Opinion

Opinion

U.S. not immune

The current situation in Wisconsin shows that financial protests that have rocked several European nations also can happen here.

February 19, 2011

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A few months ago, Americans watched television pictures of large riots and protests in countries such as Greece and Spain, where governments were facing severe, if not disastrous, fiscal crises. Leaders in these countries had proposed deep cuts and changes in government spending, which triggered the protests.

The reaction by Americans watching these pictures probably was something like, “Well, it couldn’t happen here.”

Move forward to this week, here in the United States, and look at what is happening in Madison, Wis. Members of Wisconsin’s public employees union have converged on the state Capitol. Teachers have refused to go to their classrooms, and city workers, firemen and others are protesting. Police were sent to locate Democratic state senators who refused to come to the legislative chamber to vote on the governor’s plan.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to close the state’s $3.6 billion shortfall by increasing the amount union members pay toward pensions and health benefits and taking away members’ collective bargaining rights.

The bill would force public workers to pay half the cost of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage. Consider what percentage of workers in private, non-government jobs pay for their health benefit packages.

President Obama jumped into the dispute saying the governor’s actions are an “assault on unions.”

Does the situation in Madison portend what might happen throughout the United States if and when our government leaders, whether in Topeka or Washington, D.C., call for major and deep cuts in federal or state spending to bring fiscal stability to the state or nation?

Have so many people become so tethered and dependent on the federal or state money teat that any reasonable attempt to bring about fiscal sanity will trigger protests and riots?

Is there any way to encourage austerity to staunch the runaway spending and ever-escalating national debt?

How many public officeholders, whether it’s the president, governors, state legislators or city and county officials have the courage to do what is right and in the best interests of their country, state, city or county, knowing that such actions could cause protests and riots and likely result in them being defeated in the next election by those who promise more federal and state spending to win voter approval?

What’s happened in Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and other countries certainly could happen here unless common sense and sanity enters the political picture.

How many other governors have the courage of Wisconsin’s Scott Walker?

Comments

deec 4 years, 3 months ago

"so tethered and dependent on the federal or state money teat..." Sounds a little kinky

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 3 months ago

Yeah I got that far and stopped reading. May not have his byline but this has Dolph written all over it.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

By Lindsay Beyerstein

The entire labor movement is based on one simple idea. It’s so simple that maybe we don’t spell it out as often as we should: With a union, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. When workers organize, the group has more power than each member would have their own.

An employer will always have much more power than a lone worker. If Sandy the widget-press operator asks her boss for a raise, the boss can easily turn her down. What’s she going to do? Quit? Threatening to quit won’t give Sandy the leverage she needs to get a good deal.

Look at it from the boss’s perspective: It costs him something to say yes, and almost nothing to say no. Chances are, he’ll say no, not because he’s a bad person but because Sandy hasn’t given him a reason to say yes.

But if everyone at the Ace Widget Factory asks for a raise, and threatens to stop working until they get it, the workers suddenly have some leverage over the boss. Suddenly, saying no will cost him. So, he has an incentive to cut a deal.

How does the boss know that his entire staff will walk out if he doesn’t give them a raise? Does every single person have to stop by his office and tell him?

No. That’s where the union comes in. If the workers at Ace Widget Factory have a union, that means that they have chosen to let that union speak for them at the bargaining table. The workers are the members, also known as the “rank and file.”

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

The primary purpose of a union is to negotiate a contract. The most key features of a contract are wages, hours and working conditions. When negotiating a contract, both sides usually have to make concessions in order to reach a deal. The threat of a strike is an important negotiating tool, but the vast majority of contracts are reached without a strike.

If the two sides reach a deal, the bargaining agent takes the contract back to the membership for a vote. A majority of workers in the “bargaining unit” must vote to accept the contract.

