ClickBack

ClickBack on State Workers

Posted Feb. 28, 2011, at 7:24 p.m.

This week, ClickBack asks editorial page readers about the number of state workers in Maine, the role of unions in the workplace, the Defense of Marriage Act and how gas prices factor into views on wind power and other alternative energies. To participate, visit bangordailynews.com and select ClickBack from the Opinion menu.

How many state workers does Maine need?

About 13,000 state workers report, indirectly in the chain of command, to the governor. Another 14,000 or so work for the University of Maine and Community College systems and Maine Maritime Academy, institutions funded in part by the state. A conservative group wants to see 3,880 positions cut, arguing that Maine’s state-employee-to-private-sector-worker ratio is too high. The state work force has declined by about 1,000 in recent years. How much smaller should the staff be?

Should laws be changed to weaken union powers?

Several state governments are trying or have succeeded in enacting laws that weaken the power of unions to bargain for wages and benefits. Is this a positive trend, perhaps restoring compensation equity between state workers and private sector workers doing the same work? Or are union powers fundamental in protecting workers from the tyranny of employers whose ability to treat workers badly increases during recessions?

Do you agree with the Obama administration’s decision to stop defending DOMA?

Last week, the Obama administration announced the Justice Department would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage as between a man and a woman — in federal courts from challenges that the law is unconstitutional. Some believe the president has an obligation to defend all federal laws, even if he disagrees with them or believes they are unconstitutional. Others applaud his decision, asserting that the law will eventually be reversed. Should DOMA be defended or deserted?

With gasoline on its way to $4 per gallon, will wind power opponents change their tune?

As bigger portions of American household budgets are devoted to gasoline and heating oil, will wind power and other solar-based powers look more attractive? Will aesthetic concerns fade as electric cars become more common?

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