A start by public unions
The state's public employee unions must be a part of the solution to our economic woes, as Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes said Monday in discussing proposed concessions on health care plans. Their collective bargaining rights, under brutal assault in Wisconsin and elsewhere, must remain "sacrosanct" as union officials demanded. The unions, however, have not gone far enough in making the kinds of concessions workers have made in the private sector, and until they do they will leave themselves wide open to unfair scapegoating.
The unions, which include the Massachusetts Teachers Association, proposed savings of $120 million in the first year, but in demanding that $60 million be returned to workers for health care, those savings for the state are cut in half. Rather than advocating membership in the state's Group Insurance Commission, which has saved Pittsfield significant money on health care costs, the unions offer a cumbersome proposal to negotiate changes to bring existing plans in line with the GIC or go to third-party mediation. A proposal allowing all public unions in a city to negotiate as one would upset the balance of power and make it more difficult for cities to achieve needed cost reductions.
By making these proposals, the state's public unions are behaving far more responsibly than are the union-busters who are giving a free ride to those truly responsible for our economic plight. The grim realities are undeniable, however. Given the concessions made in the private sector when it comes to health care costs, the public unions must do even more.
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