Public Sector Unions under Attack

To me, this is a pretty tricky issue. I think this paragraph from the article sums up my opinion:

“At a time when many private sector workers have been badly squeezed by stagnant wages, soaring health care premiums and shrinking 401(k)’s, resentment has grown even among private sector union members toward the public employee unions”

Mind you, I don’t know what it’s like with some of the powerful unions that seem so prevalent in the north…perhaps things have reached the point of crisis, but as a state employee (North Carolina) I’m looking at my third year without an annual raise or pay increase of any sort. We don’t have any collective bargaining rights. Our state employee pension system is constantly being tinkered with, and we’re facing what’s become an annual specter of furloughs, hiring freezes, reductions in operating hours, reductions in staff and services, etc. etc. In short, everything we get in the way of pay or benefits is at the mercy of the whims of our legislators.

To imply that public sector workers are somehow not “sharing the sacrifice”, while the private sector is trapped in a Grapes of Wrath scenario seems pretty disingenuous to me. It should also be said that public employees – more often than not – work for salaries considerably less than than private sector employees of equal education and experience…or simply work in fields that don’t even exist in the private sector. In that respect, many public employees have been sacrificing their whole careers. There is a trade-off, and for many of us, job security and a decent pension is all we have going for us.

Is there wasteful spending in the public sector? Of course…that’s not exactly a big secret, but it’s not always a matter of salaries and pensions. If some state’s budgets have gotten so out of hand that employee benefits have become a problem, so be it…the problem should most certainly be corrected somehow, for the common good. But the current mood towards public employees, their salaries and pensions does reek of scapegoating…our current economic mess didn’t develop in the public sector, nor will it be cured by gutting the public sector.

3 thoughts on “Public Sector Unions under Attack

  1. Great article!!

    This a severe problem — the public service union model of strong negotiations for their members drains money from other vital needs such as education health etc. The resulting tax increases drive voters to those who promise low taxes and drives government to outsource and privatize.

    See also the article on pubic pensions note the comment about pension reform being a progressive cause — it is. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/magazine/27fob-wwln-t.html

    You have two social democratic values clashing — support for unions vs a sustainable just society. In other words strong unions does not equal social democracy as almost any social democratic party in power will tell you.

  2. PUBLIC UNIONS ESPECIALLY HEALTH, FIRE AND SAFTY IN THE STATE OF MINNESOTA, MAKE WORK ORDERS AND IMPROVEMENTS NOT BASED ON SAFTY BUT BASED ON THE FACT THAT THE INSPECTORS ARE FORMER PRIVATE UNION FOLKS WHO GREESE THE HANDS OF THEIR BUDDIES AND MAKE SURE THEY HAVE WORK. ALSO, MANY CITY REQUIRMENTS DO NOT ALLOW FOR NON UNION CONTRACTORS TO BID ON JOBS. tHIS CREATES INCREDIBLY HIGH COSTS FOR DEVELEOPMENT AND MANY TIMES IT JUST DOES NOT HAPPEN BECAUSE OF THE HIGH COST OF UNIONS. THEREFORE JOBS ARE ACTUALLY LOST AND PROGRESS IS HALTED.

    • I can’t speak for Minnesota, but as Borough Council President in Carnegie PA, we are obligated by law to award contracts to the lowest bidder that meets the job requirements. That means that most of the work goes to non-union companies. However, even if they are non-union, those companies must adhere to a “prevailing wage” law. This insures that the workers are being paid fairly.

      As for cronyism, this is a problem that is completely independent of unions. Politicians in every level of government are tempted to push work to their friends. In return they may receive illegal kickbacks or a nice job after they leave office. Or perhaps they are just doing something to help out a friend. Regardless of the reason, this is always a challenge for those of us that believe in good government. The problem is now exacerbated with a huge increase in money that is flowing into campaigns since the Citizens United ruling.

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