Summer getaway

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Summer getaway

With school out for most Nevada students and summer rapidly approaching, many Nevada families are planning their summer getaway.

While most summer vacations last a few days to a week, for hundreds of Nevada teachers, this summer will mark the start of a permanent vacation — one from the Nevada State Education Association. And, unlike other vacations that cost families money, teachers who choose a teacher-union getaway will save hundreds of dollars in the short term and thousands in the coming years.

From July 1 to July 15, Nevada teachers may opt out of union membership by notifying their local union affiliate — and in some cases their school district — in writing of their desire to leave the teacher union. Nevada is a right-to-work state, but because of this small, ill-timed opt-out window, many teachers have no idea they’re able to make this important decision.

That’s why, for the third year in a row, NPRI has launched its summer teacher-union opt-out awareness campaign. Two weeks ago, we emailed teachers throughout the state to make them aware of the rights that their union tries to keep secret, and several days later, we unveiled electronic billboards throughout the Las Vegas Valley to raise awareness further.

The message is simple: Union membership is a choice, and teachers deserve to be able to make this choice on their own.

Since we launched this effort two summers ago, more than 1,400 teachers have left the Nevada State Education Association, taking with them over $1.1 million in annual dues. They’ve cited a number of motivators for leaving, including:

  • To save money: Teachers believe they can spend their union dues (more than $770 per year for Clark County educators) better than their union does. The money represents a mortgage payment for some, classroom supplies for others, back-to-school clothes for those with children, and much, much more.
  • To get out of politics: The vast majority of teachers teach because they have a passion for educating young minds, not because they want to play politics. And many Nevada teachers don’t agree with the NSEA politically and don’t want to see their hard-earned dollars working against them. Take the margin tax: The NSEA is the job-killing initiative’s only major backer. Why should teachers financially support an initiative they know would hurt Nevada’s economy?
  • To be heard: Nevada teachers report the union is unresponsive to their needs and disrespects them. For only $15 per month, teachers can find better representation through nonpartisan associations like the Association of American Educators.

The Heartland Institute — a premiere news source for legislators across the nation — and the Nevada Business magazine wrote about our efforts and the movement that has led union membership in the Clark County Education Association and Washoe Education Association — the NSEA’s two largest chapters — to drop to 59.5 percent and 60.5 percent, respectively.

It’s clear that, given the choice to leave or stay in the union, many teachers leave.

Presumably, the union recognizes the threat. Just days after we began emailing teachers, the CCEA turned to Twitter to promote reasons to stay in the union. And, on Monday, the NSEA emailed members encouraging them to participate in a phone bank, saying, “Your help with phoning is hugely important as we work to minimize drops and increase membership!”

Unlike the union that wants to keep this information quiet, we believe Nevada’s educators are intelligent enough to make their own choices for themselves and for their families — whatever those choices may be. For teachers who believe leaving the union is their best option, we’ve provided pre-written letters so they can opt out with ease.

While our efforts are garnering national attention, we can only reach a fraction of Nevada teachers by email, and our billboard ads will likely only be seen by teachers in CCSD. So, if you know a teacher in Nevada, let him or her know that union membership isn’t mandatory, but that to opt out, one must do so during the first two weeks of July.

It might be the best vacation tip they’ve ever received.

***

On an unrelated note, be sure to get your tickets for our annual Spring Celebration in Reno before they’re gone. The event is this coming Wednesday, June 18, at the Eldorado, and we’re fortunate to have Cato Institute Senior Fellow and health care expert Michael Tanner as our keynote speaker. I assure you: It’s not to be missed!

Have a great weekend,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Reading Rainbow

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Reading Rainbow

If you had children who grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, you probably remember the power that the television show “Reading Rainbow” had in teaching kids to read and fostering a love of reading in youths across the nation.

Now, the former show is teaching adults the power of free markets. Over the past week, it has become a perfect case for how government isn’t needed to make a good idea successful.

In case you missed it, “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign last week in an effort to raise enough money — $1 million — to create a revamped, online version of the show that ran for more than 25 years on PBS before it was abruptly canceled in 2009. In the campaign’s first day, it met its initial goal, and it actually crossed the $2 million mark on day two.

By raising $2 million over two days from people eager to see the show return, “Reading Rainbow” debunked the common liberal view that good endeavors need the helping hand of government to succeed. Voluntary donors have not only supplied the funding to get the program off the ground, but have positioned it to be sustainable.

And Burton is demonstrating the kind of innovation that’s only possible through free markets, by bringing the show back in a format better suited for today’s youths. While the show’s publicly funded version failed to adapt to today’s internet and mobile age, the new “Reading Rainbow” will reach children where they are: on computers and mobile tablets and, if enough money is raised, on smartphones.

