I would never underestimate the negotiating guile of the major labor unions, but it does appear we are reaching the endgame stage of the municipal healthcare debate.
After a negotiated consensus reform several years ago to put municipal workers into the GIC failed to get a strong level of acceptance, it was clear that something more had to be done.
A number of Mayors (including Menino) advocated for control over plan design, even threatening a ballot referendum (hope Denise Provost can stop them!)
The Governor’s budget (see Section 6, here) put in place a somewhat vague process to (eventually) force workers into the GIC.
The House Ways and Means Budget was much more explicit (see section 46, here), providing clear plan design control to municipal managers. And inflaming the public sector unions, to be sure.
I don’t think its an accident that the day after the House Ways & Means signaled their intent to push this initiative (by strengthening what the Governor had proposed, not watering it down), that Boston’s major unions negotiated a settlement with Mayor Menino to ease healthcare costs.
Here’s how it works — the unions furiously fight the initiative until they feel the political climate turning against them, then they negotiate an ’11th hour deal’ before the legislation formally passes, enabling them to claim that they had been partners in reform all along.
To be fair, I think some of the unions have been enlightened on this for some time (at least at the executive level). But I think the long delay in getting municipal healthcare costs under control has come at a terrible cost, consuming all the new funding in education for at least a decade.