February 19, 2011

Fund: Why Wisconsin?

Marc Comtois

John Fund explains why Wisconsin is such a big deal to liberal/Democrat/unionists. First, though, he summarizes what got their panties in a bunch:

Mr. Walker's proposals are hardly revolutionary. Facing a $137 million budget deficit, he has decided to try to avoid laying off 5,500 state workers by proposing that they contribute 5.8% of their income towards their pensions and 12.6% towards health insurance. That's roughly the national average for public pension payments, and it is less than half the national average of what government workers contribute to health care. Mr. Walker also wants to limit the power of public-employee unions to negotiate contracts and work rules—something that 24 states already limit or ban.

The governor's move is in reaction to a 2009 law implemented by the then-Democratic legislature that expanded public unions' collective-bargaining rights and lifted existing limits on teacher raises....The labor laws that Wisconsin unions are so bitterly defending were popular during an era of industrialization and centralization. But the labor organizations they protect have become much less popular, as the declining membership of many private-sector unions attests. Moreover, it's become abundantly clear that too many government workers enjoy wages, benefits and pensions that are out of line with the rest of the economy.

The symbolism and history of Wisconsin as being in the vanguard of Progressivism is playing a key role:
The Badger State became the first to pass a worker-compensation program in 1911, as well as the first to create unemployment compensation in 1932. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—the chief national union representing non-federal public employees—was founded in Madison in 1936. And in 1959, Wisconsin became the first state to grant public employees collective-bargaining rights, which influenced President John F. Kennedy's decision to grant federal employees the right to join unions three years later.
Further, Governor Walker's reforms will undercut some of the, um, "advantages" union organizers have enjoyed:
Walker would require that public-employee unions be recertified annually by a majority vote of all their members, not merely by a majority of those that choose to cast ballots. In addition, he would end the government's practice of automatically deducting union dues from employee paychecks. For Wisconsin teachers, union dues total between $700 and $1,000 a year.

"Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits," [Labor historian Fred] Siegel told me. After New York City's Transport Workers Union lost the right to automatic dues collection in 2007 following an illegal strike, its income fell by more than 35% as many members stopped ponying up. New York City ended the dues collection ban after 18 months.

Myron Lieberman, a former Minnesota public school teacher who became a contract negotiator for the American Federation of Teachers, says that since the 1960s collective bargaining has so "greatly increased the political influence of unions" that they block the sorts of necessary change that other elements of society have had to accept.

Walker hopes to change that.

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I was curious to see what is being said in RI regarding events in Wisconsin, so decided to check in. A number of points come to mind:

1) The media and union spinmeisters keep referring to "the right to collective bargaining." There is no such right. There is legislative permission, and like any permission can be granted, or withdrawn.

2) The unions are a Democrat money-machine, extracting money from taxpayers and laundering it through "dues" and then "contributions" back to Democrats. Essentially a stealth-tax collected from taxpayers and then used against taxpayers.

The unions / Democrats recognize that they are defending the unjust and unsustainable, and so to that extent are playing defense. This explains the vehement actions in Madison by national groups AFL-CIO, Democrat Party and Organizing for America (a/k/a The Ministry of Community Organizing) -- they recognize that if this sticks in Wisconsin, it'll cascade (the domino theory applied to public finance).

3) Rhode Island unionistas may believe themselves to be a a safe redoubt, but those in Wisconsin, home of progressivism, no doubt thought the same, particularly given the "high" they experienced with the election in 2008 of the Community Organizer in Chief. Fiscal reality ultimately prevails, the laws of economics are immutable.

4) The Democrat politicians have really stuck it to their union "working families." All these years they promised lavish benefits in return for votes, and instead of being fiscally responsible in adequately funding the "promises" they diverted money into lavish welfare programs in order to expand another reliable voting block. If RI public sector union members don't like the reckoning that is about to befall them, they should look at the Democrat Party and the Poverty Institute, and ....

5) The union bosses that are always included in the back-door budget decisions on Smith Hill, yet for all these years (decades) did not ensure that the lavish benefits they took credit for procuring on behalf of the "rank and file" were being adequately funded. After all, had the pension system been adequately funded as it went along, nobody would be talking about taking money out of it.

Posted by: Tom W at February 20, 2011 11:39 AM

1) Not one penny of my union dues end up as political contributions. Separate money is raised by a PAC for the purpose of donations, etc. Can't say the same for corporations who implicitly force their employees to donate to the executives' choice of causes.

2) Why do corporations not get the same hate from this blog as unions do? The financial institutions are explicitly responsible for our current economic situation, but the blame turned so quickly to public section unions.

I know, let's just eliminate all government services and regulation. That will end well because individual citizens always act in the public interest! What a joke.

Posted by: Concerned citizen at February 20, 2011 3:28 PM

Very well outlined, Tom W.

Posted by: Monique at February 20, 2011 5:00 PM

>>Not one penny of my union dues end up as political contributions.

What about Pat Crowley's salary to spend his time lobbying on Smith Hill?

What about the salaries of all of the other public sector union officials who practically live there?

What about the "in kind" contributions of union staff involved in "voter education" and "get out the vote activities?"

What about the "paid leaves" taken by union people to "volunteer" for political campaigns?

Posted by: Tom W at February 20, 2011 11:46 PM

Oh, and lest we forget, was John Leideker's salary from dues or PAC's when he was playing email "what's my line?"

You know the answer...

Posted by: Tom W at February 20, 2011 11:49 PM

1) Not one penny of my union dues end up as political contributions. Separate money is raised by a PAC for the purpose of donations, etc.

Ok, and are you also going to tell us that the union local doesn't "entertain a motion" to make a contribution to the PAC at a monthly membership meeting? Since that money comes from membership dues collected by the local, would you care to re-assess your statement?

Don't tell me it doesn't happen. I've read more union meeting minutes than you think.

Posted by: BH at February 21, 2011 12:04 AM

Because corporations are not fundamentally evil in their very purpose, as Big Labor unions today are.

What do businesses, ranging from the smallest local farm to the coolest computer maker to the largest oil company, do for people that others cannot do? Everything.

What do unions do for people that others cannot do? Nothing.

Everyone knows this. Some are in denial.

Posted by: BobN at February 21, 2011 7:43 AM
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