Here in Massachusetts there is a state law which says municipalities must negotiate with unions whenever they want to make changes to the current health care plans and payments. So what has happened is towns are spending more and more each year of their budgets on health care for employees.
A report was done by two organizations here that reviewed the costs in 14 towns. If you are a public employee in those towns, you pay an average of $11 co pay for primary care, $14 for specialists, generic drugs cost you $8, brand drugs cost $15, non-preferred brands cost $31. You also have no copayment for imaging and no deductible. Are your costs anywhere near that? And probably up to 85% of your premiums are paid by your employer.
The report recommends that the state law be changed. The governor is backing the change. The unions are not happy. They claim their members have made concessions in wages for years. The problem is the equation has changed and change can not be avoided.
I am not saying the unions shouldn't have some say but they need to realize that something has to give. Either cut jobs or change health care payments. Do we want fewer teachers, fire men, police officers, public safety employees, roads paved, etc? I hear it here - the fire department and police departments face job cuts but the unions won't negotiate on health care.
The public complains why aren't there trash cans in the public parks - because the town no longer has the manpower to empty them. Or why is there an increase in graffiti? Because the officer in charge of following up on graffiti had his job cut. And no one wants to pay more taxes.
The situation in Wisconsin recently received national and international attention over union busting. I think it was a poorly handled overly hyped situation. But it did draw attention to the fact that change is needed.