Cuba is going to lay off 500,000 state workers between now and March 2011. According to the Cuban Workers Federation, the only union in the country, the cause of the job displacement is clear: "Our state can’t keep maintaining…bloated payrolls."
Similarly, the public sector unions in the United States representing a significant number of all of such workers (about 35%) are experiencing a taxpayer backlash. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey took on the teacher’s union and won. Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman in California is neck and neck with Jerry Brown as she takes on the California Nurses Association. As public sector unions are perhaps the most dynamic part of the labor movement at the moment, this is not good news for organized labor.
Only 19% of Americans in a recent survey said they would increase their taxes to prevent layoffs of government workers. No wonder gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo admits that public pensions are "out of line" with reality. And just wait and see how popular the teachers’ unions will be after "Waiting for Superman" debuts in our theatres. (Note: My daughter is a fourth-grade teacher. I love teachers…just not their union. And, for the record, I also love nurses!)
So everyone…even Cuba…is starting to "really" get it…everyone, of course, except the unions. The AFL-CIO, SEIU, and AFSCME are going to spend $100 million this November towards the election. Their beneficiaries will be more beholden to them than ever so do not be surprised the first-responder labor bill (to give public safety officers the right to bargain collectively) surfaces in the darkest hours of any lame-duck session. Unions will need pay back to motivate them for 2012.
Even the President admitted the other day that EFCA is for all practical purposes dead. Labor wanted it all and settled for Craig Becker, an NLRB takeover, an NMB takeover, and more labor friendly rules for government contractors. One hundred million dollars just doesn’t buy what it used to.
The November elections are important for many reasons. If more Governor Christie-types emerge, labor may be in trouble at the bargaining table. The wages and benefits of the public sector need to "get in line" with economic reality. Even the Cuban union knows that.