Editorial: Time to redefine the role of public unions

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Over the past several weeks, the Badger State has been the center of national attention as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker seeks to vastly restrain the collective-bargaining rights of public unions in his state.

Much of the attention over Walker’s so called “repair bill” stems from the fact that Wisconsin Senate Democrats physically fled the state to prevent a quorum and a vote on the bill—a rather immature response in a grown-up debate if you ask us.

While Wisconsin has garnered most of the headlines, mostly due to massive protests and the aforementioned fleeing senators, the Ohio Senate has passed its own, but much harsher, “repair bill.”

At a time when the tension between the private and public sectors is high, it’s not hard to see how this issue exploded on the national scene—especially with the dire financial straits the country finds itself in.

But the billing of this issue as a battle ground with union supporters and union haters manning the front lines misses the point.

Everything in life changes with time, and so to has the role of public unions.

The time when public unions we’re truly the protector of the working class has past. There are strong labor laws in place for that—thanks to the efforts of the very same unions during the middle of the last century.

Public unions have done a commendable job bringing equitable treatment to workers. But the pendulum has now swung well beyond equitable.

Now, public unions do more to protect the incompetent worker than the hard-working employee and do nothing to motivate workers to perform at a higher level.

Case in point, contractual raises.

Where is the incentive for an employee to work harder if he or she knows they’re going to receive a 3 percent wage increase regardless of their effort or the quality of their work?

This type of pay structure breeds apathy and a sense of entitlement.

Ohio’s version of the “repair bill” calls for the institution of merit pay, raises based on the actually work someone puts forth, not simply because it was a chip tossed across the bargaining table.

As it should be.

Contractual raises, pension contributions and health care co-pays are not inalienable rights given to us by the Constitution.

In an evolving world roles change. The time has come to redefine the role of public unions.

Should their role be negotiators for raises and benefits regardless of merit or guardians of the labor laws and the equitable balance they shed blood, sweat and tears to give us?

We feel it’s the latter.

Other states are beginning to follow the path blazed by Wisconsin and Ohio and it’s time for Connecticut to tread this path as well.