- For LIUNA Leaders
Cities, counties, and states all across the country are facing budget shortfalls as a result of the recession. These budget shortfalls have caused state and local legislators, mayors and governors to make drastic cuts to vital programs and privatize some essential services. For example, LIUNA members caring for Portland, Oregon's parks, community centers, streets sewers, and other infrastructure were recently threatened with layoffs and job loss by the Mayor's austerity plan which would have impacted many city services.
While state and local politicians often claim that privatization will save taxpayers money, it frequently costs more in the end. In addition to the oversight and overtime pay often not accounted in the original contacts, the quality of the services provided can be much worse then when done by unionized workers. According to the International City County Management Association, over 60% of governments who privatize jobs eventually bring those jobs back to the public sector.
The budget shortfalls which have plagued states and localities have in some cases been unfairly attributed to public worker pensions by lawmakers who are looking for reasons to dismantle worker benefits. The truth is that even when the economy was booming, city and state governments failed to make the contributions to the pension funds that they were required to by law. The consequences of these poor financial decisions now harm workers’ retirement security through no fault of their own. Workers have negotiated part of their salary for their pensions as a type of deferred compensation and government employers should not break those promises.
In addition to state and local budget crises, the federal budget has been hijacked by political wrangling resulting in mandatory across the board cuts, called sequestration, that have affected basic services from national parks to national defense. The furlough for Defense Department workers will result in a 20% pay cut, on top of a three-year pay freeze and increasing health care costs. Approximately 53,000 National Guard military technicians – thousands of whom are LIUNA members - who wear a military uniform and are vital to National Guard readiness, are facing furloughs because of the sequestration cuts. LIUNA has called on Congress to pass legislation – H.R. 1014 – to exempt these National Guard members from furloughs and to end furloughs for all federal workers.