From the Desk of Stephen Cabot: Following the lead of Wisconsin and Ohio, Governor David Heineman of Nebraska and Republican lawmakers have decided to rein in the ever-growing power of public sector unions. They have introduced legislation that would curtail the power of the state’s Commission of Industrial Relations, which adjudicates labor disputes. The proposed legislation would not only curtail the power of the Commission (which many view as pro-labor) to set wages and work conditions, but it would also remove its jurisdiction over retirement and healthcare benefits, especially for teachers. Not only are lawmakers dissatisfied with the Commission, but they are worried about the state’s budget deficit which is projected to be $943 million over the next two years. The Commission was created in 1947 as a result of a debilitating utility workers strike, and Nebraska became one of 31 states with commissions that adjudicate labor disputes. Governor Heineman has declared that if the reform of the Commission does not take place, he will work to generate a ballot initiative that would call for the elimination of the Commission. The ongoing efforts to increase productivity and reduce the power of public-sector unions are fast becoming one of the most important labor relations trends of the year; and if those efforts are successful, all Americans will benefit from reduced taxes and higher levels of employment.

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