Understanding Wisconsin

Coming from the labor movement, I have a slightly different perspective on what is happening in Wisconsin right now.  Eight days ago, after Governor Scott Walker proposed a sweeping piece of legislation that would severely curtail the collective bargaining rights for some public employees, workers began protesting the move.  I’ve seen many of my colleagues, including my colleagues here on Bearing Drift, blame the unions – saying they’re acting like kindergartners – and try and demonstrate this as yet another reason why unions are at the heart of our economic woes.  These public sector employees are greedy, demanding pay and benefits far outside what the private sector gets, and they’re unwilling to work with Walker to resolve this problem, the story line goes.

That’s simply not the case.  The workers here aren’t protesting because they’re greedy, or  because they expect special privileges.  They’re protesting because Walker has handled this entire situation poorly.  What is happening in Madison didn’t have to happen at all.

There’s a myth about union members and leaders that is pervasive on our side of the aisle – it’s the myth that union members and leaders will fight tenaciously to keep whatever benefits they have and they will never provide concessions, even to the point of allowing companies to fail or taxes to be raised rather than give up what they’ve extorted from employers and the government.  That’s just not true.  I’ve worked in the labor movement for almost a decade now, and there isn’t a single organization that I have worked with that has not worked with companies in bad times to help prevent them from going under.  Whether it’s the airline pilots, the UAW, or even my own folks in maritime, these types of things happen all the time.  And why do they happen?  Because the company sits down with the union, in good faith, and asks for help.

Walker did not do that here.  That’s the problem.  And even now, he’s unwilling to negotiate.

That’s all these workers want – a seat at the table and the ability to negotiate.  That’s what collective bargaining is about.  It’s important to remember that these are public sector, not private sector, workers.  They do not have the right to strike.  They can’t “extort” concessions from the state government. All they can do is talk, and at best, go to arbitration, where a neutral third party will resolve the dispute.  The government has the upper hand here.

What I find most frustrating here – and why I am not willing to buy Walker’s argument that he’s simply trying to do the right thing and balance his budget – is that Walker never attempted to negotiate with the unions before he outlined his plan. The plan has public employees paying half the costs of their pensions and benefits, which Walker says will save the state $300 million over the next two years.  In addition, he wants to take away the right of some public employees – not all, as he’s exempted firefighters and police – to bargain collectively over anything other than wages.  The reason for this legislation is ostensibly to close Wisconsin’s budget shortfall.

That’s simply not true.  Walker’s true intention is to try and bust the public sector unions.  How do I know that? Simple: the unions have specifically told him they are willing to accept all of the financial concessions that he is demanding in order to balance the budget. Here’s the text from an article in today’s Wisconsin State Journal:

“Top leaders of two of Wisconsin’s largest public employee unions announced they are willing to accept the financial concessions called for in Walker’s plan, but will not accept the loss of collective bargaining rights. Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, and Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME Council 24, said in a conference call with reporters that workers will do their fair share to narrow Wisconsin’s budget gap. … “We want to say loud and clear — it is not about those concessions,” Bell said. “For my members, it’s about retaining a voice in their professions.” The two insisted their positions have not changed and Friday’s call was intended to clarify their opposition to Walker’s proposal. Bell, who represents 98,000 educators, and Beil, whose council includes 60,000 members, repeated calls for Walker to sit down with them.”

What was Walker’s response?


The unions were willing to give Walker the tools he needed to balance the budget, so long as he didn’t gut their collective bargaining rights.  He said no. Removing collective bargaining rights for these employees is not going to balance Wisconsin’s budget.  There’s no good reason for him to not accept this deal – unless, of course, he’s not doing this to balance the budget.

It is frustrating to me that the knee-jerk Republican reaction to this story is to praise Walker and to denounce the unions.  While I can’t support some of the things that I’ve seen on the signs these protesters are carrying, I also can’t support a Governor who is unwilling to have a conversation with his own employees, either.

What is happening in Wisconsin didn’t need to happen.  Walker could have gotten his way without going as far as he did, and he doesn’t deserve to be lionized, propped up as a potential VP candidate, or otherwise treated like he’s doing his job well.  He isn’t.  There’s no reason why the State Capitol in Madison has to look like Tahrir Square.  This all could have been avoided with some good old fashioned common sense and a willingness to treat the other side with enough respect to sit down and negotiate.

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  • JerryZ

    I saw the gov on Fox, claiming he did approach the unions about changing their benefits before trying the legislative route, but that they didn’t want to even discuss the matter. Was he lying?

  • John Jackson

    Actually they were trying to squeeze negotiations through in November with the previous Governor Doyle who defended the contracts, but Governor Walker asked those negotiations to be halted.

    Governor Walker assumed office with a $3 billion deficit over the next three years and let me add that he didn’t blame Governor Doyle or President Bush. He offered the union workers the same health insurance premiums and pension contributions, as other non-union workers will do starting in January. Now, I’m not sure of the exact details but he did offer the workers something.

