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Carolina Journal Radio No. 919: Year-end program highlights key issues from 2020

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2020 8:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 919: Year-end program highlights key issues from 2020

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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December 28, 2020 8:00 am

As we look forward to a new year, Carolina Journal Radio reviews some of the most interesting topics from 2020. Amy Coney Barrett has joined the U.S. Supreme Court as its 115th justice. She has said her judicial philosophy mirrors that of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and supporters characterize her as an originalist. Jon Guze, John Locke Foundation director of legal studies, analyzes Barrett’s record. He discusses the new justice’s likely impact on the nation’s highest court. As Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden relied on advice from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known popularly as AOC, in developing policies related to energy and the environment. John Locke Foundation CEO Amy O. Cooke, “The Right AOC,” explains why the other AOC’s policy proposals would be wrong for America. COVID-19 has created challenges for everyone, including leaders of the University of North Carolina System. President Peter Hans recently briefed his Board of Governors on budget and access issues linked to the pandemic. If you follow the U.S. Supreme Court and constitutional law, you’ve likely heard the term “originalism.” Until recently, it’s been hard to find a book-length introduction to the concept. Ilan Wurman, visiting assistant professor at Arizona State University’s law school, attempts to fill that gap with the book A Debt Against The Living. Wurman explains why he wrote an introduction to originalism. He also shares its key themes. North Carolina taxpayers would pay the price if the state changes its law against public-sector collective bargaining. Terry Stoops, John Locke Foundation vice president for research and director of education studies, highlights a new report that tallies the potential costs.


From Cherokee to Kuretuk, from the largest city to the smallest town, and from the statehouse to the schoolhouse, it's Carolina Journal Radio, your weekly news magazine discussing North Carolina's most important public policy events and issues.

Welcome to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kogai. During this special year-end edition, Donna Martinez and I revisit some of our most interesting topics from a very interesting year. On the campaign trail, President-elect Joe Biden based much of his energy policy on ideas from the left-wing member of Congress known as AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. North Carolina's Amy O. Cook, the right AOC, challenges those ideas. COVID-19 has created challenges for everyone, including the University of North Carolina system. The system's president spells out some major challenges affecting university access and the budget. Ending North Carolina's ban on public sector collective bargaining would cost state taxpayers dearly.

You'll learn why. Plus, we'll take a closer look at the legal theory known as originalism. And speaking of originalism, that topic crops up as Donna Martinez joins us with the Carolina Journal headline. Notre Dame Law School graduate and mother of seven, Amy Coney Barrett, has now become only the 115th person to be sworn in as a member of the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Barrett is 48 years old and the fifth woman to serve on our country's highest court. So how will she change the court and will she change the court? For that, we turn to the director of legal studies for the John Locke Foundation, John Guze, who has been taking a look at some of her previous rulings and joins us to talk about the new justice. John, welcome back to the show. Thank you, Donna. She is young, young just in general and young for a member of the court and potentially, John, that's 30 to 40 years of Amy Coney Barrett on the United States Supreme Court. You're talking about a generation of impact. Pretty interesting. Yes, it is. It's very exciting, I think.

Why? Well, I'm hoping and everything she's said and written up to this point makes me believe that she's going to be a diehard originalist like her mentor, Antonin Scalia, and like Clarence Thomas and at least until recently, Neil Gorsuch, which is just what we need on the U.S. Supreme Court and on all the courts in this country. Why do we need that? Because unfortunately, and it's a long story how it happened, but the courts have sort of abdicated what ought to be their job, which is to enforce the law, and they've become super legislatures. They make law.

Now, there's some situations where that's okay, but it's not okay when they make law by reinterpreting and changing the meaning of duly enacted statutes and it's certainly not okay when they do it by reinterpreting and changing the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. You have listened. Well, you've not only read some of her rulings, but you listened to some of the things she said during her nomination hearings. She made some comments after being sworn in. What do you make of her philosophy? How does she really explain to people how she views her role as a judge and now a justice? Well, much in the same way that some of our best Supreme Court justices have. She says that her job, ironically, this is something that Chief Justice Roberts said when he was being interviewed and when he was sworn in, but she really will do it. I think she's going to call balls and strike. She's going to apply the law as it's written, and she's not going to let her personal policy preferences get in the way, let alone anything like party affiliation.

