Personnel is Policy: The House Rules

OK, this is another piece of Red on Blue about personnel management and union relations in government.  It is long, boring, and you need to know it. 

You have to set out some rules immediately.  The first rule is that you and yours have to be Caesar’s wife, beyond even the suspicion of reproach.  The rule used to be that if it didn’t involve a live boy or dead girl, you were OK.  That rule was made when Democrats were in power.   Democrats have a monopoly on money and sex.  Hell, they even get away with live boys and dead girls.  Let’s make it simple: they can, and you and yours can’t.


If your laws allow it, do background checks on potential appointees.  Better yet, have your potential appointees thoroughly vetted before you take office.  That way, you don’t have to worry about troublesome little things like being a governmental actor infringing on their privacy.  President Bush’s little peccadillo with Bernie Kerik should illustrate this point well enough.  The problem here though, is how do you do it?  After election but before taking office, you do not have access to the cops’ databases and such.  After taking office, there may be serious privacy issues in your using the cops’ resources.  First, you need a good lawyer to sort out the legal issues and second, you need the money to hire a good PI before you take office.  You can’t trust the cops before you take office since they are still led by your predecessor’s appointee.  You can’t trust the cops after you take office, because at the political level, cops just are not that trustworthy.  Political level cops derive their power from the arrest they didn’t make and the information they didn’t disclose.  You may be able to get a head of your police agency that is loyal to you, but you can bet there are lots of lieutenants and captains below him that have their eye on the appointed job and they are loyal to whoever is making the best promise.  Vett your people using campaign and Party resources, not government resources, and get it done before taking office if at all possible.


Democrats don’t have to worry about their business or personal dealings.  Democrats are definitionally good people and good people never make or accept bribes, defraud their stockholders, cheat on their taxes, or have conflicts of interest.  And if they do, it is just a serendipitous trade in cattle futures, a misunderstanding, or a vast right-wing conspiracy; and it’s OK.  Democrats don’t have to worry about women who aren’t their wife or men who aren’t their husband.  That is a purely personal matter for them, and they’re good people.  You, on the other hand, are a Republican, and you are not a good person.


If you are a Republican and own a business or stocks or make more money than the nearest homeless drunk, you are rich and therefore definitionally evil.  If it can be made to look like you or your friends might make a profit from one of your policies or programs, you are going to be slammed by the Left.  There is a line on the right side of which you will be OK, but where that line is may be very hard to gauge – the press will let you know though.  Republicans practically have to take a vow of poverty to hold office.  Of course, if we did take a vow of poverty, they’d accuse us of being right-wing religious zealots.  If there is the slightest twinkle in your eye at the sight of a well-turned leg, you are the biggest whorehound in history.  If you actually have a relationship with a member of another gender that can be colored with the slightest tint of sex, your resignation will not suffice.  Only public castration, drawing, and quartering will satisfy the Left.  And even then, they’ll want your body in an unmarked grave.


Republican women seem to have evaded the sex issues by doing a good impression of the Virgin Mary.  I wonder what the going price is for some guy who will more or less credibly claim to have had a fling with Sarah Palin.  A few thousand years of human history teaches us that this strategy is easier for women than men.  Generally, women need a reason, men just need a place.  Women have lots of reasons not to, and powerful men have access to lots of places.  Most men who aspire to power somewhere along the way accepted that if it were not for fast cars, old whiskey, and pretty women, we could just work at Wal-Mart and life would be much simpler.  So this one is tough for men.  You will be amazed at how attractive your aging, balding self becomes as soon as you have an elected or appointed title associated with your name.  Monica wasn’t the first or the only political groupie, and lady lobbyists really know how to be persuasive.  A Republican man who accepts political office had better have a good wife or take a vow of celibacy – even if the vow of celibacy makes you a right-wing religious zealot.


