Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is It Union Busting – Or Necessary Cost Containment?

It started in Wisconsin where Republican Governor Scott Walker proposed a budget which demanded concessions from certain state employees (such as teachers, but not police and firefighters). The governor set in his sights the employees rights to collective bargaining. Walker’s approach has now spread to other states, and, like the protesters in the Wisconsin state capital, protests in other states are also taking place.

The increasing costs for state and federal employees continues to spiral upwards, while many who work in the private sector have seen their salaries and benefits take a cut. In many cases in the private sector, employees are asked to contribute more and more for health insurance, and in some cases pay more for less benefit.

I don’t think it is wrong for people working in the private sector – whose taxes pay the salaries of government workers - to expect government workers to also feel the effects of having less government budget money to pay for salaries and benefits. I do not agree, however, with the governor’s approach to the problem by limiting the public employees' collective bargaining.

If states have less money to spend for government employees, and unions refuse to make concessions to help meet a reduced budget, then there is only one option: cut jobs. It sounds like a bitter pill, but something has to give. As a taxpayer who has worked in private industry all my life, I have grown tired of state and federal entities who spend money as if they had a blank check. I am also tired of the rich pensions and benefits that some many state and federal agencies enjoy, again, as if there was a blank check.

It’s time for government employees to take some cuts. But, ihe way to do it is NOT by limiting bargaining rights. The way to do it is exactly through bargaining. If government employees won’t make concessions then they will have to face the hard reality – some of their jobs may be gone. This may be “tough love” but it may be the only fair thing to do for employees AND for taxpayers.

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