Now, you just said something really interesting, and I want to talk about this. You mentioned Chief Justice John Roberts, and you made kind of a reference to some things that he said in his confirmation hearings. And he, as a non-attorney myself, my interpretation of what he said, the balls and strikes comment, was that he was not going to bring his preferences or views to his decisions.

He was going to call balls and strikes. Of course, then when he essentially wrote the opinion that said that the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, was optional, a lot of folks kind of went back on their heels and said, hey, that's not exactly what you told us how you would view your job in your confirmation hearings. It gets me to this, John, which I think is a really interesting discussion as it relates to new Justice Barrett, because in his confirmation hearings a few years ago, John Roberts essentially said, look, I'm going to call balls and strikes.

My views don't matter here. But then he made a controversial ruling in the majority opinion on the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, saying that it is constitutional. So what do you make now of when you hear a judge and now Justice Barrett say, I'm not going to do that?

Can we take stock that she won't? Well, you certainly, I mean, we've learned this the hard way. You can't assume that they're going to do what they said they would do. And I don't think we should assume it's because they were lying or being hypocritical at the time. There seems to be something about power that changes people. And we've seen it happen over and over again, where a justice moves to the left, or at least to the center, once they get on the Supreme Court. I think part of what happens is they start to see themselves not so much as judges, but as statesmen.

They're responsible for the total well-being of the country. And sometimes they've got to make some compromises to their judicial principles. Could happen to Justice Barrett, but I hope it won't.

And I don't really think it will. She's had good role models in Antonin Scalia, a good role model in Antonin Scalia, and everything she's written makes me think she's sincere. So my hope is that she'll stay the course. Some of them have, most notably Clarence Thomas for year after year, and he's been there 30 years now. But he has consistently adhered to originalism and textualism. Now, Chief Justice John Roberts has been seen by a lot of folks over the past few years as the swing vote.

You weren't really sure. Is he going to go with the liberal wing or with the originalist conservative wing? Now that Justice Barrett is on the court, what does she do?

What does her philosophy do to the so-called back and forth? Or is there a swing vote anymore? Yeah, I've been thinking about this, and it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out. He certainly isn't going to be the swing vote in the sense that we're going to have two groups, equally four each, on the left and on the right, that will put him in the position of being able to make the call. That being the case, it'll just be interesting to see whether he continues to side with the left on controversial cases or whether he decides, heck, I can't determine the outcome either way, so I may as well go with my conscience and my best judicial thinking. I've seen some analysts say, well, the court now is really six to three, six more conservative people and three more liberal people. Is that how you see it?

Not really. I mean, it's true, certainly, that we've got three Democratic appointments and six Republican appointments. And in terms of their political philosophies, I think we can say for certain that all three of those Democratic appointees are liberals and favor Democratic policy in general. And then we can say the opposite for the other six. But what's been interesting over the years, while the three Democrats, the three liberals, tend to vote in lockstep and along ideological lines on these controversial cases, that really hasn't been true of the other six.

And the reason is originalism. If you adhere to the philosophy that my job is to apply the law as it's written, that makes it much harder for you to just go with your ideological preferences. So I think it'll be interesting, but my hope is that with six originalists or quasi-originalists in the case of Justice Roberts, on the court, we might start to see the whole court change its tenor and stop being so political, stop being so ideological, and start really thinking about what the law says and how it should properly be interpreted. So we'll be watching to see how the justices behave and rule, et cetera.

But, John, there is already backlash from Democrats and people who believe that, A, Amy Coney Barrett should never have been nominated at the point she was nominated, never have been confirmed, and also that they don't like her philosophy of originalism. There's been talk of what's called packing the court. What do you make of that? Well, it's kind of horrifying, to be honest.

I'm worried, but I'm not terribly worried. There's a lot of institutional inertia, a lot of, I mean, I think almost across the board academic lawyers and judges of all parties will probably stand up and say this is a mistake. And we're talking about expanding the court, adding seats.

Yeah. When people talk about judge pack, court packing, they mean adding seats to get the ideological balance you want. And this goes back to the administration of President Roosevelt when he threatened to pack the court and got the court to change some of its decisions. But if this happens, then everything is up for grabs. I don't know how it'll play out. Well, we're going to be watching going forward, of course, to see exactly how the new justice Amy Coney Barrett ends up ruling in some of these consequential cases. And our guest John Guse will be writing about all of those decisions or many of them at least at John, thanks for joining us to talk about this.