    Governor Walker said that the contracts are not up for negotiations, so the corrupt media and the Unions are spinning this saying he is not meeting with them. What he said…the contracts are not negotiable meaning he is not conceding to the Unions.


    Earlier last year, the union thugs ousted Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee who were taking on the Unions. Now, every Governor in the nation is soliciting her services. Our country may have won an Education advisor but that was a battle lost to the unions but we don’t hear about those situations.

    Besides, Brian is a Socialist, Union member so he’s gotta side with his union thugs.

  • Shane M.

    Unions are easy targets because to those who think corporations can do no wrong the union represents whiny, greedy workers who want to be paid $50 an hour to take smoke breaks all day, consequences to the employer be damned.

    This is of course wildly untrue but for those on this blog who cling to their talking points like a dotted path on a map, there’s simply no other alternative.

    Unions have done a great many good things for employees, and of course, their sole existence is owed due to the truth of strength in numbers. Of course the talking point people would disagree and say that through hard work and perseverance comes a worker’s strength.

    Hard work and perseverance doesn’t give you proper, non-hazardous working conditions. It also doesn’t provide the guarantee that be the worker female or male, they will be paid equally. It also doesn’t automatically give workers the possibility of having a weekend.. which didn’t exist until unions pushed for it.

    The list of benefits of unions does go on and on.. but there are negatives to collective bargaining agreements as well. These mostly came to light with what happened in the American auto industry.

    This is not to say the UAW is solely to blame for what happened to the auto industry, just open any contract and you’ll see two signatures, one for the union and the other the employer. It takes two to tango.

    Certain aspects that are associated with unions (ie: pensions) are symbols of an older kind of workplace that just doesn’t exist anymore. But employers that wish to do away with or modify agreements always have the opportunity to do so.

    Where the Governor Walker went wrong is by attempting to legislate union busting. He absolutely has the authority to watch over his state’s finances and to be their proper steward.. but that’s precisely why you have collective bargaining. You take issues to the unions and work out an agreement.

    Neither an employer or employee (or union in this case) is automatically all right or all wrong. But attempting to outlaw the union is ridiculous and wrong.

    Unions are not that different from lobbying groups. They both are made of members who pay dues, they fight for a collective idea on behalf of those members, and they can absolutely make a difference in our political system. The difference on this blog is you’ll find all kinds of love from many people for the NRA and barely nothing but insults for unions.

    I have worked as a union associate and as a manager of union associates.. I’ve seen benefits and negatives to each side. I was neither a whiny kindergarten brat in need of a nap when I was an associate nor was I a demonic money grubbing manager. It is possible to be a diligent, hard working individual no matter what color you wear on Thursdays.

  • Brian Schoeneman

    I’m about as socialist as J.P. Morgan.

  • John Jackson

    There’s no one that can say I’m using talking points…but to justify the thugery of unions is just WRONG.

    Hey, this is the State of Wisconsin. Who said anything about corporations but thanks for adding that to the failures of a unions.

    When your negotiating a contract between a union and a politician with NO skin in the game. That’s just wrong.

    I’m tired of seeing our President labeling out our education system as a failure and we need to invest more. The failures of our education system is not meeting the future needs. Then why would I pay a teacher more money if the system is broke. If this was in the real world, they would not be in business. Now, we know why they don’t want the voucher system.

    When union leaders like Andy Stern visit the White House 22 times in a few months? That’s just wrong.

    When a Community Activist Organization such as Organizing for America and the Wisconsin Democrats scheduled this protest last Monday. That’s just wrong.

    And when Democrats run to Illinois and they’re made to be like heroes. That’s just wrong.

    And when the students doing the protesting don’t even know why they are protesting. That’s just wrong.

    And when you have the unions sleeping with politicians, it looks as though no one is looking out for the tax payer money. That was what Governor Walker ran on and got elected. The unions won their battle in DC, so its about time the little guy won one.

    It’s a shame the media minions chose their side. My question is, where is the mean statement concerning how the teachers are protesting because they far out do the Tea Party. They even have a picture of Governor Walker with cross hairs. WOW! Talk about hypocrisy. Sarah Palin was blamed for weeks after Arizona about the map with surveyor marks on it. Man, can’t wait to see the negative stories about these protests.

    Besides, how about the TSA joining the unions? Boy, they were being treated badly. Now, we know why Big Sis had all them grouping everyone before the elections.

  • John Jackson

    Brian, You know I like calling you that… Good to see you have a sense of humor. Thanks,

  • Jay D

    Absolutely Gov Walker rejected the offer – it’s only 1/2 of what he’s trying to accomplish: (1) balance the state budget and (2) give city/county governments & school districts the same flexibility (as the state) to manage employee costs. As a former local official, Walker’s reality is … “collective bargaining is the major roadblock in managing city and school district budgets.”

    This confrontation is anything but surprising; the unions knew a bill (or worse) was coming in with Walker and leaders tried (unsuccessfully) to get legislators to slam through their labor contracts during the lame duck session – before he took office.

