Flint budget cuts: Emergency manager intends to outsource garbage pickup, senior centers, other services | MLive.com

FLINT, MI — More jobs that have been held for decades by city workers could soon be headed to the private sector.

On the heels of confirming that the city lockup will be reopened and run by a private firm, Flint emergency manager Michael Brown said he intends to outsource waste collection, the senior centers and janitorial services.

The city is soliciting proposals from companies for all three of those areas, but no awards have been decided, he said.

“We’re coming up with alternative ways of delivering services,” Brown said Thursday in an interview in a conference room in the mayor’s department at Flint City Hall.

The move to more outsourcing is the latest in a series of budget cutting moves Brown has made since Gov. Rick Snyder appointed him to take over Flint in December.

The city’s four public golf courses were outsourced in March — three to a private contractor and one to a nonprofit.

Other emergency managers around the state also have privatized services, such as busing in Detroit public schools, water and sewer operations in Pontiac and ambulance services in Ecorse.

More outsourcing in Flint could lead to more job cuts in the ranks of city workers.

The city has already sent out 98 layoff notices across numerous city departments this month in preparation for the 2013 budget cuts that are set to take effect when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

“It’s all part of the balanced budget (which is posted online),” Finance Director Jerry Ambrose said in a written statement. “Tough times call for tough choices to be made.”

Those layoffs are expected to save the city between $9 million and $10 million.

There are no estimates yet on how much the latest outsourcing moves would save the city or how many more positions would be affected.

Already, 54 positions are being cut in the city’s “infrastructure” areas of service, which include water and sewer operations; waste collection; street maintenance and engineering; parks; community and economic development; facilities maintenance; and fleet.

The emergency manager said city unions would also be able to submit bids for the services when applicable.

“We’re hoping it would involve better services for citizens,” Brown said. “Where our people can bid on these things to provide the service, they can.”

Don Lewis, president of the city supervisors union, AFSCME Local 1799, said he hopes his members will have the opportunity to review the bids first, and then submit comparable proposals.

He said it would save the city time and money to allow workers who already have the experience in those departments to provide the service when possible.

In the past, union members were allowed to review the bids and could submit proposals within 5 percent of the lowest bid and still be considered for the job, he said.

“I don’t know (if we can do) that yet,” he said. “Let’s keep people in house who already know those areas. It’s a smoother transition and seems like it would be less cost to the city and less hassle to the people trying to train them.”

A request for proposals for waste collection has been posted on the city’s website, and calls for a three-year contract. It also encourages vendors to hire city workers when possible.

“These private contractors shall provide, in a good workmanlike manner, the services called for and described herein which shall consist of all supervision, equipment, labor, and all other items necessary to provide the city with complete refuse collection, removal and disposal,” it says.

via Flint budget cuts: Emergency manager intends to outsource garbage pickup, senior centers, other services | MLive.com.

Union Chief McEntee’s Charter Flights Become Issue in Succession Vote – WSJ.com

Lucrative compensation packages and the use of chartered jets by the departing head of the nation’s biggest public-sector union are looming as key issues in a contentious election to fill his position later this month.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, traveled by chartered aircraft 18 times since the beginning of 2010, at a cost of about $325,000, according to internal union expense reports viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. McEntee, a powerful figure in the labor movement and Washington politics, announced last year that he would retire this month after 30 years as president of the union, which has been particularly hit by state and local government layoffs.

In an election scheduled for June 21, Mr. McEntee’s hand-picked successor, Lee Saunders, the union’s secretary-treasurer, faces challenger Danny Donohue, president of Afscme Local 1000 in New York. Mr. Donohue’s campaign has seized on Mr. McEntee’s air travel to indirectly criticize Mr. Saunders, who oversees the union’s finances.

Gerald McEntee, shown at a 2008 convention, has run the nation’s biggest public-sector union since 1981.

“Whatever the national officers’ rationale may have been for relying so heavily on charter jets in the past, we believe this practice must end immediately,” the Donohue campaign said Friday. The campaign said that, if elected, Mr. Donohue would redirect resources “to focus more directly on the defense of vital public services and the employees who provide them.”

Chris Policano, a union spokesman, defended the private jet travel. “President McEntee has been a powerhouse during the battles we’ve been fighting all across the country, but in his late 70s, he’s not as spry as he was a decade ago,” Mr. Policano said. “The logistics of commercial travel at times are simply impractical to do the job he has done so well for the past 31 years,” he said.

