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Benefits and realities: Two unions living in the past

Heading into the autumn of 2013, two public-sector labor unions in New Hampshire continue to live in a pre-2007 world.

Back in the pre-recession days, public-sector labor unions enjoyed high pay and lavish benefits. The recession and subsequent Obamaconomy changed all that. Governments could no longer pretend that they could afford these luxurious contracts.

Numerous public-sector unions have been forced to accept the new reality, but some still hold out as if nothing has changed. In New Hampshire, the best examples are the State Employees Association and the Manchester Education Association.

In June the SEA's Collective Bargaining Senate rejected a new contract that would have given members their first pay raises in more than four years because it included health insurance deductibles of $500 for individuals and $750 for families, rising to $1,000 for families in the future. Last week negotiations broke down again. Union negotiators seem not to care that the average employee premium contribution in 2012 was $951 for individuals and $4,316 for families, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Manchester Education Association has rejected city contract offers over premium contribution increases. The city wanted union members to contribute 12 percent of premium costs for a family plan, rising to 15 percent the next year. Members now pay 6.5 percent. The average contribution nationwide is 28 percent.

The world has changed. Taxpayers cannot afford, and will no longer accept, such generous benefits plans. The SEA and the MEA need to join the rest of us in the real world.


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