Guest editorial - Vote no on Constitutional Amendment 2

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Collective bargaining issue and tax increase

By Jim Kistler

Associated Industries of Missouri

Jefferson City

Associated Industries of Missouri is urging voters to reject Constitutional Amendment 2 on the Nov. 5 ballot. The amendment would authorize collective bargaining for emergency service personnel -- personnel who should be accountable to Missouri taxpayers, not big union bosses.

Four concerns with Constitutional Amendment 2 should be considered by voters. First, the amendment is exactly what it says -- an amendment to our Constitution. As a constitutional amendment, it cannot be altered by those we elect to represent us or through the general course of our legislative process. If the proposition passes and substantial, or even life threatening, flaws are found with the proposal, it would take another constitutional amendment to correct the flaws. This is an expensive and time consuming process that could take years to complete.

Second, Constitutional Amendment 2 would authorize emergency service personnel to organize and bargain collectively concerning "wages, hours, binding arbitration and all other terms and conditions of employment." Supporters suggest Constitutional Amendment 2 contains a "no-strike clause." Nothing could be further from the truth. Constitutional Amendment 2 states that nothing herein "shall grant the right to strike," but there is absolutely nothing in Constitutional Amendment 2 that would prohibit a strike.

The only leverage available when a union attempts to negotiate a new agreement is the threat of a strike. Minnesota and Michigan provide evidence of the devastating effects of a public sector strike. In fact, in every state where public employee unions are prohibited from striking, a public sector strike has occurred. Emergency services are too essential to become a pawn in a power struggle between unions and the government.

Third, Constitutional Amendment 2 has an estimated cost of up to $3 million annually. Supporters wrongly declare, "This is not a tax increase." If there is no tax increase, who will pay? Nearly every emergency dispatch agency is either empowered to levy a tax increase, or is employed by a local government with the power to levy a tax increase. If costs go up more than $3 million a year, the only recourse would be a property tax increase. This means the elderly and lower income homeowners would be the most vulnerable.

Finally, Constitutional Amendment 2 will not guarantee improved services. The amendment specifies that wages and hours will be among the items negotiated. Nothing will build additional fire or ambulance facilities. Nothing will require improved response times. Nothing assures any benefit for the public.

Constitutional Amendment 2, collective bargaining for emergency service personnel, is a bad idea. We can't afford to jeopardize our most essential services when we need them the most-in a time of crisis. Government, for the people and accountable to the people, should be driving our response to emergencies, not big union bosses.

Associated Industries of Missouri is a business and industry trade association representing more than 1,200 Missouri employers.

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