In Mass., Budget Standoff Between Unions And Gov’t. Not Likely
BOSTON — The budget standoff moves into a second week in Wisconsin, where protesters continue to gather at the state house Tuesday.
Unionized public employees, teachers and other state workers have been demonstrating against the governor’s so-called “budget repair” bill, which would increase their health care and pension contributions and also curb their collective bargaining rights.
Organized labor in Massachusetts are showing its solidarity Tuesday with rallies in Boston and Springfield.
“Here in Massachusetts we have a strong support for labor unions and for our public sector bargaining rights, however our great concern is that as other unions are faced with these kinds of measures, it could come back here to Massachusetts,” said Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Toner calls it a basic principle of democracy to permit workers to organize and negotiate wages and benefits.
But could Massachusetts face a similar standoff?
It’s not likely, according to labor expert Barry Bluestone, who joined Morning Edition Tuesday to consider that question. Bluestone is the dean of the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University.
“Here we have a legislature, we have a governor, we have mayors who are generally pro-union, but they want to be able to work with their unions to deal with the fiscal crisis that we have in the state and we have in most of our cities and towns,” Bluestone said.
“No doubt there will be battles, negotiations over how we’re going to cut costs in the public sector, cities and towns. And this will be over health care, and how much public union members will have to pay for it; it will be around pension reform,” he said. “What I would hope would happen here is that we can find a new starting point for labor relations in the public sector.”