Posted on Friday, January 7, 2011
As labor costs continue to strain state budgets, governors and lawmakers have proposed monumental reforms to public labor unions, the New York Times reports. In some cases, the proposals would dissolve the unions altogether.
Unions, which can bargain for high wages, health care and pensions, have exacerbated state budget problems, these governors claim. With Republicans now in control of 26 state legislatures, and with taxpayers frustrated that their dollars are funding what they perceive to be overly lavish worker benefits, some state leaders are seizing an opportunity to introduce fundamental changes to the way unions operate.
Government workers complain that recent budget woes have driven officials and taxpayers to villainize them unfairly.
"We get paid to do a service, and we do that service very well," Gregory Floyd, president of the New York City local division of the Teamsters union, told the Huffington Post. "We're not rich, we don't retire rich, and we don't have lucrative pensions."
For union supporters, the NYT offers some frightening cuts in certain states, including:
• In Wisconsin, Republican governor Scott Walker has proposed taking away government workers' right to form unions.
• In Ohio, Republican governor John Kasich has suggested depriving child care and home care workers of their right to unionize, and teachers of their right to strike.
• In New York, Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo is reportedly planning to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers.
These moves, and others like them, could deal crippling blows to public workers' unions, weakening workers' rights for years to come. The political climate, though, seems right for such changes.
As they attempt to repair budgets awash in red ink, local governments across the nation have found themselves restrained by union contracts, which in some cases limit their ability to lay off workers. In Hamtramck, Mich., for instance, police officers and firefighters consume nearly two-thirds of the small city's expenses, but union contracts make further layoffs nearly impossible. According to the city manager, Hamtramck is set to run out of money sometime during the first few months of this year.
Arthur Delaney Huffington PostThe Huffington Post | William Alden