Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin, Bargaining Rights and SEIU Tactics

On Saturday, I questioned the wisdom of including "bargaining rights" in the package of reforms in Scott Walker's proposed legislation. Specifically, he has proposed that the right to bargain over benefits and working conditions would be removed from the current legal framework for government unions. Further, he is proposing an end to payroll deductions for union dues as well as instituting right to work, which ends mandatory union participation. Also he is proposing an annual vote of collective bargaining units to maintain certification as a union. The full list of proposals here. I was concerned that the proposed removal of bargaining rights would be seen as anti-democratic by the general public and harm the greater cause of getting union power reduced. This is a tactical not a fundamental concern. I don't think that there is an inherent right of collective bargaining for government workers in the same way that I believe freedom of speech is an inherent right.

The intervening days have brought new information to apply to the problem. First, Rasmussen reports that likely voters favor the governor over the unions by a 48%- to 38% margin in a national poll. (Wish it were a Wisconsin poll.) I was hoping the margin would have been higher, but given the loud and angry protests, this is a great sign that the public isn't ignorant of the underlying issues.

Second, Scott Walker was on the TV over the weekend and made the case that in Wisconsin, the state employees have some of the strongest worker protections of any state. What this means in practice, from my experience in the federal work force, is that it is almost impossible to fire workers except for the most blatant misconduct. Given such protections, where workers cannot lose their jobs, is it fair that they can then hold their employer hostage by striking? It creates a huge imbalance that allows the unions to blackmail the government into accepting binding arbitration where they tend to get their demands met. Explaining these facts could go a long way towards getting voters to approve of such a legal outcome.

Third, Rush Limbaugh today talked about the importance of being on offense, not defense. He brought the following to my attention. According to TPM:
State Senate rules require only a simple majority to pass a non-fiscal law. That means that only 17 Republican votes from the party's 19-vote majority would be needed to end the collective bargaining.

Republicans could strip the collective bargaining provision out of the budget legislation, pass it separately without Democrats present and get on with life. Further, this would remove the reason that the Democrat state senators are on the run, and get the budget passed as they might feel compelled to get back to their jobs. Republicans should take a page from Democrats and pass legislation when they have a majority. As much work as we did to kill Obamacare and rally the country against it, the bill is still on the books. The time to get our legislation passed is when we have the votes.

Ace of Spades has evidence of SEIU's tactics of intimidation (H/T: Temple of Mut). Trying to stop the Pledge of Allegiance? Really? The SEIU has every right to protest, that right is fundamental, unlike collective bargaining. But ever notice how when SEIU is involved, there is a potential for violence, and many times there is actual violence. Every Tea Party rally I have attended has had a police presence, and they act like they have nothing to do, because they don't have anything to do. Tea Party types don't even leave litter at their rallies. Meanwhile, lefty types who define themselves in opposition to the Tea Party movement are calling on their supporters to harass Tea Party coordinators who have nothing to do with so called "infiltration tactics."

I am rethinking my position. Like many conservative positions, there is often a "feel good" slogan used by the left in opposition that turns out to be incoherent when examined. Apparently, the country has decided that the direction of government requires the general public to pay more attention. Thank God.

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