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What Role Should Unions Play In A Bad Economy?

Steve Scher
01/11/2011 at 10:00 a.m.

While state budgets are tightening across the country, a lot of attention is being focused on union power. Is an economic downturn the right time to limit the power of unions? State, county and city employees in our region have already made salary and benefits adjustments, and they're facing pressure to slash further. In other states, however, the anti–union forces are far stronger. States are considering banning teacher strikes and prohibiting unions from charging fees. How much power should unions have in challenging economic times?


Reginald Fields is the statehouse bureau chief for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. His state of Ohio has an incumbent Republican governor seeking to change collective bargaining law and prevailing wage rules. Ohio faces an $8 billion budget deficit.

Jeff Johnson is president of the Washington State Labor Council.

Paul Guppy is vice president for research at the Washington Policy Center, a conservative Seattle–based think tank.

Tim Welch is a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees.

David Rolf is the president of SEIU 775, which primarily represents health care workers. The union recently tentatively agreed to give up overtime pay and to take a cut in benefits.

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