“We Need an Economy That Is Much More Flexible, Much Faster Moving”

(p. A9) France has stagnated for years under chronically elevated unemployment and slow growth. The country’s strong worker protections and expensive benefits have been blamed by some for being at least partly at the root of the problem.
. . .
Mr. Macron’s chan ges make it easier to hire and fire workers and allow some workplace issues to be negotiated directly at the company level, rather than through industrywide agreements, in hopes of stimulating both growth and job creation. The government focused especially on smaller businesses with fewer than 50 employees — the majority of French businesses — which have complained bitterly about excessive red tape and regulations.
. . .
“We are entering into an economy built on innovation, skills, digitalization,” said Mr. Macron in an interview Thursday with the weekly newsmagazine Le Point.
“To succeed in this world we need an economy that is much more flexible, much faster moving.”
Employees will no longer have jobs that last for a lifetime, but periods of unemployment are more likely to be temporary and go in hand-in-hand with more frequent job changes and retraining, he said.
Among the changes in the decrees published Thursday is license for employers to directly negotiate with their workers over certain workplace issues rather than having to follow industrywide agreements. That will allow a car parts factory in one region to have a different agreement with its workers than a similar company elsewhere.
Small companies especially are being given more leeway to bargain directly with workers or their representatives, without the mediation of unions.

For the full story, see:
ALISSA J. RUBIN. “Economy Idle, France Relaxes Its Labor Law.” The New York Times (Fri., SEPT. 1, 2017): A1 & A9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 31, 2017, and has the title “France Unveils Contentious Labor Overhaul in Big Test for Macron.”)

Students Learn More in Charter Schools

(p. A17) On Sept. 8, 1992, the first charter school opened, in St. Paul, Minn. Twenty-five years later, some 7,000 of these schools serve about three million students around the U.S. Their growth has become controversial among those wedded to the status quo, but charters undeniably are effective, especially in urban areas. After four years in a charter, urban students learn about 50% more a year than demographically similar students in traditional public schools, according to a 2015 report from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
The American cities that have most improved their schools are those that have embraced charters wholeheartedly. Their success suggests that policy makers should stop thinking of charters as an innovation around the edges of the public-school system–and realize that they simply are a better way to organize public education.
New Orleans, which will be 100% charters next year, is America’s fastest-improving city when it comes to education. Test scores, graduation and dropout rates, college-going rates and independent studies all tell the same story: The city’s schools have doubled or tripled their effectiveness in the decade since the state began turning them over to charter operators.
. . .
The teachers unions hate this model, because most charter schools are not unionized. But if someone discovered a vaccine to cure cancer, would anyone limit its use because hospitals and drug companies found it threatening?

For the full commentary, see:
David Osborne. “Charter Schools Are Flourishing on Their Silver Anniversary; The first one, in St. Paul, Minn., opened in 1992. Since then they’ve spread and proven their success.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Sept. 8, 2017): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 7, 2017.)

The commentary, quoted above, is related to Osborne’s book:
Osborne, David. Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2017.

Unions Spend $108 Million on 2016 Elections

UnionPresidentialElectionSpendingGraph2016-11-14.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) PHILADELPHIA–U.S. labor unions are plowing money into the 2016 elections at an unprecedented rate, largely in an effort to help elect Hillary Clinton and give Democrats a majority in the Senate.

According to the most recent campaign-finance filings, unions spent about $108 million on the elections from January 2015 through the end of August [2016], a 38% jump from $78 million during the same period leading up to the 2012 election, and nearly double their 2008 total in the same period. Nearly 85% of their spending this year has supported Democrats.

For the full story, see:
BRODY MULLINS, REBECCA BALLHAUS and MICHELLE HACKMAN. “Labor Unions Step Up Presidential-Election Spending.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Oct. 19, 2016): A1 & A4.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 18, 2016, and has the title “Unions Up the Election Ante.”)

Americans Should Not Be Required to Join a Private Organization Against Their Will

(p. A15) I am one of 10 California teachers suing to end compulsory union dues in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which will be heard by the Supreme Court Jan. 11. Our request is simple: Strike down laws in 23 states that require workers who decline to join a union to pay fees anyway. In our view, paying fees to a union should not be a prerequisite for teaching in a public school. No one in the U.S. should be forced to give money to a private organization he or she disagrees with fundamentally. Teachers deserve a choice.
. . .
I was a member of the union for years and even served as a union representative. But the union never played an important role in my school. When most teachers sought guidance, they wanted help in the classroom and on how to excel at teaching. The union never offered this pedagogic aid.
Instead, the union focused on politics. I remember a phone call I received before a major election from someone in the union. It was a “survey,” asking teachers whether they would vote for so-and-so if the election were held tomorrow. I disagreed with every issue and candidate the union was promoting. After that conversation, I thought about what the union represents. Eventually, I realized that my dues–about $1,000 a year–went toward ideas and issues that ran counter to my beliefs.
. . .
A Gallup poll last year found that 82% of the public agrees that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.” That’s all we’re asking.