Unlike government-provided programs, which lack the incentives to innovate because their funding is guaranteed through force, privately funded efforts face competition, and thus have to constantly adapt and improve if they’re to survive.

As the New York Post’s editorial board put it, “Reading Rainbow” is returning “thanks to technological innovation and the free market.”

There is an undeniable demand for a new-and-improved “Reading Rainbow.” In the first week of the campaign, more than 75,000 individuals contributed to the project, with higher-level donors receiving various incentives in exchange for their gifts. Each of those people saw enough value in the product to back it voluntarily.

Beyond serving as an example of the benefits of free markets, the “Reading Rainbow” campaign also demonstrates how private groups and individuals can offer innovation in education. NPRI frequently discusses the benefits of school choice, and while that usually means bringing the private sector into the process through charter schools, homeschooling or education savings accounts, it also means allowing private companies that have quality educational products to provide them to public schools.

In the case of the new “Reading Rainbow,” Burton plans to not only have a web-based show, but also to provide materials to teachers and offer them to the country’s most needy schools free of charge. Even children who are stuck in failing public schools, as too many Nevada students are, will have a new chance to learn to read thanks to this new, private endeavor.

Liberals recognize this, too — and amazingly, they are now attacking Burton for his efforts.

Within hours of the campaign’s launch, the Washington Post slammed Burton for daring to create a business out of an abandoned program that clearly has a market strong enough to be resurrected without government handouts. How could a business fueled by a desire for profit teach a child to read? In the minds of some liberals, only bureaucrats can provide services to the neediest among us. How’d those high-minded bureaucrats at the VA work out?

We should commend LeVar Burton and the others working to bring “Reading Rainbow” back to American households. They saw a need and took the initiative to fill it without turning to our cash-strapped country to pay for it.

There’s much more to “Reading Rainbow” than a literary lesson. I hope adults are as willing to hear its message about the free market as children are its stories.

Thanks for reading and having a great weekend.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Culinary Union found guilty of engaging in unfair labor practices

Have you ever been lied to by a colleague at work?

It’s something that should never happen, but unfortunately does. And for employees on the Strip, the one who is lying or threatening them is all too often a union official. The Culinary Union committed the most recent violations, and on May 2, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the Culinary Union engaged in unfair labor practices and ordered the union “to cease and desist.”

What happened is this. Five years ago, a snack-bar attendant at the Paris Hotel opted out of the Culinary Union. In order to try and get her back in the union, a shop steward threatened her with the loss of her benefits and seniority, unless she re-joined the union.

She immediately asked her supervisor about the validity of the Culinary Union’s threats and then filed a complaint.

This story shows why it’s so important to remind employees about what their rights are when it comes not joining or leaving a union.

Because Nevada is a right-to-work state, any employee can leave their union without penalty. That’s right. You can save several hundred dollars a year in dues and still receive the same pay, benefits and seniority.

No worker has to join a union, but many unions restrict when members can leave. For instance, Culinary workers have to submit written notice within two weeks of anniversary of the day they joined the union to leave.

Despite untrue threats from union officials, every worker in the Nevada has the right to leave their union without facing any penalty or discrimination. 

 

Model the good things about Texas, not the bad

It seems like every day Texas makes headlines for its booming economy.

If it’s not making room for Toyota and its 3,000 jobs, the Lone Star State is welcoming thousands of hard-working new residents eager to live the American Dream that so many other states try to squash with high taxes and onerous regulations.

In most ways, Texas is a model state, and one that more states — including Nevada — should emulate.

Except in one way.

Just a few days ago, Texas State Senator Craig Estes came to Nevada to warn us about one major blunder his state has made: passing a margin tax. This message is timely, because in November, Nevada voters will consider a margin tax proposal based on the Texas tax.

Senator Estes put it bluntly when he said Nevada shouldn’t follow Texas when it comes to the margin tax. In Texas, the margin tax has forced businesses to close and others to lay-off workers, hit small and medium businesses the hardest and has been an administrative nightmare for mom-and-pop shops.

And the Nevada tax would two to four times as high as the Texas tax.

The Texas margin tax has been so destructive that Texas legislators are now working to repeal it.

Wouldn’t it be a sad irony for Nevada to pass a margin tax because Texas has one, while Texas is currently working to eliminate its margin tax?

 

VA: Government health care runs its course

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


VA: Government health care runs its course

Overwhelming evidence now shows that the Department of Veterans Affairs has for years manipulated records to give the appearance of satisfactory performance. The manipulated records left dozens of veterans to die without receiving the treatment they were promised, thousands made to wait for months or years, and Paul Krugman writing that the VA is a “huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.”