Mr. Saunders has said he would not take chartered flights, a representative said Friday.

The union, which represents government workers ranging from clerical staff to probation officers and school-bus drivers, has been hit by tight state budgets and lawmakers who have pared public payrolls and scaled back benefits.

The use of private air travel has been controversial at other unions. But it has diminished markedly in the past two decades, partly because of opposition from rank-and-file activists who criticized the planes as a wasteful perk for top officials.

In the 1970s, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters owned five jets and two turboprop planes. Several months after Ron Carey became its president in 1991, he sold the union’s two remaining planes.

“Our movement succeeded in getting the jet planes sold,” said Ken Paff, national organizer with Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a rank-and-file group.

James Hoffa, the Teamsters’ current president, buys commercial coach tickets and sometimes gets upgrades to first class because of his status with the airline, said Bret Caldwell, a union spokesman. “Jim is a very frugal administrator,” he said. “Our general policy is that we fly by coach. That’s for everybody.”

Gary Hubbard, a spokesman for the United Steelworkers, said President Leo Gerard “almost always” flies coach.

The International Association of Machinists owns a Learjet 60 that was built by members employed at Bombardier Aerospace in Wichita, Kan. The machinists union spent $724,686 in 2011 on expenses itemized as aircraft maintenance or aircraft fuel, according to a government filing. It spent $73,430 on hangar rental fees.

“There are over 1,000 district lodges around the country, and getting people to them is often a matter of speed and urgency, and commercial aviation doesn’t meet the needs,” said Frank Larkin, a union spokesman.

Mr. Donohue has also criticized the pay of top officials as too high. Mr. McEntee earned a salary of $387,671 in 2011, according to a government filing. Mr. Saunders earned a salary of $310,137. Mr. Donohue, who said he would cut the salaries of the union’s top two officers by $100,000, earned $142,175, according to a filing.

Mr. Saunders said he would cap the president’s salary at $290,000.

Mr. McEntee’s salary ranked sixth among top union officers at the 13 international unions with more than 500,000 members, according to an analysis of union financial reports by Americans for Limited Government, a conservative think tank.

Nathan Mehrens, the group’s general counsel who worked in the Labor Department’s office in charge of labor financial reporting during the Bush Administration, said it was difficult to track union spending on air travel, because unions don’t have to report certain expenses that may involve travel in government filings.

Mr. McEntee took a string of flights in the first four months of this year between his home in Naples, Fla., and Harrisburg, Pa., where he attended a labor convention; Washington, where the union’s headquarters is located; and Orlando, Fla., where the AFL-CIO had an executive council meeting. The cost to the union: $90,176.66.

In 2011, Mr. McEntee took seven chartered flights between August and December, at a cost of $98,115.66. In 2010, he took eight trips at a total cost of $128,906.67.

To be sure, he would have racked up a good-sized bill if he had taken commercial flights.

via Union Chief McEntee’s Charter Flights Become Issue in Succession Vote – WSJ.com.

Obama: ‘It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine’ – First Read

Under fire from Republicans, President Obama clarified an earlier assessment of the health of the private sector, explaining that it’s “absolutely clear” the economy is not doing “fine.”

The president, in response to a question Friday afternoon in the Oval Office, backtracked somewhat on his comments his morning that “the private sector is doing fine.”

“It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That’s why I had a press conference,” Obama said.

Obama’s original comment drew immediate scrutiny from Republicans; Romney, speaking in Iowa, said the comment showed that Obama was “out of touch.”

The president’s initial remarks were intended to portray the relative weakness in public sector hiring — an outgrowth of spending cuts at the federal, state and local level — versus the private sector. The drop off in public employment has been a drag on the overall employment picture; the economy added just 69,000 jobs last month, a number that was so low, in part, because of anemic public sector hiring.

A variety of Republicans pounced on the comments nonetheless, proclaiming Obama as disconnected from economy, the central issue in this fall’s election.

The president used the opportunity to take a shot at Romney and those Republicans.

“You know, and what I’m interested in hearing from Congress and Mr. Romney is what steps are they willing to take right now that are going to make an actual difference?” Obama asked. “And so far, all we’ve heard are additional tax cuts to the folks who are doing fine, as opposed to taking steps that would actually help deal with the weaknesses in the economy and promote the kind of economic growth that we would all like to see.”

via Obama: ‘It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine’ – First Read.