For the full commentary, see:
HARLAN ELRICH. “Why I’m Fighting My Teachers Union; I don’t want to be forced to pay for a political agenda I don’t support. Now the Supreme Court will rule.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Jan. 4, 2016): A15.
(Note: ellipses added, italics in original.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 3, 2016.)

French Union Activists Rip Shirts Off Backs of Executives and Force Them to Escape Over Fence

(p. B3) PARIS — Angry workers stormed Air France headquarters on Monday [October 5, 2016] as top managers were meeting to discuss plans to shed more than 2,900 jobs, forcing two executives to flee over a fence and in the process ripping the shirts from their backs.
The violence at the Air France offices near Charles de Gaulle Airport broke out shortly after 9:30 a.m. Officials, including the chief executive officer, Frédéric Gagey, had informed the company’s workers council that 900 flight attendants, 1,700 ground crew members and 300 pilots could be laid off as the airline strives to return to profitability.
The talks at the company, which is facing headwinds from an economic downturn and competition from low-cost carriers, had been tense for more than a year. While violence had not marred previous negotiations, the protests Monday were the latest in a series of incidents in France in which workers have held company bosses hostage or damaged property to make their point.
As the Air France executives detailed the latest restructuring plan, union activists swarmed into the room, waving flags and chanting protests, prompting Mr. Gagey to make a hasty exit.

For the full story, see:
LIZ ALDERMAN. “Workers Storm Air France Offices as Job Cuts Are Discussed.” The New York Times (Tues., OCT. 6, 2015): B3.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 5, 2015, and has the title “Angry Workers Storm Air France Meeting on Job Cuts.”)

High Costs of Public Sector Unions

(p. A11) . . . the costs of public-sector unions are great. “The byproduct of political management of the economy is waste,” the author notes. Second, pension and benefit obligations weigh down our cities. Trash disposal in Chicago costs $231 per ton, versus $74 in non-union Dallas. Increasingly, such a burden is fatal. When Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013, a full half of the city’s$18.2 billion long-term debt was owed for employee pensions and health benefits. Even before the next downturn, other cities and some states will find themselves faltering because of similarly massive obligations.
There is something grotesque about public workers fighting for benefits whose provision will hurt the public. Citizens who vote Democratic may choose not to acknowledge the perversity out of party loyalty. But over the years a few well-known Democrats have sided against the public-sector unions. “The process of collective bargaining as usually understood cannot be transplanted into the public service,” a Democratic politician once declared. His name? Franklin Roosevelt.

For the full review, see:
AMITY SHLAES. “BOOKSHELF; Public Unions vs. the Public; Pension and benefit obligations weigh down our cities. Trash disposal in Chicago costs $231 per ton, versus $74 in non-union Dallas.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Jan. 16, 2015): A11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 15, 2015.)

The book under review is:
DiSalvo, Daniel. Government against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Police Unions Make It Harder to Get Rid of Bad Cops

(p. A29) A small percentage of cops commit most of the abuses. A study by WNYC News in New York found that, since 2009, 40 percent of the “resisting arrest” charges were filed by just 5 percent of New York Police Department officers. In other words, most officers rarely get in a confrontation that leads to that charge, but a few officers often get in violent confrontations.
But it’s very hard to remove the bad apples from the force. Trying to protect their members, unions have weakened accountability. The investigation process is softer on police than it would be on anyone else. In parts of the country, contract rules stipulate that officers get a 48-hour cooling-off period before having to respond to questions. They have access to the names and testimony of their accusers. They can be questioned only by one person at a time. They can’t be threatened with disciplinary action during questioning.
More seriously, cops who are punished can be reinstated through a secretive appeals process that favors job retention over public safety. In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has a riveting piece with egregious stories of cops who have returned to the force after clear incompetence. Hector Jimenez was an Oakland, Calif., cop who shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old man in 2007. Seven months later, he killed another unarmed man, shooting him in the back three times while he ran away. The city paid damages. Jimenez was fired. But he appealed through his union and was reinstated with back pay.

For the full commentary, see:
David Brooks. “The Union Future.” The New York Times (Fri., DEC. 19, 2014): A29.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 18, 2014. )