Krugman’s actually right about one thing. The VA scandal offers a very important lesson for health care reform: Government-run health care is a failure. A failure that has literally killed our nation’s heroes, our servicemen and women.

Dr. Ben Carson recently described this failure as, “what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider.” 

Dr. Carson’s statement highlights how liberal big-government policies fail to account for the two big problems facing every sector of the economy: the information problem and the incentive problem.

The information problem is a recognition that no one person or agency or government has all the information needed to make the “right” decision. In this situation, this is most obviously seen with the 1,700 names that disappeared from the Phoenix-VA waiting list.

In a free market, the information problem still exists, but prices — outside of government interference, of course — synthesize millions of data points into a concrete indicator showing the supply and demand of a certain product.

And if prices — and profits — rise, that price increase is an indispensible signal to companies and entrepreneurs to start creating more of that good or service. In the long term, higher prices are actually what ensure an adequate supply of a given good or service, especially since higher prices also decrease demand.

And what about the incentive problem? For too many workers in the VA bureaucracy, their incentives led them to keep their heads down to protect their jobs and pensions, instead of providing better service to those who’ve served us.

How are incentives different for private-sector workers? Because of competition. If you don’t like the service you receive at your doctor’s office, you’ll go to another one. This means that if workers want to keep their jobs, they have to provide good service to you, the customer. They have many incentives to find problems and eliminate them.

Too often in government, workers who find problems in the system and try to change them are ostracized for “rocking the boat” or attacked for trying to eliminate someone’s job. Without the pressure of competition, though, government bureaucracies become bloated and focused on inputs, instead of outcomes.

The VA failures are not isolated; they’re systemic. These problems have lasted for years, spanning both Democratic and Republican presidencies. These problems aren’t just the result of managerial or administrative incompetence; they’re the inevitable outcome of modern-day liberalism.

We will continue to see such failures so long as government is the source for services, instead of the free market.

By the way, yesterday, I was a guest for the full half-hour on Las Vegas Channel 3’s What’s Your Point show with Amy Tarkanian. We talked about the VA scandal, the proposed margin tax, Metro’s subsidies of the Culinary Union’s protests, and more. I encourage you to check it out here.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Andy Matthews co-hosts "What's Your Point" with Amy Tarkanian

 

Playing favorites

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Playing favorites

If you’ve driven past the Cosmopolitan in the past year, you’ve likely seen protestors from the Culinary Union Local 226.

And unless you were the target of one of the union’s well-reported verbal attacks aimed at anyone who dares cross the picket line, you probably kept moving, thinking the dispute had nothing to do with you or your family.

But it turns out the protests do have something to do with you — because as a taxpayer, you’ve been subsidizing the demonstrations for a year.

As reported by NPRI’s Nevada Journal, Metro gifted the union $195,964.60 in free police services at these protests from June 14, 2013 to March 8, 2014, charging the union only once: when members intentionally got themselves arrested. Aside from playing favorites with the union — something I’ll get into in a moment — the doling out of public funds has come at a time when Metro would have the public believe it’s strapped for cash.

For the better part of the past year, Sheriff Doug Gillespie pushed a proposal to increase the sales tax, seeking new revenue to hire more cops. Just over a month after the proposal was shot down by the Clark County Commission in late January, Metro announced it would stop responding to non-injury traffic collisions for lack of officers, making the post-accident insurance nightmare even worse for many drivers.

Now, get this: Just days after the new, non-response policy took effect, Metro policed another Culinary protest, comping the union $3,769.47 in officer costs. So while Metro doesn’t have the money to assist you when you get into an accident, it’s somehow managing to find the resources to man the union’s protests free of charge.

Union members have every right to protest, of course, but they shouldn’t be entitled to special treatment from a government agency, especially when that same agency is cutting back on services to the public. Other events, like concerts and boxing matches, must reimburse Metro for the costs they incur while providing security. So why not the Culinary Union?

Metro Public Information Officer Jesse Roybal told Nevada Journal that the department doesn’t seek reimbursement from unions because it wants to maintain neutrality in labor disputes. Providing almost $200,000 worth of comped services, however, is the complete opposite of neutrality: It’s an example of government picking winners and losers. The real way to maintain neutrality is to treat all event organizers the same, not to provide unions hundreds of thousands of dollars in free services.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Unions in North Las Vegas pushing city toward insolvency

North Las Vegas is on the edge of the solvency cliff, and its public employee unions are lining up to push it off.

Hi, I’m Andy Matthews.

In 2012, as North Las Vegas struggled to deal with the aftermath of the Great Recession, city officials tried to declare a state of emergency so it wouldn’t be forced to give $25 million in pay increases to its employees. Its unions sued, and a judge has ruled that the nearly bankrupt city and its taxpayers must pay that $25 million in back raises.

