October 2012 Issue
September 24, 2012

Letters: State must preserve collective bargaining rights

Author: William Samuels | BALCONY member and Managing Director of the Carlyle Capital Group
Source: NYSUT United

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York state Legislature need to stand fast to protect the right to collective bargaining for public employees.

Eliminating collective bargaining is a dagger aimed at the heart of both business and labor.

BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, was formed to find common ground between business and labor. The right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining is essential in a democratic political system. Recent events in Wisconsin — i.e., the failure to recall anti-union Gov. Scott Walker — could send an ominous message to pro-labor forces, especially in the Midwest.

We must not allow that to happen here. The fear is that states like Ohio, Indiana and Missouri could try to roll back collective bargaining and other union rights for public employees, including teachers and firefighters. Indiana has an anti-union right-to-work law and there are, or have been, attempts to pass such a law in Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan and Maine. The attempt to push right-to-work legislation is especially onerous in Ohio, where voters last year repealed a law limiting collective bargaining by an almost 2-to-1 margin. The disingenuously named right-to-work laws require that new employees be allowed to work without joining a union. In non-democratic societies there is no freedom of the press, no freedom of speech, no right to vote, no union representation and no collective bargaining.

We at BALCONY believe that only at the bargaining table via collective bargaining can we achieve a fair and productive working environment. Though often on the opposite sides of the negotiating table, BALCONY’s businesses and labor unions understand that only through honest good faith talks can a fair and honest contract be hammered out.

Collective bargaining helps to ensure that workers have dignity and justice in the workplace. Businesses need employees who are committed to their jobs, better trained and are valued customers of the services and products of small businesses.

We are encouraged that public opinion polls show that most Americans, in fact, support collective bargaining and the rights of public employees to negotiate their contracts for salary and benefits. We are heartened that many of New York’s legislators and other elected officials support collective bargaining and the practice of settling policy differences at the table and not by legislative fiat. We urge all Americans to support the rights of public employees and others across the nation to negotiate with their employers.

We must continue to work together to create a better society that will protect our families, keep us safe, teach our children well, provide quality health care, plow our streets and help our seniors. Public employees must not be scapegoats as the cause of our recession, the root of our state’s fiscal crisis, nor the reason for our personal economic crisis.

We must realize that the solution to our economic plight is through shared sacrifice. We urge rejection of ill-conceived divisive plans to weaken collective bargaining for public employees and other workers.

William Samuels | BALCONY member and Managing Director of the Carlyle Capital Group