06.21.2012 0

AFSCME hopes 9/11 memories revive political fortunes

NRD Editor’s Note: This is a special report from Kevin Mooney who is on the ground at the AFSCME International Convention in Los Angeles, CA.

AFSCME 40th International Convention

Photo by Hey Suk Chong found at AFSCME.org

By Kevin Mooney — Top AFSCME officials taking part in the union’s 40th International Convention in Los Angeles are hoping the memory of 9/11 will lead voters to support increased public employee compensation.

Public employee unions have been reeling as the costs of their taxpayer funded pensions and health care have been breaking the banks of state and local governments nationally. Suffering a stunning defeat in Wisconsin after throwing tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat Republican Governor Scott Walker, unions also lost in ballot initiatives in San Jose and San Diego, California, two of the largest cities in the state.

Now Lee Saunders, who is currently serving as AFSCME’s secretary-treasurer, and Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000 in New York, are both attempting to use 9/11 first responders as political tools to justify continuing the expansion of bloated government.

In an attempt to create equivalency between those brave fire fighters and police officers and the DMV employee, the argument has the tone of desperation, as public employee unions face an election where downsizing government is a top priority of voters.

Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG), has a different take on the situation facing organized labor in the public sector.

“It’s truly sick that the public employee unions are seeking to prop up a system that threatens to bankrupt our country and fattens their wallets by invoking the memory of 9/11,” said Wilson. “The sad truth is that the public employee unions themselves through their opposition to common sense reforms like those approved in Wisconsin, are putting our nation in a greater danger than even 9/11 posed.”

Saunders and Donohue both addressed the political setbacks that have beset organized labor recently. On June 5th, Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin prevailed by a wide margin over his Democratic challenger in a union-backed recall election. Walker attracted national attention when he eliminated collective bargaining rights for public workers.

“We were heavily outspent by the Koch Brothers and other groups from out of state in Wisconsin,” Bernard Cade, a member of AFSCME California Local 685, said. “But there were also people in the state who didn’t agree with Walker, but who also didn’t feel the recall was the right approach. Over the long run, I think people will vote with us again when they see that their interests are at stake.”

On the same day Walker prevailed in the recall, California citizens in San Diego and San Jose voted to cut pension benefits for city workers by a wide margin. If the cuts survive a court challenge, they will apply not just to future hires, but also current workers.

Come November, California voters will also have the opportunity to approve the California Government Employee Pension Reform Act Initiative of 2012, which is designed to put public sector employees on more of an even keel with their private sector counterparts.

The constitutional change would apply to all state and local government employees, including special district employees, school districts and the higher education system. If approved, the amendment would impact new employees hired as of July 1, 2013.

Wilson notes, “No one looks at the public employees themselves as being the bad guys, it’s the cozy relationship between the union bosses and the politicians who are supposed to represent the taxpayers that has caused a dramatic shift in the way people view the cost of maintaining public employees in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to.”

“It took just a decade or so after 9/11 for us to become the bad guys,” said Frank Piccioli, president of AFSCME Local 2960 in Arizona.

Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor for NetRightDaily.com. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.

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