is pretty well set out in this article in The Providence Journal about intimidation of legislators who are considering reforms needed to save Rhode Island from fiscal collapse (see my post yesterday for background):
Philip Keefe, the president of the second-largest state employees union, the R.I. Alliance of Social Service Employees, said recently: “If they attempt draconian changes, then there will be a price to pay. … If they say there is going to be a 15-year freeze on COLAs, that means war to us. That means that anyone [who] votes for something like that is not a friend of labor.”
“If you are not our friend,” Keefe said, “you are likely our enemy.”
During election year 2010, more than two dozen labor-backed PACs in Rhode Island collectively spent at least $472,880, according to a Journal analysis of reports filed with the state Board of Elections.
Some of the big-spenders: The state chapter of the NEA spent $93,584; the R.I. Federation of Teachers, a total of $35,256; the R.I. AFL-CI0 PAC, $32,106; the Cranston firefighters, $23,075; the R.I. State Firefighters Association, $25,250, while three different arms of the Laborers’ International Union spent a collective $63,362.
The problem with public sector employee unions is that unlike private sector unions, there is no arms-length bargaining. Private sector unions cannot vote out the CEO, who is bargianing with private not public money.
And the CEO is not subject to these types of tactics:
No one knows better than one-term lawmaker Mary Ann Shallcross-Smith the potential risk that lies in wait for any state legislator who votes to cut pension benefits.
A freshman from Lincoln, Democrat Shallcross-Smith lost her House seat in the 2010 Democratic primary to a union-backed challenger, after voting to limit the annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) provided retired state workers, teachers and judges to their first $35,000 in benefits.
“They come right up to you at the State House and tell you how they want you to vote. … ‘You need to vote this way or we will find an opponent for you’ … and that’s exactly what happened,” said Shallcross-Smith in a recent interview.