When Your Members Are Jobless, You Sympathize with the Gov

The disconnect between unionized public employees and blue collar urban unionized workers is coming to a boil. In a story in Tuesday’s  WSJ, William McGurn wrote about this rocky relationship, which is made much worse by the high level of unemployment faced by people like ironworkers and construction laborers.

It’s the tightness between the legislators and the unions whose pay they control that makes the whole thing a sham. For instance, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, Steve Sweeney, has a second job–as an organizer for the Int’l Association of Ironworkers.   Under the previous governor, Sweeney made state-employee unions angry when he opposed their push to balance the state’s budget with a sales tax increase.  Why was the budget so out of wack?  Pensions and salaries for the thousands of state workers, mostly.

Now Sweeney is allying himself with Gov. Chris Christie, who is pushing to lower state pay and benefits. And with Sweeney’s union facing 40% unemployment, there’s little chance of them getting any state work until the budget is under control.

In New York state, a similar situation unfolds–a new governor, Andrew Cuomo, faces the highest property taxes in the country and he’s trying to cap them, plus freeze salaries. And the head of the private building and Construction Trades council, facing a 20% unemployed membership–is one of his key allies.