The Government Union Tab that Taxpayers Don't Know They're Paying (Freedom Foundation)
Public employees’ unions have a way of getting what they want from state taxpayers. This isn’t confined to the bigger issues like pay, health benefits, or time off. It extends down even to the paper the collective bargaining agreements are printed on.
In this digital age, the state makes the full text of all of its collective bargaining agreements publicly available online. Nevertheless, unions frequently negotiate requirements that the state pay to print hard copies of the collective bargaining agreements to be distributed to each union employee.
In the case of the Washington Federation of State Employees, the negotiated contract stipulates that state taxpayers pay half the cost of printing the agreement for the union’s more than 31,000 members. The agreement even requires that the state print “Braille and large-print copies.” It is also the state, not the union, which is responsible for distributing copies of the agreement to all employees.
Other contracts help provide an idea of just how much this practice may cost. The state agreement with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 775NW leaves taxpayers on the hook for up to $80,000 in printing costs, and the contract with SEIU 925 requires the state to pay for up to $25,000 in printing costs.
Several state contracts with ferry employees indicate that unions can get pretty particular about just how they want the agreement printed. One contract specifies the details of the printed contract down to the booklet size, format, and even the design of the cover page.
To top it off, printing clauses require the state to utilize unionized print shops. That prevents the state and taxpayers from saving money by paying competitive, free-market prices.
Unions may argue that these requirements are justified because the state has an interest in making sure employees know the conditions of their employment. Fair enough. But, in today’s world, making the contract available online should more than sufficient to meet this burden.
If they wish, unions are welcome to go above and beyond what is necessary. They are free to spend thousands of dollars to have union print shops produce specialized copies of their contract. However, unions should pay for it on their own with the dues collected from their members for such services. State taxpayers should not have to foot the bill.