Is Big Labor losing its clout?
Key union officials respond
- Duration 12:17
- Date Jun 10, 2012
Key union officials respond
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Now we want to hear from the other side of the Wisconsin recall fight organized labor.
Joining us -- two.
And -- -- -- deputy chief of staff and a leading policy voice.
At the AFL CIL the federation represents more than twelve million workers and welcome to both of -- -- Let's start with a question I asked governor Daniels when you look at the recall vote in Wisconsin as well as the vote in those two California cities to cut back on.
Government worker pensions.
What's the message mr.
-- -- I think one thing we overlook is that change in the senate it's a balance of power now I think that's very important Governor Walker we can talk about Wisconsin yes in Wisconsin I think that's very important.
The second thing I think it really points out the impact of unlimited corporate funding in the elections.
And we have to see it as this plays out especially as we move toward the November election.
But but ms.
-- I mean do you not think that there was a message from voters that at a time when.
When states and local governments -- more than one trillion dollars to public pension and health care funds that at least some.
Private voters in non public workers are -- -- the government workers -- -- with our taxes must tighten their belts.
These are definitely tough times economically I think everybody's looking around the -- how we gonna balance our budgets and that's something that.
Unions and management governments all have to come together to to figure out but.
At the end of the day we really need to look at the big picture which is.
In this country you should workers whether they're in the public with a private sector had a decent pension have -- a secure retirement and that's something bad that people do.
Support at the end of the day we have to figure out how to find it we have to figure out how to make it viable.
But I don't think that voters in this country want to go go to a place where.
Our elderly people are living in poverty are are struggling and so on so.
I think it's.
It's it's tough times when times are tough people are trying to figure out who who's to blame but we need to be able to fund our public sector in a way that allows everybody to have a decent.
Are well let's look at a comparison we've put together of what public workers -- and what private workers got let's put it up on the screen.
A private workers have access to pensions.
90% of state and local government workers do.
Of private workers have access to health insurance 87%.
A public workers do.
And private workers averaged eight dollars 53 cents in benefits per hour work.
Public workers get fourteen dollars 31 cents in benefits per hour work.
-- late why should people in the private sector be paying.
Their taxes so the government workers get more than they did.
I don't I think we have to turn the question around it's not so much -- -- -- some people have a pension and others not how do we take away the pension from the people haven't that's on American -- we need to figure out how -- -- make sure that everybody in America has a decent pension.
This of the wealthy country.
But would -- agree with those figures that did show that that more public workers have access to pensions more.
Public workers have access to health care and that they're getting more per hour worked in terms of benefits -- private -- The balance of benefits vs wages in the public sector is a little bit different that but.
If you look at overall -- -- between public sector -- and private sector workers if you compare them.
According to education and experience and the job category in fact public sector workers are not overpaid even taking benefit of the doubt that they work for salary doesn't work for benefit that's when you take salary and then -- -- about just benefits that which is considerably more fourteen dollars an -- verses eight dollars and at some public sector works have chosen to take some of their compensation in the form of benefit as opposed to wages they're not -- on average.
In fact especially at the top and where you have doctors lawyers and accountants and professionals in the public sector there -- less than a private sector counterparts even taking into account the.
general who can you understand where some people in the private sector would sit there and site.
-- and I don't get these benefits and then I have to pay taxes so the public workers get benefits that I don't get.
One of the things that's left out of that equation for small in comparison wages of private vs public.
Are the qualification education needed for those jobs so probably yes but -- does that add an errant error -- culprits it's in your group teachers they get a degree so they can -- -- wouldn't be very marketable in the rest of the world and the other part about the pensions we need to understand that.
The employees are also paying into that pension so in cases like in California where they want to take away from people who are already retired.
They paid in every single paycheck and to their pension government didn't live up to their.
Poor management on the part of government for managing their pension funds denied -- the benefits you in the private sector the same thing happened united.
Absolutely blew their pension system workers got pennies on the dollars and who led the bail -- the private company who didn't manage there.
Pension system will the US government.
So if you have a responsibility as management and employee we pay and we expect our employers to pay their share so that the system works.
Let's look at the exit polls from Wisconsin this week which are instructive among people who live in union households private union households.
62% voted for Tom Barrett.
More than a third.
Back Governor Walker who instituted these these labor reforms mr.
-- -- We've seen this in other states New Jersey for example a lot of people who back private unions.
Think the government workers are getting too much.
I think this part of the divide and conquer the reason they went after public sector unions and left some private sector alone.
It's part of a thing to try and drive a wedge between people I also understand that unions are not monolithic.
But I also understand that when -- -- seven to one that 68% of all the people saw more ads for walker then and -- -- I understand that their message.
