Greta Van Susteren asks Tim Pawlenty about this nasty little screed he wrote recently attacking public sector unions and their benefits. Here's the opening.
When Americans think of organized labor, they might think of images like I saw growing up in a blue-collar meatpacking town: hard hats, work boots, tough conditions and gritty jobs.
While I didn't work in the slaughterhouses, I did become a union member when I worked at a grocery store to help put myself through school. I was grateful for the paycheck and proud of the work I did.
The rise of the labor movement in the early 20th century was a triumph for America's working class.
In an era of deep economic anxiety, unions stood up for hardworking but vulnerable families, protecting them from physical and economic exploitation.
Much has changed. The majority of union members today no longer work in construction, manufacturing or "strong back" jobs.
They work for government, which, thanks to President Obama, has become the only booming "industry" left in our economy. Since January 2008 the private sector has lost nearly 8 million jobs, while local, state and federal governments have added 590,000.
Pawlenty apparently thinks if you don't wear a hard hat or steel toed boots as part of your job, you don't deserve the protection of a union. I guess he also thinks that no one who's drawing a check from the government does physical labor.
Transcript and a response from the Minnesota Nurses Association below the fold.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you have an op-ed piece in which you talk about government employees. And you say that according to your op-ed piece, government employees have an average income of $123,000, which is twice the average pay, according to you, of the private sector. And you go after the unions. You used to be a union guy. What happened?
PAWLENTY: Well, I grew up in a meat-packing town, Greta, and for seven or so years of my life, I was in a union. I come from a lunchbucket union family. My dad was a truck driver. My mom died when I was 16. These unions played a role when the workers were being exploited in places like coal mines and meat-packing plants and other dangerous circumstances.
But now you have the biggest growth in unions in government employees, government unions, the public employee unions. They are some of the most protected, secure employees in the country. And they have pay and benefits that are better, in most instances, than the taxpayers who are actually paying the bill.
It's unsustainable. It's unfair. This -- I call it a silent coup in some ways. But obviously, this has to be taken head on. We've done this in Minnesota and made some good steps. We're getting sued over it, by the way, in a case that's probably going to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. But if we don't get this fixed, it is going to go a long ways towards taken down California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and places like that, and many other states won't be far behind. But we've got to make sure that we get people more aware of, really, the scandal that is the public employment pension and benefit Ponzi scheme.
Soon-to-be-former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty recently penned a blistering attack on state employee unions, including state-employed nurses. Below is MNA President Linda Hamilton’s official response, which has been sent to the Star Tribune and The Wall Street Journal, which originally published Pawlenty’s Op-Ed on December 13th.
Here is the response:
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s recent opinion piece (“Public Sector Unions a Burden”) was filled with the political rhetoric that our soon-to-be-former Governor has been using to start his 2012 Presidential bid instead of serving the people of Minnesota.
According to Mr. Pawlenty, government employees who care for our sick, plow our streets and teach our children should feel ashamed and embarrassed to be part of a union. Apparently, it is our state-employed nurses, snowplow drivers, janitors and teachers that are responsible for Minnesota’s nearly $6 billion budget deficit – not Tim Pawlenty’s failed leadership.
Perhaps the most absurd part of Mr. Pawlenty’s feeble attack on the working class is his contention that we should strive to rely on “predictable” retirement benefits such as 401(k) plans. Maybe our Governor missed the recent financial collapse where these “predictable” 401(k) plans of countless Americans evaporated into thin air? Maybe he thinks unemployed workers are able to save for their retirement?
Speaking as a nurse who spends her time working here in Minnesota rather than campaigning for higher office all across the country on the state’s dime, I can say without reservation that Tim Pawlenty’s true legacy is one of trying to pin our state’s budget woes on the backs of the working class while doing everything in his power to protect and reward those private sector, multimillionaire CEOs who continue to bankroll his political platform.
Sincerely, Linda Hamilton, President
Minnesota Nurses Association