Stay with us, folks. Much more Carolina Journal radio to come in just a moment. Tired of fake news?

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I'm Mitch Kokay. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is getting many of his ideas about energy and the environment from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first term U.S. representative from New York who's known popularly as AOC. We thought it might be a good idea to get a different perspective on these issues from a different AOC, the right AOC. That is the nickname of Amy O. Cook, who is CEO of the John Locke Foundation.

And Amy, you have been paying attention to the other AOC ever since she got on the national scene. And when it comes to energy and the environment, she's very wrong. Energy and environmental policy was or always has been one of my policy loves. I was actually before I before I came here, I directed the energy and environmental policy at the Independence Institute in Colorado, Colorado, of course, one of the seventh largest energy producing states in the country.

So it was a huge deal. Plus, we had seemed a plethora of very active, far left environmental groups. I'm starting to see similar groups move into North Carolina. So I might be picking this topic back up a little bit more. But to your point about AOC and the wrong AOC, she couldn't be more wrong on energy and environmental policy. The policies that she is espousing will not help with energy, nor will they keep the environment clean. Of course, she's famously known for her Green New Deal. Joe Biden introduced her as his energy policy adviser in May of this year. So she is going to be advising him on the campaign trail. Every single American should be worried about that. Let me just share a couple of things first about what the Green New Deal would do. According to AOC, by 2030, she wants the country to be at a net zero carbon emissions, no cars, no planes, no travel, no cows. So forget your nice, juicy burger, your great steak. She's not going to allow that. But of course, I'm sure she'll have all of those things.

It'll be for the rest of us. This net zero Green New Deal is heavily reliant on wind and energy, these intermittent, unreliable sources. There are a whole bunch of problems with it, cost, what it does to the environment.

But three things to focus on right now. One is it's just an impossible standard. And then the other one is it will dramatically decrease our quality of life.

And it also really shackles us to China. So what do I mean by those three things? So the first one is it's an impossible standard.

Second is life. CO2 emissions, which she wants at net zero. It's what we exhale. I mean, you're literally talking about eliminating people.

So it's an impossible, impossible standard. In the United States, by the way, what are we about 16, 17 tons of carbon emissions per capita I think was the last figure I saw. Now, here's what we do with that. We contribute roughly 25 percent of the world's GDP. We are incredibly efficient in creating wealth, creating a quality of life that people in many other countries want to enjoy as well. And AOC and this Green New Deal would destroy all of that, because let me just give you an idea of what zero carbon emissions look like. Think of places like Chad, the Congo, even places like countries like Somalia and Afghanistan have some carbon emissions. In Chad, I looked it up, actually, they're living on about two dollars a day. That's about what their wages are. You can't get a cup of coffee here for two dollars a day. I just don't think most Americans want to live like that.

Their quality of life would be dramatically decreased. And carbon emissions, by the way, you know, plants need carbon. We exhale it. Plants need it. That's how, you know, it's life.

It is life. But this zero carbon emissions, you have to go to some places that have a very, very low quality of life to see what zero carbon emissions looks like. And again, remember, this is reliant on this intermittent, unreliable, these unreliable sources like wind and solar.

And if you want to know what this transition is going to look like, look no further than California right now. We have heard that the West Coast is experiencing dramatic heat waves and there have been rolling blackouts in California because they are heavily reliant, especially on solar. And as peak demand for solar drops late in the afternoon, early evening, people are getting home from work or they might be home already.

They're working from home. Air conditioning needs the demand doesn't drop just because solar stops producing. Candle makers may have a market in California right now. And in fact, I saw this on Twitter last night, Michael Shellenberger, who is head of environmental progress, which is a think tank dedicated to improving the human condition globally, as well as providing safe, clean, affordable, reliable, abundant electricity. He tweeted at Kamala Harris last night and it was very pointed. He said, hi, Kamala Harris, you know, Michael Shellenberger here, Berkeley residents, three days into a rolling blackout question. Why should the country follow California's lead? It's a legitimate question, especially if you're sweltering or sitting in 100 degree heat.

