Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unions, Public or Private, Are Not the Problem

Over the last couple of months, we've seen an unprecedented attack on public sector unions across the nation. According to this article from the LA Times via the Sacramento Bee, nearly half of the states are in varying stages of attacking public and private sector unions.

Nearly half of the states are considering legislation to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights. In New Hampshire, the House last week approved a measure that one union leader assailed as "Wisconsin on steroids."

But it's not just budgetary concerns driving Republican officeholders to take on unions, traditionally a strong Democratic ally.

In Maine, the newly elected Republican governor ordered the removal of a mural depicting the state's labor history from a state building because, his spokeswoman said, it portrayed a one-sided message supporting organized labor.

A number of states are considering bills that would limit unions' ability to collect dues from public employees. The Florida House approved a bill to ban dues deductions from government paychecks and require unions to obtain members' permission before using dues for political activity. Similar legislation is under consideration in Kansas. Other bills would eliminate a requirement that workers covered by union contracts pay union dues or fees.
There is some push back going on as well, including the law suit in Wisconsin to block implementation of the anti union law there and in Ohio, opponents of Ohio's Senate Bill 5 are collecting signatures for a ballot referendum to repeal the law there. Yesterday (Monday, April 4), there were rallies all across the country in support of Unions and worker rights.

Today, MSNBC had a couple of articles on public sector workers. The first is on workers in general:
They take away your trash. They protect your homes, your property and your families. They put out your fires and they educate your children. And somehow, in the past year or so, the uniforms many of them wear have grown a bull's-eye on the back. Or at least that's how they feel.

After the worst recession since the Great Depression, as state and local governments struggle to meet budgets with dwindling revenues, public union workers have become targets of politicians, pundits and ordinary citizens who think their salaries are too high and their jobs too cushy.
The second article is based on an interview with a fire department dispatcher (and union officer) in Westport, CT. The following piece I found especially telling:
Gilbertie said the union recognizes that money is tight and made concessions, including agreeing to having its members pay a bigger share of health care costs.

“I didn’t take this job to get rich,” said Gilbertie, who is vice president of his union local. “You take a job with AIG to get rich. That’s not why I took this job.”
While inflation is picking up across the country, the public sector unions are willing to negotiate and share the sacrifice, knowing that cities are hurting for revenues. They and their members don't like it, just as the UAW workers and other unions have sacrificed over these past few years. But they do it because they recognize the need.

They are not the enemy, just as teachers are not the enemy. Firefighters, emergency services personnel, police, teachers, sanitation workers are not the people who crashed the economy. They are not the people who get the big tax cuts and make the large campaign contributions either.

And because I can:

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