    Other state legislatures are watching closely and – if Walker wins – many states in fiscal crisis will follow suit.

    Mitch Daniels used executive order to strip government unions (in ’05) and Christie did it by declaring a state of emergency (in ’10). As one of the first states to allow collective bargaining by government workers, it’s somewhat ironic that a bona fide national battle to end (or weaken) public union power … begins in Wisconsin.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Let’s see how much we love unions when it costs us football….

  • Brian Schoeneman

    That won’t be the players fault at all. That’s all the owners.

  • Valentinus


    I’m mystified and disappointed at your deliberate conflation of private and public sector unions. I didn’t think you would do a Mike Barrett. Federal workers have No collective bargaining rights for wages and pensions. Why do state unions? Public sector unions are destroying Europe. Do you like to have transport strikes every six months in the US? Why do you think utilities are more regulated than many other businesses? Because they have a choke hold because of what they do – not because they’ve invented something brilliant.

    Public sector unions use their 100% taxpayer funded salaries to pay dues to bankroll power hungry politicians to give them more benefits and employees to unionize to collect more dues to bankroll politicians … Private companies and unions both are funding this toxic nonsense.

    You are being naive if you think that any Republican can “negotiate” with these public unions. Yes they will concede a few small things because they know that they will get it all back times 10 when a Dem gets back in. I would like you to look up the history of PATCO the air traffic controllers union under Reagan and Daddy Bush then under Clinton. This was a union devastated by the strike. It was nuclear winter compared to the mild reforms asked by Gov Walker. Yet the Dems pretty much bankrupted the FAA rewarding them. The public sector unions need to go. The private sector unions need to be saved.

  • Jay D

    @ Brian, must agree with Valentinus: IMO there is a huge distinction between private unions and government employee unions. (I see all the organizations you’ve worked with personally have been private unions?) Here’s where it just doesn’t come together for me:

    In the PRIVATE sector, both parties are stakeholders. If the employer goes bust (or moves overseas), union jobs go away, too – ergo each party has real skin in the game. In the private, corporate world, unions serve to ensure workers get a ‘fair share’ of their employer’s profits. And I’m down with that! 🙂

    However, in the PUBLIC sector, governments don’t make profits nor can they shut down a failing plant (or move operations to Singapore). When state CEOs (governors) are forced (by state law) to negotiate with entities that have zero interest in what’s good for the employer (i.e. taxpayers who pay government salaries) ~ where is the equity? Public unions, unlike their private counterparts, extract the highest possible wage/benefit package, regardless of the employer’s financial health or the ability to pay.

    Add in (mandatory) union dues … re-routed to union friendly political parties (and candidates) … in exchange for favorable union contracts … and the relationship resembles quid pro quo (or extortion) rather than fair bargaining between two equal stakeholders.

  • Valentinus, I didn’t conflate anything. The reason why some state workers have collective bargaining rights for things in addition to wages (which isn’t the case here in Virginia) is because those states have granted those workers those rights. That’s their prerogative.

    And, again, as I already stated in the body of the article, public employee unions are prohibited from striking by law. They simply can’t do it. That’s why Reagan was able to shut down PATCO (a union that was affiliated with a union I used to work for and I am intimately aware of how that entire thing unfolded from folks who were there). That’s why these Wisconsin teachers held sick-outs instead of voting to strike. Why accuse me of conflating private and public sector unions and then go on to repeat this nonsense that simply isn’t accurate? I said it specifically in the article. Did you miss that?

    I am simply saying here that it would have done Walker much good to have simply sat down and tried to bargain with these unions before taking this step. They have already offered to give him the bulk of what he’s asking for. There’s no reason why this had to play out the way it did.

  • Jay D, yes, there is a distinction between public and private sector unions. And I’m not going to defend AFSCME’s political giving – Gerry McIntee can defend himself. I’ve worked for two unions, neither of which have spent a dime of dues money on politics, only that voluntarily contributed by our members, and I think that model works best.

    I don’t want to argue generalities because we’ve got a specific situation here. And I just don’t see any evidence in this specific situation that the unions involved are being intransigent or are trying to extort Wisconsin – I see at least two union leaders trying to negotiate and being willing to accept major concessions on the part of their workers in exchange for them keeping their right to bargain. That should be an acceptable deal.

    The governor’s “flexibility” argument is a fallacy that I constantly hear repeated from folks, especially in the government. They can’t take time to bargain because they need flexibility. Well, if they want flexibility when they need it, they should take the time to bargain for it when they have the time. It’s a specious argument – there’s nothing you can’t get in a negotiation as long as you are willing to trade it for something else. That’s what negotiations are all about.

