When does reform end and revenue begin at the T?

From Commonwealth Magazine

By James Aloisi

SO THERE I WAS, enjoying a brisk late April morning and about to dig into the newspapers (and breakfast), when my iPhone beeped and up came CommonWealth’s Sunday Upload. My pavlovian response was to stop everything I was doing and read what was on offer on the Upload. Turns out it was the folks at the Pioneer Institute, beating their privatization drum in a short article that was long on ideology and short on consensus-based solutions.

It happens that Pioneer was all exercised over what appears to have been an ill-timed and ill-conceived letter from our once-powerful congressional delegation, raising concerns about the MBTA’s interest in exploring privatizing bus maintenance. The delegation, a day late and $7.3 billion short, might have considered whether, and how, to engage the urgent issues that face the statewide public transportation system in a comprehensive and effective way. Perhaps they might consider how to build a national congressional consensus around a sustainable mobility platform that political leaders in blue and red states might embrace. But what do I know? Maybe the governor and his transportation secretary read the letter and, fully chided, agreed to look deeply into their respective ideological souls and change course.

The congressional delegation letter may not have changed the hearts or minds of state officials, but it certainly gave Pioneer the impetus to reprise the dulcet tones of their privatization songbook. And generally I’d be OK with that, especially during the quiet early morning hours of a late April Sunday, when I’m inclined toward a generosity of spirit. I even agree with their view that the MBTA retirement system needs an overhaul that would make it function in a manner consistent with the state retirement system. But Pioneer has that way with words that unfailingly pushes my buttons, and there it was, their misleading construct about how to solve the T’s enormous state-of-good-repair gap:

“With a $7.3 billion maintenance backlog and billions more in debt, the T basically faces three options: Cut service, raise fares once again, or enact reforms such as restructuring the MBTA Retirement Fund as an integrated Social Security/pension system with offsets that take pension benefits into account.”

 

Three options? Just those three? What about raising net new revenue for the T – the kind of stable revenue that would enable the T to accelerate the state-of-good-repair work we all agree is urgently needed? The kind of new revenue that would support hiring the staff resources that the T admits it doesn’t have. I thought those who embraced “reform before revenue” implicitly agreed that once reform took place, net new revenue would follow. But, of course, there is never enough reform to appease these reformers, never enough to trigger the revenue part of the equation.

I didn’t want to spoil my morning, so I dashed off a tweet that chastised both Pioneer and the congressional delegation, in keeping with my determination to approach these matters in a non-partisan manner. My friends at Pioneer must be late risers, because it took many hours before their responses hit my Twitter feed.

And I can’t complain too much about the subsequent exchange because it’s easy to misunderstand, or misinterpret, someone’s meaning when they are writing a 140-character response to something that deserves more substantial attention. As I said earlier, I don’t really have a quarrel with their position on the MBTA pension issue. My quarrel is when organizations like this cherry-pick issues (and fail to address others) in an effort to make people believe that more reform and no revenue is the answer.

I’m all for reforms – appropriate, non-ideological reforms. I share significant responsibility for writing and enacting into law the most far-reaching and comprehensive transportation reform legislation in state history. Unlike many who talk a lot about it, I embraced reform and made it happen. But I was also candid about the need for revenue. When I said at the time that the slogan “reform before revenue” was a meaningless slogan, I did so because I knew that we also needed substantial net new revenue together with the reform. Eight years later Massachusetts still doesn’t have the net new revenue needed to do the job the way (and in the timeframe) it should be done.

These are not just ideological battles. Every single week real people, thousands of them, have to face the consequences of the failure to raise net new revenue — every day they receive an alert that a disabled train at rush hour means another late arrival at work, every time they have to break a subway car window because smoke is filling their car, or every time they’re asked to impersonate a sardine packed in the can of a SL 1, or 28 bus. Calling for MBTA pension reform is fine, but let’s not mislead people into thinking that just another reform is the answer to what ails the transit system.

It is long past time for us to acknowledge the need for substantial net new revenue to build the modern, first-world transit system that is the essential underpinning of our ability to sustain a growing economy. We can talk about and enact reforms until the cows come home, but a $7.3 billion gap cannot be resolved on an accelerated basis without net new revenue. Nor can the T’s other needs, including the need for the system to strategically expand and respond adeptly to the rise of new mobility options that threaten to shrink interest in (and market share for) public transportation.