Voters approve cutting public employee benefits | Pension Reform content from American City and County

Public employees and their unions took a beating at the polls in recent votes. Voters in two major California cities approved cuts to government retirement benefits, while Wisconsin voters rejected a bid to oust Gov. Scott Walker for his efforts to end collective bargaining for most public employees.

Voters in San Diego and San Jose on June 5 overwhelmingly approved cuts to retirement benefits for city workers, according to The Associated Press (AP). In San Diego, the nation’s eighth-largest city, two-thirds of voters approved cutting pension benefits. In San Jose, the nation’s 10th largest city, 70 percent of voters approved retirement cuts.

Measures in the two cities differ, but each cuts retirement benefits for both future and current employees. San Diego imposes a six-year freeze on pay levels used to determine pension benefits unless a two-thirds majority of the City Council votes to override it. In San Jose, current workers have to pay up to 16 percent of their salaries to keep their retirement plan or accept more modest benefits. Most new hires in both cities would get less generous benefits.

Supporters said voters were sending a message: Government workers’ pensions cost too much and are more generous than the private sector. That message could spread to other state and local governments where officials say paying retiree benefits means having to short public services, like filling potholes or keeping libraries open.

“The message is that if elected officials and public employee unions do not responsibly deal with this issue, voters will take things into their own hands,” Thom Reilly, former chief executive of Clark County, Nev., now a professor of social work at San Diego State University, told AP.

Supporters said the failed recall in Wisconsin also signaled that voters back efforts to curb public employee unions. They cite examples in Indiana, which this year became the nation’s 23rd “right to work” state banning union contracts that require fees from nonmembers, and Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed through a series of bills targeting teacher tenure and salaries.

via Voters approve cutting public employee benefits | Pension Reform content from American City and County.

Mayor Calls For Pension Reform For New City Workers – Studio City, CA Patch

In an effort to reduce the city’s share of the rising cost of retirement for its workers, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Thursday called for the city to move swiftly to raise the retirement age and reduce pensions and retirement health care benefits for newly hired employees.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Villaraigosa ordered the city’s top budget analyst to expedite a report detailing how the city can enact the changes.

Villaraigosa favors raising the retirement age for new civilian hires from 55 to 67 years old, citing an increasing average life expectancy.

The mayor also wants to reduce the maximum amount of money retired city workers can receive through their pensions. City employees earn a percentage of their salary for each year they work and can earn up to 100 percent of the salaries at retirement.

Villaraigosa proposes that pensions be capped at 75 percent of a worker’s salary. The average worker receives a pension worth about 70 percent of their highest salary. Villaraigosa would also reduce employees’ pensions by using an average of a worker’s five years of highest salary rather than the current 12-month average.

Villaraigosa also wants to halve the maximum amount the city will pay for workers’ retirement health care from the current $1,190 per month to $596 and eliminate coverage for spouses or dependents.

Villaraigosa asked City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana to immediately report to the city’s Executive Employee Relations Committee, which meets only in closed session to discuss city personnel issues.

The committee, which next meets on Tuesday, is comprised of the mayor, City Council President Herb Wesson, Council President Pro Tem Ed Reyes, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Krekorian and Personnel Committee Chairman Paul Koretz.

Citing an opinion by the City Attorney’s Office, Santana said the City Council can approve the pension changes through an ordinance because the employees who would be affected by the changes have not been hired yet and are, therefore, not union members.

“Pensions are one of the fastest growing costs in the city and a real contributor to our structural deficit,” Santana said.

An actuarial study of how much the city could save by enacting the changes has not yet been made public, but Santana said the savings would be enough to allow the city to start hiring workers again and guarantee some level of retirement health care benefit for future workers.

The changes proposed by the mayor are likely to face stiff opposition from city employee unions. Lowell Goodman, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 721, said he was unclear on whether the mayor would support enacting the changes without a vote from union members.

“Last year through collective bargaining we negotiated pension reform, and the result of that is that it paid off immediately for the city,” Goodman said. “This year, the city’s pension costs are down 13 percent, meaning the city spent $63 million less this year than it did last year.”

