To The Editor:
With his Jan. 30 column (“Those ‘Two Connecticuts’ Aren’t The Ones We Were Told About,”) Chris Powell is free to extol the flawed report by the anti-labor Yankee Institute. But to hold up the Yankee Institute’s polemic as valid and unbiased is ludicrous.
The report advocates eliminating the pay and benefits inequality of American workers by lowering the living standards of the working middle class and the poor. This is absurd and contrary to everything we have learned about the American dream.
Unions have helped many Americans live that dream – home ownership, good schools, comfortable retirement. Medical insurance benefits, the 40-hour work-week, and even the weekend itself have been the result of a long-fought struggle by unions.
If the Yankee Institute had its way, children would still be working 12 hours a day in mines under the banner of “competition.”
The contention of the Yankee Institute and Powell that employees in the public sector are uncompetitive is simply not true.
Ironically, the Yankee Institute in its own report unwittingly demonstrates the value of unionized public workers when it touts the improvements that former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith brought to public services in that city.
Goldsmith’s reforms were the result of joint union and management improvements under competitive bidding that revitalized the city’s public services. Unionized city workers had the right ideas that made public services better and more efficient, and competitive bidding finally gave them a chance to put those ideas to work.
The result? More than 80 percent of the time, the union and public management proposal beat the private-sector bid, and the city reaped tens of millions of dollars in savings.
And when it came time for Harvard University and the Ford Foundation to bestow the Innovations in American Government Award for Indianapolis’ reforms, AFSCME Council 62 was the co-recipient along with the city.
What ideologues like Powell and the Yankee Institute don’t want you to know is this: All over the country elected officials who privatized public services are rethinking those decisions and bringing work back in house. State and local governments are recognizing that privatized services often deliver less than promised and that unionized public employees can provide high-quality services and save taxpayers’ money.
The overwhelming majority of public service employees are hard-working and competitive. We have to compete with the threat of privatization every day. And we are accountable to the taxpayers through the elected officials they vote into office.
The private sector is accountable to no one, as we learned during the corruption scandals of Gov. John G. Rowland that rocked our confidence in government, damaged our economy, and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
I give Powell credit for one thing: the consistency of his contempt for unions. Not content with his baseless attacks on public service workers, he blames the troubles of General Motors and Ford on union contacts, conveniently ignoring management’s competitive failures.
Too bad Powell forgot to tell his readers that the chairmen of GM and Ford are taking home more than $80 million in salary and compensation as a reward for helping drive their companies into virtual bankruptcy. Ironically, they could buy the American dream.
Executive Director, Council 4
American Federation of State, County, and