We ought to strive to reach and build a consensus across ideological lines to address the unquestioned need to rebuild and modernize the MBTA. To do that on a timeframe that keeps up with the pace of our region’s current and forecasted growth, and with an eye toward achieving sustainable and equitable outcomes, we need to honestly confront the need for substantial net new revenue. Finding excuse after excuse to avoid that fundamental issue doesn’t advance the debate, or enable the kind of non-ideological, non-partisan decision-making that ought to be at the core of how we make and implement transportation policy in the Commonwealth.

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Happy 129th Birthday, Machinists!

Sisters and Brothers,

On May 5, 1888, our great union was founded when 19 railroad machinists secretly met in Atlanta to protect their rights from an abusive employer. During that meeting in a dirty railroad pit, those individuals could not have conceived what the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers would become.

Tom Talbot and his coworkers set in motion a cause that has steadily grown in reach. Within two years of its formation, the Machinists Union became truly international when the first Canadian and Mexican local lodges were chartered. We were one of the first industrial labor organizations to admit women and minorities into its ranks.

Today we celebrate the IAM’s past accomplishments and look forward to the future we will all share. Many of the historical struggles our predecessors faced remain with us today. Our unity and resolve to defend the rights of working families have never been stronger.

Workplace justice and fairness are noble ideals worth fighting for. Demanding that multinational corporations and our government recognize that is our ongoing task, and I am confident we are up to the challenge.

In solidarity,

Bob Martinez
International President

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‘A Blatant Attack on Working Families’: House Passes So-Called Health Care ‘Reform’

The American Health Care Act has narrowly passed the House of Representative by a vote of 217-213. Twenty Republicans joined every House Democrat in opposing the bill.

The legislation will now move to the Senate for debate.

IAM International President Bob Martinez issued the following statement:

“This is another rushed and flawed attempt at health care reform that again is a blatant attack on working families. It shoulders the middle class with higher costs for less care and throws millions of people off their insurance so the rich can get another tax break.

“Dropping the coverage guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions is a death sentence to Americans who most desperately need health insurance. Seniors will see their health costs multiply by allowing insurance companies to charge them five times what they charge young people.

“It does nothing to address the so-called ‘Cadillac tax,’ which takes money out of the pocket of every American with employer-provided health insurance. Employers will raise deductibles, co-pays and increase out-of-pocket limits to pay for this cruel 40 percent tax on our health care. 

“Every American deserves quality, affordable health insurance, and the AHCA is a dangerous step toward turning health care into a luxury reserved for the wealthy and privileged.”

How the American Health Care Act jeopardizes working families:

  • Working people pay more for less care
  • Tax breaks for the rich
  • Cuts pre-existing condition protections
  • Throws 24 million people off health insurance
  • Senior costs skyrocket
  • Keeps a 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided plans in place
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Why Privatizing MA Public Transit Would be a Disaster for Taxpayers, Workers and Riders

A large crowd descended on MBTA headquarters in downtown Boston on Monday as IAM Local 264 transit mechanics rallied with allies to defend taxpayers, workers and riders against the latest MBTA privatization scheme.

The MBTA mechanics were joined by community allies and elected leaders, including State Sen. Marc Pacheco and State Reps. Mike Connolly and Michelle DuBois, and multiple rider coalitions. They were all speaking out against a for-profit privatization scheme aimed at outsourcing core MBTA bus maintenance services.

“Giving up control of public transit to for-profit corporations has been a very bad deal for Massachusetts taxpayers, workers and riders,” said Michael Haywood, a mechanic and IAM Local 264 shop steward at Boston’s Arlington Avenue garage.

Haywood has 11 years of experience repairing MBTA fleet vehicles.

“Just look at the disaster with handing over the commuter rail to Keolis,” said Haywood. “We care about our riders and we don’t want to see the same expensive nightmare happen again by privatizing core bus services.”

Despite a diverse and aging fleet of buses, federal data shows MBTA mechanics are the best performing in the nation. The latest available data indicates MBTA busses travel an average of 12,964 miles between breakdowns, more than 6,000 miles than the next best competitor. In fact, the invention of an MBTA mechanic and IAM 264 member is credited as playing the key role in improved winter performance by the MBTA this year. Public transit advocates warn that losing this kind of ingenuity and experience to outsourcing could destabilize the MBTA bus system.

“Too many of the bus routes are not running frequent enough schedules to serve our riders as it is,” said William Hallsen, a 15-year mechanic and IAM 264 shop steward at Boston’s Everett garage. “Ceding control of bus maintenance to a for-profit company who will underbid, get rid of experienced mechanics, and cut corners is absolutely not the solution. Frankly, it’s dangerous.”

