Bloomberg: Cut Labor Costs, Not Union Rights

Governments can benefit from collective bargaining, he writes

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 28, 2011 11:55 AM CST

(Newser) – As states like Wisconsin face crippling budget deficits, it’s fair for them to scale back on labor costs—but not labor rights, Michael Bloomberg writes today in the New York Times. What needs updating is “government’s relationship with unions,” not the unions themselves. “Organizing around a common interest is a fundamental part of democracy,” the mayor argues. “If contract terms or labor laws from years past no longer make sense, we the people should renegotiate—or legislate—changes.”

Union leaders, for their part, “should be farsighted enough to cooperate, because the only way to protect the long-term integrity of employee benefits is to ensure the public’s long-term ability to fund them.” Indeed, Bloomberg’s own city hopes to benefit from collective bargaining: It's seeking legal authority from the state to negotiate directly with the teachers' union, hoping to alter the "last in, first out" policy that forces the city to lay off teachers with the least seniority. “Rather than declare war on unions, we should demand a new deal with them—one that reflects today’s economic realities.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers the fiscal year 2012 budget, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 at City Hall in New York.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers the fiscal year 2012 budget, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 at City Hall in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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