Organized labor's big moment

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  September 15, 2011

Labor leaders may struggle to get the rank-and-file worked up about binding arbitration or longevity pay, as one State House insider put it, but they'll have little trouble galvanizing members around pension reform.

If the House could barely summon the votes to pass the longevity pay cut (the final tally was 39-33) with relatively little pressure from real people, there is some question about whether legislators will be willing to vote for major pension reform in the face of a true grassroots uprising.

But the high-profile nature of the pension fight cuts both ways, of course. Public pressure to do something about the crisis could, ultimately, give Raimondo a trump card as she pushes her proposal in the General Assembly.

And that's not the only factor working in the treasurer's favor. She's also got her own stature.

Raimondo has been on the stump for months now and has become something of a media darling. And with her name attached to the pension reform bill, legislators inclined to a significant overhaul may have just the political cover they need to buck the unions.


DEFINING VICTORY

Labor, though, may wind up with some political cover of its own.

Richard Licht, the governor's director of administration, tells the Phoenix that reamortization — refinancing the pension obligation, and pushing some of the pain down the road — is still on the table.

The maneuver, he emphasizes, would be coupled with some sort of significant reform — perhaps cutting into the annual increases in pension payments that public employees have come to expect.

But it would represent at least a partial win for union leaders — a blunting of the reform's impact. And a blunting is probably the best they can hope for at the moment.

Labor, circa 2011, is playing defense.

And a narrowly defined victory, in the most important union fight in recent memory, seems an appropriate goal for the times.

David Scharfenberg can be reached atdscharfenberg@phx.com.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  | 
  Topics: News Features , Politics, Rhode Island, Pensions,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY DAVID SCHARFENBERG
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LIBERAL WARRIOR  |  April 10, 2013
    When it comes to his signature issues — climate change, campaign finance reform, tax fairness — Whitehouse makes little secret of his approach: marshal the facts, hammer the Republicans, and embarrass them into action.
  •   AT BROWN, A WIN FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVISTS  |  April 11, 2013
    A key Brown University oversight committee has voted to recommend the school divest from coal, delivering a significant victory to student climate change activists.
  •   HACKING POLITICS: A GUIDE  |  April 03, 2013
    Last year, the Internet briefly upended everything we know about American politics.
  •   BREAK ON THROUGH  |  March 28, 2013
    When I spoke with Treasurer Gina Raimondo this week, I opened with the obligatory question about whether she'll run for governor. "I'm seriously considering it," she said. "But I think as you know — we've talked about it before — I have little kids: a six-year-old, an eight-year-old. I'm a mother. It's a big deal."
  •   THE LIBERAL CASE FOR GUNS  |  March 27, 2013
    The school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut spurred hope not just for sensible gun regulation, but for a more nuanced discussion of America's gun culture. Neither wish has been realized.

 See all articles by: DAVID SCHARFENBERG