In Massachusetts, a particular form of the cost versus union rights
issue is a plan to combine cities and towns in a large state-wide
health care pool that would save substantial money. I can't take the
time here to cover the collective bargaining issues, but the plan is
provoking strong opposition among the unions who are afraid their
health benefits will be cut. A very progressive pro-union friend of
mine in my town (Arlington) claims the trade-offs will come out pretty
even, and that opposition by the unions is based on a
misunderstanding, at least in Arlington.
One aspect that interests me is that the teachers union would rather
have a dozen member laid off than give way on the health-care pool. I
suppose their reasoning is that lay-offs and hirings come in cycles,
but that a substantive change in how benefits are allocated would be very
hard to reverse any time in the future.