Wisconsin’s Uncivil War

The battle of Madison, Wisconsin and Columbus, Ohio is the first major fight of America’s new Civil War between the Governors and the Unionists.

Wisconsin’s Scott Walker pushed through a law curtailing collective bargaining for state employees. John Kasich of Ohio forced  similar legislation through in Ohio. Now the unions are mounting a counterattack through demonstrations and a full court press in the press.

It is unclear who will win this war. The first sneak attack portrayed the Unionists as spongers who have perverted the political system by co-opting politicians with gluttonous campaign contributions and then exacting tribute from them through opulent pay contracts and pensions that will ultimately bankrupt the States.

The Unionists were surprised by the advance of the Governors, but now are mobilizing their legions under the banner of “saving the middle class.”

The public is just starting to listen. The next election may be the decider of the current war because the early battles will be indecisive. The Courts will dither while the troops skirmish with signs and occasional fists.

To me the big question is how “Middle America” comes to view the fight. The middle class has undeniably taken a beating over the last decade, but whether the voters will see the Unionists, particularly the government worker Unionists, as one cause of the decline is the big question. We tend to like our local teachers and mailmen, even Congresspersons, despite the fact that we loathe them as a group.

We are witnessing more than a food fight in Madison and Columbus. This is not the start of class warfare in America. This is the war for the middle class voter that will decide at least the 2012 election.

Question: Should government workers retain collective bargaining rights?

From pbrcpitterpatter.blogspot.com

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19 thoughts on “Wisconsin’s Uncivil War

  1. dma

    I used to think that Unions had outlived their usefulness, now they seem to be the last bulwark against the move to redistribute wealth away from those that create it to an aristocratic class who feel they have entitlement to as much wealth as they can accumulate.

    Why worry about a union worker who makes a few thousand more than he “deserves” for doing something useful, when a hedge fund manager ends up with a billion dollars in his pocket by devastating a company that took years to build up?

     
  2. Kelly Hagberg

    Lloyd,
    You really should be working for the MSM or other wise known as the drive by media.
    Last time I looked Wisconsin and Ohio both had elected majorities that passed these laws, but you insist on using the verbs “pushed” and “forced” that really do not reflect majority rule. Using your descriptive vocabulary we where “forced” or “pushed” into having President Obama. Keep up the view from the left Lloyd its a hoot.

     
  3. Tom

    There should not be any union government workers period. The temptation of corruption is too great and the remedy too hard to enforce. All contracts should be outsourced to Nonpolitical companies and if those companies decided to hire union fine if not fine. The American public cannot be held hostage for each election cycle.

     
  4. american-american

    First, I want to address your statement, “This is the war for the middle class voter…” This is NOT a war for or against the middle class or any other class. It IS a war against decades of insane, irresposible and unsustainable spending….PERIOD

    Second, I do not have anything against collective bargaining. What I do have a (BIG) problem with is union national offices pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of liberal law makers. The money is taken from dues collected from members, many who want nothing to do with the liberals. the money is given to the same law makers who “bargain” with the unions. What an obvious and blatent conflict of interest. If there must be unions involved with public workers then those unions must be COMPLETELY barred from making political contributions to anyone involved.
    My suggestions:
    1. Cut the garbage, (like comp time) out of the union contracts.
    2. Eliminate “prevailing wage” and especially “union only” requirements from bid requirements.
    3. Ban unions from making ANY contributions to any political parties. All union political donations should be recognized as actually being bribes.