“The mayor is putting the burden of managing the city’s finances on the backs of the 99 percent, when we gave him concessions in our last contract,” Goodman said. “We essentially handed him a check, and he failed to manage the city’s finances.”

via Mayor Calls For Pension Reform For New City Workers – Studio City, CA Patch.

Week in Review: IL pension reform still top priority | Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Capitol was quiet a week after lawmakers closed out the spring legislative session, but pension reform negotiations continue behind closed doors in Chicago.

Legislative leaders meet with Quinn in Chicago

The state’s four top legislative leaders met with Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday in Chicago to begin hashing out pension reform.

The reform effort fell apart in the final hours of the legislative session, when lawmakers disagreed over shifting some costs to local school districts. Democrats supported the cost-shift, but Republicans said they feared it would lead to property tax hikes.

Quinn met with Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago; House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago; House Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego; and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

State officials are gathering information from school districts statewide to find out how shifting some pension costs to them and away from the state would affect their bottom line.

“We can’t have partial solutions. That won’t get the job done,” Quinn told reporters after meeting with the leaders.

The reform package is a top priority for Quinn. If the state’s mounting pension liability goes unaddressed, its bond rating could be downgraded.

State’s unfunded pension liability picture could change

A recalculation of the investment returns in one of the state’s major pension funds could affect reform efforts this summer.

The Teachers Retirement System, the largest state-run public pension system, is recalculating the amount of money it makes on its investments. If the figure is lower than the current expected rate of return of 8.5 percent, the system’s unfunded liability would increase.

Furthermore, if the recalculated rate of return is less than 7.75 percent, the unfunded liability will continue to grow yearly, a state budget expert said.

TRS has an unfunded liability of $44 billion, or 55 percent unfunded, meaning it only has enough assets on hand to cover 45 percent of the cost of current and future pensions.

TRS recalculates its expected rate of return every five years. The latest recommendation to change the rate could come as soon as the system’s June 21-22 board meeting. TRS spokesman Dave Urbanek said no decision has been made, and no options have been presented to board members.

Lawmaker panel recommends discipline for indicted colleague

A panel of state lawmakers on Wednesday recommended that the state House pursue disciplinary action against indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith.

Members of the six-person House Special Investigative Committee, formed to examine a federal bribery charge against Smith, a Chicago Democrat, said their probe is complete, and reasonable grounds exist to pursue discipline against him.

The punishment, if any, could be reprimand, censure or expulsion. A new House committee will meet within the next 30 days to begin deliberating what should happen to Smith, who faces a federal charge of accepting a $7,000 bribe.

The new bipartisan Select Committee on Discipline will be headed by state Reps. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. It will have 12 members, or “jurors,” who will be appointed from the House — six from each party. Lang and Durkin will “try” the case, and the jurors will hear the case.

Any recommendation of punishment must go before the full House for a vote. A two-thirds majority is required for punishment to be handed down.

“Personally, it saddens me that we’re here today, not only personally, but on behalf of the institution — to go through this process with one of our members. I wish it were otherwise, but these are the cards we were dealt,” said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, chairwoman of the Special Investigative Committee.

State police settlement money due to former Death Row inmate

A $2.5-million settlement check from the Illinois State Police to former death row inmate Randy Steidl must be in hand by June 15, according to records in a civil rights lawsuit pending in federal court.

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond could not verify whether the agency anticipates any problems getting the settlement money to Steidl by the deadline.

“All I can confirm at this time is that the settlement has been approved,” Bond said.

The settlement was approved in October, but the General Assembly had to appropriate the funds, which will come from the fiscal 2013 budget.

Steidl, who turned 60 last year, spent more than 17 years in prison — 12 on death row — for the 1986 killings of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads in their Paris, Ill., home. The two were stabbed to death and their house set on fire.

The settlement with the state police, if it goes through, means the agency will be dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit, which is still pending against other defendants, such as the former Edgar County state’s attorney and the City of Paris.

Steidl’s attorney Flint Taylor, who works for the People’s Law Office in Chicago, said the state has agreed to pay the settlement by June 15.

“We’re hopeful that’s going to happen. We’re in contact with the lawyers for the state, and they’re making every effort to comply,” he said.

via Week in Review: IL pension reform still top priority | Illinois Statehouse News.

