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posted: 3/28/2014 5:01 AM

Public sector unions undermine local control

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I was struck by the recent comments of retiring police and fire board Chairman George Busse Daily Herald, Feb. 25) regarding the loss of local control over the hiring, promotion and discipline of Mount Prospect's public safety personnel. This loss illustrates a very disturbing strategy of public sector unions: persuading state lawmakers to pre-empt the authority of local elected officials by shifting decisions about local government employees to the state level.

The disturbing feature of this strategy is that it upends the idea of federalism, which is that decisions should be made at the lowest level of government competent to handle the issue involved. Who better to decide about personnel issues in local government than local elected officials?

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It's not just municipalities that are affected by this pre-emption strategy. Seven years ago, the National Council on Teacher Quality collected teacher contracts, personnel handbooks, and salary schedules from school districts across the country to build a comprehensive database. But the council began to wonder why so many teacher contracts and board policies were silent on issues such as tenure, evaluation and dismissal procedures. After further investigation, they found that what was missing at the local level was written into state law -- the "invisible ink" in the teacher contract, as they called it.

It's easy to see why the public sector unions focus their attention on the state level -- it's much more efficient to persuade state legislators to pass laws regarding workplace rules and procedures than to negotiate hundreds of separate local contracts. Harder to see is why state legislators would pass laws that diminish the ability of their constituents to exercise effective control over local government employees. If local taxpayers have lost full authority over hiring, firing, and disciplining their local public servants, who's really the servant?

George A. Clowes

Mount Prospect

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