Since the MBTA allowed for-profit Keolis to take control of public commuter rail services, the results for riders and taxpayers have been disastrous. Millions have been spent to bail out the for-profit company after they underbid their contract. Even privatization proponents acknowledge that the largest and most critical privatization effort by the MBTA so far has been a massive failure. Data shows that Keolis continues to struggle with providing on-time service, despite the bailouts.

“Enough is enough,” said Mike Vartabedian, an IAM Local 264 representative with more than 20 years’ frontline experience fixing MBTA vehicles. “When you talk about destroying the best performing bus maintenance department in the country, that’s not a business decision, that’s a political decision. These for-profit, out-of-state companies can make up all the numbers they want to get their claws into the system, but when they lie or don’t deliver, Massachusetts residents pay the price—and that’s not right.”

Meanwhile, other key outsourcing contracts, including with S.J. Services, ABM Industries, and the Maine Military Authority [6] have also been dramatically underbid. Results of the underbidding have included major repair delays to key MBTA fleet vehicles and attempts by janitorial contractors to rip health insurance coverage away from workers.

More than 450 mechanics, fuelers, and other skilled professionals united in IAM Local 264 proudly contribute to the operation of the MBTA and to our communities every day. We believe in ensuring safety for our riders and in professionally negotiating contracts that guarantee our members have a say in their job and can perform those jobs in workplaces that are safe. The Machinists Union and Local 264 have been fighting for workers, their families and Boston communities for over 120 years.

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T’s new mantra: ‘Cut to invest’

Officials call for halting weekend commuter rail, limiting The RIDE

BY Bruce Mohl

Commonwealth Magazine

STATE TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY STEPHANIE POLLACK coined a new term on Monday to summarize the Baker administration’s budget philosophy for the MBTA: “Cut to invest.”

In a briefing with reporters, Pollack said the T is determined to eliminate its structural operating deficit in the coming fiscal year and plow state aid that would normally be used to pay off the shortfall into capital projects that would improve service at the transit agency.

But to close an estimated fiscal 2018 deficit of $42 million and pay for $7 million in new management hires, the MBTA is proposing to halt all weekend commuter rail service for at least a year, to end non-required service for disabled riders for at least a year, and to implement a host of privatization and revenue-raising initiatives. T officials said their proposals represented a starting point for discussion, but Pollack said some of them would have to be implemented.

Reaction to the plan at a meeting of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board was generally negative.  Paul Regan, the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents cities and towns in the T service area, said discontinuing commuter rail service on weekends is a bad idea. “My members believe this is a terrible mistake,” he said.

 

Scores of union members condemned the T’s proposal to privatize or use the threat of privatization to wring cost savings out of six MBTA bus repair garages. Timothy King, a union official and a member of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board, testified against the T’s privatization plans. And Brian Lang, a union official and member of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, indicated he opposes the T’s budget-balancing plan. “At this point I would not vote for this as a budget,” he said.

During the Patrick administration, state leaders often said “reform before revenue” when talking about the T’s finances, meaning the agency needed to first get its fiscal house in order before seeking additional state funding. Pollack and T officials made clear on Monday that there is no plan to seek additional state revenue from the Legislature. Instead, they said, the T will come up with money to fund capital and service improvements by cutting spending elsewhere at the agency.

Pollack cited as an example the decision to offer paratransit riders access to Uber and Lyft services. Using Uber and Lyft costs the T about $9 per ride compared to the $40 cost of regular RIDE service. But nearly all of the savings so far have been eaten up by customers increasing the number of trips they are taking with Uber and Lyft. Pollack said she liked that tradeoff. “That is what we mean by cut to invest,” she said.

T officials are hoping to balance the agency’s operating budget for the next four years, holding spending growth over that period to just 1.8 percent. The hope is that by keeping the operating budget in check, more of the funds flowing to the T can be used for service and equipment improvements.

“No one is trying to build up a giant surplus. Nobody is trying to take money away from the T. The only tradeoff on the table is operating dollars saved go to capital,” she said. “The choices are difficult, but the one lesson I’ve learned as secretary is setting priorities.”

