Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wisconsin and Bargaining Rights - A Bridge Too Far?

Protesters by bused in union supporters in Madison, WI with attendant violent rhetoric and imagery remind us that those currently getting the largess of our tax dollars will use those dollars to maintain the status quo. Dean has coverage here and here. The LA Times is reporting that Tea Party supporters have joined the counter protest, telling the public employees "Do Your Job." This is a watershed moment for the Tea Party, we have said that government employee unions are ruining the ability of state and local government to deliver basic services. This is why removing automatic pay check deductions for union dues is important, as is passing right to work legislation.

But I question if going after collective bargaining is the smart move, as it has energized the opposition, and made it look to the public as if some fundamental right is being violated. During the 1980s when Lech Walesa was organizing Polish workers to fight back against Soviet hegemony, we applauded his efforts and part of our criticism of communism was that workers lacked the right to organize independent unions. Granted, public employee unions are in a bit different category than those in the private sector, but that seems a difficult case to make. The most important goal should be to break their power to continue to elect politicians who do the bidding of the union overlords. To do so, right to work and no paycheck deduction for union dues are sufficient to deprive them of the cash needed to influence elections.

The proposed removal of bargaining rights seems secondary and not efficacious towards achieving the main goals of the Tea Party. It has energized the unions, and brought them some measure of public sympathy. I would propose that Governor Scott Walker take that issue off the table and propose a statewide referendum on the issue. It would also have the effect of putting the unions on defense, having to spend millions to defeat such a measure. In the interim, the state of Wisconsin would be putting money in workers pockets and taking it out of the hands of union bosses by removing the pay check deduction.

If I am wrong with this analysis, I would like to hear from other Tea Party organizers.

In fairness, hear is what the Governor himself has said (in context of his previous experience as Milwaukee County Executive):
Walker argued that collective bargaining was the biggest hurdle to balancing the budget and that unions had little incentive to give ground because they almost always prevailed in arbitration. He said that the cuts he proposed were intended to prevent layoffs and accused union leaders of being uninterested in compromise.
Perhaps a better answer is to remove binding arbitration. Meanwhile, going for the jugular seems to have won the Governor a nice set of concessions.

Wisconsin public employees have agreed to the financial concessions pushed by the governor in exchange for retaining their basic organizing rights, Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said in a statement released Saturday.

“I have been informed that all state and local public employees — including teachers — have agreed to the financial aspects of Governor Walker’s request,” Erpenbach said. “This includes Walker’s requested concessions on public employee health care and pension. In return they ask only that the provisions that deny their right to collectively bargain are removed. This will solve the budget challenge.”

He is standing firm. I really like him. Please take my new poll.


  1. I voted D, but think E- "no, it's too big of a card to get rid of, and may be a moral point as well." (Where is the morality of "bargaining" with someone who isn't going to pay you wages anyways?)

  2. Stop thinking theoretically and start thinking practically. The current model of govenment - government employee union relations is one of mass bribery to buy votes. If it weren't, the unions wouldn't all be supporting the same party. That model is bankrupting us and needs to be broken. In the end, it will be broken anyway as the whole thing collapses.

  3. By the way, I don't think your quiz questions and quiz answers match. The explanations don't match the yes or no.

  4. busloads of folks arriving here in dc today. this should get ugly. stay tuned for stories of angry tea party protesters inciting violence.

  5. I think the major issue here is not that the unions were not willing to talk about the fiscal issues, they were opposed to their rights being strip and all with out debate on the matter.

  6. 1) the unions would still be able to bargain for wages for their voluntary members-- just not the pie-in-the-sky projected promises that are so tempting to politicians, and so disasterously poorly handled.
    2) Want to talk about unions and folks' rights?
    King Banaian, Guest Contributor
    When I started at the university, the union said I had to join because I would want to participate in university life but could not unless I did. I could teach, I could go to department meetings, I could write papers. But if I wanted to participate in any committee or conference with members of other departments, I could not without joining.
    I joined; 83% of our faculty do, at last count. I have even represented my department at faculty union senate (I refuse to call it faculty senate because non-union members cannot participate.) If I did not join they could take 85% of union dues from me anyway as my 'fair share' of their collective bargaining services. In other parts of the world this is known as 'protection money'. Because I wanted to participate, I give them the other 15% with which they may lobby the legislature and contribute to candidates.

  7. KT,
    Sorry about the confusing wording. No = continue with the legislation as is, which includes removal of bargaining rights. I agree with your practical point, but I think that removing paycheck deduction and implementing "right to work" is enough to end the bribery cycle.

    Your points are well taken, but I think "right to work" addresses them adequately.

    Agree about potential media bias, but Wisconsin has been peaceful to date.

  8. I think the ability to buy favor with money you haven't yet taken from tax payers (and are highly unlikely to ever have to do so-- shoving the pain off down past the end of your career) is a bad idea that is inherently corrupting to politicians, as well as warping the market.

    I know we differ, just wanted to be clear on why I think it won't work.

  9. KT is correct. The system is broken and the unions can't face reality. The creek is dry, do they want to get paid in IOU's from a bankrupt employer? I would say , "sooner or later" but it is already later.