Public Sector unions the enemy?

Soon after the King administration took office public sector workers took their pay demands to the streets.

For two weeks now in Wisconsin tens of thousands of protestors have demonstrated against Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining proposal that he says is necessary to free local governments from having to bargain with public employee unions as they deal with planned cuts. Last week schools started putting teachers on notice that their contracts may not be renewed for next year given the budget uncertainty. The governor confirmed he will propose cutting education aid by about $900 million, or 9 percent statewide. When the Wisconsin State Employees Union asked the state labor relations board to extend its contract and require Walker’s administration to engage in collective bargaining, the governor insisted Wisconsin is broke and has nothing to offer. Moreover, if his proposal wasn’t passed by Tuesday [yesterday] Wisconsin won’t be able to save $165 million through debt financing, which was a key part of the governor’s bill. School leaders are bracing for more bad news.
Meanwhile the latest New York Times/CBS News poll reveals a majority of Americans oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits. But the same poll says labor unions are not exactly riding a popularity wave: a third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them. However, for the embattled public servants of Wisconsin the poll had good news: Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one—60 percent to 33 percent.
When it came to one of the most debated, and expensive, benefits that many government workers enjoy but private sector workers do not—the ability to retire early and begin collecting pension checks—Americans are closely divided. Forty-nine percent said police officers and firefighters should be able to retire and begin receiving pension checks even if they are in their 40s or 50s; 44 percent said they should have to be older. There was a similar divide on whether teachers should be able to retire and draw pensions before they are 65.
Bearing in mind our own situation in Saint Lucia, where even in relatively good times every campaigning party leader over the past 30 years has talked about but never acted on the acknowledged urgent need to reduce the public service bill, what would be the reaction should the current government, in the general interest, take a position such as held by Scott Walker in Wisconsin? I dare to say we are unlikely to hear another Saint Lucian leader saying, as did John Compton in the mid-70s: “If you held a gun to my head, still I could not give you what you are demanding!” The beleaguered prime minister was at the time confronted on all sides by a rabble-rousing Labour Party prompted by a self-seeking George Odlum at his most radical, and by an obviously sympathetic CSA hell-bent on pay increases for its membership. At a time when revolution was in the air and it seemed a large number of Saint Lucians were noisily demanding change by any means necessary—including armed conflict—how courageous of the day’s prime minister to have stood up for what he believed. Then again, perhaps Compton’s decision not to bend to the pay demands of a blinkered CSA—regardless of possible repercussions on his government—was informed by the guidance of God, who, as we all know (even though it’s not written in the bible!) works in ways most mysterious!
Which reminds me: I never suggested God does not speak directly to the Comptons, as so many of my good Christian readers have claimed since my recent articles on Jeannine. Indeed, I am inclined to believe God speaks to most Saint Lucians, whether or not inebriated. What blows me away is that the Almighty seems to tell us only what we want to hear—and usually it involves down-stream swimming, never up. Somehow there’s a ring to that line that doesn’t sound quite right in my left ear!

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