Let’s say the Ace workforce comprises Local 101 of the Thingamabob, Doohickey, and Whatzit Fabricators Union (TDWFU). The local is the smallest organizational unit of a union. There are different ways of dividing up a union’s workers into locals: a local might be all the workers at one plant, or all the TDWFU members in town. (A local can include one or more bargaining units.)

All unions are (in theory, at least) democratic organizations, although their internal governance structures can vary. But all unions work roughly like this: The members of Local 101 elect officers to run the local. Each local collects dues from its members. Union members typically pay about 1 percent of their income in dues.

The local keeps some of the money and passes the rest along to the national union. The dues cover operating expenses, strike insurance, organizing new workers, and political activities. The members elect delegates to represent them at the union’s national convention.

Liberty275 4 years, 3 months ago

"With a union, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. When workers organize, the group has more power than each member would have their own."

I'm not part of the sum of my employers parts. I don't want to be. I have specific skills that my fellow coworkers and employers can't begin to comprehend. I will not and am not treated or paid as those less capable than me. I don't need a collective to bargain for me. My skill alone bargains for me, and it has bargained me into a position I am happy with. When I speak, I don't need others to back me up.

My employer treats me with respect and compensates me fairly, not because I have forced him to, but because he knows that day in and day out I can be counted on to solve the problems others can't. Unions are for the lowest common denominators that lack that drive and determination. It is no surprise that such failures resort to thuggish blackmail to improve their lot because they know they will always be the dregs of our workforce.

Of course, it is also no surprise that liberals will stand behind such dregs. Birds of a flock.

llama726 4 years, 3 months ago

"Unions are for the lowest common denominators that lack that drive and determination" - A total misrepresentation.

Unions are not for you. They may be for others. If a group of individuals has the right to join together and incorporate into a business, so, too, should a union have a right to join together. If you disagree with being in a union, fine - don't work in a profession where you need to be in a union.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

Shouldn't he have the right to work in a profession of his choice and not join a union if he doesn't want to?

If they're voluntary organizations, then that would apply.

grammaddy 4 years, 3 months ago

The GOP has been working to destroy Unions for decades.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

And how bad has it been for working people in this country since ronald reagan busted the air traffic controllers union in the early 1980's?

Fair union rights and wages force non union employers to compete for workers and lift wages and benefits for all working people. Diminished worker rights allow employers to pit employees against each other and results in lower wages and benefits. That's the "why" they've been working on this so consistently.

jmadison 4 years, 3 months ago

FDR's thoughts on public unions:

"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15445

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

On May 5, 1955, labor delegates gathered in NY on behalf of 16 million workers, to witness and support the merger of The American Federation of Labor and The Congress of Industrial Organization. The merger is a result of 20 years of effort put forth by both the AFL and CIO presidents, George Meany and Walter Reuther. The gathered delegates applauded loudly when the time came to nominate officers for the new AFL-CIO. Reuther who was named one of the 37 vice presidents of the union, nominated Meany for President. After Meany’s retirement in 1979, Lane Kirkland took over his position.

Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was elected in 1952, was the first to publicly address and congratulate the new union, which was now the largest in the world.

In Eisenhower’s telephone broadcast to the United States he acknowledged the impact union members had made to better the nation and one of these impacts was “the development of the American philosophy of labor.”

Eisenhower states three principles which he feels apply to the philosophy of labor. The first principles states that: “the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice.”

Eisenhower was stating that every individual deserves a job with decent compensation, practical hours, and good working conditions that leave them feeling fulfilled. His second principle speaks of the economic interest of the employer and employee being a mutual prosperity.

The employers and employees must work together in order for there to be the greatest amount of wealth for all. Workers have a right to strike when they feel their boundaries are being crossed and the best way for the employer to fix the employees unhappiness is to come to a mutual agreement.

His last principle which he preached stated: “labor relations will be managed best when worked out in honest negotiation between employers and unions, without Government’s unwarranted interference.”

