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Last updated on Tuesday, June 12, 2012
(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indiana unions are hitting back at Gov. Mitch Daniels about comments he made over the weekend.
Daniels took a shot at public sector labor unions Sunday, saying government is better off without them.
It's a nasty exchange between two sides whose relationship seems to be at the breaking point, RTV6's Norman Cox reported.
Daniels flattened organized labor on the day he took office and supported the Right To Work bill that passed in the last session.
Daniels said government employee unions are bad ideas altogether, for more than one reason.
On Daniels' first day in office, he eliminated collective bargaining for state employees by rescinding the executive order issued by former Gov. Evan Bayh.
He said he feared that the unions would get in the way of the reforms he wanted to make in state government, but workers were still free to join unions.
Sunday, Daniels told Fox News' Chris Wallace that his preference is for no public employee unions.
He said voters are seeing the fundamental unfairness of government becoming its own special interest group, sitting on both sides of the table and that fundamental services are being diminished because high salaries and benefits are eating up tax revenues.
"I really think state government works better without them. I really do," said Daniels. "You know, in our state, we had a 16-year run with so-called collective bargaining, and we did end it. I want to say that, although it led to the savings of large amounts of tax dollars, it was not principally about that."
Daniels rejected Wallace's contention that he's trying to break both public and private sector unions and that state worker salaries and benefits here rank poorly in comparison with other states.
Conservatives say public employees have an unfair advantage in bargaining because there are no checks and balances.
Governments with no competition can simply raise taxes to pay higher wages.
"It's an advantage. Whether you call it unfair or not can be debatable," said Butler University Business Professor William Reiber. "Any time you have a national recession, something has to give."
Unions responded angrily to the governor's statement.
American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees' Council 62 Director David Warrick rejected Daniels' claims of excessive public employee salaries.
"My wife works for (Family and Social Services Administration)," said Warrick. "She's been there for 15 years. She makes less money than if she would go out and get a job as a janitor at a hospital in a private company."
Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg rejected Daniels' statement.
He said protecting workers' rights to negotiate for fair wages produces stronger communities and a stronger economy.
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