Monday, May 09, 2011

Pensions and the Public Employee: Can the Unions Escape a "Union vs. Taxpayer" Position?

Considerable news attention followed efforts by Republican governors in the Midwest, particularly Michigan and Wisconsin, to reduce state spending by cutting into pensions, tenure and other benefits of public employees, particularly unionized employees, of these states. After bruising but successful efforts by Republicans in these states; some Democratic governors, such as in Maryland, have adopted less stringent but still cost-cutting provisions in their states. In a period of tight budgets, compensation and benefits for employees have become a ready target as some economists have found that BOTH compensation and benefits are higher for public employees in comparison to private counterparts in numerous states.

As a public employee (state of Tennessee) myself, it has been distressing to receive no raise for the last two years; especially in view of what appears to be an increasingly inflationary future. That said, the best strategy for public employees seems to be a quiet, behind-the-scenes approach; in a season when many are having trouble getting jobs and where both state and the U.S. government struggle to get revenues to cover spending; the politican calling for cuts in state and federal budgets for employee benefits very easily may be more popular than a union head calling for greater benefits and protection of public employees.

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