  • Valentinus

    @Brian, Thank you for unconflating public and private sector union in your last post. You most certainly did use the logic of private unions to justify your position on public unions. We are going to have to agree to disagree. I don’t buy the argument that public sector unions “negotiated” anything with the politicians. They used taxpayer money to fund them. The unions are being led by a different breed of mgt than in the recent past. There was the same struggle during the 30s between the Marxist and anti Marxist labor movements. Fortunately for the US the anti Marxists won. But the hard left is back in charge of these public unions expanding them as in Europe. What do these public sector unions care about illegal strikes as long as they have leftist judges to protect them and say they are not on strike? They must go and be replaced perhaps by something like an arbitration board from a variety of government and nongovernment sources. I don’t think Walker went far enough quite frankly but I understand his situation.

  • Governor Walker has a pair.. grew me before he took office and his supporting constitutents are not dissapointed.

  • Jay D

    Brian, you and I can probably agree that political gifts are side noise in all of this. I think the much bigger question (and issue being fought) is how appropriate is it for government employees to be represented by union leaders? In this specific situation, Walker has been extremely clear and unequivocal since before moving into the mansion – his intentions are twofold: balance the budget AND dismantle or severely curtail the 1971 law that granted collective bargaining power to the union. What one legislature can giveth … another can taketh away – our wonderful system of representative democracy, right?! He’s got the votes and I doubt he’ll settle for anything less than a vote on the bill. [BTW – I have no problem with PRIVATE unions spending dues on whatever they choose. They are accountable to their membership, not to me.]

  • Unions have enourmous political power, legal advantage and a monopoly with collective bargaining. The governor had an obligation he upheld. Why do so many of you people not understand the corruption of this?

  • clicked submit before adding the rest..

    Why do so many of you people not understand the corruption of this facet of keeping an election promise?

  • Jay D, I think it’s appropriate for public employees to be represented by unions for many of the same reasons that private employees are. Granted, the same kind of potential mismanagement and abuse are less likely in the public sector, the same kinds of problems that workers face in the private sector – handling workplace disputes, bargaining over conditions of employment, protection of rights and legal representation in internal disciplinary proceedings, and just general stuff like knowledge of HR policies – are all present in the public sector as well.

    I can understand Walker’s need to balance the budget. I can’t understand why he thinks it so necessary to take away rights that those workers have enjoyed for forty years. I find it hard to believe that all of the ills in government in Wisconsin are the result of public employees being able to bargain collectively for benefits and over workplace conditions.

    Sure, the legislature can take away rights, but I think any Republican has to look at that pretty closely. When did we ever start advocating taking away rights?

    James, like I said, I understand he needs to balance his budget. But taking away these rights will do nothing to solve the problems he perceives, most of which seem to be largely political. It’s pure union busting, and I just don’t see the need for it. Throw in the fact that he’s not targeting all public employee unions (police and firefighters are exempt) I just don’t see any valid reasons for his unwillingness to accept a compromise.

  • The fire police and rescue unions are not gouging like the rest of them.. BIG difference. To accept compromise at this stage would be defeat. By taking away the unions nunchuks the unions will have to find some other weapon to swing with reckless abandon for the economy. They do not care about their state of the taxpayers and they have no motivation to share the pain of recovery.

    Collective bargaining was not a process of voluntary negotiations between the state and labor in Wis, it is a strategy used by the left to put the state govt in a full nelson.. damn near put em in a coma. I call it organized crime but wtf do I know? I could be wrong again.

  • You’re wrong, Turbo.

  • I can feel the love already Brian

  • In general, states that do not have the “right to work” without joining a union, are going bankrupt because of the fact that the unions have too much power. I would imagine that is the theory that is driving Gov. Walker in this situation. States that do have the “right to work” situation are more attractive to businesses and therefore, are more likely to have available jobs in the near future. I just heard Gov. McDonnell(VA) say this on Fox Cable News and it makes a lot of sense. Unions served a purpose in the past but they have outlived that purpose and are now more likely to be the “albatross” around the necks of state and local governments. Look at Greece – entitlement has become more important than the health of the nation/state.

    Brian, I met you at the WFRWC meeting Thurs. night and I am surprised by your position on this matter.

  • John Jackson

    Brian, there you go again…the gauge of all things right (from a left’s perspective). Luckily our world has such a Right Fighter such as yourself.

  • Right to work is not implicated in this situation, Right of Way. If Wisconsin wants to pass a right to work law, that’s their prerogative.

    I disagree that the unions have too much power – I don’t know how you define power, but from my experience the power they have depends on a lot of different factors.

    Unions still have a place and a purpose, even in right to work states like Virginia. When they are working they way they are supposed to work, they are a benefit and a compliment to their employers, not an impediment.

    I like unions because I believe they are the conservative answer to ensuring a balance in the workplace. They can help enable smaller government – I would rather see management and labor working together to solve problems than see the government stick its nose in and dictate to business owners how they will run their businesses. That should be left to the employers and their employees. They know best what needs to be done to keep folks safe while not hindering business.

    When working properly, unions are a great alternative to bigger government. Sure, there are bad actors in the labor community, but that’s true everywhere.

    John, you need to open your mind. There are plenty of conservative reasons for supporting labor.

