Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Union Busting In Wisconsin And In Other Parts of the Country

There is an assault on public sector workers throughout many parts of this country. Most of it is centered on the fact that public sector workers often contribute less for health insurance and pensions than their private sector counter parts. 

What they leave out is that these same public sector workers are paid between 3% and 11% than there private sector counterparts. The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) just published an important report which documents this. 

Public sector workers also do not have the opportunity to make real money as their private sector counterparts do. So, part of the deal is that public sector workers will make less, but have better benefits. 

In any event, this should not be about public vs. private sector workers or union vs. non-union workers. If their is a budget problem, and I believe there is one, then the focus should be on fixing it. A smart Governor or Mayor would look to unions as economic partners. It is not in the governments interest or the unions interest to have to lay off workers or cut services. 

Some simple things that could be done might be to agree to a wage freeze. Perhaps, some workers would agree to work longer hours for less pay-eliminating the need to hire others or pay OT. Perhaps, some workers might agree to forgo using a certain amount of vacation or sick leave for a temporary period of time. 

Most importantly, perhaps the workers can work with the government to make sure that government operates faster, cheaper and better. Increased productivity benefits us all. 

Forcing unions to give up the right of dues check off and severely limiting the right of unions to collectively bargain has nothing to do with a budget crisis and is just plain union busting plain and simple. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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Over the last thirty years, anti-union or anti-worker interests have done a brilliant job in pitting non-unionized or private sector versus unionized and public sector workers. The issue for non-unionized or private sector workers, without better wages or health benefits is not that the unionized or public sector workers have these benefits, but rather why the private sector and non-unionized do not. The fact is, since Ronald Reagan became President, ALL workers have been hammered. Median wages have been stagnant for thirty years (factor in inflation, especially for health benefits, and their take-home pay has been severely cut). Meanwhile the top 5%'s net wealth has increased exponentially. There could not be a stronger case for why greater unionization benefits all workers.

Furthermore, not only are the wages of public sector workers lower than their private sector counterparts, but when you control for education- across the board public sector workers (who possess more education than private sector workers) are paid less in terms of both wages and benefits.

Posted by: Sujan Vasavada | Feb 28, 2011 9:10:35 AM

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