That's a that's a good question. Why should I not have access to affordable, reliable, clean, safe, abundant power? Not only that, California has some of the highest rates of electricity.

So you have you have quality of life, an impossible standard. And the third one is China. I think we're all pretty clear on the fact that China is openly hostile to us. And yet China controls 95 percent of the world's supply of these things called rare earth elements. Rare earth elements are in everything from, you know, your smartphone to the camera, to the equipment we're using here today, your TV, your computer. They're in weapon systems. They're also used.

There's a significant use in wind turbines and solar panels. They need those rare earth elements. The United States imports roughly 80 percent of its supply from China.

Why? Because the same environmentalists don't want us using any fossil fuels also won't let us extract rare earth elements here in the United States. So we have to import those elements. Now, you take those things, you take quality of life, dependence on China, an impossible standard, and you can throw in cost and everything else and what it's going to do to to the American people. And you can you compare that to President Trump and President Trump, even as he as he was campaigning, when he was candidate, Trump was saying, listen, we can develop our natural resources responsibly and we can be energy independent and have clean air, clean water, be good stewards of our environment.

It was never this mutually exclusive that you have to choose between the economy and the environment. Amy O. Cook is the right AOC. She is also the CEO of the John Locke Foundation. Thanks so much for joining us. Thank you for having me, Mitch. And we'll return with more Carolina Journal radio in just a moment. If you love freedom, we've got great news to share with you. Now you can find the latest news, views and research from conservative groups across North Carolina all in one place. North Carolina conservative dot com. It's one stop shopping for North Carolina's freedom movement at North Carolina conservative dot com. You'll find links to John Locke Foundation blogs on the day's news, Carolina Journal dot com, reporting and quicktakes, Carolina Journal radio interviews, TV interviews featuring CJ reporters and Locke Foundation analysts, opinion pieces and reports on higher education from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, commentary and polling data from the Civitas Institute and news and views from the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

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I'm Mitch Kokai. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way the University of North Carolina goes about its business. During a recent meeting of UNC's Board of Governors, President Peter Hans discussed likely impacts on the university budget. What we do know for certain is that the year ahead will bring deep financial and operational challenges. We laid out a state budget request for the university that recognizes reality while protecting our core academic mission. In addition to our effort to establish unified budgets throughout the system, we're taking a disciplined approach with a tightly focused explanation of our priorities.

We're not asking for new projects or new initiatives. Our lawmakers have hard choices ahead, given the state of the economy. We owe them a concise report of our core needs, including to fully fund enrollment growth. Since we're one of the few universities in the country to add students this year, continued support of NC Promise, which has dramatically lowered tuition and expanded opportunity at UNC Pembroke, Elizabeth City State, and Western Carolina, shoring up our building reserves so we can properly operate the public assets under our care.

This is not a moment for sweeping plans. This is a moment for keeping our most important promises to the students and the citizens of North Carolina, including identifying potential savings that can be carried forward into the next fiscal year. Even as UNC looks to tighten its belt, Hans offered a warning about the needs of current and prospective students.

The same economic conditions stressing the state budget will also create an unprecedented need for access to our institutions. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will be seeking new careers and new opportunities. We know from past experience that many of them will choose to start that search at our state's community colleges. We've talked for years about creating a seamless path to transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions, and for that matter, from one UNC school to another.

And I'm determined, along with you, to see that happen. There's an obvious economic case for it, but I believe we have a moral obligation in this time of deep need for North Carolina to put more options on the table for people seeking better opportunity, and to never let administrative burdens come between students and the education they need to succeed. When we fail to provide good options, flexible options, those students wind up in places where they're more likely to leave with a lot of debt and little to show for it, or get discouraged and don't pursue further education at all. That's University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans. He's discussing some of the university's current budget challenges and access priorities. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. We're doubling down on freedom.

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I'm Mitch Kocak. If you follow the Supreme Court and constitutional law, you've probably heard about the concept of originalism. What's it all about? Where could you find a good introduction to it?

Professor Ilan Wurman of Arizona State University has an answer. It's his book, A Debt Against the Living. So why did you write this introduction to originalism?

Well, the short answer is there wasn't a book like this. So the first question really is why isn't originalism, this idea that we should interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning, right? The way its words would have been understood by the framers who wrote it and the public that ratified it. That's what this originalism is. Why isn't it taught more in the law schools?

