State and local politicians attacking unions

NYHTC — February 14, 2011

Politicians at state and local levels are blaming government workers and their unions for growing deficits in state and local budgets. They claim public workers' health and pension benefits are out of proportion with those of workers in the private sector and must be reduced. Such attacks are steadily increasing throughout the country. NYHTC members should be aware of this trend because attacks on government workers and their unions lay the groundwork for attacks against private sector unions like NYHTC.

A few recent examples of these attacks follow.

In South Dakota, state legislators cannot abolish public sector unions, so Republican state legislators are considering a bill that would prohibit city governments from negotiating contracts with public sector unions that represent city workers. This extreme step is being seriously considered even though public employees in South Dakota do not have the right to strike or to engage in binding arbitration.

In New Hampshire, state legislators are moving toward repealing the state's "evergreen law." If the bill becomes law, wage increases in contracts negotiated after it is passed will no longer go into effect automatically once a contract has expired. Instead, wages would remain frozen until after a new contract has been agreed upon. Under such a law, the government would stand to benefit by drawing out contract negotiations as long as possible.

In South Carolina, the newly-elected governor praised her nominee for director of the state's labor, licensing, and regulation department for her union-fighting background. She said it would be helpful in the state's fights against unions, particularly in keeping the union out of its Boeing plant. The International Association of Machinists promptly sued the governor for having made those remarks. According to an Associated Press report, the governor responded, "There's no secret I don't like the unions."

Ellis, Jonathan. State might limit public unions. Argus Leader. January 23, 2011.

Spolar, Matthew. House panel takes up evergreen law. Concord Monitor. February 2, 2011.

Spolar, Matthew. Senate votes to repeal evergreen law. Concord Monitor. January 20, 2011.

Davenport, Jim. Associated Press. Union Sues Over Haley's Remarks About Boeing Plant. ABC News. January 20, 2011.