The only alternative to sainthood for Republican men, I don’t know how it would work for women, may only work if you come out of the bureaucracy into an elected or appointed position.  If you’ve established yourself as a “real bad boy,” to borrow a line from a country song, the rules are a little different.  I spent the early years of my career as an advocate in arbitrations and labor board hearings.  I fancied myself a lone gunslinger and lived like one – hard.  I lived on airplanes and in hotels and hotel bars.  I also lived with the certain knowledge that my union and Democrat friends were watching my every move so that they could drop a dime on me to my boss, my wife after I remarried, the cops, or the press.  I assiduously cultivated a really bad reputation for drinking and womanizing in my early days.  I can only wish I’d done the things that many think I did.  I never lied or invented exploits, but people think what they want to think and I let them think it – I may have even helped them sometimes, but I never gave them any evidence.  Later on after I came to higher positions, whenever some rumor came along, I was just living down to my reputation and nobody even noticed.  You have to be real good to get away with this one though.  You also need to have a real good wife and fortunately I do.


Bottom line, anything that involves money or sex will kill a Republican officeholder or appointee.  Being legally innocent is not enough.  Even if you are innocent, if it will not go away quickly, you have to take one for the team.  Take a vacation and discover while on vacation how much you miss being with your family.  Come back and announce that though you are ever so pleased and proud to be a part of the administration, you have with the greatest regret decided that you have to spend more time with your family.  Maybe while you are out in the wilderness your friends will toss you a few scraps, but since they are Republicans, don’t count on it.


Once you have your elected and appointed house in order, you have to turn to the bureaucracy and fire some people.  Yes, no matter what you’ve heard, you can fire public employees and you need to.  After a long period of Democrat control, especially in unionized functions, your supervisors do not dare supervise, shop stewards are accustomed to veto power over management actions, and the general employee attitude will be like the old saw from the Soviet Union, “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”


In the ‘60s the communists backed the “Mau Mau” rebels in the then – Belgian Congo.  The Mau Mau’s tactic of choice was gruesome execution of village headmen, teachers, and such who might side with the government.  The Viet Cong also employed this tactic until the US suppressed it in Operation Phoenix – interestingly and not coincidentally an operation much criticized by the American Left.  “Mau mauing” supervisors is the tactic of choice of public employee unions since they can be confident that Democrat administrations will not back the supervisors.  Left unmolested, AFSCME is masterful at this.  And yes, they do openly call it “mau mauing.”  If you are having trouble believing that this tactic is consciously used, just look at what the Left did to John Bolton, President Bush’s UN nominee.  They drug out a bunch of his former subordinates in the bureaucracy to tell tales about how mean to them he was.  Any manager who steps in and tries to get real work out of bureaucrats inured to Democrat misrule is going to be thought of as mean.  With the trail of bodies I’ve left behind, I’d hate like Hell to face a confirmation hearing; the ex-employees bitching about how mean I am would have to take a number and wait their turn.  If a supervisor or manager actually dares to direct the work or, God forbid, discipline an employee, the union swings into action.  Sometimes the first act is a visit by the steward or union agent in which the supervisor is invited to consider her future, usually accompanied with a threat to have a talk with her politically appointed boss.  Sometimes the union goes on a grievance campaign in which the supervisor’s every word and deed is grieved.  Often there is a fake poll of the employees to demonstrate how terrible the supervisor is and how miserable she is making the employees’ lives.  If this doesn’t get the supervisor to sit down and be quiet, the union moves on to singing songs and carrying signs and vicious, public, personal attacks.  When Democrats and unions are in charge, it does not take long for supervisors to learn that it is they who are most likely to be punished for employee misconduct.  Being of sound mind, they stop disciplining employees and if it goes on long enough, they stop even attempting to get them to work.  After a few years of this, some significant percentage of your workforce will be completely unproductive and another smaller but still significant percentage will be outright insubordinate.  It’s all in the Mau Mau playbook, so you just put up with it until they give you a chance to take a union rep out. 


If any of your workforce is unionized, whether or not you have union shops, you need to move your labor relations functions under your direct control.  It is best to have it under an appointee one or two steps below you to provide some insulation for you, but if your structure doesn’t lend itself to that, put it right under your thumb.  Alaska’s structure of an appointed director of labor relations reporting to an appointed commissioner of administration who reports to the governor works well.  That gives the administration two opportunities to step in if an action has political implications prior to the situation winding up in the governor’s lap.  Tailor it to your situation, but get it firmly under your direct control.