I mean, it's kind of surprising, right? We have federal judges who are originalist, probably more than half the Supreme Court at the moment is originalist. And so much of the public, I think, considers themselves to be originalists, or they understand intuitively that we should care what the framers said and so on.

But it's not taught in the law schools. And there are reasons for that. And we could go into that. But so as a student, as a law student, I had to research this on my own. I had to look into it on my own. I had heard about this originalism thing. It made sense to me.

And so I had to strike it out on my own. I didn't find an introduction. I looked for one.

I couldn't find one. I had to read all of these very interesting books on particular theories of originalism and so on. But there was no one single volume, short narrative introduction to originalism. It's an introduction to and defense of originalism and the founding. So I have done all the work for you in this short book. So if you want an introduction, there wasn't one before and now there is one.

So that's why I thought I had to do it. You mentioned the founding. How important is the American founding to originalism? There are different kinds of defenses of originalism, many of which don't talk about the founding.

I think that's wrong. I think a complete defense of originalism requires also a defense of the founding. The way the argument of my book works, it's sort of a two-step argument, right? The first question is, look, how do we interpret law in our legal system, right? Ordinarily, we first figure out what does this law actually say? What does it mean?

What does it do, right? Whether it's a contract or a statute or a treaty or a constitution. And then there's the question of, okay, well, are we bound by that law?

Are we bound to this contract? We're bound even by Congress's bad laws, right? So the question is, we interpret legal texts, I argue, right? The way we interpret any communication intended as a public instruction, right? With its original public meaning, right?

Not a secret meaning, right? Otherwise it'd be pretty ineffective instruction. That's how we interpret these documents. But that doesn't answer the question of, well, should we be bound by that document at all?

Someone might say, well, okay, fine. I get that the original meaning of the constitution is X, Y, and Z, but we don't care. We don't want to be bound by what a bunch of long since dead white men wrote. So to fully defend originalism, you have to argue that the constitution is binding law the same way that the laws of Congress are binding such that we should care what it says and we should follow its original meaning because the best non-originalist will say we're okay with judges updating the meaning and content of the constitution over time.

And so be it. They're even okay distinguishing the constitution from ordinary laws, right? The constitution's different.

It's old and it's hard to change. That's the premise, right? So to fully defend originalism, I think the originalist has to defend the binding nature of the constitution. And that requires a defense of the founding. And my claim is the constitution is binding if it successfully balances self-government and liberty. We're chatting with Professor Ilan Wurman of Arizona State University.

He's author of the book, A Debt Against the Living, an introduction to originalism. Why should we care about either originalism or the founding? Why not just say majority rules? In a free society like ours, we don't just care about what a majority of the people want. Why do we have constitutions? What does a constitution for a free society have to accomplish? And the answer is two things. It has to successfully create a regime of self-government.

This is what you were getting at. A regime by which we the people can choose who we want to be and govern ourselves and decide who we want to be politically, morally, socially, culturally, economically, what have you. But at the same time, this exact same document, this exact same piece of paper also has to preserve a large measure of liberty, of natural liberty. Otherwise, why would we get out of the state of nature into this thing called civil society if we got a raw deal, if we gave up too much of that freedom we had in the state of nature?

We would never leave the state of nature. So a free constitution has to balance these two things, self-government and liberty. And I say balance.

Why? Because these objectives are in tension with each other. It's often popular majorities that infringe on the rights of minorities. So writing a constitution that successfully balances these competing objectives is no easy task. And I argue that the framers were remarkably successful at achieving a balance between self-government and liberty such that the constitution is legitimate and binding today, even if it's imperfect. I mean, here's the point.

This is the key takeaway. Something must make a constitution binding. It can't be that no constitution is ever binding.

Society would fall apart. They can't be right. But it also can't be the case that a constitution is only binding if it says exactly what you personally would want it to say.

That's also crazy. 300 million Americans might have a different opinion about that. There must be some middle ground, something that makes a constitution legitimate and therefore binding, even if you think it's imperfect in certain provisions or particulars. My claim is the constitution is legitimate and binding in the sense if it meets this threshold balancing of self-government and liberty, these two objectives of a free society, even if you would do things a bit differently on either side of the equation. All your research suggests to you that this constitution and originalism are pretty good. Today, we have all of these movements to, well, we need to change the constitution, right? Why do we care about what a bunch of dead white men said? But the constitution is insufficiently democratic, they might say, right? Here's what's so crazy and insidious about this. The people who want to change the constitution, within the constitution is bad, some bad document.

