Public sector unions in crosshairs after the Wisconsin recall election

san Diego, firefighters
San Diego is just one of many cities where public sector workers' pensions were slashed recently.
CBS News

(CBS News) Wisconsin's historic recall election has re-energized the enemies of organized labor.

"I think really government works better without them. I really do," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, when talking about public sector unions.

On Sunday, Daniels said while private sector unions are necessary, he suggested for those in the public sector, it's time to go. Daniels first took on the unions back in 2005, stripping state employees of their collective bargaining rights shortly after taking office.

"Voters are seeing the fundamental unfairness of government becoming its own special interest group, sitting on both sides of the table," Daniels said.

About 84 percent of public sector workers have access to pensions, compared to only 20 percent of those in private industry, and voters are noticing.

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In San Diego, where 20 percent of the city budget goes to public worker's pensions, voters there just approved a ballot measure forcing them into cheaper 401Ks.

In Wisconsin's case, voters sided with Gov. Scott Walker, who saved an estimated $1 billion by cutting pensions, benefits, and limiting the bargaining rights of state workers.

The unions who attempted to throw him out of office in the end were outspent and defeated.

"Money was a big part of this thing. And you know money is, the money edge, is really dangerous to democracy," said Rich Trumka with the AFL-CIO, on "Face the Nation."

Trumka, who represents 13.5 million workers, vowed to keep fighting.

"The day after that Wisconsin election happened we were back out on the streets, we were talking to workers, we were educating them, we were mobilizing and we were getting them going," Trumka said.

The challenge for organized labor going forward is their shrinking numbers. Last year, union membership in the U.S. fell to its lowest levels in nearly 70 years.