Why the Attacks on Public Sector Workers and Their Unions

trashmanWhile the country has been swamped with raging snowstorms, the biggest snow jobs have come from corporations, Republican governors and legislators, Chambers of Commerce and their puppets. This chorus of union busters has been joined by the corporate think tanks, the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and spewed from Fox News. The reasons behind these attacks on public sector workers and their unions can be seen in the differential in salaries between unionized public workers, who can earn $47,000 as a result of union efforts compared to public sector non-union workers who earn $37, 284.

The false charge that unionized public sector workers are paid too much is wrong. Studies have shown when comparing education and training, most public sector workers compared to private sector workers in similar jobs have an 11% lower salary than private workers who perform similar tasks. Data shows that workers in the private sector earn $66,000 as opposed to $49,132 for public employees with comparable education and skill. Thus, many public sector workers have made salary sacrifices by choosing the public sector. This includes first responders such as police, firefighters and who lives are in jeopardy every time they aid the public.

Public Sector workers constitute the largest group of union members in the country. By attacking this sector, corporations hope to cripple and destroy the entire trade union movement. Additionally, in the process, they hope to roll back, privatize or wipe from the books important progressive legislation such as, Social Security, Medicare and protection for minorities and women, much of the agenda that benefit workers, thus, eradicating years of social legislation that unions fought many battles to obtain.

Their business model for privatization is Enron; and we all know the corruption that ensued from this model. That’s why unions and their allies must organize, resist and defeat such reactionary efforts.

Those Republican governors and their crony legislators, including some Democrats, are crying wolf about fiscal distress on the part of states is only part of the story. While there may be serious budgetary problems in the states, we will show that there are a number of steps to lessen the impact of a financial meltdown, which these governors and legislators claim.

Research shows two concrete ways in which states can lessen the impact of budgetary problems. One way, is by instituting certain revenue enhancement polices, such as those advocated by The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy. Their recent study was of eight states, Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, Vermont, Hawaii and Wisconsin. These states currently offer substantial tax breaks to a tiny minority of taxpayers. This 1% of taxpayers evades paying a fair share of their taxes, by using tax breaks, claimed as capital gains. Capital gains are profits gained from selling assets, such as art objects, stocks, bonds and investment real estate. In 2008, tax payers with a federal income with less than $50,000 comprised 66% of all tax returns, but constituted only 10% of those claiming any capital gains. In the eight states cited, 95%-100% of the tax breaks went to the richest 20% of tax payers. Over $400,000,000 in revenue is lost to just capital gains alone. Several states recently acted to revise this exclusion, including Rhode Island and Vermont. It should be noted that the most usual assets held by most Americans, such as 401(K) s and IRAs cannot be treated as capital gains.The table that follows (figure 1) shows what a small minority of taxpayers is involved in capital gains:

Attack Against Public Sector Unions


  1. Ross S. Heckmann says

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece by Dr. Slavin. It contains a lot of useful information and facts and makes some important points. I agree that we need to focus on tax justice issues. I have no doubts that there are some big business and Republican groups & individuals that are focusing on public employee unions with bad motives and for the wrong reasons. I am totally opposed to the public-employee-union busting going on in Wisconsin right now. But at the end of the day, this article has not answered all legitimate questions. (1) It fails to squarely address the issues of pensions and benefits (in particular, medical benefits) given to public employee retirees, and who’s paying for them. It is my understanding that it is not uncommon for public safety employees to have a retirement age of 50 (presumably even if they live in the equivalent of Mayberry), for other public employees to have a retirement age of 55, for public employees to qualify for “retirement” after 20 or so years on the job, after which they can go get yet another job, for public employees to have defined benefit plans and medical care for retirees, while the rest of us have either no retirement benefits or medical care, or 401(k)s, and good luck to the rest of us as to how much that ends up being worth when we retire. Meanwhile, until there is more tax justice, who is paying for all this? Workers who would be tempted to die or kill for what the public employees are getting. (2) Even if public employees are getting paid somewhat less than is comparable in the private sector, it doesn’t follow that this is fair. The people at or near the top of the private sectore are being paid absurd, extreme, even obscene amounts; it doesn’t say much for you if the best you can say is that you are getting paid slightly less. (3) What exactly and specifically are public employee unions doing for employees in the private sector? Is it really solidarity forever, or solidarity never, and every person or group is in it simply for themselves?

  2. Nate says

    _FINALLY_ , the truth is spoken .

    Good luck getting this message across to the Blue Collar Workers who most need it , they mostly think that if they just go along with the lying , cheating republicans, they’ll be allowed to play in their rich sand box too….

    Guess again you fools .

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