     
  5. Ed Probst

    Lloyd,
    Good question. As with most complex problems there are complex answers. Here in Wisconsin a three plus billion dollar structural deficit has slowly made itself apparent over the past 20 years. Republican and Democrat Governors alike have overseen and ignored this growing problem. The recent decline in revenue to the State of Wisconsin only made the problem come to a head more quickly.
    Governor Walker ran on a platform which included fixing the state budget. The problem of excessive retirement and medical benefits for State, County, Municipal, and Public Teachers are only part of the budget problem – but they are the lion’s share. When a public employee can retire between 50 to 55 years of age with a lifetime pension (calculated on the 3 highest years of income) along with gold-plated health insurance (until age 65) they are no longer the “middle class”. They have become a privileged class that uses compulsory union dues to fund the election campaigns for those people that will continue the monopoly that unions have in the public workplace.
    The public sector unions have had close to 50 years to steadily negotiate the wages and benefits to their current level. At one time a public employee was required to contribute 5% of pay toward their pension and the public employer was required to pay an additional 5%. That 5% by the employee has been negotiated away and now the public employer pays the full 10%. This is just one example of how mandatory arbitration between the unions and the public employers has made collective bargaining into an unfair tool.
    The Wisconsin State Legislature has passed a bill that removes collective bargaining from pension and healthcare benefits and limits negotiated salary increases to changes in the consumer price index. If any of the public service unions want a salary increase in excess of the CPI it must be approved through a referendum vote by the taxpayers. The state is not cutting anyone’s paycheck, they are not changing the retirement age, they are not cutting healthcare benefits – they are just asking the union employee to pay for a portion of them.
    Governor Walker did not come up with these cost saving measures out of thin air. He spent 8 years across the table from union negotiators as he worked to keep Milwaukee County solvent and live up to his pledge of not raising taxes. It was during that time he realized what had to change if Wisconsin was going to get its fiscal house in order.
    Should the unionized government retain collective bargaining rights? Yes, but we have to learn from our mistakes and reset the parameters of what can be bargained for – especially when the union members are earning more than the people that pay them.

     
  6. Daniel Richter

    Public sector employees shouldn’t be allowed to unionize. This isn’t the governors against the unions, it’s the taxpayers against the pubic sector unions. There’s a perverse relationship in that we pay the bills, but seem to no seat at the bargaining table while the unions and politicians make deals to perpetuate each other at our expense.

     
  7. Brad Chenoweth

    These laws were passed by MAJORITIES elected by the voters in each state. Despite the rhetoric from both sides, the truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.
    Having worked in both union and non-union shops, my view is that the unions reached the point where their greatest efforts were directed towards fighting for the most unproductive workers they represent (a small minority of their members) . There are plenty of conscientious, hard-working union workers across the country who have been damaged by these “in-it-for-me” union brothers.
    That said, government should be run like the business it is, and that will require good faith efforts from both sides. Just taking away collective bargaining rights could, in the next election cycle, backfire on the elected official espousing those tactics. Meanwhile, pay based on performance has worked out pretty well a lot of us in industry, myself included. Everyone needs to pull their weight, not just coast along to a lucrative pension, as many in the private sector feel government employees (politicians included) do.

     
  8. dma

    First, the budget problem is a lack of revenue, not excessive spending. Trillions of dollars have been taken out of the economy and distributed to a very small number of people.

    Second, the studies show that public sector workers do not earn more than private sector workers. In fact the only reason they don’t currently make less than the private sector is the recent reduction in private sector income.

    Third, these workers accepted lower wages for a better retirement. now we want a “do-over” so that a few people can accumulate unimaginable wealth and still not pay their fair share of taxes.

    Union dues come from workers in small amounts and only influence politics because union members are first citizens and they vote. The unions tend to support both liberal and conservative candidates.

    The money that taints the political process comes from a small number of the uber-rich, who use the political process for personal enrichment. They use their money to engage in smear campaigns and voter suppression. They look to elect radical politicians who will do their bidding.

    Wake up!

     
  9. Michael Miranda

    The middle class taxpayers are the ones supporting the public sector unions.
    Public sector employees should NOT be allowed to unionize.
    These unions aren’t in a battle with “big, evil, corporations! They are taking money from their friends and neighbors. Their excess benefits costs are unsustainable.
    There must be more like Walker and Kasich.

     
  10. Michael Miranda

    Also, Wall Street bankers gave more in political contributions to Obama and the dems than they did to Republicans in 2008. Whay can’t you people realize that Republicans are not “for the rich” but for fiscial responsibility.

     
  11. EJE

    No unionization for public employees. If the employees unionize then all civil service protection must be eliminated completely. Protection against competition for government services should be eliminated and the government employees would have to compete in the open market. Every worker in the public workforce has to compete to hold their job by delivering a competitive product. Political/ union featherbedding must be eliminated.