  • Louis Stadlin

    I wonder how many of you people who think unions are the ruination of our country had relatives who worked in the coal mines, the steel mills the auto companies and the textile industry before unions? I am talking about the “Robber Barons” the your Republican president Teddy Roosevelt busted at the beginning of the last century. You sound like worker should have no rights and should serve at the pleasure of the owners. In the South that was known as Slavery. There are two things that gave us our true middle class after the 2nd World War. The GI bill and the unions. Without the unions we would be living in the same manor as the Lords and Peasants lived in the middle ages. We are in trouble not because of the unions but because of the high standard of living we have in this country for most of our people. China can sell us things because their standard of living is a fraction of ours

  • Louis, Why is it that when people from around the world are refused certain heath care needs they look to the US for help? Do you think you can point me in the direction of anyone who has been turned away from receiving any basic health care in this country? Show me one thing that the government employer unions have taken over, made less expensive or done that is better and more cost effective than in the private sector.

    You people took the bait but we are all on the hook. You demand more from $ocial $ecurity yet its broke and under water. (You mentioned China? LoL.. get sick, get fired and they send your sick ass back to the farm community you emerged from.) Over the past 50 yrs+ our so called leaders in local, state and federal govt fell for pensions of unionized government workers that are now coming to bankrupt each and every state one by one.

    You defend government employee unions? Talk about robber barons of the last century all you want, they are long gone..

  • Louis Stadlin

    Turbo, I don’t know where health care is part of this dialogue but here goes. It is true wealthy people from all over the world come to us for medical treatment. That is because we have the best health care system money can buy. ” If you have the money”. By the same token how come Americans go overseas to India, Thailand and Mexico for procedures that are just too expensive in the USA for the average middle class. I understand that the 3rd floor at Johns Hopkins is exclusively for the wealthy from overseas who can afford it.

    As for the govt unions or any union. They strive through unions to better their standard of living just like you do. Do you want them to just act like sheep and take what ever money and benefits the govt offers so that the govt can meet the budget? What would you do in this day and time if your corporation decided that your standard of living was too high and they cut your pay and benefits to improve their standard of living. Has it come to the point in our time that the stockholders in corporation are more important than the working people in our country????? Do you think it is right to lay-off a 55 year old so the corporation doesn’t have to pay benefits so they can a 25 yo at half the price?

  • Darrell — Chesapeake

    Private unions quit being unions when they gave up the strike. Now you have educated high priced union suits who live next door to the company suits, who talk real nice while they sell their membership down the river.

    The modern way to protect your interest is to not stay in one place too long. There’s a reason why most of the unemployed are over 40 in this recession. Job hopping is a virtue while tenure is a curse. Which method do you think general public unions support?

  • Keen observation Darrell.. Todays govt unions are guarding obsolete models of govt employment.

  • They’re still unions, even without being able to strike. They bargain over work rules. They bargain over wages. They bargain over benefits. They represent their members in internal disciplinary proceedings. They provide legal representation. They provide other forms of assistance to workers who need it.

    They can’t strike, but they can go to binding arbitration.

    Job hopping is the name of the game, I agree. And there’s a model for unions out there to remain relevant in a job hopping world – we do it in maritime.

    Turbo, you asked “show me one thing the government employee unions have taken over … better than the private sector.” No one can do that, because the unions aren’t the ones making those decisions. Blame the Democrats for trying to take over things that are better done in the private sector.

    The pensions that these workers have in the public sector are analogous to the pensions workers used to have in the private sector. Those are mostly gone now, but – like with EVERYTHING the government does – the public sector is lagging behind. It’s not just pensions. Eventually things will change. They have to.

  • Brian Kirwin

    “When working properly, unions are a great alternative to bigger government.”

    Brian, most union workers ARE government workers. The days of unions fighting for the blue collar factory worker are gone and replaced by today’s unions fighting to protect and expand government spending beyond all comprehension.

  • Brian, nions are democrats by proxy.. I digress.

  • Darrell — Chesapeake

    I don’t know that maritime is a good example. Most of the jobs are going to Filipinos and other low wage mariners.

  • Brian, it is true that most union workers now are public sector. And like I said, I’m not defending them or their politics. I’m simply saying that here, Walker made a bad decision and these protests are the result. He could have gotten most of what he wanted without the turmoil.

    Turbo, 45% of union members are Republican. Are they also Democrats by proxy?

    Darrell, the maritime jobs on American vessels are almost all union. And those workers can jump from company to company, great lakes to deep sea to inland waterways and their benefits all transfer and they don’t lose their pensions, because all of that is done through the unions, not the companies. That includes training, too. The companies get the benefit of a well trained workforce with benefits they don’t need to manage. It’s a win-win for employers and that’s why union saturation in the maritime industry for American ships is almost 100%.

  • If there was not pull-back from citizens, how far would public unions go?

    Also, regarding teachers, are the unions concerned about quality of “education?”

