Audio: Public Workers Face More Upside Down Politics

With state and local governments staring at deep budget gaps, politicians across the spectrum are blaming public sector workers for the river of red ink.

“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” crowed Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s newly elected governor, in a recent speech.

Forget about the fact that it was out-of-control bankers and greedy CEOs—the real haves in this country—who derailed the economy three years ago.

Walker and his ilk are treating public sector workers like America’s Most Wanted, letting the corporate class slide out of the limelight and get back to fattening their bank accounts.

But it’s not just Republicans like Walker who are bent on smashing public employee unions. New York’s new Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is busy rallying real estate tycoons and Wall Street honchos behind the recently formed “Committee to Save New York,” a blue chip pressure group committed to doing battle with the state’s public sector unions. The group is raising at least $10 million for their media blitz against teachers, hospital workers, and everyone who rides a train or visits the DMV. Cuomo has pledged $4 million left over from his campaign to the cause.

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Listen to Bill Fletcher, education director for the American Federation of Government Employees, and I discuss how unions are responding to these and other attacks. The show is on Pacifica’s “Letters and Politics.”

I was also on WBAI’s “Wake Up Call” this morning to discuss New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s State of the City address. Bloomberg pledged that the Big Apple wouldn’t raise taxes on the wealthy to cover its $2.4 billion deficit, and that he wouldn’t sign any contract with the city’s unions that didn’t contain cuts to their pensions and other benefits. Bloomberg also took aim at seniority rules for teachers and proposed merging a wide variety of jobs classifications (a process known as “broadbanding"), usually a precursor to layoffs.

Mark Brenner is the Director of Labor Notes. He can be reached at mark@labornotes.org