Declaration of war?
But that may be viewed as a walk on the beach compared to Patrick's declaration that reform in the state's transportation infrastructure must accompany higher taxes, tolls and fares.
That stance has prompted public employee unions to go on red alert. To their mind, Patrick's proposals to eliminate MBTA pension perks and shift Mass. Turnpike Authority workers to a new agency without seniority rights amount to a declaration of war. So they're going first. AFL-CIO president Robert Haynes:
"I think the political implications are obvious. If we lose collective bargaining for public sector workers - for T workers, turnpike workers - I can't predict to you how bad this is politically."Or MBTA Carmen's Union boss Steve MacDougal:
Tough words aimed at a Democratic governor who is standing for re-election in less than two years.
"We understand that this economy and these difficult economic times are going to require, and should probably require, public employee unions to step up, But no one seems to be giving that a shot at the bargaining table," adding if the changes get "rammed" through, "we will view them as a declaration of war against working families in our bargaining unit."
But that inflamed rhetoric may be the exact political elixir Patrick needs to restore is ailing poll numbers.
Can anyone doubt that the public is fed up these days -- whether it is with Wall Street or government in general. People losing their jobs are more concerned with their own survival -- and the sight of taxpayer-paid employees making out better than them only exacerbates their concerns.
There's no question that making changes through the collective bargaining process is better than legislative fiat. But you need to look no farther than the Boston unions -- police, fire and teachers -- to understand why there is skepticism that anything will be accomplished through negotiations. Check out this newspaper editorial:
Even in our 24/7, blog-and-Twitter media world, commentators can barely seem to keep up with the worsening economic conditions. Before the ink was dry on the recent federal stimulus package, experts agreed that another will be necessary. Massachusetts's leaders have revised the state's tax-revenue projections downward, and downward again, and then down even further ...
The only people who seem oblivious to the scope of the problem are the do-nothing right-wing Republicans in Washington — and the greedy, stubborn municipal employees' unions of Boston.
The Herald? The Wall Street Journal? Some right-wing rag? Nope, the Boston Phoenix, aging like the rest of its boomer base for still fighting the lefty causes.
Taking on pension systems that enable workers to "retire" after 23 years and start a new career is going to win Patrick more friends than enemies in the current climate of shared sacrifice.
Memo to Messrs. Haynes and MacDougal: Want to steal the governor's thunder? Invite him to the table with a collective bargaining proposal to share in the reforms necessary to avoid job losses in your own ranks and spare your members higher fees, fares and tolls.
Take the first step and gain the political high ground. The public is demanding sacrifice. You can be a part of the solution and stand up for your members -- or you can be the sacrificial lambs.