     
  12. Tony Kennedy

    public unions are unfair to the taxpayer. they have bargained their way into every taxpayers pocket, and we have NO choice to use any other services……let them compete with private workers…I have to fund my retirement 100%, I don’t get sick days….I don’t even get vacation days off, because I own a small business.

    In the last couple years, I don’t even earn as much as the Madison, WI buss drivers….this is ridicules.

     
  13. BR-549

    This is old law put in place 50 years ago. I have worked in the private sector all of my working years. When I started, health care was free. I did contribute to my own retirement starting as soon as possible at $1 per pay check. But over time, employers started to offer health care as an option I could help pay for. Since then, the cost has risen to the price I pay today. I read about others mentioning that they took the public job because of the pension and health care was paid for by the state. Since they started at their public jobs, why would they think that their fringe benefits would never change or they would never have to contribute to their own benefits?

    Another thing I think they must consider is they are fighting to maintain a pension / health plan from a system that has no money in it. A negative balance is less than zero. I am kind of surprised that they are willing to contribute one single penny to toss into a black hole so deep you cannot hear the coin hit bottom.

    When I read articles about these debates, it seems they want for me to pay for my retirement and health care as well as their retirement and health care. It might sound greedy, but how about if I contribute to mine and they contribute to theirs? I would have more money to spend each month if I could get someone else to pay for my future benefits instead of me.

     
  14. Turd Burfle

    So if you don’t allow the unions to buy politicians why would you advocate allowing corporations to do the same. (See recent Supreme Court rulings) It is amazing how the extreme right co-opted the voting middle class by convincing them that our tax problems were due to unwed mothers, illegal immigrants and the public school system and then go after the Unions at the first opportunity. Most well managed companies realized that workers will shun the unions if you pay then a decent wage and benefit package. Most well managed companies can afford it and realize they do better business that way. Unfortunately the fashionable trend is to fire all the FTE’s (Full TIme Employees), replace them with desperate unqualified temps and then ship the work to China.
    It’s always easy to put the squeeze on the average worker in a down economy.

     
  15. YOME

    15% tax across the board, including all the huge corporations that get out of paying taxes altogether. Eliminate all loopholes

     
  16. Ed Probst

    DME,
    Spare us the union pap. Unions are the largest contributors of money to political races. They contribute more than 90% of this money to Democrats. And please quit spreading the myth of the Uber-Rich being conservative – last I heard it was Warren Buffet complaining that we don’t pay ENOUGH in taxes. The people complaining about paying too much in taxes are us schleps who go to work every day and put our time and capital on the line in the hope of making a profit – sorry, did I say a dirty word? The people I see retiring in their 50’s are school teachers and multi-millionaires – what do you think they have in common?
    Go back to sleep!
    P.S. If the public unions are so great why did 85% of the State of Indiana public union members quit paying their dues when they were no longer mandatorily withheld from their paychecks?

     
  17. Bill Prion

    What determines the value of a used machine? The obvious answer is that the machine is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. But this of course assumes the question is asked in an environment of freedom for both the buyer and seller. If the freedoms of either party are hindered, the cost of the machine is altered and the word ‘value’ is no longer appropriate.

    There are many forms of governments and economies throughout the world. In the US we claim to have a ‘free’ country and, by comparison, this has been a true statement. A free economy where the value of things is determined by buyers and sellers acting without force has made our country prosperous and strong.

    The concept of unionism is an anomaly in an otherwise free country. It is a communistic philosophy and I am continually astonished that the concept of a labor monopoly is tolerated by so many.

    Lloyd, your question was “Should government workers retain collective bargaining rights?”
    I translate this to “Should a specific group of taxpayer-paid individuals be compensated in excess of what they would earn in a free market?”

    Since I believe in freedom for everyone, including employers and tax payers, I’m going to have to say NO!

     
  18. Greg Sweet

    Why do the media all seem to agree that these new laws were forced through or pushed through, as though some independently appointed group unilaterally enacted them? They were passed by officials elected by the people in accordance with the existing laws and rules of the states. The words chosen to describe the process are revealing.

    And, no, there should not be unions for government workers. The reasons are too numerous to list here, but you can see where they have led us.

     

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