New U.S. union chief to face war over benefits

By Lisa Lambert and James B. Kelleher

When the largest U.S. union for public sector employees elect its first new president in a generation next week it will be a watershed moment. The new chief will be running an organization whose members are fighting almost unprecedented cuts in jobs, benefits, bargaining rights - and increasingly angry taxpayers who question the size of their pension and healthcare benefits. The public perception is "that public employees are overpaid, that the public sector itself is overstaffed and that the only victims here are the taxpayers," said Marick Masters, a business professor and labor historian at Wayne State University. Masters said that to a large extent the unions are being blamed for doing a good job for their members. "Public employee unions have worked very hard to make government a model employer," he said. "They have pushed to make them professional, service oriented, well trained, well-educated and well-compensated for the jobs they do," he added. "Today, public employees are a prime scapegoat for the ails affecting government.”

Reuters article

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