T officials have spent the last 18 months trimming costs and trying to reform the agency. They cut 211 corporate headquarters positions, privatized cash-handling and warehouse activities, and negotiated wage concessions from the Carmen’s Union in return for job protections. But to balance the fiscal 2018 budget will require some tough decisions. Here are the proposals they put on the table:

  • Halt weekend commuter rail service starting July 1 for a savings of $10 million. T officials say they typically run 8,000 commuter rail trips on Saturdays and 3,000 on Sundays. The passengers represent one-fifth of 1 percent of commuter rail riders, T officials said. As a result, the T’s weekend subsidy for commuter rail is $34 per trip, compared to $5 per trip on weekdays. One advantage of shutting down weekend service over the next year is that some lines will have to be shut down on weekends anyway for the installation of equipment to avoid train collissions.
  • End paratransit trips that aren’t legally required beyond the Americans with Disabilty Act service area, for a savings of $7 million. The T is required to offer service within a three-quarter-mile radius of the agency’s fixed-route services, but currently goes beyond that into communities such as Dover, Medfield, Middleton, and Topsfield. T officials estimate 210,000 trips per year extend outside the ADA-required service area.
  • Privatize T bus maintenance at the Lynn, Fellsway, Quincy, and Arborway garages for a savings of $11.1 million and privatize or use the threat of privatization to wring $10.2 million in saving from the Everett and Cabot garages.
  • Install 700 more TV monitors in stations to boost ad revenues $3 million and push Keolis to follow through on more aggressive fare collection efforts expected to yield $1 million to the T.
  • Reposition 120 temporary, in-station customer service agents as bus operators and hire a private firm to provide the service. Ninety full-time customer service agents would not be affected.

The MBTA expects to close out its current fiscal year with a $50 million operating deficit, and will use a portion of the $187 million the state provides the transit agency each year to cover the shortfall. In the coming fiscal year, however, the T wants to direct the entire $187 million into backlogged capital projects.

In addition to the $187 million appropriation, the T also receives a penny of the state sales tax and all fare and other revenue that it generates on its own. In fiscal 2018, T officials are forecasting $1.95 billion in revenues to offset operating expenses of nearly $1.5 billion and debt service of $451 million.

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A note from President Jim Mastandrea

A note from Local 264 President Jim Mastandrea.

Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday’s article by the Boston Globe, to me, is more astonishing then the actual subject of it. For generations, Local 264 has been creating ways to keep buses and trains running at the MBTA every single day 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Arborway, Albany St, Arlington Ave, Cabot, Cabot Auto, Charlestown, Everett Bus, Everett Machine, Fellsway, Lynn, Southampton, Quincy and the Outside Machinists are met with different challenges that require the creativity and innovative ideas that show the Machinists are among the absolute best the industry has.

Brother Haywood’s creation of a way to move snow may be “astonishing” to some, but to us it’s just, once again, proving we are the very best. Just as we have consistently stated to the MBTA, the Governor, and the FMCB.

Brother Hughes, myself and your Transportation Reform Committee, Bill Hallson, Eric Morganti and Mike Hayward
thank you for your work everyday of meeting and beating the challenges we face and proving that we are the best in the business.

Thank you for all you do and your continued support.

In Solidarity,

Jim Mastandrea
President LL 264

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LePage seeks $7 million bailout for Maine Military Authority

The quasi-governmental business, which once employed more than 500 people refurbishing Humvees and other military vehicles, severely underbid a contract to refurbish Boston transit buses.

A mechanic inspects the underside of a refurbished Humvee at the Maine Military Authority in Limestone in 2005. Over the years, Maine Military Authority refurbished more than 16,000 vehicles, generated $600 million in revenue and, at its peak, employed roughly 550 workers. Associated Press File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

By Staff Writer Portland Press Herald.

The LePage administration has proposed funneling $7 million to the Maine Military Authority in Aroostook County to cover huge losses incurred when the state-owned business underbid on a contract.

Late last year, Gov. Paul LePage halted work at the Maine Military Authority on a $19 million contract to refurbish 32 aging transit buses for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston. The work to restore the two-section, articulated buses proved to be much more complicated – and costly – than anticipated, resulting in millions of dollars in losses and eventually layoffs as Maine Military Authority stopped accepting delivery of additional buses.

 

While officials from Maine Military Authority and state government are trying to renegotiate the contract, they are also seeking a $7 million bailout to rehire workers, complete the work and better position the business in the future. The LePage administration has proposed earmarking $7 million from the state’s year-end surplus to a special Maine Military Authority Reserve Fund.

“The bottom line is our bid was way too low and it created a huge challenge for us,” Hugh Corbett, the authority’s executive director, told members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday. “We do need some help to complete this project.”

