Unions hate making concessions. The very purpose of a union is to secure better pay and benefits for its members. The idea of lower compensation is usually a non-starter.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see so many public-sector unions in the Tri-Counties accepting wage and benefit concessions. In some cases, unions have agreed to reductions when their contracts aren’t even up for re-negotiation.
No one wants to make less money, pay more for their pensions or take forced days off without pay. But from the perspective of employees, public-sector management and the taxpayers, concessions are better than the alternatives of deep cuts in employment and public services. The city of Santa Barbara, for example, estimates that it avoided as many as 40 layoffs by getting its biggest unions to agree to unpaid furlough days and other concessions.
The spirit of cooperation has even spread to Sacramento. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration announced new contracts on June 28 with two state unions that involve increasing the share of pension costs borne by the employees. Other recent contracts have had the same stipulations.
We applaud the shared sacrifice on display both in Sacramento and in the region. It’s probably no coincidence that the concessions came first at the local level. As California Lutheran University economist Bill Watkins said in our news pages this week, “At the local level, people seem to be more reasonable.”