From the corporate side is been heard better than one from the -- And -- -- -- this is the big issue in Wisconsin for more than a year you don't think that the vast majority of voters and it certainly a right.
That the walker aside have more money and -- -- that the vast majority people they act at the exit poll showed that the vast majority -- made up their minds more than a month before the election.
They knew what the issues were here.
The big differences between Wisconsin and Ohio and Ohio the policy.
Of taking bargaining rights the real -- just the ability to get fairness from the employer at the table that was voted down.
By the citizens to the one.
But that was private unions no no it was public sector that was it was a public sector but it was on a policy question.
In Wisconsin that was a recall which is very different 60% of the exit poll people said that they didn't believe recalls should be used to out.
-- someone just done pretty political beliefs -- -- -- the difficult.
Hurdle to overcome even from day one but but.
One of the big questions.
-- is what government should spend its limited resources on benefits for workers.
For all of us for people and let me give an example in Wisconsin.
We'll save schools.
600 million dollars over two years in the New Berlin school district in Wisconsin take one example they're using those savings.
To hire more staff reduce class size and add programs.
What's more important and I asked this of both the accident let me start it specifically because it involves schools -- deal mister general local.
What's more important to the and he had -- protecting the benefits of teachers work giving services to the students.
In Wisconsin it was never about the economy it was always a political decision.
The unions did agree to pay more in pensions and health -- in Wisconsin but Governor Walker even though he accepted that he didn't end there it was a political game.
He wanted to -- -- as they did save money and as a result they're giving more to those to the students.
We advocate for both students in the employees you can't have one without the other.
The success of their recent single student in America depends on that there are -- well qualified well trained and hope -- hopefully well compensated individuals who are delivering an education misplaced.
At the false choice between good services and decent pay and pensions for workers.
And Governor Walker when he came into office he didn't have a budget problem.
He gave a big tax -- -- the wealthy the corporations that create aided the budget pressures where you end up having to pit.
Quality against Iran against -- You actually can't have both and I don't act I think unions are totally supportive -- as an ephemeral -- said.
Of supporting good schools good services and then also making sure -- workers to take.
There's just not enough money to go around -- -- let me give you an example look at San Jose California where the democratic mayor.
The democratic mayor of that city says that the -- That was instituted on Tuesday to public worker pensions.
Means that they are no longer going to have to close fire houses some of the time because I didn't have the money to keep the -- open all the time.
He says it will give them the money so that they can actually open.
The four libraries that they had built but didn't have the money to operate so -- Here you got the democratic mayor of of -- -- it's not a full strikes it's one or the other.
But -- in education in particular if you think about what the challenges the United States is facing.
That we need to be competitive in the global economy we need to attract really great people into the teaching profession could do that we keep chipping away at their.
At their pensions and at their pay and that their job security and some want so I think.
And everything you need to think about how do you get the best people in the public service -- not gonna do that by by constantly.
Cutting away at it wages and for.
Giving them but you're not answering my question which is in this in the San Jose the democratic mayors says look we have a choice we can let these people keep the pensions that they have war we can opened fire houses and open a -- Find -- revenues and other gonna get the house.
Right now we've we've seen at at the very top of the tax scale that the wealthiest Americans are paying less taxes than they did 1020 years ago.
And so that's one place we can't we have different kinds of com.
User fees or taxes on corporations that so -- that is we could raise taxes we absolutely could raise taxes and we ought to race -- that we need to do that provide the social services that Americans need to depend on.
And to make sure that we are tracking the very best people into public service.
-- how disappointed are you that Barack Obama didn't show up to campaign in Wisconsin.
That's a decision for President Obama and I think the people of Wisconsin workers in Wisconsin -- -- of Wisconsin.
Worked hard they've led this campaign they showed a tremendous amount of energy and solidarity -- -- in revenue and all this effort and there was a tremendous effort.
The fact that the press I mean come on you must have a feeling about it and second guess the president.
-- -- mr.
-- or local let me look at it from another aspect is is it possible.
Romney to oppose the growth.
Of government and not to be the enemy.
A public work.
You know I was -- high school math teacher for 23 years in his math just doesn't add up.
I mean when he said that we need to have less firemen less police and less teachers and that we ought to invest in people I don't understand that -- at all.
I think it is the firemen.
And teachers who are delivering to the American public they're they're the ones who -- it's bringing this incredible service to kids.
Preparing the next generation and he says what we ought to do is build wealth.
There's a difference between building wealth in a very small group of people than doing it for the nation you don't the last 29 years productivity up.
Hourly wages up eight.
The lowest 15 their wages up 18%.
But that top 1%.
There wages go up 275%.
We have got to find a way.
To lift all citizens not just a few not a 1% not just the wealthy few.
We're gonna have to leave it there mr.
-- -- local ms.
Lee thank you both so much for joining us today.
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