North Las Vegas has offered a $7.7 million settlement to its employees, who, because of Nevada’s collective bargaining laws, are able to extract massive pay and benefit increases even in a recession.

The alternatives are to lay off city workers or turn its finances over to the state.

The idea of getting less-than-expected pay raises during isn’t sitting well with the unions.

The president of the North Las Vegas Firefighters Association, Jeff Hurley, said he was “disappointed” by the settlement offer. Hurley made over $197,000 in pay and benefits in 2013. What could be disappointing about that?

Maybe he’s disappointed that over 125 of his North Las Vegas colleagues made more than him in 2013, including library director Kathryn Pennell who pocketed over $427,000 in total compensation.

Unfortunately, six-figure compensation packages in the almost-insolvent city are the norm. In 2013, over 800 North Las Vegas employees made more than $100,000.

And now, the unions appear ready to force the city into insolvency so they can get even more.

It’s time to reform or eliminate Nevada’s local collective bargaining laws and break the grip unions have over cities’ finances.

 

County proposes bribing current employees to cut pay for future employees

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


County proposes bribing current employees to cut pay for future employees

Imagine a parent offering his 10-year-old boy this deal:

“Son, you make $15 a week in allowance. I’m going to give you a one-time $5 bonus if you permit me to pay your future siblings — who aren’t born yet — $1 less per week once they turn eight years old.”

This would strike most of us as completely ludicrous. Why should a parent have to seek the permission of an older child to change the allowance of a child not even born yet?

Amazingly, that’s analogous to what’s happening right now at UMC, the government hospital run by Clark County. Here’s how the Las Vegas Review-Journal describes the situation: “Clark County has offered University Medical Center employees a $500 one-time bonus if they agree that new, future hires no longer will receive longevity pay.”

In short, county officials are offering a bribe — not an illegal one, of course — to current employees so they can reduce compensation for future ones.

The “bonuses” would cost Clark County $2 million today, but save UMC $150 million over 30 years, although there would be no savings for eight years. That’s when longevity payments currently begin for new hires.

So have Clark County officials lost their marbles?

Actually, no — because county officials are restrained by something no parent is: state-imposed collective bargaining.

You see, even though UMC has lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade, county officials can’t just eliminate longevity pay for future and current hires.

That’s because Nevada’s collective bargaining law, NRS 288, gives government employee unions incredible leverage over county officials. Provisions like “evergreen clauses” and “binding arbitration” have put so much power into the hands of union bosses that the county is now resorting to bribing current employees to eliminate pay increases for future employees.

Given the perverse incentives at play in the system, the county’s proposal actually makes sense.

Which is a powerful indication that Nevada’s collective bargaining law doesn’t make sense. And this is far from the only example.

For the sake of sanity, and our fiscal future, Nevada’s collective bargaining law must be repealed or substantially reformed.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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A tax hike not even liberals can love

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


A tax hike not even liberals can love

Close your eyes and remember Nov. 6, 2012. President Obama had just won a seven-point victory here in Nevada on his way to a second term. Freedom-lovers were disappointed and discouraged. Leftists were predicting years of liberal dominance. 

Imagine if I told you then that less than two years later, these three things would happen:

  • The highest-profile Democrat on Nevada’s November 2014 ballot would come out in opposition to a tax increase on businesses.
  • The AFL-CIO would come out in opposition to a tax-increase measure it helped get on the ballot. In its resolution opposing the tax, it would reference how raising taxes kills jobs and harms the economy.
  • Delegates to the Clark County Democratic Party Convention would decline to support a tax hike on businesses.

You’d have said I was crazy, right?

But that’s exactly what’s happened in the last two weeks.

Two Mondays ago, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores told a Spanish TV station that she opposed the margin tax because “it can have negative effects on our jobs.”

Last Friday, Nevada’s AFL-CIO voted, by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio, to oppose the margin tax. Yes, you read that right: The AFL-CIO is opposing a tax increase.

Then last weekend, delegates to the Clark County Democratic Party Convention refused to take a position on the margin tax.

I’m been pinching myself all week, but I promise, this isn’t a dream.

Instead, the reality of the impact of a massive tax increase — especially one as poorly written and structured as the margin tax — has caused traditionally liberal individuals and groups to acknowledge that raising taxes kills jobs and hurts the economy. They’re absolutely right, and it’s great to hear them say so.

Our next challenge is to help them remember this important lesson — that raising taxes hurts employees and small-business owners — during the legislative session.

Our biggest challenge, though, is to help these same groups understand that spending more on education won’t increase student achievement.

I’m optimistic. After all, just think about what was “impossible” less than two short years ago.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Total Records: 1838

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