Wisconsin: Lesson Learned

24 Feb

I’d like to formally thank the public employees of Wisconsin – the nurses, teachers, and other people who work long hours in often-thankless jobs for pay that doesn’t make anyone rich, and benefits that any human being should be entitled to in exchange for such work.  I’d like to thank them not just for the work that they do, ensuring that their charges are healthy or educated.  I’d like to thank them for standing up for hard-fought rights they are trying to retain.  But above all, I’d like to thank them, as well as Ian Murphy from the Buffalo Beast, “David Koch”, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for showing me exactly why it’s important that public employee unions exist and can collectively bargain with governments that are set on paying those workers as little as possible. Governments that have been brought about thanks to the donations of extraterritorial billionaires on a mission to screw the poor, hurt the middle class, and enrich the already-rich while rolling back health, safety, and environmental rules that protect everyone.

The story about the Beast’s call, of course, isn’t just the fact that Walker explained in detail his strategy to trick Senate Democrats into a supposed quorum. The story is that Walker took the call at all, so readily, when Democratic lawmakers and the press in his own home state can’t get him on the phone.

Don’t forget that Walker cut taxes for businesses by millions of dollars, setting up a deficit that he intends to repair on the backs of public workers.  When he asked those unions for concessions, they readily agreed to many of them, and to negotiate on others. Walker and the Republicans have refused to negotiate.  This isn’t about fiscal discipline – it’s about a crusade to break the back of labor in America. When malicious Republican executives decide that they’re going to bust unions, in the glorious tradition of 80s union-busters Ronald Reagan, Wojciech Jaruzelski, and Leonid Brezhnev, then it’s important that this be exposed for what it is.

All of these lessons are applicable to our own Chris Collins, and New York’s own public sector unions.  Now, Wisconsin doesn’t have a Taylor Law, and its Triborough Amendment ensures that unions can continue to operate under the previous contract so long as a new one isn’t executed, thus eliminating any incentive for them to negotiate.  Unions in New York have a stronger hand than those in Wisconsin.  Maybe that needs to change.  What doesn’t need to change is the right of public sector unions to bargain collectively, especially when they’re treated as fungible commodities by their ostensible boss-of-all-bosses.  What these people do is important, and if you don’t think that teachers deserve to earn $50,000 per year plus benefits for educating the younger generation – even other people’s kids – then the concept of civilized society needs to be reconfirmed and redefined.

9 Responses to “Wisconsin: Lesson Learned”

  1. Mike In WNY February 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    The average Wisconsin teacher receives $70 to $80 thousand in annual compensation when fringe benefits are factored in. This is for what boils down to 36 work weeks per year. The actual demand for their services is artificial since government effectively mandates that the vast majority of students attend public schools. The teachers are not subjected to normal market pressures, like competition, that would improve the quality of education.

    The parents and taxpayers are being screwed since they no real voice or choices. Perhaps all public sector employment contracts should be put on the ballot in November. See what the people really think.

    • Alan Bedenko February 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

      The average Wisconsin teacher receives $70 to $80 thousand in annual compensation when fringe benefits are factored in.

      Another way to say it is, “the average Wisconsin teacher earns a gross salary of about $50 – 60k per year.”

      This is for what boils down to 36 work weeks per year.

      And not counting the weeks of preparation for the school year, curriculum planning, continuing education, conferences, set up of the classroom, attending conferences with parents, purchasing classroom items out of one’s own pocket, etc.

      The actual demand for their services is artificial since government effectively mandates that the vast majority of students attend public schools.

      “Effectively mandates” is another way to say “doesn’t at all mandate”, because the government just wants kids to receive an education. It supplies a free one, but doesn’t make you go to it. One can select a private school or home-schooling.

      The teachers are not subjected to normal market pressures, like competition, that would improve the quality of education.

      Except for parochial schools, charter schools, private secular schools, boarding schools, home schooling, and alternative schools, you’re right!

      The parents and taxpayers are being screwed since they no real voice or choices.

      Except for the choices I’ve outlined above, plus participating on the board of education, the annual school budget referendum, and the PTO, you’re right!

      Perhaps all public sector employment contracts should be put on the ballot in November. See what the people really think.

