Lack of transparency laws allows public unions to push for sweet deals they wouldn’t get if their negotiations were conducted in the open, a new policy report from the Goldwater Institute finds.
In fact, the report notes, “States across the nation could save $50 billion—and Arizona in particular could save $550 million—every year in excessive pay to public employees simply by banning government union collective bargaining.”
Only seven states have laws requiring that public union collective bargaining take place in the open. As the study notes, “Meaningful transparency in collective bargaining is clearly the exception rather than the rule.”
Eleven states come down against transparency, with laws protecting secrecy in government union collective bargaining. These include Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.
But even where states don’t specifically prohibit open bargaining, transparency laws are frequently skirted to give unions the secrecy they demand, the study notes.
This secrecy is paying off for union members: In 2012, the report notes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that state and local government employees made nearly 43 percent more per hour on average in total compensation than private-sector workers.
The Goldwater Institute evaluated each state’s laws and enforcement, and found that 41 states either protect secrecy outright, or fail to impose or enforce transparency laws.
Arizona is one of the worse offenders, according to the study.
The secrecy imposed on those negotiations is so all-encompassing that cities like Avondale, Chandler, and Maricopa even expressly prohibit anyone from sharing records of negotiations with elected officials and the news media…
It should be no wonder that the Goldwater Institute estimated that government union collective bargaining in Arizona increases the wages and benefits of government employees by $550 million per year.
Given the high cost to taxpayers, the Goldwater Institute advocates that states require government union collective bargaining be subject to the open-meeting laws that apply to other government negotiations.
“Secrecy in collective bargaining only really affords government employers one significant “benefit:” by maintaining secrecy in bargaining, government officials can avoid immediate political accountability for their positions and strategies,” the report says.