Friday, June 24, 2011

The Sleeping Giant Stirs

Surprise! Workers in Connecticut decided they'd had enough of being double-crossed and used as political pawns:
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and union leaders announced Friday that Connecticut’s state workers had rejected a deal meant to produce $1.6 billion in labor savings over two years, blowing a hole in the state’s budget and raising the likelihood of widespread layoffs.

The rejection was a startling slap to both the union leadership and to Mr. Malloy, who was elected in November with enthusiastic labor support.
What was going through union minds when they gave this tentative deal the heave-ho? Well, the fact that Hartford has proven its own word worthless in the past may have influenced them:
The opposition centered on suspicions about the health care provisions in the package, workers’ frustration over past concessions and the belief among some members that they could get a better package if they rejected this one...

Michele Higgins, 63, a supervisor in the audit division of the State Labor Department office in Bridgeport, noted that two years ago workers agreed to furloughs and paying more for health insurance. “I don’t think that it’s a bad agreement, but a contract has no meaning anymore, because I think the state will be back in two years looking for more,” she said.
Nailed it. Breaking union contracts by whipping up an "emergency" or a "bankruptcy" has become very faddish these days. Yet these workers' "friends" in the legislature just can't understand why anyone would give up a such a dream package:
“The failure to ratify by state employees does more harm to them and the cause of labor than anything their enemies could possibly achieve,” Senator Williams wrote. “It’s unbelievable that they don’t understand that."
What they understand is that whenever a moment in history arrives that calls for someone to give something up, the powerful always have something pressing to tend to elswhere that day. Senator Williams is using the language of the man with nothing at stake, the general at the back of the lines, the lawmaker waxing eloquent over the war he loves as the troops wave farewell to their limbs and their lives. What sacrifices were demanded of Senator Williams, or Governor Molloy, or any of the blathering pundits who declared this such a "harmonious resolution"? What will they be giving up anytime soon?

That's what I thought.