If your government is one of the many that uses lawyers and consultants to interact with unions, you need to start growing your own labor relations people.  Using lawyers and consultants wastes money and time and especially in the case of consultants puts your labor relations policy formation and implementation in the hands of someone with divided loyalties – they have to get work from governments all over the political spectrum and sometimes take work from unions as well – you want someone loyal only to you.  I believe the ideal labor relations function is comprised of an appointed head and merit system career labor relations people who live with the day to day interactions with employees and their unions and who do the whole gamut of the function; advising and assisting managers and supervisors, answering grievances, representing the government in arbitrations and labor board hearings, and negotiating the labor agreement.  This total involvement gives such a staff a level of intimate knowledge that you cannot buy, no matter how well dressed and expensive the lawyers are.


Here I depart from the ideology of many mainstream Republicans; this is about how to govern in a unionized environment, not about how to get rid of unions.  In a Blue or near-Blue state, getting rid of public employee unions is an Armageddon battle that will consume your whole administration and I’m not volunteering for that.  You could probably repeal a state or local bargaining law with a citizens’ initiative in the states that have them – everybody hates public employees, but I do not believe there is a legislative body in the country that has the guts to repeal a bargaining law.  This is not a battle worth having unless you ran and were elected specifically on a promise to do it.  If you did that, I bow to you; let me know how it turns out.  If you are thinking of running on this, talk to Arnold Schwarzenegger first.


You must not be afraid to bash unions when it is necessary to further your administration’s interests.  You must be prepared to break a union if that is what it takes to get terms acceptable to your government.  But I distinguish doing these things if they are necessary to carry out your programmatic agenda from making doing these things into your agenda.  The unionized states have been so for the last fifty years in the private sector and the last twenty five or thirty years in the public sector.  Throughout this piece I advocate taking the government the way you find it and making it work.  Fundamental changes in what the government does, including whether or not it allows employee unionization, is for a whole campaign that sets out that change as its fundamental purpose.  If you can do that, you are leading a revolution, not just trying to run a government efficiently.  I’m a bureaucrat, not a revolutionary.


You and your head of employee relations need to be on the same page regarding the style of interaction with unions and employees.  Republican administrations cannot be publicly confrontational with unions or employees.  Remember, you are rich, mean-spirited, and definitionally anti-worker.  As bad a movie as it was the Patrick Swayze character in “Road House” had it right, “Be Nice.”  Your employee relations representatives must have a carefully controlled public image, an image that must extend to the bargaining table and the hearing room.  They are well dressed, soft-spoken, totally professional, and utterly ruthless.  No matter the circumstance, your public position is all about how pleased and proud you are to deal with the union in seeking responsible agreements and how optimistic you are that there will soon be a mutually satisfactory outcome.  Say it like you believe it.  We’ll talk later about what you actually do.


Getting that “Be Nice” image means eliminating the lawyers, or at least eliminating lawyers that act like lawyers.  The minimum qualifications for my journeyman level labor relations staff were either six years of professional level human resources administration or graduation from an accredited law school, and I tried to keep the staff about half HR professionals and half lawyers.  I did not let my lawyers act like lawyers or say they’re lawyers; putting “Esq.” or “Counsel” on the appearance line was a hanging offense, though they tried sometimes; it is hard to break bad habits.  Lawyers come out of school with only minimal advocacy skills, often with none.  They have good analytical skills and, usually, good writing skills and that is what you are buying.  You have to teach both the HR people and the lawyers how to put on an arbitration or negotiate a labor agreement, so that means there must be continuity in the function so that there is someone to teach them.  You may have to go out and buy this management skill since Democrats do not really negotiate with unions, they conspire with them. 


Lawyers know two things that real people usually don’t: rules of evidence and how to be unabashedly obnoxious.  Neither of these skills is useful in the collective bargaining environment.  Jury trial advocacy is about knowing how to yell “Objection” to try to prevent a lay jury from hearing something that is impermissible or that doesn’t further your case and about aggressively promoting even the most farfetched theory of the case in order to get at least one moron with a driver’s license to form a doubt about the prosecutors case.  Arbitrators and labor boards are not lay juries and do not need to be protected from unreliable or irrelevant testimony or evidence; they are hired or appointed because they are, at least theoretically, experts in labor relations.  You want an advocacy and representational style that makes hearings and bargaining sessions look like what they are: business meetings, not adversarial proceedings.  This style does two things: it saves money by making the proceedings shorter and it prevents the unions from turning hearings into Stalin-style show trials for organizing purposes.  You want even the most portentous hearings to be boring – that helps keep the reporters away too.


