Hey, let’s just ban those unions!

At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to say again what I said right here on January 1:

You can decide for yourself after the first session of the legislature, the cabinet selections, the rhetoric and everything else, whether Fighting Bob La Follette would have wanted to be part of the inauguration. I’m guessing Bob wouldn’t feel too slighted and may even prefer to be looking the other way. I’d be happy to be wrong about that, but I just think that instead, folks are going to find out why Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is so happy about the outcome last November and why Fighting Bob would not have been quite so giddy.

* * *

So now, Governor Walker has said he won’t negotiate with the state’s public employee unions, he’s putting the National Guard on standby and he’s trying to ram a bill through the legislature to greatly diminish collective bargaining rights.  Some may feel this is okay, since an environment of “us vs. them” has been successfully cultivated during the recession.

Before jumping on board with something they don’t really understand very well and which is not likely to have enough time for a thoughtful discussion, I would caution folks to think about something that Martin Luther King said in his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail:  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Make no mistake: this is an injustice. 

There may well be reason to thoughtfully re-evaluate of the current collective bargaining scenario with public employees and create the conditions for some near-term sacrifice, too.  But the case for permanently stacking the deck is something that Walker’s approach would never be required to make.  Instead, the guv and his camp just want people to shut up and live under their rule on the matter, with no time wasted dispassionately looking for facts or impacts.  Welcome to Red State Wisconsin. Go Big Red.

As reported in Isthmus, we can expect some real pushback, as well there should be:

“We’re going after where the power actually is, and that’s Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce,” says Ben Manski of the Liberty Tree Foundation in Madison. This campaign will begin with actions on Wednesday, February 23, at WMC’s statewide conference to be held at Monona Terrace, and will include a lunch-hour picket and a late-afternoon rally. “These individuals have no understanding of labor law,” declares Manski, referencing Walker and his allies in and out of government. “It’s been interesting to me to hear them talk about how they’re going to eliminate public sector unions, as if this is not going to energize them.”

“I really think it shows the governor has allowed himself to get carried away with delusions of his own authority,” says Manski. “It will be important for all of us, meaning those who want to protect the Wisconsin tradition, that we act with discipline, that we not hold back, and that we not be provoked. I think it’s clear the regime in the state Capitol is looking for trouble, and I think those statements about the National Guard were an incitement.”

Both Peter Rickman of the AFT Wisconsin professionals union and Manski note that organizing against Walker’s proposal is ongoing concurrently in Milwaukee and elsewhere around Wisconsin.

“I think Gov. Walker hopes working people in general don’t get word about this,” says Rickman. “But people are smart, and know that after they come for public sector unions, they’re going to try to drag down working standards for everyone else in the state.”

* * *

I talked with Reps. Donna Seidel, Louis Molepske and Amy Sue Vruwink Friday at a press conference they hastily put together in Wausau.  They’re doing their very best to sound the alarm on this sweeping fast-tracked legislation that could easily fly through the GOP-controlled legislature and be signed by the governor within the next week.  The Republicans appear to be hoping that most Wisconsin citizens will be asleep at the wheel and all will be done before anyone really has time to figure out what is actually happening. 

Keep in mind that this is all being done in the context of a “budget repair bill” and it is not even completely clear that such legislation is needed at all.  You can view greater detail on Walker’s move here:

http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=226535 

Of course, we will have to wait for the tortured logic about how this, like everything else, is really all about producing more jobs.  That’s what Walker campaigned on, wasn’t it? And has anybody seen Russ Decker?

JR

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2 Responses to “Hey, let’s just ban those unions!”

  1. This is really one of those issues that I wish had hit at a different time in the year… as I am really too swamped to spend too much time researching and putting thought into this issue.

    On the one hand, I feel that unions have overstepped their usefulness when it comes to public employees. There is a reason unions were created, and much good in labor laws and safety laws have come about because of unions. Unions have helped to give represented employees equal footing when negotiating terms with employers.

    However, in the case of public employees, time and time again I have seen where the employer (government at various levels) must ultimately bow to the union even when it cannot afford to, because the way the law is currently written, the unions seem to have much more power than the employer.

    There was a time when the very expensive benefit packages that public employees got were needed because government simply couldn’t afford to pay a competative wage with the private sector.

    But times have changed, for many rank and file workers, public positions pay a great deal more than their privite sector counterparts – and when you add that higher wage with a much better benefit package, you can see why the drive exists to do something. Public employees still lag behind the private sector once you get in the senior levels, however those positions are normally not part of the union.

    Of course, police and fire is a little different because there is no fair way to compare those jobs, there are no private sector jobs that are truly comparable. And, in my opinion, special consideration needs to be given to people who chose a profession where the job is to run into situations that everyone else runs away from.

    So, on the surface, the fiscal conservative in me says “FULL STEAM AHEAD”… on the other hand… this seems like such a logical fix, so simple… and in my experience in government, when something seems to make perfect sense, then there must be an un-intended consequence that could make the cure worse than the disease.

    Personally… I don’t see the downside… but again, I haven’t had the time to consider it fully… And… that is why we have people much smarter than me working on these things.

  2. One concern that isn’t being addressed at all is that millions of dollars will sucked out of communities in the form of discretionary income that affected employees will no longer have to spend. If you think it’s coming back, think again. GOP dogma is that you give that money back in the form of tax breaks that are invariably disproportionately distributed. That’s the immediate consequence and it might even be a necessary thing to deal with. Longer term, the overreach into anti-unionism is an entirely different matter and it doesn’t bode well for Wisconsin workers in general — public employees or not. It’s an attempt to set lower standards.

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