Located on the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, the Maine Military Authority was created by the Legislature in 2000 as a quasi-governmental business to restore military vehicles such as Humvees. Over the years, Maine Military Authority refurbished more than 16,000 vehicles, generated $600 million in revenue and, at its peak, employed roughly 550 workers.

But as the U.S. drew down its large-scale combat presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, orders from the military to refurbish vehicles fell dramatically. So Maine Military Authority leaders have been exploring municipal and commercial contracts as a way to sustain employment and keep the lights on at the large facility.

The contract to refurbish the MBTA buses represented Maine Military Authority’s first major commercial venture. But the authority severely underbid the contract.

Brig Gen. Douglas Farnham, head of the Maine National Guard and commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, attributed the losses to a combination of factors. The buses were more complex to refurbish and were in worse condition than expected. Parts proved costly to obtain, there were delays starting the work because of bureaucracy and then there was a “misunderstanding on the scope of the work,” said Farnham.

“We were in a situation where we had to halt (work) because we were losing money like crazy but, at the same time, we signed a contract so we had to find a way forward,” Farnham told members of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “So the primary focus is to finish the contract. The secondary piece of that is to try to establish some structure that buys us a little bit of time to figure out what the right way forward is.”

Maine Military Authority owes an estimated $2.2 million to vendors and has a “cash deficit” of $3.4 million, according to figures provided Wednesday to the Appropriations Committee, which is reviewing the governor’s budget requests.

Farnham said taxpayers have never been asked to subsidize the Maine Military Authority before in its nearly 20-year history. In fact, the authority funneled money back into the state’s General Fund for several years.

But after the loss of the military contracts, employment levels at Maine Military Authority had dropped to just 65 workers prior to the recent layoffs. There are currently 28 employees, although the $7 million will allow the authority to rehire most of the workers who had been employed on the MBTA project, Farnham said.

Some lawmakers expressed concerns about the long-term future of the Military Authority and the state’s involvement in the business.

“I am concerned that the government is in a private-sector business,” said Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, one of the Appropriations Committee’s more conservative members. “I understand why we did it to help Loring and to help Aroostook, and I believe in all of those things. … But my experience in dealing with it, for the 25 years of my life that I have been bidding with the government, is this is a path that will continue.”

The LePage administration had originally wanted $10 million in surplus funds for the Maine Military Authority but reduced that request to $7 million on Wednesday.

Back in September when he ordered work to halt on the MBTA buses, LePage expressed “major concerns” about the underbid contract and the costs to taxpayers. At the time, Farnham said they planned to attempt to renegotiate the contract with MBTA, adding that the state “cannot in good faith create a financial burden to taxpayers and we will work to protect these good jobs for Mainers.”

Neither Corbett nor Farnham discussed details of the contract renegotiations but a hand-out to lawmakers said the new contract will lead to increased labor hours, a larger budget for parts and lead to a program that “will be revenue neutral going forward.”

Farnham and Corbett said they expect details of the renegotiated contract to be announced soon.

“We will not go into further debt to complete this project,” Corbett said.

LePage spokesman Peter Steele, meanwhile, said the additional money “is designed to position MMA to complete MBTA work, continue other work in the pipeline and position MMA for the future.”

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Labor Opponents Already Have The Next ‘Friedrichs’ SCOTUS Case Ready to Go Under Trump

As Democrats and the labor movement prepare for a possible fight over Trump’s imminent appointment to the Supreme Court, they should recognize that several major labor cases, brought by some of labor’s most persistent enemies, are waiting in the wings. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court gave unions an unexpected victory last year when it issued a decision in a case that had threatened to take away the right of public sector unions to collect dues from workers they represent. That win may be short-lived.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was meant to be the capstone in decades of cases that sought to have the courts determine that fair-share fees for public sector workers are unconstitutional. Fair-share fees, or agency fees, require workers represented by a union to pay the portion of fees that covers collective bargaining. They seek to balance the worker’s right to dissent from the union by relinquishing membership and not paying for activities that aren’t related to collective bargaining, with the union’s right to avoid free riders and not be forced to represent a worker who contributes nothing.

