The right of workers to negotiate contracts with their employers is a widely recognized human right. In the United States, these rights are enshrined in collective bargaining laws, but too often these fundamental rights are coming under attack in the name of cutting costs, leading to a race to the bottom for wages and worker benefits at a time when the economy is booming for the wealthiest Americans.
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Union contracts are important for a successful society because they help set the standards for education, wages, working conditions, and quality of life for all workers, even those not covered by a union contract. Contracts that are negotiated by unions help lift standards for all workers because union-negotiated wages and benefits are generally superior to what non-union workers receive, and provide more protections than state and federal laws. Employers and business groups often don’t like these laws because have to compete for workers in the labor market, and would perfer to pay their workers as little as possible in order to increase their profit margins.
What happened when one state tried to destroy its unions?
Seven years ago, the state of Wisconsin enacted a piece of anti-union legislation known as “Act 10” that nearly eliminated the right to negotiate over wages and benefits for public sector workers and slashed benefits for state employees. Governor Scott Walker, who that same year cut taxes for corporations and created a massive budget deficit, stated that the legislation was a budget repair bill needed to cut the cost of government. In the years since it’s passage, the experiment has proven to be a disaster for the state for one very simple reason: when you take money out of the pockets of working people, the economy suffers.
A strong middle class, fostered by the right to collective bargaining, is a key element in any successful economy.
Since Wisconsin’s anti-collective bargaining bill (Act 10) passed, Wisconsin has constantly lagged behind the rest of the nation in jobs and income growth, property tax revenue has dropped by .8% since 2011, teacher turnover has skyrocketed, and as skilled teachers have left the profession for other states, student test scores have plummeted. The effects of the legislation have not been limited to the public sector either. The effects of lower wages and benefits for state workers are starting to ripple across the labor market, driving down the wages and benefits of Wisconsin’s private sector workers as well.
Connecticut Should Learn From Wisconsin’s Horrible Mistake
Destroying collective bargaining with 10,000 cuts will not help Connecticut’s economic problems, just as it didn’t help the people of Wisconsin, Michigan or any of the other still struggling rust belt states that made the mistake of blaming working families for their broader economic troubles.
To the contrary, putting more money into the pockets of working families provides a real economic boost.
Collective Bargaining Works
There is strong evidence that Collective Bargaining by public employees benefits the public they serve. That bargaining, which gives front-line service workers a voice, has been shown to;
- Increase economic growth; whereas states were collective bargaining eroded the most since 1979 had the lowest growth in middle-class wages and the largest gap between rising productivity and middle-class wage growth
- Provide adequate and livable wages leading to high consumer confidence and consumer spending that helps build a stronger state economy
- Lessen public corruption and cronyism by making it safe for public employees to report improprieties in state government without fear of political retaliation.
- Dramatically reduce employee turnover, providing higher quality services and lower training costs.
- Benefit employers through higher productivity from workers, good labor-management relations, and a mechanism to jointly solve workplace issues
- Discourage the creation of unfunded pension liabilities. For the nearly half-century before collective bargaining, Connecticut legislators routinely failed to fund the pension promises they were making because there was nothing legally requiring them to pre-fund. Even when they passed laws requiring prefunding, the routinely ignored those laws. Since Connecticut started collectively bargaining over pensions, the State has never once failed to pay the full normal cost of the pension plan – not once — because they were legally required by contract to fund the pension plan.
Connecticut’s Elected Leaders Should Be Making An Effort To Lift Up All Workers, Not Destroy The Rights of Public Servants.
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