Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says he supports collective bargaining rights for public employees — so long as negotiations don’t break the bank.
In a wide-ranging interview Monday with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Cain said collective bargaining is okay, “but not collective hijacking.”
“What I mean by that, if they have gotten so much for so many years and it’s going to bankrupt the state, I don’t think that’s good. It appears that in some instances, they really don’t care,” Cain said.
Asked about supporters of an Ohio law that would have curtailed collective bargaining for virtually all public employees, Cain said “maybe they tried to get too much and as a result it failed.”
The law, which Buckeye State voters rejected in a statewide referendum last week, would have trimmed collective bargaining rights for state workers, police officers, firefighters and teachers. A similar law in Wisconsin, which Cain supports, exempted police officers and fire fighters.
When asked whether he thought federal employees should have collective bargaining rights, Cain said “They already have it, don’t they?”
When told they do not, he replied, “They have unions.”
Cain is correct that federal employees have collective bargaining rights, but most federal worker unions may only bargain over working conditions and other non-compensatory issues.
The big exception is federal air traffic controllers, who may bargain with the Federal Aviation Administration over wages. Employees of the U.S. Postal Service — a quasi-government agency — also bargain over pay and benefits.
But federal worker union membership is dropping: Just 984,000 of the federal government’s 3.5 million full and part-time workers were members of a union in fiscal year 2010, a 1.2 percent drop from the previous year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 1.1 million employees -- or 31 percent of the federal government’s workers — are represented by unions, an almost 2 percent drop from 2009.
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