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Big Public Labor Unions Don't Want This Debate

Big Public Labor Unions Don't Want This Debate

With Connecticut’s Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth set to present recommendations to the legislature by March 1, public employees’ pay and benefits have taken center stage. Joe DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), and Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary, CCM’s president, told the commission collective bargaining for unionized municipal employees’ pensions and benefits should be ended, and binding arbitration should be reformed. Representatives of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) proposed a plethora of changes to state-employee pensions.

Big Public Labor is not amused by these calls. Shortly after the Yankee and CBIA representatives testified to the commission Jan. 24, Larry Dorman, a spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4, told The Hartford Courant, “The pensions of the employees we represent at the state and municipal level generate tremendous purchasing power and create jobs across our state while enabling dedicated workers to live with dignity and security in their later years. That’s supposed to be a good thing in America.” Continuing, Mr. Dorman said, “The extremists who testified today … seem more interested in pushing down the wages and benefits of middle-class workers. That’s a sure-fire way to worsen income inequality and ramp up the economic misery index.”

These comments epitomize the notion of union thuggery.

Honest differences of opinion back to top

The world is a complicated place. It is inevitable that decent people will have honest differences of opinion. Yet the implication of Mr. Dorman’s remarks is that anyone who disagrees with Big Public Labor’s position is consciously trying to cause harm to some Connecticut residents. Such rhetoric serves only to discourage dissenters from speaking up and engaging in honest debate. That is anathema to democratic principles and the policy-making process.

It is not hard to see why Mr. Dorman and his colleagues in the Connecticut labor movement don’t welcome honest debate: they are reeling. Republican successes in the 2014 and 2016 legislative elections can be seen as a collective repudiation of Big Public Labor. The “concessions” deal Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and all but one of the legislature’s Democrats granted the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition last summer came as “many members of the public complain(ed) about how rich state employee health and pension benefits are in comparison to the private sector,” as CT News Junkie reported. This deal continues the public-employee gravy train, and it may give Republicans the boost they need this year to assume full control of the legislature, and to reclaim the governor’s office.

Mr. Dorman’s remarks are contemptible. No one should take them seriously.