Thingish Things

NY Union Leaders Failing Members

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jun• 08•11

There’s a gag that’s gone around Albany for awhile. Widows no longer look for millionaires to marry; they look for single retirees with “Tier I” pension plans.

Who could blame them if it were true? New York’s pension benefits are solid gold.  The only problem is that they are printed on paper — they are IOUs that taxpayers and future taxpayers have promised to pay retirees. That promise, by irrefutable math, will soon will crowd out almost all other spending in New York State. Discretionary programs like senior centers and pre-K programs could virtually cease to exist if we don’t reign in pension costs.  Public employee retiree obligations are bankrupting the state and its local governments.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and the Republican Senate logically want to do something about it.  It is the responsible thing to do — the only choice for a state facing economic disaster. So Cuomo today officially proposed a “Tier VI” pension plan to make modest reforms in the pensions of future hires. The new tier is generous, and it affects no one working or retired today.  Again, it would only apply to future hires. The kind of thing it does? Prohibit calculating overtime pay in pension calculations.  (Public employees routinely run up staggering overtime hours in their final year of service to artificially boost pensions.)

So listen to how New York public service union leaders received Cuomo’s modest proposal in Thursday’s New York Times story:

“Congratulations to Governor Cuomo for another grandstand play for the attention of his millionaire friends at the expense of the real working people of New York,” Danny Donohue, president of the largest union of state workers, the Civil Service Employees Association, said in a statement.

“Governor Cuomo’s proposal can only be viewed as an attack on working people to score some cheap political points.”

The president of the New York State Public Employees Federation, Kenneth Brynien, attacked the proposal as “draconian pension cuts that would inflict permanent damage on middle-class workers such as nurses, parole officers, bridge inspectors and cancer researchers for what is a transient problem.”

“This is about politics and placating big-business special interests, plain and simple,” Mr. Brynien added.

New York is a pro-union state, a liberal state.  We value our teachers, and cops, and firefighters.  It’s why they got the most money in the nation when we had money, but we don’t now, so we have to find a compromise.  Most public employees I speak with understand that completely, but their leadsership has begun to sound hysterical in recent years. “Draconian cuts?” “Permanent damage?“Grandstand plays for the attention of  millionaire friends?”

What planet are these guys living on?

The gap between what union bosses are saying and what ordinary New Yorkers are saying is growing wider by the day.  Public employee union members would be wise to speak with their leaders about that before New York is no longer a pro-union state.  Anyone who doesn’t believe that’s possible need only look to Wisconsin.

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