My fellow union members turned down the contract the state offered us. I feel that the union is dying to have a strike because they think strikes are cool. They see themselves as waging an historic battle. While they live their fairytale, I get to choose between crossing the picket line and facing the scorn of my co-workers or sitting at home and losing more money that I could ever hope to regain through an improved contract.
I predict that the strike will last until the state offers to exchange the step increase, which only benefits workers who are not yet at the top of their pay scale, for a cost of living increase, which benefits everyone. That is what happened with the last strike.
A few points on political reality:
A great number of Minnesotans are without health care or paying a lot more for it. This doesn't mean we should lose our excellent benefits, but it gives a chance for our critics to practice divide and conquer tactics: They can say, "look, you have shit for health care and those state workers have a pretty good deal. Help us take it away from them so that you all have shit for health care.
The Pawlenty administration has been doing OK. I prefer that they raise taxes on the rich. I prefer that they end the ethanol subsidy. But, on the plus side, he is looking at importing drugs from Canada.
There is a tiny portion of the state budget that is legally or politically "touchable" State workers are a great political target. There is a juggernaut of political will to cut the budget and a complete lack of political will to go after the real budget buster: health care. So, to strike in the face of this juggernaut is like throwing ourselves in front of a speeding bus.
I am ready to pay more for the great health care coverage my family and I get. The state has a budget crisis and everyone has to sacrifice. The reality is that health care costs are breaking our budgets! If we don't pay for them up front, our children will pay for them down the road.
Let me end by saying that if I have to sacrifice in this way, lets be damn sure that the contractors who make so much money off the state sacrifice too. That means drug companies, construction companies, computer companies and such, all the way down to the folks who sell us office chairs.