This is why fewer and fewer people support public sector unions

Late last week the state Senate passed the latest iteration of pension reform legislation.  The marquee provision raises the minimum retirement age for most public employees from fifty-five to sixty years of age. 

Would anyone be surprised to learn that the Commonwealth’s public employee unions strongly opposed the change?  State House News (via WWLP):

The unions, who represent hundreds of thousands of police, firefighters, teachers and other workers, say the bill will force employees to work later in life and receive a smaller benefit because of past mistakes made by the state. “There is no justification for cutting the pension benefits for future public employees,” the unions wrote.

No justification… except that the state’s current unfunded pension liability (the value of our pension obligations for which no money has actually been set aside) could pay for the Big Dig several times over, and is continuing to grow at a horrifying rate.  And as to those “past mistakes made by the state”?  Sober and disinterested observers might rationally observe that among those “mistakes” was the decision to allow public employees to retire at an age when a lot of private sector workers are just hitting their professional stride.

Among the unions’ few remaining strong arguments is the notion that current public employees decided upon a career in the public sector based on a certain understanding – a “contract” with the state – and it is wrong, morally, for the state to renege on that contract by unilaterally altering the terms.  I agree with that to a certain extent, although there does come a point where the inflexible reality of the ‘blood from a stone’ scenario kicks in (see, e.g., Central Falls).

But that isn’t what we’re talking about here.  The increase in retirement age contemplated by the current legislation (from middle age to late middle age) would leave current public employees free as ever to “retire” at 55 (and embark on a second career – maybe in “consulting”! – with the backstop of a state pension).  Future employees would enter into their employment with the full understanding that they could very well be “forced to work” a little bit “later in life.” 

This situation in a nutshell explains why all across the country public sector unions are losing public support at a dizzying rate.  They over-reach.  Always they over-reach… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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