  • “..45% of union members are Republican..” Name two

  • John Jackson

    As you say membership is split, donations aren’t. American Federation of State, County and Municpal Employees split 98% to 1% Democrats. SEIU (95-3), American Federal of Teachers (98-0), National Assn of Letter Carriers (88-10), AFL-CIO (95-4), IAFF (81-17), United POstal Workers Union (95-3), Nation ATC Assn (80-18). Unions don’t even hide their bias in contributions. Just the AFSCME gave $42 million to the Dems, $443 thousand to Republicans. Not one Union gave less than 80% to the Republicans.

    Does this mean that your wrong? Or are you going to sping this somehow too?

    We the American taxpayer is funding the Democrat party through federal dues paid to unions. So, (as you say) the members may be split but the money isn’t.

    Apparently, the unions and Governor Doyle attempted to get a sweetheart deal in Wisconsin a couple of months ago but to no avail.

    It’s a shame that the teachers have decided to show themselves as just plain selfish and their actions seem amateurish. Especially seeing those kids at these protests. That’s just sick! Most of those kids don’t even know why they were there. The Thugery of what the unions are doing in Wisconsin is seeing epic proportions.

  • John Jackson

    Let me emphasis that not one union gave less than 80% of their donations to Democrats, not quite the 45% split discussed.

  • Send the organized out of state govt union minions to Vegas for a wild fling with willing big R Republicans and lets hope its not a one-night stand. http://www.seiu517m.org/politicscope/Are_You_A_Republican_Union_Member_.aspx And while they are at it lets reincarnate Jimmy Hoffa.. you people would score big time. This makes plenty of sense now wouldn’t you agree?

  • It gets better..
    “Wisconsin public education is ranked 44th in the US while their average teacher salary is in the top 10 tied with upscale districts in LA, NYC and Chicago.”

    Can’t make this stuff up. Non union temps are filling in where the unions walked. These people will not recieve the 15 aid holidays, retirement bonuses and family healthcare plans that union parasites bargained for.

  • John, first of all, you’re wrong. One of my affiliates gave 44% to Republicans in the last cycle. In addition, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association gave 67% to Republicans last cycle. I see two Teamsters locals who didn’t give ANY money to Democrats and 100% to Republicans.

    Frankly, given the fact that Democrats have controlled every aspect of the executive and legislative branches from 2008 to 2010, and both houses of Congress from 2006 to 2010, do you really expect it to be any different? Take a look at corporate PAC donations – they skewed from Republican to Democrat during that some time period. That’s just politics.

    Second of all, I wasn’t talking about political contributions. I was talking about members. From the internal polling I’ve seen, self reporting union members vary between 40% and 45% – one of the reasons why I have advocated internally that labor needs to be doing more to reach out to their Republican workers than we are right now. Unions are more than the leadership or the PAC director. They’re the members. And almost half of them – like the electorate at large – vote Republican.

  • It is disgusting that the American taxpayer is basically funding the unions, whose leaders wanted to ram “card check” down the union members’ throats to thwart voting against the mainstream (democrat) leaders in the union so that they could have total control over the members, who in many cases, do not agree with the politics of their leaders or what their dues are supporting.
    There is an article on BearingDrift about the labor unions and how they are funding a democrat rally or whatever in VA, so don’t tell me that unions support the Republican party; if that ever happens, it would be a very rare situation. Virginians “dodged a bullet” when Creig Deeds lost the governor’s race; he intended to get rid of the “right to work.”
    The fact that the president, with the aid of SEIU and other unions, have sent 15 buses to Madison along with all kinds of money and encouraging language to fight for their “rights” when they appear to care very little about the fact that they could easily bankrupt their state; this same president called the people who came to the Tea Party rallies, insurgents, violent and angry people, etc. when all we are asking for is that our government follow the Constitution and to be accountable and responsible with the taxpayers money – how unreasonable! And of course, the media showcases his point of view; thank God for Fox Cable News! (Which Obama is working hard to get off the air).

  • John is wrong on his vanishingly narrow point (“Not one Union gave less than 80% to the Republicans”), but not on the broader point that the lion’s share of union money — probably over 95% — goes to Democrats. Suggestion otherwise, Brian, is sophistry, and if you don’t know better, you shouldn’t even be talking about the issue.

  • James, we’re not arguing over the broader point. I don’t even know why contributions came up because I never said a word about it until John conflated my comment about union membership with contributions, like the two have anything to do with each other. You know I know better, so save me the pedantry.

    Right of Way, card check wouldn’t affect union members at all – it was about recruiting new members. I think it was a flawed bill and labor needs to go about solving their recruitment problems in another way.

    I agree that members need to hold their leaders accountable, especially on the money in politics side, and I don’t support using dues money for politics at all.

    Unions give to both sides, although not in the levels I would like them to.

    Deeds could not have gotten rid of right to work even if he had been elected because there is no way that a right to work repeal would ever make it through the General Assembly – either house, even if the Senate is Democratic.

    As I noted in my article, the unions have already agreed to all of the financial concessions that the Governor wanted so he can balance his budget. The only bone of contention left is their right to negotiate on benefits and work rules. Neither of those have a direct impact on this budget process, so there’s no point in saying the unions are being greedy or are trying to bankrupt the state.