Likewise, lawyers don’t come out of school knowing much if anything about negotiation, though people are endlessly hiring them to negotiate things.  Negotiating labor agreements requires intimate knowledge of the actual operation the agreement will cover.  That is far more valuable than all the “interest based bargaining” or “getting to yes” stuff that the so-called professional negotiators claim to use.  In fact, most of the “getting to yes” stuff is useless since it is based on the willing buyer and seller dynamic of commercial negotiations.  There are no willing partners or even much shared interest in labor negotiations.  Here you need career HR people and program managers that know the work and can write clearly to turn work processes into contract terms.  You need a skilled labor relations practitioner to develop goals, strategy and tactics and to oversee the negotiations to insure that administration goals are met and the law is more or less followed, but the actual work at the bargaining table is best left to people who know the work.  Your people can never engage in histrionics, but should be able to provoke the union to go nuts at will.  It is all done with quiet, studied discussion of proposals and a firm resolve that you will never give in on any item that does not fit into your bargaining agenda.  And, like hearings, you want it to be excruciatingly boring.  You need exquisitely disciplined labor relations people and you need to treat them well because you are asking them to make sure that nobody can have any fun or raise any Hell in a hearing or at the bargaining table by making it all excruciatingly detailed and boring.  There is a reason most labor relations people drink a lot and don’t play well with any but their own.


Unless established in statute, remove all labor relations authority from the operating sections of your government and make it a firing offense for any of your appointees to have direct dealings with a union agent outside the formal grievance and bargaining process.  This will be especially difficult in your law enforcement and corrections units since the supervisors and managers, even your appointees, will tend to have come up through the ranks.  The “Blue Wall of Silence” is real and powerful among people with badges and guns.  No matter how close to you they may have seemed, even your appointees who wear a badge will push back if you try to do anything the “boys” don’t like.


To the extent that labor agreements will allow it, eliminate joint committees.  You do not need the union to manage, and there are legal ways to get employee involvement without union involvement.  For every one of these trendy things that did something good, there were hundreds that just gave the union a way to reward activists and malcontents with travel or time off from real work.  Once you have fired or neutered all the prior administration’s adherents, you will find a world of local agreements, special understandings, and personal special deals all over your government.  Your head of labor relations must, in writing and with copies to the unions, formally renounce all oral understandings and any written agreements between people who did not have the formal authority to enter into them as well as all past practices not specifically incorporated into contract or rule.  There are some limits on what you can do with all of these, but this can be sorted out in arbitration or the courts.  Any good labor relations person will know how to sort it out.


What you are doing here is destroying a whole world of private fiefdoms, and it will not be taken well.  Nothing is so jealously guarded as an ill-gotten gain.  Any remaining holdovers and adherents to the prior administration in the non-appointee managerial and supervisory ranks will push back since it is their power under attack.  Give them a direct, written order to adhere to your policies or be fired and if they don’t, fire them.  Mythology about firing public employees notwithstanding, this is one area where you are absolutely safe.  If you give an employee a lawful order and tell them they will be fired if they don’t follow it, they are fired if they don’t follow it.  Unless the employee or the union can prove that you have not fired other employees who did the same thing, there is not an arbitrator or judge in the country that will overturn the firing.  On this one, even inconsistent enforcement is not per se fatal.


Labor boards, arbitrators, and judges have a keen sense of what is important to an administration.  Under union-backed Democrat administrations, they know that pro-employee and baby-splitting decisions will not be appealed and reversed, so they do not have to make tough or unpopular decisions.[1]  When I returned to the executive branch in 1999, arbitrators, the labor board, and judges were running roughshod over the State’s managerial prerogatives and doing so with impunity.  I started laying for them, structuring every arbitration and board matter for appeal to the Courts.  An ascending young arbitral star from Seattle concluded that an employee’s conviction for theft from one of our departments did not have an employment nexus to her job in another department.  Since there was no nexus, there was no just cause and the fired employee was ordered back to work with full back pay.  Even Democrats could not swallow that one, so the State appealed.  We had to go all the way to the Supreme Court with it, but we had the arbitrator’s decision vacated.  The reversal sent a shockwave through the West Coast arbitrators’ academy and they groused a lot, but they have been very careful ever since.  Like so many of the steps I advocate, you only have to do it once or twice and the word gets out[2].


