Public Sector Unions Are Not the Enemy

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do. (via Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions –, 2/28/2011)

Krugman is right, What’s happening in Wisconsin is “a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy.”

The union busting is getting all the attention, and it certainly deserves the lion’s share but the following pointed out by Krugman is getting too little (Shock Doctrine, U.S.A., NYTimes, 2/24/2011):

Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

This reminds me of a plot I discovered about thirty years ago in Massachusetts where a state hospital was being sold off to a politician’s buddy for a song. Now we have Gov. Scott Walker attempting to privatize any or all state-owned power plants without taking bids, to anyone he chooses, at any price he considers “in the public interest.”

Just who are the bad guys, public sector employees willing to take every economic cut demanded but wanting to hold the line at their right to bargain collectively or a union busting governor who wants to take out a major source of funding for potential political opponents and who uses the budget bill as cover for what I would call a gift of public funds? Maybe Madison will begin our Tunisian Revolution.

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