The Sound of Silence

You may have missed it, but the Great Massachusetts Union Debate was for all intents and purposes resolved Thursday night with passage of the Senate budget draft.  You will recall last month, when the House budget blueprint was met with (literal) howls of protest from the Commonwealth’s public sector unions.  There were rallies and marches, threats and invective.  This week… there is only silence.  Ominous silence.

The Globe is pretty sure the union bosses just packed it in and went home, tails between their legs.  Under the headline “Senate limits bargaining rights to save on health costs,” reporter Michael Levenson describes a resounding taxpayer victory:

The Massachusetts Senate voted last night to curb the collective bargaining rights of police officers, teachers and other municipal employees, making it likely the overwhelming Democratic state will limit union power in an effort to ease budget woes…

The voice vote, with barely any debate, came a month after House lawmakers approved similar legislation in hope of saving cities and towns $100 million in the next budget year. Governor Deval Patrick has indicated he is eager to sign the bill once the two branches hash out their differences.

While the measures backed by the House, Senate, and governor vary, all three would allow mayors and other local officials to move local workers into the state’s health insurance plan or to design their own plans that similarly trim costs paid by municipal employers. Each plan would leave a window to discuss those changes with workers, but would ultimately let local officials alter their plans, regardless of whether workers oppose it.

So… if all of that is true, why the silence?  After all, an effort to limit collective bargaining in Wisconsin resulted in a near riot at the state capitol, occupation of that building for more than a week by angry protesters, the entire state democratic caucus going on the lam, across state lines.  And we are to believe that here in Massachusetts our public sector unions have just rolled over?  Deferred meekly to the inevitable?  More Globe:

“We have lost collective bargaining rights on both sides of this proposal,” said Raymond McGrath, a lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Police and the National Association of Government Employees. “I hope the Senate version is what is [ultimately] accepted, although the Senate version is not what we would like, either.”

“Not what we would like,” but oh well.  Does that sound like the union bosses we have come to know and love?… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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