This is an appropriate spot for a word of caution about people like me.  You need to make absolutely certain that your top-level labor relations and human resources administration people are either loyal to you or totally apolitical technicians.  If the heads of those functions are appointed, they need to be both very competent and loyal – somebody that you met at a cocktail party and who wants a job will not do, you need real skill.  Public sector employee relations is such an arcana that only another skillful practitioner will have a clue what a skillful practitioner is doing.  Democrats are much more skillful in and attuned to the workings of the bureaucracy than Republicans, and my Democrat masters never had a clue that I was setting up a situation that their union friends would hate, but which they would have to carry through on no matter the union’s objections.  I boxed them in time and time again and there was almost nothing they could do about it because the situation would be fully developed before they figured it out.  If I could do that to them, someone can do it to you.


You need to let your supervisors and managers know that they are free to do their jobs and that they will be backed up.  Write them all a memo and have your managers call them in for pep talks to reinforce the point.  If there is not a good supervisory training program in place, stand one up quickly.  Review any extant supervisory training programs left over from the prior administration.  They are as likely to be training for collaboration as they are for supervision (I use the term collaboration in its WWII meaning – not the way it is used in silly business administration courses.).  If so, trash them and build new ones.  Most public employers have very poor supervisor selection and training programs.  Generally, either the best widget maker or the best brown-nosing widget maker is promoted to Widget Making Supervisor.  They are then given no training and no support.  And why are we surprised when public employees are not very productive?


Poor selection and training or not, most of your supervisors can and want to supervise.  As soon as you tell them they can, most of them will, and some employees are going to be in trouble.  They are not going to be able to just go out and start whacking people.  Democrats in recent times have figured out that the way politicians get in trouble is by breaking technical rules about ethics, financial management, personnel selection, or purchasing.  So, in the name of efficiency and streamlining, they just did away with most of the rules.  The rules that remained were not enforced if you had a friend in high places or if the union objected.  When I returned to the Executive Branch in 1999, there was not even a desk manual for the front desk clerk; the whole place just ran by rote.  We had to write processes for everything just so we could get bills paid and letters mailed if a clerk quit.  It took all of five years to more or less restore processes that just happened like magic before eight years of misrule.  Government like any other culture is very fragile; it is easy to break and very hard to restore.  You need to set your managers and supervisors to reinstituting rules and processes, publishing new Standard Operating Procedures manuals and the like.  Until this is done, you will not be able to do much in the way of correction and discipline for incompetence and slovenliness in performing technical tasks.  It will take a year or more to restore minimal functions.


But a lot of rules fall into the “any damned fool should know” category and you need to start enforcing them with a vengeance.  There are lots of employees out there who have been padding their overtime and premium pay, often with their supervisor’s complicity.  After a few years of Democrats, you don’t have supervisors, you have co-conspirators.  There are lots of employees who just could not resist using that government credit card for a little something for themselves.  There are also some employees out there who could not resist using their government procurement authority for a big something for themselves or their friends.  There are lots of employees out there, especially union stewards, who have forgotten that the employer can actually tell them what to do.


Upon taking office, I set my staff on what I styled the Empty Chairs Program.  Basic thinking here is you cannot show the flag everywhere so show a big flag and make lots of smoke and noise wherever you can.  It has a remarkably positive effect on employee morale and motivation when a couple of suits from headquarters show up and someone leaves and never comes back.  My staff became masters of delivering the German Choice.  We did our investigation, called the employee in, gave him enough information, told him we were confident that he would make the right decision, and left the pistol, in this case a resignation memo, on the desk.  Most just signed the resignation, some we wouldn’t let resign and just turned over to the cops.  Others wanted to fight, so we took them and their unions to arbitration and/or court and won almost all of them.  Empty Chairs was our Operation Phoenix; we took out the bad guys and showed everyone else that the unions were impotent to help them.


Understand, we did lose some; sometimes we overreached, sometimes we screwed up, sometimes we did it just to show we could and played the odds.  It got sorted out in the grievance and arbitration process.  That is what unions and grievance processes are for.  As adversarial as I am towards unions, I would be reluctant to work non-union in a production-level job for a large government; supervision is at best inconsistent and management is as often as not self-serving or just plain incompetent.  Incompetent management probably won’t get the average employee fired, at least not quickly, but petty jealousies and political agendas will.  Even at their best, governments are big and cumbersome and no matter how you try, things will get done wrong.  An outside, objective check against error and injustice is a good thing.


