Yesterday, public sector workers in Connecticut approved a deal with the state that included a two-year wage freeze and concessions on health care and pension benefits. The deal is expected to save taxpayers in the Constitution State $21.5 billion over the next 20 years.
One might think the public employee unions accepted the deal out of altruism or a recognition that in these tough economic times it was no longer equitable to demand better pay and benefit packages than those received by the private sector workers who fund them. In fact, it seems that what really drove the unions to accept the deal was the threat of layoffs.
Just two months ago, Governor Dannel P. Malloy had proposed the same deal to the unions, and it was rejected. As a result, 3,000 workers were laid off with 2,000 more layoffs in the pipeline. Apparently this was enough to crack union resistance, and 73 percent of the state’s 45,000 union workers approved the agreement.
While there was widespread relief that a deal had been reached, not all state workers were happy. Said one, “We can’t just roll over and be bullied like this. Isn’t this America, the land of the free?” Yes, and public sector workers in Connecticut still have one freedom unavailable to their fellow citizens in the private sector — the freedom to avoid the realities of the job market. The deal includes a four-year no-layoff clause and a promise that there will be no unpaid furloughs.
During this push for public sector givebacks in Connecticut, agitated union members and their allies stormed the state capitol and held weeks of rallies to pressure lawmakers to scuttle the deal. Actually, they didn’t. There were no rallies, no recall campaigns, and no outcry from national union leaders over cuts to union benefits five times as large as those in Wisconsin. One hates to be cynical, but could it be as simple as Gov. Malloy having a “D” after his name?