contracted increases and we get the 0% us salaried folk are expecting, it could happen again; whether or not we'll get any money remains to be seen.

There is a down-side to unions, though. They negotiate anywhere from yearly to every four years depending on the union. A deal cut when revenue projections are still negative will have scanty to zero increases, which will still be in place should State revenue suddenly increase. In this way Union pay for public works is even more of a lagging indicator of economic woes than State budgets already are.

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there are no advantagesyou are wrong