A program like Empty Chairs will take care of the really bad actors, quiet radical stewards, and give your supervisors some confidence in the first year.  Get your supervisors and managers trained so that what I said about them in the previous paragraph is not true by the second or third year.  Dealing with processes and productivity issues will take the rest of your term, and the next, and the next, but you will have initiated the process of making government more accountable and productive.  You can never let up.


The unions may choose to fight back outside the grievance and arbitration process.  This usually involves PR campaigns and singing songs and carrying signs.  If this starts, you and your employee relations people need to get a copy of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, the modern leftist public employee union playbook.  This work from the early 1970’s is all about how to get calm, rational, problem solving people like you to do something stupid.  The best rule in response is, “don’t get in a peeing contest with a skunk.”  Your employee relations head may not understand this game, but she needs to quickly.  It is all as much politics as employee relations, but any good public sector labor relations hack should have a pretty good handle on the politics of collective bargaining.  The unions want two things: first, a lot of attention, and second, for you or someone connected to you to do something dismally stupid.  Your head of employee relations needs to be like a middle linebacker on this, read the play and call the defense – and her word is law.


If they do not get a lot of attention and you do not do anything stupid, they will just do crazier and crazier things trying to get you to.  Let them be themselves!  As they do crazier and crazier things, they will lose more and more support from the public and the employees.  Sooner or later, they will do something crazy enough or stupid enough for you to strike.  What to do and how to do it depends on the circumstances, so you will have to work with your employee relations people on the plan, but when you strike, “shock and awe” should be your purpose.  Without belaboring the details, the first time we ran this out with our AFSCME local there were three fired shop stewards and one fired union business agent when the dust settled.  They have been as quiet as mice ever since.


This is a good place to say a bit about union agents and stewards.  They go by all sorts of titles, but there are basically two kinds; those employed and paid directly by the union and those employed and paid by you.  Most unions have elected officers and an Executive Board to nominally run the union.  If the union is large enough, the Board hires a Business Manager and the Manager hires a staff of Business Agents.  The officers are commonly unpaid and do not really have much power.  The Business Agents, some unions call them Business Representatives, NEA calls them Uniserve Representatives, are paid by the union to do the day to day contract administration, grievance filing and handling, and supervisor threatening.  Business Agents also commonly do a lot of lobbying, though most larger unions also have a dedicated staff lobbyist.  Sometimes Business Agents represent the union in arbitrations and labor board hearings, but that is becoming more and more the exclusive province of lawyers.  Stewards, different unions call them different things, are employees who have been designated, sometimes elected, by the union to represent the union in your workplace.  Quite commonly, contracts provide that grievances can be filed by Stewards and often provide some amount of paid time for Steward activity.  Stewards can be a real pain the behind!


Neither the paid staff jobs nor steward appointments are really “merit” jobs; the skills they require are far more about internal union politics than about any real knowledge of labor relations.  Some are trained and knowledgeable, most are not, and almost none are any match for a well trained professional employer HR or LR representative.  They have as much power and influence in your workplace as you will allow them.  As a matter of law, you have deal with whomever the union designates as its representative, and it is an unfair labor practice to try to “interfere, restrain, or coerce” the union in its choice of representative.  But you do not have to take any crap off them!  Unless your government has bargained it away, you have the right to insist that non-employee agents notify you before coming on your property, and you can push that notification pretty close to permission.  You can restrict how much time stewards spend on union activities and insist that they secure prior approval before absenting themselves for union business.  And you can insist that they be nice.  Within the scope of his representational duties, a steward is entitled to be treated as an equal with management; you cannot fire him for insubordination for arguing with a supervisor for example.  But you can discipline him or even fire him for assaulting or threatening a supervisor.  In today’s world, mere use of profanity is not per se violative, but at some level and in some circumstances it is.  Certainly personal name calling or using profanity or obscenities will get a steward disciplined or fired.


