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Six in 10 Connecticut union members work for government

The traditional image of the union member as being a working class, blue collar factory worker has been replaced by a new reality: the state-employed bureaucrat enjoying perks and high pay at taxpayer expense. Figures show that six in 10 union members work for government. While some of them plow roads and keep us safe, many more are social workers, white-collar administrators and highly paid professors.

Connecticut ranks fourth in the nation for the number of union members who work for government after only New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Connecticut gained 29,000 union jobs from 2013 to 2014. Many of those jobs gained may have been state and municipal employees rather than private workers.

Professors Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and David McPherson of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, have compiled various statistics about union participation and membership at UnionStats.com. Their figures show that 61.1 percent of Connecticut’s union workforce is employed at either the state or local level.

Government is one of the the last bastions of union power in the country. According a 2015 BLS report, “Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).”

These figures also show that Connecticut has much higher rate of public union membership than the rest of the country. A study by Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, found that Connecticut public employees make 25% more than their counterparts in private industry. The difference is largely attributable to employee benefit packages which are negotiated by the unions through collective bargaining.

In releasing his budget revisions for the upcoming year, Gov. Dannel Malloy called for cuts to the state employee workforce and for changes to state employee benefit and pension packages. His proposals seek to stave off a “fiscal cliff,” but met with anger from union representatives. Cindy Stretch, who represents Southern Connecticut State University professors called the plan “a double dose of arsenic.”

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