PBS Newshour 2/25/2011
Excerpts from transcript
JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Gove. Schweitzer, how do you see these public workers who work in your state and other states?
GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D-Mont.): Well, two-and-a-half years ago, before the great recession took hold, we were concerned in Montana that we might have a downturn.
So, I went to the public unions and I said to them, look, we're in this together. We can't accomplish the things that we want to do in Montana if we are not able to pay for it. So, I got them to agree. We negotiated no increase in salaries for the next two years, no increase in benefits, no increase in their insurance benefits. They agreed.
And here was the deal. I praised them for doing the work that matters in Montana. I praised them for going first. I cut my own salary by $11,000. And then we started cutting the rest of government.
I guess I'm concerned that a chief executive, like a governor or CEO of a corporation, if you demagogue the people that work for you, if you say you're overpaid and underworked, what does that mean for the morale? I mean, I don't think there is a CEO in America that would start their first day on the job by saying, our people are overpaid. They would challenge them to do more with less.
But you have to work together in order to make a partnership work.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you're saying Gov. Daniels has done, is demagogue these people?
GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER: No, I'm not suggesting that.
I'm saying that, when we negotiate with public unions, we negotiate very tough. Then, when we walk out of that room, we say thank you for continuing to do this work. In Montana, over half of our public employees make less than $40,000 a year. So...
JUDY WOODRUFF: That doesn't sound like the same picture that we just heard Gov. Daniels paint, where he said they are paid very well, they do quite well.
GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER: Well, in Montana, over half of our employees, state employees, make less than $40,000.
They teach our children. They take care of our disabled people, and they keep our streets and highways safe. That's what they do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But to get to your -- you know, the core of one of your arguments is that public workers don't need the kind of union protection that private sector workers may need. Why is that? What's different about them?
GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R-Ind.): Because -- because, in this case, in a private sector negotiation, somebody is playing with their own money. In a government negotiation, nobody is.
In fact, the government's representative is playing with your money and our children's money. And that's why they give away too much of it. So, you know, don't take it from me. Some of the heroes that we rightfully celebrate of labor rights in American, Samuel Gompers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were unequivocal that government -- that unions had no business in government.
Now, they have gotten there, and in a very successful way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Gov. Schweitzer, how do you see that?
GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER: Well, I think, if you eliminate the ability to collectively bargain for our public employees, then they are effectively negotiating one person at a time. And that's why we created collective bargaining in this country.
It is true that some states don't have collective bargaining for their public employees, and some do. It's working very well in Montana. And part of the reason it works in Montana is I say that it is a shared responsibility. And when we get into tough times, I ask them to share the responsibility.
And, in Montana's case, it's worked. We're running balanced budgets. We have a budget surplus. In fact, we have $328,474,612 in the bank today, partly because our state employees are doing more with less.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But just quickly to Gov. Daniels' point that they don't need this kind of union protection.
GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER: Well, nobody needs union protection. Every individual worker can go to their boss and negotiate any kind of deal that they want. That's what collective bargaining is all about, so that a group of people collectively have some clout. Otherwise, one by one, you could send people down the road. If they say to you, well, I'm looking for a little bit more benefit, they say, well, then you can hit the -- hit the road, Jack.
Now Gov. Brian Schweitzer really knows how to do his job, unions or no unions. He is proof that Republicans are really adhering to their dogma on unions and union busting.
Government unions have nothing to do with budget deficits as Montana proves.
Also, as I've said before, this is sour-grapes. I would say that there is NO worker (private or public) that would NOT like to get union negotiated pay and benefits.
It is not fair to deny others just because you didn't do what is necessary to negotiate your pay and benefits.