Village trustees debate union contract before vote | village, trustees, union – The Telegraph

The Telegraph

GODFREY – Village trustees voted for and approved the union Street Department workers’ contract, but a few disagreed on some of its terms.

Trustees passed the 2012-through-2014 union contract by a vote of 4-2, with Trustees Mike Stumpf and Jeff Weber voting “no.” Stumpf objected mostly because of a safety bonuses requirement and Weber mostly because the Teamsters do not have to pay for part of their insurance coverage, whereas non-union village employees do pay a part of their premium.

Four things were debated during the negotiations, and all but the safety bonuses were changed.

“I don’t feel safety bonuses should be a union contract issue; it should be at the will of the village for a good job,” Stumpf explained. “Now, it’s mandatory, and I propose it be removed. It’s a thank-you from the village.”

But Mayor Mike McCormick noted that most of the board was in favor of leaving in the safety bonuses issue, which a poll of the trustees revealed during negotiations, he said at the village’s regular board meeting Tuesday night.

Weber then explained his objection.

“They get $10,200 in benefits, and they’re not paying a dime, and the rest of the employees of the village have to help pay,” he said. “But because they’re Teamsters, not a dime.”

Trustee Sarah Johnes then noted that the contract provided the village a $1,700 reduction per man the first year if the insurance issue hadn’t been proposed, which is not paid for by Godfrey taxpayers or the village, but a national organization for unions. However, Weber was not persuaded by Johnes’ comment.

“What we’re saying is those people are in a different class than these people, and I think that’s completely wrong,” he said.

via Village trustees debate union contract before vote | village, trustees, union – The Telegraph.

State Arbitrators Rule In Favor Of Town, Against Manchester Police Union – Courant.com

MANCHESTER ——

In a long-standing dispute over the police union contract, state arbitrators have ruled in favor of the town.

The dispute between town administrators and the union centered on a benefit that gave officers triple-time compensation for working on a holiday. For holiday work, officers have received eight hours of pay at the normal rate, a paid day off for the holiday and a paid day off for working on the holiday.

Union representatives say their stance on keeping the benefit was not about money, but rather about time off that officers need as respite from a stressful, often dangerous job.

In its binding decision, however, the state panel found that “the cumulative amount of benefit time off that officers currently receive has resulted in excessive overtime costs which have had a significant impact on the financial capability of the town.”

“The union was valuing time off as being worth more than money,” union President Sgt. John Rossetti wrote in an email Thursday. “The town disregarded our request and took our time from us anyway. It is considered the most significant loss this union has experienced throughout its entire history of negotiating contracts with the town of Manchester.

“We have a very professional and well-trained police force, and people in Manchester should feel very good about that,” town General Manager Scott Shanley has said. “But in this era, we have to take a look at public employee contracts and legacy clauses that provide for (future) liabilities to the taxpayers.”

Those extended liabilities include the months of paid time off that police officers can accrue, Shanley has said. Besides the holiday benefit, officers’ time off includes annual vacations ranging from 10 to 25 days, 15 sick days a year and one day off for every 90 days of perfect attendance.

Police have been working under a contract that officially ended on June 30, 2010. Last year, town and union negotiators tentatively agreed on a compromise that would phase in a compensation change to double time-and-a-half for work on most holidays. But rank-and-file members rejected that deal and the contract went into state-governed binding arbitration.

The new contract is to extend to June 30, 2014 and includes retroactive pay raises. Arbitrators agreed with the town’s last best offer on officers’ pay, which calls for hikes of 1.75 percent effective Jan. 1, 2010; 1.5 percent effective July 1, 2011; 1.5 percent effective July 1, 2012; and 1 percent effective July 1, 2013.

The union had sought raises of 2 percent effective July 1, 2010; 2 percent effective July 1, 2011; 2.5 percent effective July 1, 2012; and 2.75 percent effective July 1, 2013, according to the arbitrators’ report.

Arbitrators wrote that Manchester is “heavily dependent on property tax revenues but has not been able to make up the loss in other funding by raising taxes because of the slow growth and even some declines in its grand lists.” The arbitrators also noted that costs have increased for employees’ health benefits and that Manchester school buildings, libraries and other public infrastructure need millions of dollars in repairs.

But Rossetti repeated in his email Thursday that the union has been willing to accept minimal or no pay raises to keep time-off benefits.

