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New study ranks state high in government union clout

A new rating is classifying Maryland as one of the 10 most pro-government union states in the country.

And that’s not a good thing, according to the Big Labor vs. Taxpayers Index released last week by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that supports free markets and opposes organized labor.

The institute calls the index “a tool to empower citizens to challenge these unions’ oversized political clout.”

The importance of unions representing teachers, state employees and health care workers in influencing Maryland’s political process is well known.

The index shows Maryland ties with Delaware and Minnesota with a score of 10 out of a possible 40, and a ranking of 40th in the country.

The other states in the bottom 10, with lower scores than Maryland in rank order, are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico and Hawaii.

The index scored Maryland poorly on factors including the strength of collective bargaining agreements, compulsory union dues, binding arbitration, construction contracts favoring union wages, lack of laws requiring secret ballots for union representation, secret negotiations on contracts and lack of a right-to-work law.

Maryland only scored well on union density — having a low proportion of union members in the state — anti-strike provisions for public employees, and on funding of its state pension liabilities.

The score on pension liabilities was surprising since it was based on 2009 data, before the changes in the public pensions this year that increased contributions and reduced future benefits.

Maryland was in the bottom 25 percent of states in future pension liabilities, although it was hardly small. According to a June study by two university finance professors, full funding of the pensions promised to Maryland teachers and employees would cost every household $818 a year — but many other states with lower average incomes owe much more.

CEI’s Labor Policy Counsel F. Vincent Vernuccio, who oversaw the project, said he was “not surprised” at Maryland’s overall score.

But he was surprised that Virginia was not in the top five of the most anti-labor and pro-taxpayer states in the nation. It ranked 11th with a score 25. Virginia lost points for failing to legally protect secret ballots for union representation and for permitting labor union wages on public construction projects, such as the Dulles Metro project.

Vernuccio also said he was surprised that California ranked 36th in the nation with a score of 12, and not along with Maryland in the bottom 10. He said California achieved that by banning the kind of compulsory union dues Maryland put in place this year.

The CEI index, in partnership with Crossroads GPS, was previewed at the State Policy Network annual conference last week in Seattle. It reflects a new push by state-based free-market think tanks to challenge collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and their political power.

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