They say two things. They say it's insufficiently democratic. We need better democracy. We need to get rid of the equal representation in the Senate. We need to get rid of the electoral college, right? It's insufficiently democratic. But at the same time, these same people want to make sure that democratic majorities can't do certain things, right? You can't decide on moral issues like abortion or gay marriage. So we want better democracy, but only if it leads to progressive results.

I mean, that's crazy. That's typically the approach here. And as I was reading about the founders and their political philosophy, it turns out that when you have these objectives, right? First of all, it was itself an incredible achievement to say, we want self-government and we want liberty and it requires a balance, right? Republican remedies for the diseases most incident to Republican government, as Madison says in Federalist 10, simply stating this objective and the understanding that their intention with each other, these two objectives, is itself an innovation and we're indebted to them for that. And then they did a pretty darn good job of striking this balance, a pretty amazing job through ingenious mechanisms that were novel at the time.

Separation of powers, checks and balances, the enumeration of power in this division of federal state power. The representative mechanism itself was a novelty at the time. And of course, the provisions in the Bill of Rights were also a novelty. But more than that, what's so great about the constitution of our founders is they wrote it in such a way that it would continue to strike a successful balance between self-government and liberty long into the future.

On both sides of this equation, right? Look at the liberty side of the equation. The rights protecting provisions of the constitution are written sufficiently broad terms to be applicable to changing circumstances. Why do you think the First Amendment applies to the speech made on the internet?

Why do you think the Fourth Amendment, unreasonable searches and seizures, right, applies to GPS devices that police officers put on cars, right? Many things the founders couldn't have conceived of. The book is A Debt Against the Living, an introduction to originalism. The author is Professor Elan Wurman of Arizona State University. He spoke recently in Durham and Raleigh.

We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. Real influence, you either have it or you don't. And at the John Locke Foundation, we have it. You'll find our guiding principles in many of the freedom forward reforms of the past decade here in North Carolina. So while others talk or complain or name call, we provide research, solutions and hope. Our team analyzes the pressing issues of the day, jobs, healthcare, education and more. We look for effective ways to give you more freedom, more options, more control over your life. Our goal is to transform North Carolina into a growing, thriving, economic powerhouse, the envy of every other state. Our research has helped policymakers make decisions that ensure you keep more of what you earn, expand your choice of schools for your kids, widen your job opportunities, improve your access to doctors. The recipe for stability and a bright future, for truth, for freedom, for the future of North Carolina. We are the John Locke Foundation. Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio.

I'm Donna Martinez. For more than 60 years, North Carolina has prohibited public sector unions from collective bargaining. But some North Carolina lawmakers are actually mulling the idea of repealing the collective bargaining law. Our next guest is urging caution on a move like that.

He says it would cost North Carolinians big time. Terry Stoops is the vice president for research, the director of education studies, the author of a new report on this issue. And he joins us now to talk about it.

Terry, welcome back to the show. Thank you. You did really extensive analysis of extensive modeling on different scenarios of what would happen for North Carolina if the law on collective bargaining were repealed and if that were made legal. Tell us what it would cost.

It would cost between 889 million and 1.3 billion. And the reason why there's a range is because there's different ways to collectively bargain. Some collective bargaining laws do not have rules that make it binding for the parties to collectively bargain for their pay and benefits.

And then there are some where it is binding. And of course, that would cost a lot more. So it would really depend on the scope of the law that the general assembly would pass and sort of the parameters that they would establish for the collective bargaining law. Now, most of the laws that have been proposed to get rid of the collective bargaining prohibition simply get rid of the line that says you can't collectively bargain if you're a public sector employee. But I suspect that if that were to occur, then there would be more added to the legislation that would perhaps change the potential cost to the state of allowing our public sector employees to bargain collectively. We're talking about 60 years here of prohibition on collective bargaining.

So I guess the question is really why now? Why is North Carolina now a target not only for unionization efforts but for collective bargaining efforts? Well, there's a belief and this belief has actually been around for decades that if you turn North Carolina into a union state, then you can turn any state into a union state. We're really a bellwether for unionization.

