Walter Mead makes the obvious point that no one seems to want to acknowledge: Republican governors aren’t the only ones looking to break the stranglehold that public employee unions have on state governance. Democratic governors and mayors are doing the exact same thing. Not because they want to, but because they have to: there’s no money to keep the “big blue” model functioning. While GOP governors might be more upfront about their intentions, Mead points out that recent anti-union policy proposals in deep-blue states and municipalities like New York, Chicago and Providence indicate that the alliance between public labour unions and Democrats is breaking down fast.
Mead writes that the public-sector labour movement is inexorably following the downward spiral of private-sector unions: Government simply can’t afford the pay and benefits it negotiated with its employees.
“In the private sector, unions can do less and less to protect their members; naturally enough, fewer and fewer workers make the choice to join — or are willing to run the risks and do the work that organising a union involves.
Public sector unions did not have to face that kind of pressure until recent years. You can’t outsource the Department of Motor Vehicles or the local public school to China. And government didn’t face the relentless pressure to raise productivity and automate that the private sector does. As long as voters, bond buyers and Uncle Sam were willing to pick up the tab and put up with inefficiencies, government worker unions lived in a time warp. The pressures that were reshaping the rest of society and breaking up the old labour system in the private sector simply didn’t apply.
Now they do. State and local budgets have reached the breaking point, and the public sector unions must now negotiate under the gun. Feeble, weak and defensive, they cannot do much for their members.
Look at Wisconsin: in a desperate effort to stave off an attack on their collective bargaining status, the Wisconsin unions have offered to capitulate to Governor Walker’s financial demands. The unions are no longer bargaining for higher pay; they are not even able to resist demands for pay cuts. They are simply bargaining to stay alive.”
You can read the whole piece here.
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