Itâ€™s somewhat understandable that Connecticutâ€™s unions are accusing a blue-ribbon panel charged with salvaging the stateâ€™s fortunes of taking a â€śLet them eat cakeâ€ť approach to blue-collar neighbors. At the same time, unions are guilty of symbolizing that other overused cake idiom about having it and eating it too.
Labor leaders, for example, slapped a failing grade on recommendations from The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, while embracing suggestions such as raising the minimum wage from $10.10 an hour to $15 over the next four years. The withering response leans hard on comparing the commission to college freshman who believe they have all the answers. Even their use of quotation marks is sarcastic.
If it sounds like a hopeless contract negotiation, consider the makeup of members on the other side of the table. Most have carried titles of CEO, chairman, VP or president. None represent the voice of a union. Itâ€™s easy for wags to point blame at unions because of the pension debt that has buried Connecticut in such a deep financial hole. As Connecticut tumbles down most state rankings, it is usually cited as tops in the nation for pension benefits, which average here at more than $35,000.
The debt isnâ€™t the fault of the unions, but former administrations that clung to the â€śpay laterâ€ť model. More recently, Gov. Dannel Malloy has initiated pay freezes, chopped his payroll and required higher contributions from union members. Many of his critics think thatâ€™s not enough.
The unions, of course, renounced all reforms. They may not deserve to take all of the blame for Connecticutâ€™s instability, but they need to come to the table before all the cake is gone.