[W]ith the city facing a budget deficit that could drain its reserves by summer, [Los Angeles] Mayor [Antonio] Villaraigosa wants to re-open contract talks with 45,000 cops, firefighters, librarians and other city employees in hopes of persuading them to contribute more to their pensions and health-care costs. His deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo, puts it bluntly: "Unions have priced themselves out of a job."
Nationwide, politicians looking for budget cuts are confronting politically powerful unions that represent state and local government employees—15% of U.S. workers and organized labor's biggest stronghold. […]
Similar things are happening at the state level. Over the past two years, 17 states have cut benefits for employees or increased the amount that individuals must contribute to their pension plans. Three of those states—Kentucky, Texas and Vermont—did both[.]
In New Jersey, outrage over state deficits helped Republican Chris Christie defeat incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine last November. A few weeks after Mr. Christie's victory, a Quinnipiac University poll found that three-fourths of state voters supported a wage freeze for state workers, and 61% favored layoffs. Last month, Gov. Christie signed a set of bills that would, among other things, cut pension benefits for future employees. […]
As a group, state and local governments have promised an estimated $3.35 trillion in pension and health-care benefits to be paid over the next three decades, but are estimated to have 70% of the money to cover those payments, according to the Pew Center on the States. Pension and health costs can consume 20% of city and state budgets.
ReasonTV on public sector unions below.