THE BEST WAY TO AGREE ON CONCESSIONS FROM WILLING LABOR UNIONS? HAVE A FRIEND DO THE ASKING

Much was made during the gubernatorial campaign about the fact that state employee labor unions endorsed Democrat Dan Malloy. Republican Tom Foley alleged a secret deal between Malloy and the unions—“you [unions] support me [Malloy] and I’ll take care of you when it comes time to dole out the pain in balancing the state budget,” the theory went. The only proof Foley could come up with was a questionnaire in which Malloy checked off that he didn’t support layoffs of union members. And Foley admitted during a debate that he had to get that from a talk radio host.

Yes, Malloy had the backing of the state employee labor unions. Yes, he was endorsed by the left-leaning Working Families Party. But neither means he will be a tool of either group. In fact, the opposite is true. Malloy seems ready to make the tough calls and everyone knows that plugging the $3.4 billion hole in the state budget without concessions from labor is next to impossible. And it’s even harder using the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) Malloy has promised to employ. Malloy needs labor concessions, spending cuts and new revenue. The question here is, “What’s the right balance?”

Foley clearly held another view–rule out new taxes (until he was elected) and then hold the layoff ax over the heads of union members until they cried “uncle!” and gave away the store. Gov. Rell took the nonsensical approach of giving up the layoff leverage completely for merely postponing union benefits and calling them “concessions.”

The bottom line is, if you need something from a particular group, who best to get it from them? A friend or an antagonist? Fortunately for the state, Malloy has a better shot at getting state employee labor unions to consider giving up some of the exorbitant benefits they have (I know, I had those health plans and benefits for more than five years) that far outpace the private sector.