The Supreme Court, largely through decisions written by Justice Samuel Alito, had indicated that its 1977 case that allowed for fair-share fees in the public sector was ripe for a rare overturning by the Court. It all but invited a challenge. Several cases were in the pipeline, but Friedrichs took the unusual approach of conceding before each lower court that it should be dismissed so that it could move quickly to the Supreme Court. Friedrichs faced a hostile oral argument before a conservative majority; unions braced for the worst. Then, as the Court was drafting its opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia died, and with him, so did Friedrichs. The Supreme Court issued a tied 4-4 decision affirming the lower court in March.

However, there is another case in the pipeline that was stayed pending the outcome of Friedrichs. That case, which began as Rauner v. AFSCME, was originally brought by the ultra-wealthy Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who—shortly after taking office—issued an executive order placing all fair-share fees in an escrow account, rather than turning them over to unions. But Rauner screwed up a basic part of the case because he didn’t have standing to bring the case.

A federal judge wrote that Rauner “has no personal interest at stake. He is not subject to the fair share fees requirement. Instead, he essentially claims to have a duty to protect the First Amendment rights of all public employees in the state … In effect, he seeks to represent the non-member employees subject to the fair share provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. He has no standing to do so. They must do it on their own.”

To fix the problem, employees filed as intervenors (“undoubtedly with the Governor’s blessing,” as the judge noted), with the backing of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.

Janus v. AFSCME, named after one of the workers, is pursuing the same strategy as Friedrichs in trying to get to the Supreme Court quickly. The Janus plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint in July, stating that the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, which permitted fair-share fees, remains good law, and all but invited the District Court in the Northern District of Illinois to dismiss their complaint. The District Court did so, and in their appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs similarly state that their case must be dismissed. The goal, of course, is to get the case in front of the Supreme Court just as a Donald Trump appointee to the Court is seated.

Seattle University School of Law professor Charlotte Garden explains that this strategy also “allows the case to go up without a factual record. This means that there is no record that the unions can point the justices to in order to show the importance of agency fees.”

In Friedrichs, Justices Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer tried to give the union’s attorney the opportunity to state what he would have put in the record if he had had the opportunity to do so. But, as Garden explains, “being asked to make a proffer before the Supreme Court is tricky without the ability to engage in discovery.”

The Janus case is almost identical to the Friedrichs case in that both are premised on the idea that there is no line in the public sector between political and non-political activity. Conservatives justices have firmly embraced this rational, as was evident during the Friedrichs oral argument when Chief Justice John Roberts challenged California’s attorney to give his “best example of something that is negotiated over in a collective bargaining agreement with a public employer that does not present a public policy question.” The attorney responded that mileage reimbursement rates were such an example. Roberts shot back, “That’s money. That’s how much money is going to have to be paid to the teachers. If you give more mileage expenses, that costs more money.”

If everything that a public sector union does is political, then it is a much shorter line to find that a worker should not have to pay any part of the costs of collective bargaining. This would be a very worrisome conclusion for unions, which must do what they can now to stop such an outcome from happening.

As Democrats and the labor movement prepare for a possible fight over Trump’s imminent appointment to the Supreme Court, they should recognize that several major labor cases, brought by some of labor’s most persistent enemies, are waiting in the wings. Senators should question nominees about their view of Abood and other Supreme Court precedents that protect public employees’ labor rights. And if labor has any sway within the Democratic Party, it should make it clear that these issues should be disqualifying for any new appointment to the Court.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders displays and quotes Donald J. Trump tweets during floor speech on repealing #ACA. Watch full speech from Bernie Sanders

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MBTA did not collect $1.8 million in overdue funds, audit finds

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By Michelle Williams | Michelle.Williams@MassLive.com

More than $1.8 million is due to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, according to an audit released by the office of the state Auditor Tuesday.

The audit found long overdue account balances have been left on the books, totaling $1,863,103 more than 90 days past due. Approximately half of the accounts are more than a decade past due, according to the Massachusetts state auditor’s office.

“The MBTA should take all appropriate steps to collect funds that are due to the agency, but should also realistically write-off balances that are not likely to be recouped. This ensures an accurate picture of the financial status of the entity,” Auditor Suzanne M. Bump said in a statement.

The transportation authority dealt with vacancies in management positions and multi-million dollar deficits in recent years.

More than 260 employees took buyouts earlier this year, the Boston Globe reports, as apart of a plan to eliminate 300 positions from the agency’s payroll.

“As leadership at the MBTA considers significant overhauls, they should first look at their oversight processes to ensure that they have adequate protections in place to protect taxpayer funds from theft, loss, or abuse,” Bump said. “Without these protections, systemic problems like those identified in our audit will likely continue, despite structural changes.”

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