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Sunday, March 6, 2011

NY Times Recognizes The Public Employee Union Symptoms, But Not The Cause

The Board of Editors of The New York Times is demanding significant cut backs in public sector union contracts, but refuses to recognize the cause of the problem, which is the entire structure of public employee unions:
At a time when public school students are being forced into ever more crowded classrooms, and poor families will lose state medical benefits, New York State is paying 10 times more for state employees’ pensions than it did just a decade ago....
In all, the salaries and benefits of state employees add up to $18.5 billion, or a fifth of New York’s operating budget. Unless those costs are reined in, New York will find itself unable to provide even essential services.

To point out these alarming facts is not to be anti- union, or anti-worker. In recent weeks, Republican politicians in the Midwest have distorted what should be a serious discussion about state employees’ benefits, cynically using it as a pretext to crush unions.
Yet The Times Editors, in the subsequent paragraphs, acknowledge that the public sector unions are not willing to make the necessary changes:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pursued a reasonable course, making it clear that he expects public unions to make sacrifices, starting with a salary freeze. He wants to require greater employee contributions to pensions and health benefits, with a goal of saving $450 million.

Negotiations begin this month, but so far union leaders have publicly resisted Mr. Cuomo’s proposals. If they don’t budge, Mr. Cuomo says he will have to lay off up to 9,800 workers. That would damage the state’s struggling economy. Some compromise must be found.
Having secured very sweet contracts for their members through political influence, the public sector unions have no incentive to change.  They know from history that politicians eventually back down or move on, and the consumer of public sector services ends up paying through higher taxes and diminished services.

The current system also pits older union membership, which has vested in all these benefits, against younger members, who will bear the cost of cutbacks and likely never will see such sweet deals for themselves because there simply is not enough money.

The cause of the problem is not just the terms of a particular public sector union contract, it is the system which allows public sector unions to pass costs onto future generations of taxpayers and union members.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is correct to recognize that collective bargaining for benefits is the cause of the problem, and that it is not enough to treat just the symptoms.

Related Posts:
What Did Former Providence Mayor David Cicilline (D-RI) Know, And When Did He Know It?
In Rhode Island, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure

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  1. A good piece Sir. But in bringing the NYT to task abut cause and effect, you failed to point out the real reason that the NYT did not go there.

    Were the PEU's unable to force due costs on its members most members would simply stop paying or quit the union altogether. When the union largess ran dry the Democrats would no longer have the monies to compete in the political marketplace. NYT knows this, that is why they don't go there...

  2. I struggle to understand why they think joining a union is a God given right, but workers don't have a God given right to refuse to join. They do not understand the difference between voluntary unionism (which nobody has a problem with) and forced unionism. It is amazing how the media spins this in such an untrue way.

    The other day I was reading an article about how the guy from the band Rage Against the Machine was performing in support of the unions. Funny that he thinks he is raging against the machine when unions ARE the machine. I am suggesting that he change the name of the band to Rage in Support of the Machine.

  3. Here's something else from Wisconsin:

    140 teacher retirement requests approved

    "The Green Bay School Board has approved a large number of retirement requests from teachers and administrators.

    With the future of the state budget uncertain, 140 teachers and 15 administrators asked to join the emeritus program. That works out to about 1 out of every 12 teachers in the district.

    The emeritus program gives one full year's salary paid over three years. That is in addition to pension benefits. In return, the retiree provides 10 days of service to the district each year during that time. The emeritus program is something that has been negotiated into the teachers' contract through collective bargaining."

    Got that? They get a year's salary paid over 3 years for 30 days of work.

  4. The sunny side of this dilemna is if NYS decides not to solve this problem we can move to a state that makes wise decisions and has a future for my children. I refuse to force my children to clean up the mess created by self serving politicians and union thugs. I have witnessed most of my friends leave the state. I wish my children could grow up near their grandparents, but we will not hang around to clean up the mess if the state goes broke. I love you NYS, but won't even look in the rear view mirror as I drive away if you crash and burn.

  5. It is my understanding that most if not all these local employee pension are social security opt-out plans. This is to say that neither state nor employee pays into or receives benefits from Social Security. This opens up a number of interesting possibilities. One would be that the Feds take over the plan, giving the employees social security benefits in place of their pensions, in return for the assets of the plans. The second is that the Social Security Administration could require that the plans conform to a standard set of accounting principles in order to maintain their opt-out status, preventing the kick-it-down the road component of the plans, at least while there are conservatives in power.

    These seem like workable solutions that would prevent the kinds of dilemmas facing many states at the moment.

  6. The best argument yet for the Wisconsin bill is Sunday's NYT editorial. Every argument!The pols are bought and paid for. The unions won't budge even in the worst of times. Yet the NYT's position is everything is fine if we would simply all get along.