Editorial: Unions don’t get to tell Kitzhaber his job

Nobody is surprised that Oregon’s Service Employees International Union, one of the state’s largest unions of government employees, wants more pay and more benefits.

But in the new round of negotiations with the state SEIU Local 503 is branching out — asking for changes beyond working conditions.

SEIU is asking for a usual mix of increases.

According to Salem’s Statesman Journal, the union wants a return to normal step increases. It wants cost-of-living increases of between 2 and 6 percent. It wants to cap health care premiums at 2013 levels. It wants the same vacation time as management. It wants more flexible hours. And more.

But what’s intriguing are the demands that aren’t pay and benefits.

It wants to be able to force the state to do work in-house if the union can prove it’s cheaper than contracting. That might make sense as long as the quality of the work is the same or better. And state officials should have plenty of leeway to make a decision without being constrained by a new union contract

But there is also a pair of demands that don’t make any sense. They are: “Require the governor to investigate and sue banks that engaged in illegal activity and lost money for the state” and “For the state to stop doing business with those banks,” according to the newspaper.

“Just like our neighbors and family members, we’ve suffered in the Great Recession caused by big banking’s illegal and irresponsible greed,” Dan Smith, the head of the union’s bargaining team, told the paper. “Today we told the state that we refuse to balance the budget on workers’ and Oregonians’ backs while big banks and high-priced contractors aren’t held accountable.”

The state should not enter into a binding contract with employees obligating the governor to investigate and sue anybody, let alone stop doing business with them. The union doesn’t get to tell the governor how to do his job.

We understand the frustration the SEIU has. But it’s not like Gov. John Kitzhaber or Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum would be shy about investigating illegal activity.