I appreciate the fact that you have been so involved in this issue as it is one of the largest fiscal issues facing Massachusetts and the rest of the Country. Any reforms in this area however cannot simply be stopping the continued growth of pay and benefits in the public sector but actually reversing them. Simply agreeing to a smaller pay increase helps no one but the unionized worker. In the private sector the reality of deep pay cuts, eliminated benefits or at best reduced benefits have been necessary to keep businesses alive and competitive both locally and in the global marketplace. The public sector and more specifically union wages and benefits have damaged our economy and put unnecessary added cost on the backs of taxpayers. I’m aware there are many issues here; one being the public service employee and another, the unions in general and specifically the trade unions. On public construction projects and when strong-armed, on many a growing list of private projects, “prevailing wages” must be paid to all workers on these projects. Prevailing wages are essentially union wages. Through legislation and lobbying efforts by the unions these wages must be paid. It was argued originally that the reason for the higher wages to be paid was in an effort to “level the playing field” for union workers and companies as their wages and benefits were collectively bargained for at much higher wages and benefits than the non-union, private counterparts. They couldn’t compete without it being mandated. As approximately 80% of construction companies are non union, how can it be that we are made to pay our non union workers union wages on public projects? Our workers are pleased with their pay and benefit structure. They choose not to join a union and would be elated to perform on public or private projects at their normal wage rates. This cannot be the case. When and if non union workers work on a public or “rate job” they are paid at the much higher prevailing wage, adding significant cost to a project on the backs of taxpayers. When the project is over and they return to private work, their wages go back down to normal. There are many studies showing a premium of 17% up to 25% of additional cost added to a project due to prevailing wages. When PLA’s are added to the mix (Project Labor Agreements), which essentially ensures that anyone winning a project with a PLA component must be a union company, it reduces the amount of companies bidding, adding yet a larger premium to the cost of the job as there is less competition. There are arguments on both sides of this issue but the reality of the issue is that we are adding unnecessary costs to construction projects when available funds are shrinking and non-existent. Why is this the case? It’s because of the cycle of unions supporting, through political donations and volunteers, the Democrats in office who then in return, support the union legislative positions by furthering the union agenda which is always higher wages, more benefits during and after work and ultimately higher union dues going to union management which is used to recreate the cycle over and over again. This is why wages and benefits are where they are today. It’s why the sweetheart deals exist and why the double dipping has been allowed, etc. We can no longer turn our backs and be blind to this. The cycle must be stopped and indeed reversed so that we as a State and a Nation can compete and we can put our citizens back to work!
Thanks, Michael, for speaking out. I am not as versed in the construction issues, so I’m not quite ready to comment on those.
Generally, I think that our longer-term economic problems go to globalization and technology change more so than unionization. But I agree that the compensation structure for public employees, speaking of benefits in particular, has drifted out of line.
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