Judging from the talk on the convention floor, one would hardly know that they had experienced a huge defeat this month in their effort to recall Wisconsin’s governor, or that they faced lawmakers and voters across the country who have grown increasingly unsympathetic to public sector workers....At most they're saying, they lost in Wisconsin because they were outspent, says Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University, but "It would have been much more encouraging if they said, ‘We lost because we are out of touch with the public.’ They don’t understand that in hard times, everyone must sacrifice."
Numerous studies have shown that wages for public sector and private sector workers are not far different. One analysis found that government workers with college degrees tend to have lower wages than private sector workers with similar educations, while those without college degrees tend to do better than their private sector counterparts.Designing the pay package like that is a way to keep the public from seeing how generous it is. What happened in Wisconsin was a new transparency. Something most people hadn't noticed became the focal point, as Scott Walker and the GOP legislature selected, for budget cutting purposes, exactly the item that people hadn't really noticed. It wasn't about cutting salaries or firing public workers, so when they protested, they were yelling about something that looked rather lavish to other citizens... which made them sound out of touch and entitled.
But public employees generally have more generous health and pension plans. In a report this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said state and local workers averaged $26.85 in wages an hour, with compensation totaling $41.16 an hour when pensions and other benefits are included.
“I wouldn’t write off labor unions just yet. Their obituary has been written frequently over the past 70 years,” said Harley Shaiken, a professor of labor studies at the University of California, Berkeley. However, “the status quo for them is untenable,” he said. “Unions will require imaginative, bold leadership going forward.”But at the convention, AFSCME voted for Lee Saunders as their new president, and he's saying:
“We have to be as politically active as we can possibly be in the 2012 elections at the national, state, local, school district level because there are a lot of people out there who want to hurt this union and who want to hurt you,” he said. “We have to be organized to fight back.”Does that sound like imaginative, bold leadership going forward?