Once-secure union jobs are on the chopping block

At the close of World War II, more than 1 in 3 American workers were union members. On this Labor Day, it's down to about 1 in 8. Last year, budget stress forced state and local governments to cut more than 200,000 union jobs.

And as the pressure mounts, cracks are showing in what used to be very strong public-sector unions. CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reports.

It took 15 years for Joshua Sawyer to find his calling. Asked how he liked being a Connecticut state trooper, he said: "Love it. It's like the front-row seat to the best show on earth."

But less than a year after graduating from the police academy, the father of two is losing his job -- one of 56 Connecticut state troopers being laid off -- as the state struggles to close a $3.5-billion budget deficit this year.

"When I was younger," Sawyer said, "my father would say, 'You've got to get into the government or the federal government because you'll be all set.' Well, I'm here now, and that's not exactly the case."

The state had offered Sawyer and other union members a deal: guaranteed job security for four years in exchange for a two-year wage freeze. Sawyer and the police union said no.

"How many more times are they gonna come back to us and say, 'We need more we need more we need more'?" said Sawyer. "Is it going to be to the point where we've given everything back?"

Connecticut is one of at least eight states asking its public unions to make concessions. Efrem Golden, a forensic fraud examiner in Connecticut, voted for the deal.

"How worried were you that your job was going to be on the chopping block?" asked Quijano.

"I was very worried," responded Golden. "Given the economic climate, I don't think it's the right time to draw the line in the sand. We got an offer to get four years of no layoffs. That's what made me vote yes. It was the protection from layoffs."

Trooper Sawyer has no regrets about his decision.

"It's gonna be disheartening when I hand my badge, gun and ID over to my commanding officer," he said, "because I worked so hard for it."

Thursday will be his last day on the job.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.