FDR – “Union Buster”

With all of the focus on the collective bargaining process as it pertains to public employee unions, it is important to note that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is echoing the sentiments of noted Tea Partier and all-around “wingnut” Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

Who would have thought that this kind of anti-union sentiment could have come from a true liberal icon?  Surely the Democratic party has moved far, far away from such extreme views, right?

Enter Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

From The New York Times, November 3, 2010.

For Andrew M. Cuomo, it is not Day 1 that may define his tenure as chief executive, but Day 90. That is when two labor contracts will expire for thousands of government workers and Mr. Cuomo’s most important, distinctive and unexpected campaign pledge will face a test: Can he confront and outmaneuver the public-sector unions that have dominated politics and budgeting in Albany for decades?

Onstage Tuesday night at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, as Mr. Cuomo basked in his decisive victory over the Republican Carl P. Paladino, he effusively thanked longtime allies from the labor movement, whose money and muscle have been instrumental in his political resurrection.

But at the same time, Mr. Cuomo has telegraphed a message to those union officials that is both grim and urgent: The state is broke, and the era of gold-plated labor contracts is over.

“There is a crisis,” he told union leaders throughout the campaign, according to people involved in the discussions. “You need to rise to the crisis.”

Oh, I remember the howls from the left at those remarks, don’t you?

By 2015, state pension costs — which are, by law, set in Albany and underwritten by Democratic and Republican administrations — will exceed $8 billion a year, compared with $2.6 billion last year, according to a state projection. At the same time, New York has promised more than $200 billion worth of health benefits to its retirees but has set aside almost nothing to pay for them.

Seems like a very real budget problem to me.  With easy to understand math and everything.  But lets not let that get in the way of the truly important issues.  There’s a “guaranteed stream of retirement income” up for grabs.  And the unions want the governor to know which special interest group put him in office.

Public-sector labor leaders are especially inflamed by Mr. Cuomo’s willingness to consider replacing the state’s pension system with a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k), potentially stripping public workers of a guaranteed stream of retirement income.

They grumble that Mr. Cuomo is biting the hand that fed him. Organized labor was crucial to his victory as attorney general in 2006, and it helped him again this year by nudging the incumbent, David A. Paterson, to drop out of the governor’s race.

New York may be the next biggest shoe to drop with respect to public employee unions.  Now that the official message of the left is that any attempt to reign in union benefits that states can not afford is to be attacked it will be interesting to see if Cuomo has the political strength and fortitude to follow through with his campaign pledges.  Doubtless he is watching the proceedings in Wisconsin with great interest.  What he will have seen is that opposing lawmakers have been provided with a precedent (run away), a number of union employees have been provided with marching orders (de facto strikes)  and that the White House and Congressional Democrats will provide cover.

We shall see if he lives up to his promises.  After all, he would only be living up to the standards of a very famous former governor of New York.

This entry was posted in Politics, Public Unions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to FDR – “Union Buster”

  1. Drae says:

    “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.” -FDR

    I’ve been wondering about this myself, for months, which is firmly lodged in the OB&B archives. What happens when the public unions strike and there is no DMV, or worse – no police and fire departments. Will these public unions go that far? Let the houses burn down and the criminals rule the streets until they get their bankrupting benefits, eh? What public service?

    And FDR – quote of the day material there.

    • Cathy says:

      If only the public employees would strike indefinitely and we could privatize that shit.

      What’s interesting to me about that quote by FDR is how sort of banal it is. Of course shutting down operations until demands are met is the intent of any strike. It goes without saying. To me the whole quote shows Roosevelt’s magical thinking about government being somehow above private industry, exempt from messy issues like collective bargaining.

  2. katydid says:

    Great post!

  3. roopost says:


    Several years ago, in Ontario where I live, public sector unions struck listing an arms length of complaints, issues, and grievances with the then sitting NDP government. The government waited them out, simply letting them stew until – too tired of picketing and watching their public support evaporated they came to the table to deal.

    The “NDP” is the New Democratic Party, out left of left who were elected as a protest vote over a patronising Liberal government – driven from office by voter discontent. The Unions supported the NDP.

    Opposition to public sector unions is a matter of pragmatism. Even the most Union indebted will stand against them if warranted. However, how much nicer would it be if it didn’t take an economic crisis to opposed gluttony at the taxpayer’s expense.

    Kind regards,

    • Gripweed says:

      Agreed, and thank you very much for the comment. While polling data is slow to arrive on this it does appear that a fair amount of the normally stalwart, union supporting Democratic middle class are supporting the legislature here. Support of unions is only as strong as what “your union” is getting versus what the one doing the complaining is asking for. And it does seem as though the public sector unions have an advantage that private sector unions do not have.

  4. Drae says:

    Clearly the Koch brothers have their hooks in Andrew Cuomo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s