Streams

All for One? The Relationship of Public and Private Unions

Friday, February 25, 2011

WNYC

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, E.J. McMahon senior fellow for Tax and Budgetary Studies at the Manhattan Institute and director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, and Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, discussed the public perception of public unions and if they should be held in equal standing with private unions.

The Wisconsin bill to limit collective bargaining rights for public sector unions passed in a seconds-long vote in the Wisconsin State Assembly at one in the morning on Friday. E.J. McMahon of the Manhattan Institute and Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, discussed what the implications may be for workers in private unions.

Baker said public employee unions are not to blame for the problems faced by the country today.

We’ve had a remarkable piece of jujitsu here. We’re sitting here, in the worst down-trend since the Great Depression because of an incredible run of Wall Street greed. We have these Wall Street guys who are back up on their feet making incredible profits, paying themselves huge bonuses… and instead of being mad at Wall Street, we’ve got people angry at school teachers and firefighters. We have the data on this — the compensation of public sector employees is actually somewhat less than private sector workers. So what public sector unions are about is getting workers their share, about ensuring them some security in their jobs. I think they’ve done a good thing for their workers. But the idea that some how their wages and benefits are out of line with the private sector — that doesn’t correspond to reality.

Baker thinks that public and private sector unions are suffering from the same trend. Private sector unionization used to be twenty percent as recently as 1980, but policies and economic trends since then have reduced participation to seven percent, weakening the bargaining position in the private sector and causing a decrease in pensions, wages and benefits. Now, he says, the political effort is to target public sector workers, which will further weaken unions in general. 

McMahon disagrees that the fates of public and private sector unions are intertwined.

There never actually has been that much of a similarity other than the name…Government is a monopoly, and public sector unions essentially are a set of cartels negotiating with a monopoly under rules, in many states, which are favorable to their interest.

McMahon sees the legislative effort in Wisconsin not as a tearing down of union benefits, but merely a request for public workers to contribute more. He said that is the case in almost half the country now, and in the federal government, workers are able to advocate for their working conditions without a union or collective bargaining. He believes that if Walker’s bill prevails, Wisconsin public workers will still have slightly more bargaining powers than federal government workers did in 1962. He said federal workers now don’t bargain wages and benefits, yet in his opinion, they are doing well. He sees no reason state public workers wouldn’t fare the same.

Baker doesn’t think this is congruent with the data. He said while federal workers earn slightly less now than Wisconsin public employees, if Walker’s proposal is passed, their compensation will drop below their private sector counterparts. 

What’s more, over the long-term, you’re going to get fewer people, or people with fewer skills applying for those [teaching] jobs. As it is now, you don’t see the top students at Harvard rushing to become teachers in the private sector. They might rush to go to Wall Street, a lot of them do that, but they aren’t lining up for those jobs. If you cut the pay and benefits ten or twenty percent — yeah, you could do that, you’d still find bodies, but that’s not going to be good public sector.

A caller from Ramsey said that people in the private sector, who are angry that public workers get benefits when private sector employees do not, are angry about the wrong thing. 

They should be asking, why don’t we have these benefits? Why does my CEO make $220 million a year, and I don’t have any decent benefits? That’s the question that should be asked.

McMahon thinks the issue really is limited to public sector unions, rather than an attack on unionization as a whole. When management makes reasonable requests in the face of budget shortfalls, he said, public employee union's inflexibility translates into uncooperativeness.

The problem with the public sector labor set-up in many of the states… is that the business model of public sector unions is not flexible. They’re intensely political organizations in themselves... The norm tends to be a great deal of resistance to anything in the way of real concessions…When you go to unions and say, look we need concessions, because the bottom has dropped out of our revenue and we can’t afford the deal we made with you, and you say if we don’t do it we’re going to have to lay off a lot of people, unions generally say ‘go ahead and lay them off.’”

Baker said treating public and private sector unions as different and unrelated is an over simplification.

Public sector unions do not enjoy monopolies…Most public sector services compete with private sectors services, so the idea of a monopoly is absurd… Unions represent workers, and there are upsides and downsides to that.

