Based on this article, it seems that Minnesota’s unions are itching for a fight over a proposed wage freeze. They shouldn’t expect much public sympathy if that fight erupts.
Predictably, the DFL is fighting for public worker unions because they’re key contributors to DFL campaigns. Rep. Thissen, the House Minority Leader, is chief among them:
“There’s no reason for us to demonize public employees and single them out as the group that ought to bear the brunt of the burden,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “The idea that you are going to be attacking middle-class Minnesotans who are doing a public service…makes no sense to me.”
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that shared sacrifice will be needed in fixing Minnesota’s budget problems. It does require twisted logic to understand how Rep. Thissen gets from sharing in Minnesota’s sacrifices to making public employees bear the brunt of Minnesota’s budgetary problems.
Private sector employees have taken hits, either in the form of wage freezes, increased contributions to their health care plan or who have been layed off. Rep. Thissen’s thinking indicates that he thinks public sector workers are more equal than private sector employees, that they should be exempted from the pain.
Calling for a wage freeze for public sector employees when private sector employees have lost their jobs is hardly the definition of attacking public sector employees. It’s more like a gentle tap than a full frontal assault.
Rep. Thissen’s logic appears to be that we shouldn’t freeze public union workers’ pay because it isn’t a silver bullet solution. Rep. Thissen knows better than think there’s a single silver bullet solution.
This section of the article offers a great contrast between the public and private sectors:
For years, government work was seen as a tradeoff: slightly lower salaries in exchange for security, good benefits and a comfortable pension. Over time, other perks crept in.
At the University of Minnesota, employees attended school free until last year; they now pay 25 percent. Up until just a few years ago, Duluth city employees got free health care when they retired, including public safety workers who could retire in their mid-40s with young families.
Corporations, meanwhile, have been moving away in massive numbers from the defined benefit programs that governments had emulated. In 2008, just 48,000 companies in the U.S. offered pension programs, down from 150,000 in 1988.
Public employees aren’t getting rich but they’re doing far better than private sector employees. It isn’t acceptable for them to complain about wage freezes while Minnesota has a deficit or while private sector workers are losing their jobs or taking pay cuts.
Rep. Thissen isn’t building a great public image in all this. He’s building a reputation of being a whiner. He’s building a reputation of supporting only people who belong to unions.
It’s time for the DFL to prove that they’re for the little guy, not just the little guy who belongs to a union. Thus far, there isn’t much proof that they’re for the little guy. There’s ample proof that they’re for the public sector unions and not much else.
Wednesday’s SOS speech was nothing if not one sop to the public employee unions after another. The messages that came through were ‘Let’s return to the 80′s and let’s treat public employee unions with kid gloves.’
This is Main Street Minnesota’s message for the DFL: Focus on our priorities or we’ll run more of you out in 2012. It’s a message the DFL should heed. If they don’t, it’ll be a difficult couple of election cycles for the DFL.