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Are Public Employee Unions Strangling Us?

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

For billionaire Mort Zuckerman, it's those damn unions that are the problem. For so many of the rest of us the problem is that we don't have a union.

Zuckerman has been with us on lots of things, like what he wrote about the stimulus,

"The fiscal program was a disaster. You have to get the money as quickly as possible into the economy. They didn't do that. By end of the first year, only one-third of the money was spent. Why is that?

He should have jammed a stimulus plan into Congress and said, "This is it. No changes. Don't give me that bullshit. We have a national emergency."

I could have written that. (Except it would probably have bad grammar, occasional CAPITALIZED words and a line in bold here and there.)

But he's not with us not when it comes to labor. Last week Zuckerman wrote an op-ed, titled The Crippling Price of Public Employee Unions at US News, and Breaking the Public Sector Unions' Stranglehold on State and Local Governments at Huffington Post, telling us how public employee unions are harming the country. (The Huffington version has about 2000 comments so far - mostly pro-labor. The US News version has about 70 comments, like "Outlaw Unions of any kind.")

I'm wondering where Mort Zuckerman wrote this piece. Was he at one of his homes in New York, New York, East Hampton, New York and Aspen, Colorado? Or maybe he was writing from his 166 foot Oceanco Yacht, the Lazy Z? We know he wasn't writing from his Falcon 900 corporate jet, because he recently purchased a Gulfstream G550.

From this high vantage point he seems to have a view that says working people should be paid less, and shouldn't get good pensions or benefits. He writes, "It is galling for private sector workers to see so many public sector workers thriving because of the power their unions exercise." He says public employees have "gold-plated perks" and enter into corrupt deals with politicians, a trade-off of supplying votes in exchange for good pay and benefits. He says that since private-sector pay and benefits are dropping, public-employee pay and benefits should, too.

But it's the other way around. We, the People should set the example for private companies to follow. Good pay and benefits are good for people. It should be public policy to promote this and encourage companies to treat employees better. That way we all benefit, not just a few.

Private sector pay and benefits have been dropping because people have been forced out of unions, so they have no way to fight the power of the billionaires. Because billionaires have been able to play impoverished workers elsewhere against workers here who have fought hard to get what they have. The obvious answer is for more private-sector workers around the world to join unions so they can be lifted up, not to complete the death spiral by forcing down the pay of the rest of us.

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