Sunday, March 6, 2011

New York Times Doesn't Get It

Yesterday, the New York Times editorial outlined the disastrous financial situation New York State finds itself in regarding public employees. My state is paying 1,000% for public employee pensions compared to what was paid a mere ten years ago. The salaries and benefits of our public employees is 1/5th of the total budget. This all comes at a time when many New Yorkers find themselves without work or have taken wage and hour cuts; indeed, the editorial reports private sector workers in the state have seen their pay cut 9%, while unions took a 4% raise.

But devoted to their ideology, the Times states:

To point out these alarming facts is not to be anti- union, or anti-worker. In recent weeks, Republican politicians in the Midwest have distorted what should be a serious discussion about state employees’ benefits, cynically using it as a pretext to crush unions.
Is it really so unthinkable that the unions, combined with the politicians they have bought with taxpayer money, could be the problem? Three paragraphs later, the Times says: "Negotiations begin this month, but so far union leaders have publicly resisted Mr. Cuomo’s proposals."

They end their piece with this quote:

Unlike Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Governor Cuomo is not trying to break the unions. He is pressing them to accept a salary freeze and a reduction in benefits for new workers. The unions need to negotiate seriously.
This is wrong. The unions do not need to negotiate, period. The Triborough Amendment, as pointed out by the Times, allows unions to keep their current contracts until new contracts are negotiated. If the contracts are currently cushy, such as 4% pay raises and only contributing half to their pensions and health care that private sector workers do, then unions in the state can refuse to accept any new contract. They have all of the bargaining chips. The Times is absolutely wrong to say the unions need to negotiate. We need them to, but as anyone who understands anything about negotiations can tell you, that plays into the other party's hands.

No negotiations can occur because there is no platform to build a compromise on. The unions have what they want and we have no means of removing that. Assembly members, largely bought by the $5 million dumped into state politics by the New York State United Teachers, will never even consider changing the rules of the game.

Nowhere in the Times piece is a solution to this forthcoming. If we cannot weaken the unions like Governor Walker and the unions have no reason to negotiate, then those problems laid out by the Times will continue to get worse in a state that can ill afford it. Governor Cuomo has asked for moderate sacrifices, to which the unions responded with a $1.1 million ad blitz but no concessions.

New York was recently rated the worst state to do business in the entire nation. We have the second highest tax rates as a percentage of income. Our property taxes are the highest, as are our spending on Medicare and education. But the only option the unions are willing to accept is higher taxes and, scary enough, they are in a legal position to demand it.

New York State belongs to the unions. We just live here and pay for it.

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