Tag Archives: public sector unions

Elections Have Consequences

9 Mar

 . . . or so we are reminded when President Obama is nominating new justices to the Supreme Court, or pushing new healthcare legislation. Apparently the same is not true at the local level, where in Wisconsin a newly elected Republican governor, a Republican Senate (19-14) and a Republican Assembly (57-38) are unable to pass budgets or public-sector union reform since the opposition will not even show up for work.

"Moranism" or "How the Left Never Resorts to Hitler Comparisons"

Complain as you will that Republicans in the US Senate threatened to filibuster President Obama’s legislative agenda. At least to filibuster they needed to be in Washington, so there was hope of talk and eventual compromise. If you are hiding in a neighboring state, and allowing surrogates to make your case for you, there is no hope of anything.

Of course, this battle is less about an upcoming budget and more about reining in the power of public sector unions, whose outsized pension and medical benefits, negotiated by politicians of both parties, are bankrupting states. That is not hyperbole. A year old report estimates the total shortfall for state pensions nationwide at $3 Trillion, or a third of our total federal debt. California alone has a $500 Billion hole, or six times the state budget. Six times. You don’t just toss in another 5% a year to make that whole again. You must significantly raise taxes or cut benefits to a sector that is already earning a compensation package 45% above the national average. The average pay of a Milwaukee teacher is $102K. Srsly.

To quote the Obama Administration again, Governor Walker shouldn’t let this serious crisis go to waste. Wisconsin has led national reform before, and it is doing so again. I lived in Wisconsin during the welfare debates of the 1990’s, and despite warnings of a complete breakdown of civilized society, Tommy Thompson’s reform was adopted nationwide as a major Clinton policy achievement. The public cannot afford the deal made to public sector unions, and it’s time to trim. If a state finally has a politician with the gumption to take on a major lobbying force and donator to both parties, then he should strike while he can. Such opportunities do not often present themselves, so why should Walker negotiate? He is simply acting as liberals wished Obama would on tax cuts, healthcare and the stimulus. Better that he embody that Bush-like quality of decisive implementation of a single coherent policy. At least then we aren’t muddling through tepid bi-partisan band-aids.

What of the sacred collective bargaining rights, the firewall issue that sent Wisconsin Democrats to Illinois? This fundamental, inalienable right is not present in twelve states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia), and is limited in twelve more (Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wyoming). Somehow in those states children are taught, fires are fought, crimes are solved, streets are plowed, benefits are paid, and the bureaucracy crunches on. It does so without either massive poverty among state workers, or terribly unsafe working conditions.

Public sector unions are fundamentally incompatible with government. Don’t trust me. Trust FDR:

All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into public service….  The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people.

In other words, the government isn’t management. Politicians change. The will of the people changes. In fact, the workers pick the politicians with a self-reinforcing political “donation” system. There is no corporate hegemony to protect the workers from. They don’t need to be shielded from the abuses of the public. The general citizenry is not profiting at the public worker’s expense. In fact, comparatively, it is now the opposite.

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.

Jurassic Public Sector Unions

23 May

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com