    The President can try all he wants to get rid of Fox News but it isn’t going anywhere, and OFA can bus as many people in to Wisconsin as they want to and it isn’t going to make a difference to Walker. He is committed to his path now, especially as it has given him such media play – he thinks he’s the next Chris Christie. That’s a shame.

    As I said before, none of this had to happen this way.

  • I heard a Wisconsin Republican say this morning that in a school district in Wisconsin the Teacher of the Year lost her job because cuts had to be made and she was a new hire.

    Union rules you know.

    I like how the unions worked so well for G.M and Chrysler.


  • John Jackson

    Thanks james, I accidently wrote the wrong party. It was 80% of major unions my point was that a lion’s share of my taxpaying money pays for a political party that I believe I can’t stand.

    Brian, Just because the Socialist Union of Lawyers gave $6.70 to the Republicans and $3.30 to Democrats doesn’t really count. This is the big boys. Not just because you and your buddy gave $10. You cannot defend that the Unions are in bed with the Democrats…no mater how many skewed stats you throw out there. It is clear that most of my taxpaying money goes to Democrat candidates.

    Yes, I understand that you said membership is split which showcases the point even more. If you say that 45% of the members are Republicans then that demonstrates the corruption even more to where their money goes to Democrats.

  • Brian, Collective Bargaining was created in Wisconsin. Their gredy unions are essentially telling hurting taxpayers screw you I don’t care about your long term personal welfare anymore. If Governor Walker can break this facet of the mob that they simply cannot afford any longer then the union loses a pillar and he is state hero with a promising future nationally. Wis unions do not care that their state is nearly insolvent.. Maybe there aint enough cheese selling to cover the shortfall?

  • John, nothing you have written lately has anything to do with the issue we’re talking about. I’m not arguing that the labor movement isn’t very Democratic. It is. I’m the outlier. I wish that wasn’t the case and I’m working to change that, but as you can tell by this thread, I’m having to argue through a lot of brainwashing to get back to my original point.

    If you want to be pedantic, then let’s be pedantic – no taxpayers dollars are going to these unions the way you’re alleging. You’re saying that wages given to these employees is taxpayer money and when it goes to the union through the employee, it’s still taxpayer money. Wrong. Once that money is paid to a public employee, it is that employees money to do with as they choose. If they give it to the union, it isn’t taxpayer money anymore – it’s the members money. If the worker spends it on porn and cigarettes, it’s not taxpayer dollars being spent on porn and cigarettes, it’s still the employee’s money. He earned it.

    You might as well argue that public employees should be barred from spending their money on booze, cigarettes, fast food, comic books, or anything else because – according to you – it’s all taxpayer dollars.


    Turbo, if I recall correctly, the concept of collective bargaining began in England. And your next sentence demonstrates you didn’t read my article at all. Go read it.

  • Jay D

    I don’t understand why folks keep amalgamating public and private unions – two VERY different beasts with two VERY different histories and two VERY different futures. Unlike the proud coal, steel, and textile unions, most government employee unions were formed:
    ~ AFTER the Equal Pay Act of 1963
    ~ AFTER the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    ~ AFTER OSHA (1970)

    In short, Federal and State laws ALREADY protected government employees (and ALL employees) from workplace abuses common in the previous century. Yes, government employees were paid less than private sector employees BUT they also couldn’t be fired for incompetence AND they had much better pension benefits than their private counterparts – all without union representation … a fair trade off btw. a higher salary today and future security.

    So it wasn’t abusive employers, dangerous working conditions, or robber barons that birthed GOVERNMENT unions – it was politics. The first public union was formed when NYC Mayor Wagner’s aid suggested city workers could form a large enough voting block to ensure his reelection and Wagner (by Executive Order) authorized city transit workers to unionize and bargain collectively. Over the next 30 years, government employment expanded and other politicians followed suit, including WI Gov. Patrick Lucey (D) in 1971. As I see it, THIS ‘labor movement’ was born as a political bribe and taxpayers have been getting screwed ever since by a system that absolutely invites power abuses.

    Brian, government union employees may not be able to strike, but they CAN vote the CEOs out of office (and out of a job!), which is a much more powerful (and dangerous) tool. Once a sufficiently high enough number of voters are ALSO unionized public employees, there is no limit to the amount of obligations they can impose on the states.

    Over the last 40 years, government unions quietly secured terrific deals, mainly through the form of long-term health care and pension benefits. Why? Pay a bus driver $130,000 a year – and voters scream. Pay him $70,000 year + free health care for life + full retirement benefits at age 41 (MBTA in Boston), and it’s a bit tougher for the voter to figure out how much is being spent. Plus, unlike salary, benefit spending obligations are pushed out 10 – 50 years … allowing politicians plenty of time to give away the store and then move up (or out) long before the true cost of the agreement becomes known.