While Baker agreed that public workers receiving higher benefits does mean more taxpayer dollars, he argued that the ensuing higher quality services also has a real value. He said both public and private sector workers value the security that unions provide.

While it is true that some workers have been able to get rights despite not having a union, Baker said that is no argument against institutionalizing those protections through unionization. The two disagreed over the meaning of 'right to work' laws as well. Baker explained that unions have an obligation to fight for all the members of a bargaining unit, not just the ones who support the union, and therefore it is right for the workers to pay equally for equal protection. McMahon argued that it is unfair to force workers who disagree with their unions to pay dues.

Why should I be compelled to pay money to a group I don’t agree with and who I don’t want to belong to?

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Comments [44]

This country is in dire need of pension reform and medical insurance reform.Social security is not generous enough and single payer health care would be more efficient, What stands in the way of reform? People who have defined benefit pensions and cadillac health care plans that they do not contribute to have no incentive to reform these systems. I'm in favor of leveling public sector workers, not because I'm jealous, but because it's only once we're all in the same boat that we'll row together toward stronger social security and single payer health care. As it is our taxes support a large class of workers who will reflexively vote against the public good.

Feb. 26 2011 12:20 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Uhm. Yeah. Sorry but correlation is not causation. Take a look at the map of right to work states:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-to-work_law

It's pretty much a Red/Blue map of the united states, i.e. the wealthy coasts vs. the deep south and heartland farm states. I don't know where you got your "4-5%" figure but that unequal wage problem has been true since as far back as they have been keeping track of those figures, before private unions and certainly before public unions. Also, the wage gap may have closed but they are actually growing and building industrial jobs down south in the car industry, and those jobs are going to Americans, because those state have made themselves competitive in the marketplace - is Toyota thinking about opening up a facory in upstate NY? LOL, don't think so. Unions have essentially DESTROYED the possibility of heavy industry or manufacturing ever returning to the Northeast, GM and Chrysler were only kept alive to feed the UAW, they are not competitive and their profits (if they ever become profitable) will come from building and selling in China.

So try again. The "egalitarianism of workers" as you put it is a myth propagated by the Unions to keep their members fat and happy on public funds. It's not wrong per se, but in the same way that a corporation has only one legal goal, to create value for shareholders, a union has only one goal, to grow and expand membership and increase their salary and benefits.

We understand corps are a necessary evil,. why are Public Unions necessary? Do we really want this cancer, which will never stop growing, trying to reproduce itself and claiming more and more public resources from our state finances to continue to exist, fighting year after year for its very existence as working families (who do not have a huge labor lobby behind them) foot the bill and struggle to keep Public union members at the pitch of prosperity with their endless demands. You just don't get it, the good times are over for a very, very long time. Why fight this battle over and over again every time a contract comes up? When they win, we lose.

Feb. 25 2011 07:53 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ Mr Bad - It's not true that

"_Public sector unions provide no value_ to the taxpayers, they are as much an impediment to every type of cost control, performance based pay and reform..."

The taxpayers in states with strong public sector unions (density) receive, on average, approx. 4-5% higher wages as compared to low public sector union density states (think "right-to-work" states). Moreover, these "right-to-work" states tend to have lower productivity when compared to more heavily unionized states, with public sector unions being one of the strongest state-over-state compared to the private sector.

Negotiation is the bread and butter of unions and states, and when virtually every single public sector union has agreed over the past several years in negotiations to freeze their own pay, pay more more into pensions and benefits, establish reforms, etc., it can't be said that they are always intransigent when the writing is on the wall, which it is now. It must also be recognized that just as private sector unions are not a monolith, neither are public sector unions with each negotiating on their own standing.

As state budgets shrink, public sector unions will be forced to negotiate on terms they don't like, but that's life. They just ask to actually be at the nogotiating table, which it seems, if it is up to you they won't be.

Finally, there would be virtually no egalitarianism for workers without PUBLIC and private sector unions.

