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Labor Day 2010

September 6, 2010

This is the day that we’re supposed to reflect on the contributions of American workers and the organizations that represent them.

New York State designated the first Labor Day in 1882 and Congress officially adopted it 1894. It was a time of violent labor-management clashes, and “a day of reconciliation” was needed desperately.

By comparison, labor-management relations today are tame, although tensions now seem to be increasing. There’s a growing sense that the unions are an obstacle in resolving some of the most pressing problems facing New York State. Spending is truly out of control in New York government and you can tie it directly to the influence of the unions.

But there’s nothing nefarious about this. The unions, most notably 1199, NYSUT, PEF and CSEA, have played the game well. They have used their political clout to achieve things that were clearly in their members’ interest, but less clearly in the broader interest of taxpayers.

There is an imbalance, which Andrew Cuomo in a Daily News op-ed today, says we need to address. He appeals for a spirit of cooperation in doing so.

This, of course, is the right thing for him to say, but nobody expects it will be that easy. In fact, the next governor is in for a real battle in trying to extract concessions from the unions that could help make New York competitive again.

The key, we’ve always believed, is in the numbers. In this regard, New York State spends far above the national average in so many areas. In fact, in some categories we spend two and three times the next highest states.

This must change if we’re going to make any kind of sustained comeback in New York. We’ve got to bring spending levels into line with national averages.

With strong and consistent leadership and effective communication with the public ­ we believe the effort of right-sizing New York government can be achieved. And we believe it can be done without generating the type of strife that led to the creation of the original Labor Day.

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