The High Cost of Terminating Public Sector Union Members

When a Parkersburg, West Virginia school bus driver was fired for using her cell phone to text while driving, the Wood County Board of Education did the right thing in firing her. Although admitting she often texted while driving her route, she felt she deserved another chance. Placing the lives of dozens of children entrusted to her care and endangering the public at large, incredibly was not enough for one board member who agreed with her and voted to keep her seated at the wheel of her school bus. Perhaps he was thinking of the expense to taxpayers in defending termination of most public employees.

This public employee will be afforded the opportunity to appeal her termination at taxpayers’ expense; as were the drunken school bus drivers near Chicago and Cincinnati. One driver was allowed by her supervisor to finish the delivery of 50 children, when he claimed federal law prevented him from stopping the driver. The other driver crashed his bus, luckily after dropping off school band members. All of these actions are reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous. Most reasonable people would conclude that swift action is required to protect children and the rest of society.

These are only microcosms of public employees being afforded extraordinary favors at American taxpayers’ expense after doing inexcusable harm or placing children or the public at risk. They then have the unmitigated temerity to justify their employment because they are public servants and deserve special rights.

However, most Americans are unaware that the rules for removing public employees from the roles of the employed are substantially different and much more ‘civilized’ (liberal) than in the somewhat more primitive Wild West private-sector in the real world. There is an angry sea of lawyers, panels, boards, committees, politicians, and union representatives to navigate. Additionally, the always vigilant bureaucratic government officials wait in the shadows, justifying their bloated existence by wasting more money.

Taxpayers are always “afforded the opportunity” to pay for defending common sense. Common sense that disappeared in a puff of political smoke along with rational thought when public employees and politicians married to form the unholy alliance known as public service unions. These unions led to the current corruption and financial ruin we see in the local, state, and federal governments. Even uber-progressive, Franklin Roosevelt, understood the disastrous consequences of allowing public employees to unionize and bargain with the government.

Consider the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars in the following:

·         In 2003 Charleston West Virginia, a Kanawha County schools maintenance worker came into a board meeting with several buckets of gasoline, and an AK-47 hidden in a trash bag. After dousing two people with the gas, he went for the gun. During a struggle, the gun went off and a bullet hit a Capital High School teacher in the stomach. It took months and thousands of dollars to fire this individual.

·         Nearly 700 of New York City school teachers charged with various offenses are still being paid their full salaries to do nothing. Many of the teachers sit around and surf the Internet or play Scrabble, or whatever else they choose to do. They still get summer vacation, weekends and holidays off, throughout the school year. These teachers collect their full salaries of $70,000 and up and the city Department of Education estimates this costs the taxpayers $65 million a year. The department blames union rules, saying, their union’s contract makes it next to impossible to fire them.

·         Buffalo, New York taxpayers have paid millions of dollars to teachers not to teach. Twelve teachers have collected $2.25 million in salary while under suspension and waiting for disciplinary hearings and that amount doesn’t include the costs for substitutes and the hearings themselves. The average wait for those hearings is three years.

One teacher suspended for over four years collected close to a quarter of a million dollars during that time. Another sentenced by the court in the death of her Daughter was suspended by the Buffalo School System – with pay – as required by law, and then began the arduous process that took more than 14 months to fire her. Cost to taxpayers: close to $200,000. That amount doesn’t include the costs for substitutes and the hearings themselves.

 ·         The Los Angeles Unified School District paid a teacher $68,000 per year for seven years, plus benefits. His job? Do nothing.

The teacher’s workday began at the same time as regular classes, gets 30 minutes for lunch, and ends when the bell tolls at his old school. He takes off all breaks, school vacations and holidays, as commanded by a district agreement with the teacher’s union. He is to be given no work by the district or show up at school.

The school board voted to fire him for allegedly harassing teenage students and colleagues. He has never missed a paycheck and the district has spent more than $2 million on him in salary and legal costs.

When space became short, he continued this daily routine at home. About 160 teachers and other staff sit idly in buildings scattered about the district, awaiting allegations of misconduct to be resolved.

These people are accused, among other things, of sexual contact with students, harassment, and theft or drug possession. Nearly all are leeches on the backs of taxpayers. All told, they collect about $10 million in salaries per year — even as the school district contemplates widespread layoffs because of financial shortfalls.

Public unions liberate money from their members (and some from non-members) to grease the palms of politicians in a quid pro quo arrangement that obligates politicians to vote in the unions’ interests for money and benefits to maintain the money and support. These cozy arrangements and backroom feasts leave out one important element; the bill-paying taxpayers are never invited to the banquet table. Rather, they’re handed the check by these back-slapping cohorts with a dismissive, “Here, take care of this, Bub!”

When unions took over the capitol in Wisconsin, destroying public property, threatening officials with violence if their payoffs got cut, they bore a striking resemblance to gangsters running a protection racket. Their message was clear; pay up or we’ll be back to break something more important.

In addition to money and benefits that far surpass that of private-sector workers; public sector unions (especially teachers’ unions) exhibit an entitlement attitude that borders upon delusional behavior; devoid of rational thought. They receive treatment like tenure, unrealistic work rules, and job security exceeding anything in the private sector. To terminate public employees, even for what reasonable people would consider obvious, is a daunting undertaking. We see budget-busting, expensive ordeals, for any public treasury when action is taken against any wayward union member.

However, the truly despicable tragedy of what public sector unions and politicians have wrought upon society,  is the tarnish and shame these radical unions have created upon the millions of conscientious teachers, firemen, policemen, and other public sector employees who strive to do their jobs and serve the public in a time-honored, and exemplary manner. They too, are victims of the shrill voices of insanity echoing throughout our land by the dangerous Marxist union leaders. 

Jim Mullen


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