Feb. 25 2011 05:25 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Janet from South Plainfield, NJ

"What happened to a spirit of cooperation? And if you mention 'a common good' you must be a communist, right?"

Good points, I agree wholeheartedly, but I think we need to be honest here, we're all Americans here (I would guess, who else would bother?) and so we all know, from personal experience undoubtedly, how poor the quality of our "Public services" are, our national public education debacle is only the most salient example. What about some SHARED SACRIFICE on part of the unions, not just foregoing their "raises" and paying more towards their health care? What about doing something like DIRECT ACTION for other workers, as opposed to themselves only? I don't guess their Dem masters would like that too much, ACTUAL CLASS CONFLICT? NO, certainly not. When is the last time they worked towards a living wage for all workers? LOL, keep waiting, I'm sure they'll get around to it. Unions ONLY SERVE THEMSELVES, they need to stop pretending they are fighting for us, they are fighting for the right to make us pay for their completely unsustainable ride - what great liberal "friends". Who was it who said "To be a liberal nowadays you don't really have to believe in anything"? Or do anything for anyone else, apparently.

@ amalgam

"Bottomline: Neither party cares much about middle and lower class Americans."

Couldn't agree more, as Nader said, it isn't that there are no differences between the Dems and Repubs, just very few. i agree with everything you think about globalization, you're preaching to the choire. So take a good look at the rise of the unions in this country - they grew at the time the GREATEST PROSPERITY in the history of this country - but they didn't create it. I If you want to create a more egalitarian society you have to start with shrinking government budgets and raising taxes on the wealthy. Public sector unions provide no value to the taxpayers, they are as much an impediment to every type of cost control, performance based pay and reform as the right wing business lobby is to equitable taxation and social progress, such as can be achieved.

@ RBC from NYC

"Unions care about taxpayers just as much as corporations do. "

Again, couldn't agree more. But we aren't going to become a third world country, a third world country has nowhere to go but up.But what does your comment say about the culture of public sector employees ?That it attracts a mediocre, entitlement seeking type delighted for a sinecure. How many of the public sector employees in your last position could really "cut it" in a competitive environment?

Feb. 25 2011 02:54 PM
RBC from NYC

I just want to comment on something Mr Bad stated:

"Unions just don't care about taxpayers... the economy in this country is NEVER returning to full employment.... We simply cannot afford public sector unions any longer".

Unions care about taxpayers just as much as corporations do. There's a tendency lately to portray union workers as welfare queens, but corporations have been the biggest welfare queens in the past twenty years. In fact, Newsweek or Time (can't remember which one) did an article some years ago about multi-billion dollar corporations that paid ZERO federal taxes, but were paid millions in tax rebates from Uncle Sam because of the tax cuts and loopholes put in place by the Bush administration.

We will not see full employment levels for years because all of our jobs are now overseas. But when our economy bottoms out and we become the next third world country, all those jobs will come back and Americans will be the workers being paid 30 cents an hour.

We can afford public sector unions if benefits are given with fiscal responsibility and the private sector begins to hire the middle class workforce again. But this idea that some secretary or teacher working for the City is walking around with a $100K in pay is absurd. I'm a former public sector employee who left for the private sector because the pay was low and opportunites for professional growth scarce. If the benefits for public employees were as good as being reported, don't you think I'd still be working there????

Feb. 25 2011 01:08 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ Mr Bad - Again, your argument is narrow and doesn't reflect the complete context of what's happening. You go as far as to say that this anti-union sentiment/arguments are the beginning of a new history since their historical "value" don't apply anymore. Ah yes, the old American ahistorical saw; balderdash. Past is prologue ALWAYS and it will be evermore.

Janet is on to something when she talks about the decline of unionism, the rise of business, and the support of both trends by the U.S. govt. over the last 30-40 years by members of both parties as economic globalization set in. Bottomline: Neither party cares much about middle and lower class Americans.

Below is a historical analysis, since, of course, history matters because (economic-political) decisions made in the present that determine what occurs in the future. Take it for what it's worth.

Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About

http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-labor-union-decline

Feb. 25 2011 12:36 PM

Brian, this is the 2nd time this week that you have taken a biased stand against the left with your interviewing.
When you give flat-earth advocates an equal voice you elevate nonsense to an equal party to dialogue. Some matters are reality-based.
The very premise that public sector workers are enemies of tax payers is absurd. That argument is closely related to viewing civil service salaries as extortion. Are civil servants thieves when they accept their pay and benefits? Maybe your troglodyte guest would have them sleep under overpasses or shop counters and work for gruel and bread crumbs. For people who don't want union membership or dues check-off, let them try the free market bartering approach one by one. They will see what the owning class is willing to pay for their labor. Let such individuals savor their "freedom", and take the consequences of their choices. After all, the market knows best!

Feb. 25 2011 11:17 AM
janet from South Plainfield, NJ

Yes, unions have let us down but they rich have them as well; they call them Chambers of Commerce, PAC's etc. The freedom of association I cite says you have a right to join together to bargain collectively (obvs) but I also agree that's a right NOT to associate. I never have believed in 'closed shops'. How about union negotiated contracts NOT apply to non-union members?
The attitude in America right now seems to turn everything into a competition, whether it's taxes (the loop-holes that allow some high earners to pay less than lower earners) or daily living. Everybody's got a racket, an angle, a deal, so 'us poor schmucks' who just go to work every day, pay our taxes straight and buy for the sticker price ( American-made if at all possible) feel cheated. What happened to a spirit of cooperation? And if you mention 'a common good' you must be a communist, right?

Feb. 25 2011 11:11 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Janet from South Plainfield, NJ

You're right on about the unions "giving up" completely on the broader front of labor rights for everyone, how does removing collective bargaining threaten "freedom of association"? That's just hyperbole, collective bargaining is not equivalent to freedom of association, obvs.

You're right that the unions HAVE agreed to concessions but this is not just for Teachers Unions and not just for the state. State aid to municipalities is going down to nothing in Wisconsin, these areas need the freedom to deal with their unionized workforce in other sectors too.

The only choice is to raise taxes locally and statewide, who will pay those taxes? It won't be the wealthy, I'll bet on that. Unions just don't care about taxpayers - the economy in this country is NEVER returning to full employment, it will get worse over time, the GDP projections for this year have just been revised downward, again. We simply cannot afford public sector unions any longer, historical arguments for their value are just that, "historical".

Feb. 25 2011 10:56 AM
dboy from nyc

We paid, BIG time to bail out the "Too Big To Fail™". Wall Street still has it's summer homes and billion dollar bank accounts and now the working class is being forced to give up their benefits??? At least the few that still have those jobs...

A better debate might be the collusion of government and big banking.

Who's got all the cheese???

Feb. 25 2011 10:50 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I love how Brian framed these laws as a "union busting" tactic, when what we're actually talking about is the right NOT to have to join a political lobbying group in order to work a certain job. What if, god help you, you're a Republican and have to join the SEIU? Isn't it an infringement on your personal freedom to have to contribute to an organization which is part of Barack Obama's Organizing for America "grassroots" movement? How would you Dems like to give the Koch brothers $ right out of your paycheck to fund some slimy mudslinging ad spree?

Feb. 25 2011 10:45 AM
Janet from South Plainfield, NJ

While I believe that public workers benefits (pensions, retirement age, fully paid insurance) should be more in line with the public sector the fact that the workers in Wisconsin have agreed with all concessions and this is just pure union busting. After WWII there were so many men needing jobs that if it wasn't for the GI Bill and unions we wouldn't have the middle class as we know it. We'd all be making the minimum wage, which no one can live on. Everyone forgets that the tax rate under Eisenhower was 90%. Americans now don't want to pay for anything, whether it's a share of their benefits, taxes for the public good, reinvesting in their companies and employees or the TRUE cost of American made goods. Part of the problem is that nagging feeling that people who make a great deal more than you are paying much less ( let's give the wealthy a break and maybe they'll hire us!?!)
Somewhere along the line Unions lost sight of their mission: the betterment of ALL workers, so they fed an 'us' and 'them' mentality. But if we allow the right under the constitution (freedom of association) to be taken we will all be at the mercy of business, and let's face it, in this economy, we can all be replaced.