The biggest problem with union representatives is that politicians and appointees think they are important.  My professional staff had the lives and livelihoods of most state employees and a big chunk of the state’s budget in their hands, and I know that almost no member of the Legislature would even recognize one of them.  At most they might vaguely recognize one of them as another nameless, faceless state employee.  Some of this is, of course, organizational culture; merit system employees, even very high level ones, are not encouraged, in some cases not allowed, to hang out in the legislative halls.  Union reps live in the legislative halls and nearby watering holes, and they are always ready to whip out an expense account credit card to pick up a tab.  Legislators and appointees will hang on every word uttered by some low-level malcontent because she holds some union office.  Do not let your appointees hang out with union reps and lobbyists and absolutely prohibit your managers and supervisors from dealing with them except as is required by law or contract for grievance handling or bargaining.


Never forget that almost all union employees and representatives, especially in the big pure public employee unions, are also activist Democrats.  In all their dealings, in their very lives, they exhibit all the characteristics usually associated with activist Democrats: they are arrogant, nasty, and hypocritical, though some can hide it pretty well if they need to.  They firmly believe that they are better than you.  The better trained ones, or more correctly, the more indoctrinated ones are dedicated Marxists and they firmly believe that the revolution is its own morality.  They look at you and yours the same way radical Islamists look at infidels; you are not human and none of the normal restrictions on behavior towards other humans applies to their behavior towards you.  Never deceive yourself into thinking that you can trust a union representative.  That seemingly amiable backslapping union agent does not put his arm around you as a show of affection, he is feeling for the soft spot!


Those of you in right to work states or states without public employee bargaining may have rolled your eyes back in your head over all the talk of unions.  That is a fatal mistake.  Many of you, especially in this day of the 911 Halo over cops and firemen, have police and fire bargaining of some sort.  And all of you have some form of the NEA.  No matter whether they bargain or not, the NEA, including its quasi-independent state affiliates, is not just a professional association, and they certainly are not dedicated only to “the children.”  Your shields should go up anytime you hear that something is for “the children.”  “For the children” is just Democrat code for something that is for them.  Everything I say about the NEA is just as true in a no bargaining or right to work state as anywhere else, they still are who they are and they still have enormous political power.  Even if they cannot compel dues in your state, nothing stops them from spending money they collected somewhere else.  Ignore this at your peril.


There is a reason that this section is peppered with references to various groups of communist rebels and homegrown radicals; that is who and what you are dealing with.  I would think more of the local level union leaders if I thought they knew that they were following the paths of Lenin, Trotsky, and, especially, Mao, but I know they don’t.  They are the people Lenin described as “useful idiots,” especially at the steward and elected union officer levels.  You can rest assured that their masters back in Washington, D.C. know exactly where the strategies and tactics come from.  Many of them were carrying Mao’s Little Red Book in their pocket way back in the halcyon days in the ‘60s.  Any good public sector labor relations practitioner needs to be every bit as familiar with Marx and Mao and Alinsky as he or she is with Elkouri and Hardin.[3]

[1] Arbitrators are accredited by the American Arbitration Association, the National Academy of Arbitrators, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, inter alia, each having somewhat different accreditation criteria.  Commonly, the union and the employer will request a list of accredited labor arbitrators from one of the bodies and pare it down, usually by alternate strikes, to an odd-numbered list of 5 – 11 or more arbitrators who comprise a permanent panel for a contract term.  For a particular dispute, the parties alternately strike names until one is left who then is conferred authority to decide the dispute.  There are other selection methods, but this is most common in the public sector.  Early in my career I held most arbitrators in high esteem; they were retired law professors, corporate general counsels, industrial relations professors and the like.  Some even served on the War Labor Board or understudied someone who did.  There are very few of those around anymore having passed on, retired, or moved into the much more lucrative field of court ordered alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  The typical up and coming labor arbitrator today is either a young lawyer who doesn’t want to hustle billable hours or an ex-union representative, and I just view them as hired help that I have to put up with and correct from time to time by appealing them to the courts and having them reversed.

[2] The downside is that the arbitrators start laying for you.  It is the old rule of “when the enemy is in range, so are you.”  Northwest arbitrators have written in the National Academy of Arbitrators’ journal and other publications complaining about Alaska’s “dissing” of them.  Oh well, you just have to be right!

[3] Elkouri and Elkouri is the primary hornbook for arbitration practice.  Hardin’s The Developing Labor Law is the hornbook for labor board practice.

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