Evergreen Contracts and the Up and Up


If you’re tracing and prognosticating on the issue of evergreen contracts for teachers and municipal employees, the appearance of Democrat Speaker of the Rhode Island House Nicholas Mattiello (Cranston) on Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) is worth a listen.

Mattiello was actually less enthusiastic than I would have expected about having the legislature override Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s veto of the bill, which would keep contract provisions in place until a new contract could be negotiated.  At the same time, he downplayed the significance of the legislation.

The key part of the discussion didn’t involve Mattiello, though, but was an exchange between RIPR’s Scott MacKay and University of Rhode Island Political Science Professor Maureen Moakley:

MacKay: Teacher strikes used to be annual things in Rhode Island; they aren’t anymore.  All this does is level the playing field.  Unless you’re out to break the union, and want to break it literally, there’s no reason, there’s no reason, you can’t deal with an evergreen situation.  I worked in a private sector company for 25 years.  We had evergreen provisions in the contract.  It levels the playing field between management…

Moakley: Private sectors and municipalities are two very different things.

Exactly.  Most notably, private sector unions do not have the ability to use their gargantuan resources to elect the people with whom they’re negotiating.

Part of Mattiello’s subsequent response is telling:  “The last time I checked, everything goes up, not the other way.”  This illustrates how much of a delusion it is for MacKay’s to imply that the playing field is currently tilted in the direction of management.  That’s simply not the case in Rhode Island.

Compensation is on a constant upward ratchet built on the election of union-friendly officials, the manipulation of state and local law, and the statewide coordination of big labor organizations both with elections (check how many legislators receive donations from union members on the other side of the state) and with activism (watch how many out-of-town teachers get bussed in for important public meetings).

We don’t see strikes as much these days, not because they’ve somehow found balance, but because the law forbids them and, mostly with the advent of the Internet, the statewide public backlash against unions’ abuse of children is a more dangerous force for the unions.  Indeed, one could argue that the end of de facto evergreen contracts in the law a decade ago was the single biggest factor in making strikes a risky proposition.