Feb. 25 2011 10:42 AM
Scott

Hi Brian, the earlier commenter is not even talking about digging a new subway tunnel--the G train simply stops at Court Square--a single station away from Queens Plaza--and for no apparent reason. If the G would just continue that one station more, you wouldn't need to transfer at all. JUST ONE STOP! So silly.

Feb. 25 2011 10:41 AM
Nancycadet from Fort Greene

EJ McMahon is a fool, but a well paid one, no doubt. His last assertion that he knew " many union workers" who believed such and such is such a silly baseless attempt to provide evidence for his ideology. It is not unlike the
City Council member who claimed that sanitation workers told him they were ordered to slow down during the snowstorm clean up. Names, proof are missing. Of course there are divergent opinions among union members, or any thinking people. do we all agree that our taxes or other contributions are always going to the right place, ie. The Pentagon?

Feb. 25 2011 10:34 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

EJ is such a fraud, "costs" from private sector unions get passed on to consumers in prices... BS! ONLY IF WE BUY THEIR PRODUCTS.

Nobody gets to NOT PAY TAXES, except the wealthy.

Feb. 25 2011 10:33 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Sorry, not Brooks. I meant Baker or McMahon

Feb. 25 2011 10:31 AM
dboy from nyc

As a self-employed individual with absolutely no "benefits" that I don't have to pay for, I am sick and tired of listening to workers, public or private whining about giving up seemingly insignificant increments of very fat benefit packages.

ON THE OTHER HAND, IT WAS NOT THE WORKING CLASS THAT DESTROYED THE WORLD ECONOMY!!! THE WORKING CLASS SHOULD NOT BE FORCED TO PAY MORE THAN THEY ALREADY HAVE FOR THE MASSIVE SCREW-UP OF THE OLIGARCHIC CAPITALISM® THAT HAS BEEN SUBSTITUTED FOR DEMOCRACY IN THIS COUNTRY!!!

Feb. 25 2011 10:31 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Does Brooks pretend to know the minds of the majority of the union members' minds in Albany from talking to the members he talked to? Who is going to choose to talk to David Brooks?

Feb. 25 2011 10:30 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Broad sweeping statements about what "lots of people say" are straw men arguments and serve no purpose except as sound bites.

Feb. 25 2011 10:28 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

Oh, and, those wealthy who are against fair taxation are traitors (boldface and caps).
No less than the Tories or anyone else who back-stabbed what is and can further be the greatest hope for the world, the United States of America!

Feb. 25 2011 10:27 AM
jm

I wonder why some think that lowering the overall bar for working conditions is preferable to improving their own. Do the public sector union opponents really think these organizations are responsible for the financial downfall of this country?

I just looked at some Wiki stats for the United States in comparison with other countries in terms of required paid vacation days and parental leave (hint: 0 paid days in either case!). Add these to our existing abysmal healthcare situation, and it's clear the US is steadily racing to the bottom. Republicans are hell-bent on dividing this country into 2 classes: the rich, and the serfs. It's clear that their free market approach isn't working!

Feb. 25 2011 10:24 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

If David Brooks comments on anything, I listen. He is Republican with sense.
However, public unions collective bargaining is needed. The society loses if we lose any advantage over the wealthy who as you can see by what's happening, actually can manipulate the economy (corporations are now people!).
Unions got fat and lazy and cut many many deals with the city-1549 is in the back pocket of NYC and has been for years!!!
Let this go on a national scale and I will be against unions, myself. Heck they won't have any power and will just take dues-kind of like local bully or mobster doing protection rackets.
Hey, America, time to learn history and why things exist and are important, but, they must be monitored for efficiency and not a place to give your friend a job.