      Yes, the referendum should read, “Do you think your child ought to be taught by someone who is paid a living wage that acknowledges that they have sought and received a Master’s Degree in Education and been certified to teach, and should those teachers have the right to bargain collectively, as a union, against a governmental entity that would treat them no differently than McDonalds treats seasonal fry cooks?”

  2. Mike In WNY February 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Yes, the wealthy do have school choices for their children and tend to opt for anything other than a public school. The average middle class family can not afford those options AND pay for the failing public school system at the same time. So, they are effectively precluded from choices.

    The “living wage” concept was drawn up by a bunch of wingnuts that know nothing about economics and value.

  3. Eric Saldanha February 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    @Mike – “See what the people really think.

    I agree.

  4. Hank February 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    More People watched O’Reilly,Hannity and Greta last night than are union members in this county. Me heart’s bleedin’ for them. Every teacher I know (and I know quite a few in NC) work summer jobs—often at camps for kids, Boy Scout Camps, etc. WITHOUT UNION representation, they do pretty well. Maybe not as well as big city teachers, but we don’t have the high cost of living that big cities do—not that big city teachers actually LIVE in the cities where they teach.

    I looked into it a couple of years ago when I was an author on Ostrowski’s blog. Mecklenburg County, NC (Charlotte and environs) spent 2500.00 less per student than Buffalo PS, and graduated a higher percentage of students, with a lower drop-out rate. And there are no school buildings in use in Meck county older than 1971. Roosevelt Academy in Riverside was built in NINETEEN TWENTY SIX. Of course, BPS teachers get no co-pay plastic surgery, and union operating engineers in BPS can make over 100K/yr. The unions allow shitty teachers to keep their posititions. What should be happening is the good teachers should stand up and revolt on union rules that let the dinks stay in the classroom. Just because you have a sheepskin that says you’re a teacher is just like someone with a driver’s licence—-doesn’t mean you can drive for a shit, or teach for a shit either.
    Now ya take the average used-to-have-a-job jamoke in Buffalo, and he probably doesn’t see 100K in 2-3 years. If that’s what unions are good for, they’re not so good. Why should the servants of the public make exponentially more money than the people who work and pay taxes to allow them a living? Public sector employees should be bargaining with the people who pay their salaries, aka the taxpayer.

  5. Mike In WNY February 24, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    Eric, I guess you identified the problem with polls. More than 70% of Americans want budget deficits cut. Yet, they balk when the cuts are proposed. I guess you can attribute that to the dumbing-down of democracy.

    Also, I didn’t advocate the destruction of collective bargaining rights, I just said let the voters approve or disapprove the contracts for public sector workers. Let them bargain all they want, just leave the final decision to the people.

  6. Bbill February 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    More People watched O’Reilly,Hannity and Greta last night than are union members in this county.

    And it’s highly likely those people were repeatedly LIED TO.

  7. Peter G February 24, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    @Hank…I’m not sure which North Carolina you’re referencing. I have a friend who has a Master’s Degree in education who moved to Raleigh, NC a few years back simply for the weather (and didn’t do any research on education there prior). NC is a “right to work state”, meaning they don’t allow collective bargaining. The best job she was offered was $19,000 per year as a full-time 6th grade teacher, a position that does not require a Master’s Degree. She had to live with 3 other teachers in a 3 bedroom apartment and they still had trouble making rent. She moved back to Buffalo and had to start as a unionized teacher’s aide, for which she earned $21,000 per year…AS A TEACHER’S AIDE. She is now teaching in the Buffalo Public School System and earning what she’s worth. I, myself, lived in Georgia for 7 years (another “right to work state”). Instead of building schools to accomodate their growing population, Georgia is closing schools and educating their youth in single-wide trailers called “temporary classrooms”. Why do YOU think that NC and Georgia are among the most poorly educated states in this country, with the most predominant professons in those states being bartender, stripper, and meth manufacturer? Incidentally, NC has the 7th worst state finances in this country. I thought that eliminating collective bargaining was supposed to stimulate the economy and eliminate deficits? Idaho, which HAS collective bargaining, has the best state finances in this country. There goes your theory.

  8. Greg February 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    The average middle class family can not afford those options AND pay for the failing public school system at the same time. So, they are effectively precluded from choices.

    Source? My middle class family — and all the families of the kids I went to school with — afforded it just fine.

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