The Coffey Has Gone Cold

Dan Coffey recently posted (in a discussion of Art Chance’s comments the “rational” conservative approach to public employee unions:

George meany (head of AFL-CIO when Eisenhower was President) cautioned against public employee unions “because there is no one to bargain with”. There is nothing inherently wrong with Unions. We have had “Guilds” for centuries.  What we haven’t had in recent times are elected officials who put the public interest above their own.  These elected officials don’t bargain for the public, they bargain for union support in their next election. The results: See Detroit, the state of Illinois, Riverside County California, Stockton, California and the Mark Begich 2008 APDEA and IAFF and IBEW contracts of 5 year duration, with huge pay and benefit increases and work rule changes passed on votes of 6-5, 7-4 and 6-5 respectively. In my campaign I told many of the union folks I met with about what George Meany said. Most of them did not know who George Meany was. I also told them “I would bargain”with them openly and honestly, but that my job was to guard the public purse.  Of course I was not elected. Now we’ll see what happens when a Union supported candidate is elected. The AMEA contract is on the table so we’ll see shortly.

What we see here an attack on labor generally, thinly veiled as being “in the public interest” by way of the purported innoculatory claim that “there is nothing inherently wrong with Unions.” The argument is that our elected officials put public union support before the public interests; that has been a war cry for the “right”, frankly, since the “right” discovered that much of the “left”s campaign funding comes from public employee unions. In the fight for the public square in which Citizens United has been center ring (though the key case is really ATP), the real battle has been over total campaign dollars. Amazingly enough, however, despite the “right”‘s claims that the unions own government, lol, we see unions back=-pedaling everywhere, and stories of unions voluntarily tightening belts to assist in addressing the impact of the economic nightmare produced in 2008 are everywhere.

Research shows that the claims made by the right as far as cost of public employee unions as opposed to private sector are dubious (Miller 1996),  while analysis  (Tax Burdens Comparison 2013) reflects that Anchorage, even without consideration of the impact of “personal revenue sharing (the PFD) has one of the lowest tax burdens in the entire country. Add in consideration of the PFD and as has been noted over and over again,  most in Anchorage make no net payment for any State or Local service.

In other words, though a tenet of so called “conservative” myth is that public union contracts are unaffordable, that they are the means by which “liberal” politicians “buy” elections, and that these contracts are over funded and unearned, there is virtually no factual basis to any of that.  Indeed, in Anchorage the subsequent behavior of Dan Sullivan made this all too clear by virtue of the facts that he declared a budget surplus despite the contracts, the emergency ordinance he demanded never was implemented, and subsequent contracts  were not all that inconsistent.

To put that all in a nutshell, all the gnashing of teeth was a costly political ploy that blew up in the right’s face, resulting in the election of allegedly the most liberal Mayor in Anchorage’s history with less than a third of Anchorage’s registered voters casting ballots.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 8.13.54 AM

Enough is enough. Negotiations with public unions has always been tough in Anchorage.  AEA members continue to accept reductions in total compensation packages while public safety and other unions continue face claims that they are thugs despite the fact that numbers of employees should be doubled in order to obtain the most effective results and provide the kind of quality of life that those living in Anchorage have demanded.

In the last Mayoral election the community was able to obtain some actual quantification of the number of people in Anchorage who are under the spell of that kind of mythology, and we are talking about something close to 30,000 people.  It is high time that the rest of the community wrested control of our destiny from  this vocal mean-spirited and ill-informed minority.



Miller, Michael A. “Public-Private Pay Debate: What Do the Data Show, The.” Monthly Labor Review 119 (1996): 18.

“Tax Burdens Comparison.” Accessed May 17, 2015.