Feb. 25 2011 10:24 AM
RJ from prospect hts

I think, "I wish I had a union." No, there's no significant difference between public unions and private. When I buy products, some of my payment is going to the benefits of unionized workers of the private sector.

Workers are workers, and there a different problematic conditions in the public and private sectors. Yes, unionized private sector workers are going against greedy business; workers in the public sector have faced patronage, wretched salaries, demands for unpaid overtime, and more; not recently, since public sector unions have been around for a long time, and have given up a great deal of current income for future benefits.

The private sector unions have already been decimated by massive anti-union propaganda, overpowering funding, threats (sometimes violent).

The dichotomization between "taxpayers" and "public sector workers" is bogus--we are them, they are us; their work isn't contracted out overseas the way "private" work is sent overseas.

Feb. 25 2011 10:21 AM
SP from NYC

I am actually pro-union, but I believe there is a conundrum: when private companies negotiate with their unions, both have "skin in the game," and therefore have a stake in keeping the enterprise solvent, but when public employees negotiate with government, the payees are the taxpayers, while the negotiators on the other side are also public employees, while those who foot the bill are unrepresented.

Feb. 25 2011 10:21 AM

If these Tea Bag/Republicans are so darn worried about balancing budgets, then why the holy heck are they so against raising the taxes back on that 1% of the population?

Stop supporting corporate tax breaks, and tax breaks on the rich.

We ask people to run into burning buildings, at personal risk, we ask people to educate our children, and we want to remove their benefits?

Feb. 25 2011 10:21 AM
ml from inwood

Taken from comments on Paul Krugman's NYTimes Sunday editorial on Wisconsin: Only five states do not allow collective bargaining for educators. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores: South Carolina, 50th; North Carolina, 49th; Georgia, 48th; Texas, 47th; Virginia, 44th. Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is 2nd.

Feb. 25 2011 10:21 AM
Michele Mattingly from Jackson Heights

Dean Baker referred to research findings that show that public sector workers on average make less than comparable private sector workers. Brian Lehrer then dismissed this, saying that there were "probably" some studies that showed this and some that didn't and that he didn't want to get bogged down in statistics. What is the point of having an expert guest who knows the research on the topic if the host doesn't want to deal with credible research findings?

http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/wage-penalty-state-local-gov-employees/

Feb. 25 2011 10:20 AM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, Ca.

Private-sector workers who think this has nothing to do with them remind me of people who don't care because their neighbour's house is on fire.

Of course, management and the uppers in general do everything they can to convince as many as they can that every other worker really lives in a different neighbourhood entirely. This, combined with a certain native human spitefulness about which one Mark Ames has written so well, is how they've been able to obscure the fact that helping the poorest of us raises capitalism's floor for the rest of us.

Feb. 25 2011 10:20 AM
peter

The reason Unions don't ever want to give back is because the counterparties - whether state or corporate - NEVER offer to share the wealth in good times.

It's the same old refrain:
"Oh, we don't have the money to afford the contract we agreed to"...

Feb. 25 2011 10:19 AM
John G from Washington Heights

The question of whom unions organize against is an interesting, if flawed, question. Simply, they are organized against politicians.This is simply because politicians must focus on short-term budgets. However, unions tend to take a long-term view. This is why unions consistently bargain for pensions and benefits and sacrifice salary. And politicians accept this because it balances a budget in the time they are in office. But 20-30 years down the line, negotiated pensions still have to be paid. And even those politicians they support negotiate very hard against the unions because they are still focused on the short-term.

Feb. 25 2011 10:19 AM
Edward from NJ

Bosses hate unions. Even nice, well-meaning bosses hate unions because they want to feel like they treat their employees well because they're good people -- not because they are compelled by a contract.

Feb. 25 2011 10:19 AM
Paul from Ridgewood NJ/NYC

Of course the unions are political "animals". The Republicans virtually always want to give them nothing. What choice do the unions have but to (usually) go with Democrats? And the cycle continues...

