Friday, June 8, 2012

Public Employee Unions Under Attack

Failing to unseat Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is just the latest flub in the battle by public sector union labor to preserve its power in politics and the recovering economy. Outspent and out-organized by capitalist PACs and other campaign contributors, labor unions failed miserably in their counterattack against Walker’s rabid anti-uinion legislative record in the state. Freedom Works spokesman Brendan Steinhauser characterizes Walker’s recall victory as a signal for anti-union forces to redouble their efforts across the nation: “We absolutely intend to use this going forward,” he said. According to Steinhauser, the message is “Be bold, be a leader, be a conservative and you’ll be rewarded.”

Across the country, attacks on organized labor abound. In California, a November ballott initiative would prohibit unions from using member dues withheld from paychecks for any political purpose. And, San Diego and San Jose citizens overwhelmingly voted this week to cut pension benefits for city workers. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed legislation earlier this year to make that state the 23d “right to work” state in this country, by prohibiting labor unions from withholding dues from non-member paychecks. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation reducing teacher tenure and collective bargaining rights. Michigan unions face tough opposition to their efforts to enact a state constitutional provision protecting collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Clark University Labor Relations Professor Gary Chaison says public sector unions are losing the public relations battle. “I think that it’s the fault of the unions themselves for failing to recognize they are out of step with the public sympathies. There is a perception that, through their political influence, they are getting a special deal. They’re doing well while others are not.” Even Staunch Democrats like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat quinn are going after public employee union perks. Emanuel is calling for suspension of automatic cost of living pension benefit increases for retired public employees, and Quinn is looking for ways to reduce pension benefits due to current state employees.

So, while Wisconsin citizens may dislike their governor’s barnstorming anti-union tactics, apparently they dislike long favored public employee union perks even less.
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