Monday, June 06, 2011

You reap what you sow

In the rash of articles about how painful a state government shutdown will be, there is one term that keeps being bandied about that will have a huge impact on who is furloughed-essential employee.  In theory, the state is required to keep paying any employee designated as essential, but there is wide disagreement about what that term means.  But state worker unions have been adamant in recent years that they are not essential employees.  Why?  Because essential employees cannot go out on strike.

State law clearly spells out who is essential in 179A.03-

Subd. 7.Essential employee.

"Essential employee" means firefighters, peace officers subject to licensure under sections 626.84 to 626.863, 911 system and police and fire department public safety dispatchers, guards at correctional facilities, confidential employees, supervisory employees, assistant county attorneys, assistant city attorneys, principals, and assistant principals. However, for state employees, "essential employee" means all employees in law enforcement, public safety radio communications operators, health care professionals, correctional guards, professional engineering, and supervisory collective bargaining units, irrespective of severance, and no other employees. For University of Minnesota employees, "essential employee" means all employees in law enforcement, nursing professional and supervisory units, irrespective of severance, and no other employees. "Firefighters" means salaried employees of a fire department whose duties include, directly or indirectly, controlling, extinguishing, preventing, detecting, or investigating fires. Employees for whom the state court administrator is the negotiating employer are not essential employees.
In fact, just this year the GOP legislature tried to bring more state workers under the 'essential' banner with a bill that would have prohibited teachers from striking.  From the Strib March 15th-

One of Hann's more stringent proposals, which he calls the "nuclear weapon in employee relations," would bar teachers from striking, grouping them with "essential" employees such as police and firefighters. Negotiations where no agreement is reached would be sent to binding arbitration. Twenty-two states already prohibit teachers from striking, according to the Education Commission of the States.
The union showed up at a committee hearing Monday to protest that proposal.
Public employee unions in the past decade in Minnesota have argued vehemently that they have the  'right' to strike because they are not 'essential' employees.  Whether you agree with that concept or not, the fact remains that thousands of public union workers have benefited from being 'non-essential' as defined by the law.  Any union that now argues they are essential in order to avoid a furlough is trying to have things both ways.

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