Feb. 25 2011 10:19 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh, and, AND public workers ARE tax payers too. Again PUBLIC WORKERS ARE TAX PAYERS TOO. And they pay the increases in prices on products that are made by non public workers to support their raises. You see, you don't get the whole picture. Why do product prices increase? Well one reason is because people who make the products by private companies get salary increases.

Feb. 25 2011 10:18 AM
nico from Crown Heights

Thank you first caller! Sorry I missed your name. Indeed. That's the question private sector workers should be asking: Why don't I have a fat pension and solid benefits?!

Feb. 25 2011 10:17 AM
moo from manhattan

wisconsin's pension plans are something like 97% paid for - in very good shape. it's the private wall street finance managers that cost 4 times those that work for the state who do the same thing. please bring this up!!!!

private sector employee benefits are generally bad. insurance, vacation time, 401K, pension - all of the private sector needs to look to the public and take care of their employees more not less. that should be the goal. why are corporate profits always paramount. if people had more money and security, the economy would be better. america would be happier.

Feb. 25 2011 10:15 AM
Nancycadet from Fort greene

Brian Lehrer's comment to Dean Baker was ludicrous: I don't want to get bogged own in statistics, dueling statistics. He asks for "opinion," not data or facts.

Of course , predictably the Manhattan institute tool was the first to offer "dueling statistics," but his were false.

Feb. 25 2011 10:15 AM

I think the issue is framed backwards: it's not "what will happen in the private sector following what's happening from the public sector", but how Government is catching up to trends in the private sector.

Just think of all the big businesses that are anti-union (Wallmart and Starbucks come to mind), and think about the massive profits they make. What's happening now is that Indiana has woken up to the [false] association beween union-busting and profits.

Feb. 25 2011 10:14 AM
nico from Crown Heights

The question is how should non-unionized private workers respond? Instead of resentment and envy, why don't they get some of those benefits and protections themselves?! Organize! Unionize!

Feb. 25 2011 10:14 AM
Robert from NYC

You neglect to note that the workers in Wisconsin workers have agreed to contribute more to their benefits plans. Again you're attacking them on something that's not even the issue.

Feb. 25 2011 10:14 AM
Robert from NYC

You're bringing up the wrong issue as is becoming the norm on this show, instead of talking about the issues at large, Brian. The issues isn't about pitting one union type against another it's about taking away the collective bargaining rights of unions and workers. So cut the crap and get to the point instead of getting people's backs up against each other to get an audience.

Feb. 25 2011 10:11 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

This is a question as old as the hills, since non-union workers benefit alongside the union members who take the actual risks by confronting management. Unions have created higher wages and better benefits for non-members, and while the principle that everyone should be free to join or not join is reasonable, is it fair that non-union workers who benefit while taking none of the risks be free to remain neutral, while benefiting nonetheless? Naturally, the bosses have to pay the non-union members more as well, to keep them from joining the unions right out!

Feb. 25 2011 10:10 AM
phil

The cogent point in Wisconsin is that the proposed law is only targeting some public sector unions, those which lean more Democratic. The Republican-leaning public sector unions, the police and fire fighters are exempt. This is not about unions per se; this is about political payback

Feb. 25 2011 10:10 AM
Timothy from Queens

Why does Gov. Christie think public employees (who are members of unions) don't ALSO pay the same taxes everyone else pays? When will some sane individual finally admit the only obvious conclusion: raise the taxes FOR EVERYBODY to cover essential expenditure. If the Spend/Spend/Spend era is over, perhaps the Cut Taxes/Cut Taxes/Cut Taxes movement is also over.

Feb. 25 2011 10:09 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit

Good choices, Brian.....should be a good segment.

On this topic....yesterday's NY Post had an op-ed by another Manhattan Institute scholar, Nicole Gelinas, that actually criticized Governor Christie's new budget for not being tough enough(!) in reigning in costs and limiting future union burdens on the citizens. It argues that his actions don't really live up to his rhetoric.

Feb. 25 2011 08:59 AM

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