“The union’s response is simply that the arbitration decision is binding toward us and we have no avenue of recourse,” he wrote. “We have no intention of strike, lawsuit or other.”

“As always, we are dedicated to the residents of Manchester and our primary objective is to provide the best possible service to them as we continually strive to do so.”

via State Arbitrators Rule In Favor Of Town, Against Manchester Police Union – Courant.com.

Illinois Warned by S&P as Pension Reform Stays Stalled – The Bond Buyer Article

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leaders failed to resolve their differences on stalled pension reforms following a meeting this week as Standard & Poor’s sent the message that a reckoning looms over the strain of massive pension obligations on the state’s balance sheet.

S&P rates Illinois’ general obligation debt A-plus and has assigned a negative outlook to the credit since January 2011. “We expect to resolve the outlook on Illinois this year based on our review of the fiscal 2013 enacted budget and the state’s progress, if any, on addressing its significant pension liabilities and associated cost pressures,” read a report authored by analysts Robin Prunty and John Sugden.

The state is struggling with $82.9 billion of unfunded pension liabilities — representing a funded ratio of just 43% — and will pay $5.2 billion towards pensions in fiscal 2013, up by $1.1 billion in the current fiscal year.

The Wednesday report comes nearly one week after political differences derailed pension reforms in the Illinois General Assembly despite pressure from Quinn and progress on other fiscal challenges. Before adjourning, lawmakers limited spending growth in the $33.7 billion fiscal 2013 budget, completed a $2.7 billion overhaul of Medicaid, and made a dent in up to $9 billion of unpaid obligations.

The report said S&P would evaluate the budget to assess progress in moving toward structural balance, the soundness of state revenue estimates, and implementation risks of the Medicaid changes.

“There was no action during the regular legislative session on pension reform and we consider this negative from a credit standpoint,” the analysts wrote. “Despite significant revenue enhancement and ongoing revenue recovery, structural budget balance has been elusive and liquidity remains strained due to the state’s growing accumulated deficit.”  read more…

via Illinois Warned by S&P as Pension Reform Stays Stalled – The Bond Buyer Article.

In New York, a Private/Public Sector Union Rift

The fact that government employee unions have been at the center of budget debates across the nation underscores their outsize influence on state and local government expenditures. Many states and municipalities face budget shortfalls so serious that even traditionally labor-friendly Democrats are having to confront the significant costs that unionization of the public workforce imposes. In some states, such as Rhode Island, Democratic politicians have implemented reforms in the face union opposition.

Now government unions seem to be experiencing strain in their relationship with another traditional ally: their private sector counterparts. In New York, a group of building trade unions have contributed to an organization that has backed Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo in his efforts to gain concessions from his state’s government employee unions. As The New York Times reports:

Backed with millions of dollars in contributions from business, the Committee to Save New York has been Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most important ally in his battles with public-sector unions over government spending, pensions and teacher accountability.

But the committee turns out to have another source of money: a group of building trade unions who contributed $500,000 last year. Their decision to back Mr. Cuomo — and help finance an offensive against their public-sector brethren — illuminates a deepening fissure in the labor movement.

Labor officials said the union contributions to the business group in 2011, which were revealed in records filed with the federal Labor Department and interviews with people familiar with the donations, reflected workers’ deep unease about a slowdown in the construction industry in New York and their hope that Mr. Cuomo and the business committee could persuade voters and lawmakers to support publicly financed building projects and encourage growth.

Therein lies the conflict. While private sector unions cannot go so far in their demands that they drive an employer out of business, government unions face no such brake. As a result, public sector unions have been intransigent in the face of elected officials’ requests for concessions to help close budget gaps. That runs counter to the interests of private sector unions that depend on a sound business environment where their members can find work.

However, government unions  are down but not out. In the auto industry, government intervention has blurred the line between the private and public sectors. The United Auto Workers may have undermined General Motors’ and Chrysler’s competitiveness, but never paid the consequences for it, thanks to federal bailouts. ObamaCare threatens to aggravate that situation, as government inserts itself more into the health care industry.

All of this gives some large private sector unions an incentive to organize public sector workers, as the Teamsters are now doing.

Two and half years ago, the number of union members in government overtook that in the private sector for the first time. Given unions’ increasing difficulty in remaining viable in the private sector, government’s share of total union membership is only likely to grow.

via In New York, a Private/Public Sector Union Rift.