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McConnell Refusing to Pay Police Pensions

The Senate leader refuses to send money to states to destroy public employee unions and pensions

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 28, 2020

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the following:

“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of. We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them. We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they've made in the past, we’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves [with] bad decisions in the past.”

After his comments came out, there was a lot of attention placed on the response of  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who called the comments "dumb,” “irresponsible,” and “petty”. However, there was a deeper meaning to McConnell’s comments. Simply put McConnell was declaring war on the public employees that keep these states running and their unions.

It's ludicrous to say that New York's financial problems are due to our pension costs. The state’s fund, which is the third-largest in the nation, is also one of the best-funded in the nation, while Kentucky’s pension, ranks 49th. The reality is that the federal government failed to use our tax money to help the states, instead telling New York and other states to go out and buy the needed supplies to fight COVID-19 on their own. First McConnell and Trump forced the states to spend the money and now they are going to let their vulture capitalist donors swoop in, pick apart what's left of the state's finances and bleed state pensions dry.

Why though in the middle of a crisis, when the Senate is printing money for everyone who wants it, is McConnell so fixated on fighting with the blue states? The answer, of course, lies in politics. Public employees continue to be some of the most organized workers in the United States. While just 6.2% of private-sector employees are in a union, 33.6% of public employees are union members. This gives unions like the AFT, NEA, and AFSCME a lot of political power, and that power is often used to defeat anti-union politicians that support Mitch McConnell. Many of the industries these public employees work in would also be privatized if not for the unions fighting to protect them. Don't believe us? Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has already tried to privatize public education through charter schools and school vouchers and Trump has been floating the idea of privatizing the post office for three years. So if states are forced to declare bankruptcy, they will not only be forced to lay off many of these union members, but they could also lose their retirement savings. That will mean less money and less power for these unions to fight for pro-worker issues and candidates. Just like Janus, which was was funded by McConnell donors, this move is another attempt to break public-sector unions like the PBA and the teachers union.

While police and fire continue to put their lives on the line every day, McConnell works to prevent them from getting a paycheck. While doctors and nurses at NYC’s public hospitals treat COVID-19 patients McConnell is working to take their funding away and give it to anti-union Wall St speculators. Parents everywhere are learning how difficult it is to educate the next generation, yet states declaring bankruptcy would mean fewer teachers and less funding for your students’ education. While Delta and Boeing get billions in bailouts, your kids suffer.

This blatant attack on union workers needs to be called out for what it is. If the United States Senate fails to send money to the states, money that the taxpayers of those states paid to the federal government, they are declaring war on our teachers, police, firefighters, sanitation workers, transit workers, and so many more public employees. Unions like the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) are already asking their members to contact Congress and demand money for the states in the next stimulus package, but McConnell is still refusing to make a commitment to it.

Thankfully in the days since his comments, he seems to have backed off of his position slightly, but he is still holding the funding hostage. He is now insisting that any funding for the states comes with a limited liability agreement for companies. This would mean that workers who get sick or die because they are forced to work during the pandemic would not have legal recourse to sue their employers. With Mitch McConnell in charge, workers and unions only have an enemy in the Senate.

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