We have one of the lowest rates of private sector unionization in the nation and we're often identified with South Carolina as being places where unions have the least fortune. So that's certainly one area where I think that there are national groups, national unions and employee associations that are looking at North Carolina and thinking that there could be inroads here. And if you look at what happened in 2018 and 2019 with the Red for Ed movement, these were walkouts coordinated by the North Carolina Association of Educators where thousands of teachers and advocates came to Raleigh to protest the General Assembly. There's a belief that that might be a signal that North Carolinians are ready for public sector unionization to expand and the way to expand that of course would be to allow collective bargaining. What you just brought up is really interesting because the North Carolina Association of Educators calls themselves an association but they have been moving closer and closer to that line of union. They are the state affiliate of the biggest teachers union, right? That's right and they want to be called union.

They have advertisements that say, join our union. So there's a real push to not only identify as a union but to get the powers that unions have and one of the most obvious powers that unions have is to collectively bargain and that is something that they seek and that's something that is really part and parcel with their efforts to get certain individuals elected to public office is to make sure that they have pro-union legislators and council of state members that will be there to begin dismantling North Carolina's wise prohibition on collective bargaining for public sector employees. So elections have consequences as we all know but this is just one more aspect of what potentially we could see in North Carolina should the legislature for example turn on its political ideology and the leadership there. Right now it's under Republican leadership.

If it turns to Democrat leadership, things could be different. You know your report is really interesting because it's not limited just to looking at the education sector in North Carolina. You explore the whole field of unions. Help us understand the union situation in our state. Sounds like we've got private sector unions, public sector unions but collective bargaining is something different than that. Yeah the collective bargaining that we're talking about is for our public sector employees which are mostly teachers and state employees and there are some other sectors in the public with firefighters and police. There are some employee associations there. So that's really the dynamic that we're talking about.

It's more than just teachers. It's public employees in general and there's really two mechanisms by which the cost of the collective bargaining prohibition repeal would impose itself. The first of course is that the public sector employees would bargain with their employer. You think about what collective bargaining is. It's a negotiation between the employees and the employer dealing with working conditions, salary and benefits.

But the other part about it and this is something that I highlight in the report is the accumulation of political power. That's really where the cost increases arise because as these unions get the ability to collectively bargain, they are able to accumulate more money and then secure political power that allows them to later on accumulate more money from their employers. This is something that's distinct from the private sector where it's all about bargaining with the employers and there's really very limited benefits to accumulating political power if you're a private sector employee union. If you're in the public sector, it means everything to make sure that not only do you have the ability to collectively bargain but you use that money to elect people that will continue to feed the beast, continue to feed money to the union members and to provide more expansive benefits and improved working conditions. Of course, once that occurs, if that does occur in North Carolina, that is so difficult to claw back once that bargaining power has been instituted and the political power has built up. That's one reason that you're highlighting all of this in your report. It's called Big Government Big Price Tag, Collective Bargaining Equals More Power to Unions and Higher Costs for North Carolinians. Talking about political power, Terri, I thought it was fascinating in your report. I'd encourage folks to go to and read this. You talk about the history of unions in North Carolina and interestingly enough, it was actually Democrats in North Carolina who were behind the push to outlaw collective bargaining. Yeah, that's right. First, when you look at the history of unionization in North Carolina, people believe that there hasn't been much unionization but if you look in the earliest 20th century, for example, private sector unions were pretty powerful in the textile industry and various industries, especially in the western part of the state. So, unionization has been part of North Carolina's history for a long time but looking at the public sector unionization and the prohibition on collective bargaining, that was coordinated by a Democratic member of the General Assembly from Mecklenburg County who was fearing that Jimmy Hoffa would organize the police in Charlotte and there were some efforts to do that.

The courts got involved and rather than try to do something in the courts, they just said we're going to ensure that this can't happen through an act of the General Assembly and in 1959, they passed that. Dr. Terri Stoops. Terri, thank you. That's all the time we have for the program this week. On behalf of Mitch Kokai, I'm Donna Martinez.

Hope you'll join us again next week for another edition of Carolina Journal Radio. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-10 12:51:22 / 2024-01-10 13:08:14 / 17

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