    It’s a new day; voters are paying attention and reviewing the books. And at a visceral, gut level, taxpayers know these benefit deals stink … they’ve been stuck with the bill (true cost obscured by government accounting measures)… and they are pissed and want relief now. This should get very interesting, on a national level, in the months and years to come.

  • Valentinus

    “I don’t understand why folks keep amalgamating public and private unions – two VERY different beasts with two VERY different histories and two VERY different futures. ”

    @JAYD Here you are 50 comments later being forced to repeat something that was noted in the first 5 posts. The people trying to fuse the two are doing it for a specific reason – to protect the indefensible. They are quite prepared to sacrifice the good (private sector unions) to enlarge the bad (public sector unions) because they feel that they can use the government to force taxpayers to support them. Of course once the socialism arrives then the poor workers have to find Lech Walesa to protect them from the government unions.

  • According to Wiki.. “Martha Beatrice Webb (née Potter; 22 January 1858– 30 April 1943) was an English sociologist, economist, socialist, reformer and a co-founder of the London School of Economics, usually referred to in association with her husband, Sidney Webb. Although her husband became Baron Passfield in 1929, she refused to be known as Lady Passfield. She coined the term collective bargaining.”

    Nothing like rewarding complacency to drive up the cost of getting less work done by more people.

  • Jay D

    1) Collective bargaining is useful (and necessary) in specific labor negotiations.
    2) Union membership and support doesn’t automatically equal socialist or lazy or crook.
    3) Brian’s original comment – this should have been ironed out earlier – is spot on.

    We disagree about Walker’s decision. I am 100% behind Walker’s support of legislative action to modify Wisconsin’s ’71 labor law (and hope McDonnell is watching carefully for similar opportunities in VA). The bill set for a floor vote removes pension and healthcare benefits from the list of items open for collective bargaining. (Other areas are already prohibited; the modification simply adds pensions and healthcare to the prohibited list.) If passed, the new law does not “bust up” or prevent unions from collectively negotiating wages and other issues.

    We know public pension debts are yet one more looming financial disaster – the question is how will cities, counties and states deal with the crisis. Private companies did it by wiping out shareholders, closing plants, moving operations overseas, and shedding obligations through bankruptcy. For governments, there is but one option: increase the tax base dramatically. How? I only know of three ways:
    – Increased wages (not happening in this anemic economy),
    – Increased labor force (again, not happening), or
    – Increased tax rates.

  • Valentinus


    Why do you feel that Wisconsin public sector unions should have collective bargaining rights of any kind? Federal workers have no such rights to bargain for wages. Again, who are they organizing against other than the taxpayers?

    I find it disturbing that many people are way to the left of even Franklin Roosevelt on this issue.

  • “no taxpayers dollars are going to these unions the way you’re alleging”

    Of course, the devil is in the details, especially with qualifications (“the way you’re alleging”). And of course, most union dues paid by/agency fees seized from government employees is collected through dues checkoff in the former case, and mandatory deductions in the latter (is that money the unions’, too, Brian?). In short, just like taxes, the money is deducted (by the government) directly from employees’ wages, and forwarded (by the government) to unions. This is a valuable and costly (at least some cost) service. Since I know of no state which requires unions to reimburse the government for this service, it’s a government subsidy, in effect.

    I see no reason why a government should be enlisted in enforcing the dues obligations of a private organization. Other than the practical political reason that politicians WANT to subsidize organizations which subsidize their campaigns.

    And before you give me a rationalization about how much trouble this would cause for labor unions, Brian, my guess is that no one is interested. My church, alma mater, and the Boy Scouts have the same problems because my employer refuses to deduct contributions for them.

  • Oh, and by the way, that “Top leaders of two of Wisconsin’s largest public employee unions announced they are willing to accept the financial concessions called for in Walker’s plan” demonstrate beyond question that this is not about the benefit to Wisconsin government employees; it’s about union boss power.

    See my most recent post for more information about this fact.

  • Jay D

    Valentinus: Frankly, IMO unions (public AND private) are yesterday’s solution to yesterday’s workplace issues – artificially propped up and kept alive because politicians and political organizations find them useful. Clearly, even with the growing number of dues-paying government employees, unions (today) are in stage 4 business cycle – Recession & Decline.

    But to answer your question … once you’ve been granted the power of collective bargaining, it’s tough to give it up (or take it away). So my view is practical, rather than philosophical. Pension, healthcare, and other less-transparent deals threaten state solvency– not wages. IF the state (and taxpayer) chooses to collective bargain on wages (Governor Walker’s position), I would agree it’s a reasonable solution and compromise. FWIW, I also believe (unlike others) that fire, police, and safety officers ARE a special class – much like our servicemen/women at the fed level. Apparently, Ohio doesn’t agree with me?

  • James, I read your latest post and it’s all a question of perspective. You think this whole thing is about union boss power. I think it’s about allowing workers to maintain a voice in their workplace. If this were all about union boss power, there’d only be two or three guys out there protesting, not 20,000.

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