There was an interesting op ed in the Globe two weeks ago that received no attention at BMG (that I saw), that took the public unions in Massachusetts to task. The reason this editorial should be of particular interest to the BMG community-and certainly the public sector unions-is that it was authored by Barry Bluestone, a well known labor advocate and left leaning academic. I saw Bluestone speak many years ago when he was pushing for a federal law-which eventually passed-for a plant notification law that required companies to inform workers in advanced (90 days?) of a plant closing (instead of the morning they show up to work).
When it comes to advocating for unions, he’s proven to be the real deal. That’s why this op ed should have gotten more attention than it did. Here is the main thrust of his piece:
Teachers unions refuse to make changes in work practices that could help improve the chances of children succeeding in school. Police unions fight against lowering the cost of details at construction sites. The MBTA union and others representing transport workers lobby vociferously against reforming the state’s transportation system. Municipal unions refuse to permit their local communities to join the Group Insurance Commission that would save their towns millions without compromising the quality of their members’ medical care.
As a result, between 2000 and 2008, the price of state and local public services has increased by 41 percent nationally compared with 27 percent in private services. Even in the face of the worst fiscal crisis in decades, many state and local union leaders refuse to consider a wage freeze that could help preserve more of their members’ jobs.
To move in a different direction, we need to think about a new “grand bargain” between public-sector unions and government. Union leaders in the state need to consider ways to work collaboratively with public officials so as to offer quality public services at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer while preserving union jobs for their members.
Now when some of us have expressed reservations about what we view as over reach on the part of some public unions in Mass, we are accused of being a Republican, Barry Bluestone is no Republican. He, like me, is just trying to give some tough love so that current union leaders and rank and file members do not create a popular push back that may endanger more than 100 years of hard fought progress for workers.