Eisenhower was saying that when both parties cooperate and act in mature fashion, it will be easier to work out situations and a better outcome will result because of it. Once he was done delivering the speech, everyone across the U.S. knew of the new AFL-CIO whose “mission was to bring social and economic justice to our nation by enabling working people to have a voice on the job, in government, in a changing global economy and in their communities.

Corey Williams 4 years, 3 months ago

I would tell them to marry money so that they wouldn't actually have to "work". Then they could sit around all day making unbelievably uninformed posts on Lj World. But you wouldn't know a thing about that, would you Nancyboy?

Corey Williams 4 years, 3 months ago

You mean when Texas wanted to change districts several years before they were scheduled?

Liberty275 4 years, 3 months ago

Liberals can always be counted on to run from the tough decisions. They are cowards and hypocrites by nature. That is why they lose so often. I hold more convictions with the left than the right, but I recognize the weakness of indecision the left suffers and have nothing but contempt for them. While the right (that would be people like Tom) is wrong 90% of the time, their willingness to stand up for their beliefs and causes is a respectable trait.

Liberty275 4 years, 3 months ago

Liberals can always be counted on to run from the tough decisions. They are cowards and hypocrites by nature. That is why they lose so often. I hold more convictions with the left than the right, but I recognize the weakness of indecision the left suffers and have nothing but contempt for them. While the right (that would be people like Tom) is wrong 90% of the time, their willingness to stand up for their beliefs and causes is a respectable trait.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

Any examples of this "indecision"?

And, you must have an interesting self-concept, identifying more with the content of the left but with the personality of the right.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 3 months ago

In other WI news: "...With no end to the standoff in sight, Gov. Walker said that if the Democratic senators do not return, he'd consider cutting the funding that pays for their staff. "If they're not here, it begs the question whether or not they need to have staff," he said. "They're not performing their functions."..." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704900004576152320132834818.html?mod=rss_Politics_And_Policy

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 3 months ago

A good idea. And since the GOP senators aren't working, either, their staffs should be defunded to save money.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Unions brought:

40 hour work weeks instead of 80 hour work weeks

Paid Vacation

Better wages

Protection from discrimination

Heath Insurance benefits

Paid holidays

Improved Working Conditions

Safer working conditions

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

And, it follows, that the destruction of unions will allow:

Return of 40+ hour work weeks

Loss of vacation benefits

Lower wages

Reduction of protection from job discrimination

Elimination of employer provided health benefits

Loss of paid holidays (will those of us alive now witness the elimination of Labor Day - a holiday celebration so reviled by the right wing?)

Continued loss of worker safety and environmental protections

jhawkinsf 4 years, 3 months ago

What's good for GM is good for America. The workers had a great union that got them good wages and outstanding benefits. And in a vacuum, it may have worked. But confronted with better management and a more competitive workforce, the unions and management succeeded in destroying the company. And the taxpayer is left to clean up the mess because GM is too big to fail. Ideally, negotiations between a union and management should yield a result that benefits both sides. The biggest problem with public service employees is that there really is no "management". The company (government) does not need to make a profit and is not held accountable to anyone in the same way it is the private sector. Politicians make deals knowing they will be out of office when the s**t hits the fan. So there really is no fair negotiation. It's almost like a trial where the defense isn't invited. Of course the prosecution will win. Public service employees need to concede some of the huge benefits they've gotten over the years because everyone else has.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

Is deciding to deliver tax cuts to one group of people and then demanding that others slash their jobs and benefits to pay for them peaceful?

Getaroom 4 years, 3 months ago

And Tom, you are aware that thousands of people across Egypt were there protesting? And you alone know for certain that it was the peaceful protestors doing the beatings? Your all knowing status is truly remarkable in all matters LIBERAL! Which just happens to be anything you disagree with.... And Tom, you join the millions of other badly misinformed Faux News viewers. Brillant!

M_12 4 years, 3 months ago

I do not wish to minimize the pain and trauma that those journalist's endured--however, they were where they did not belong. Their choices brought consequences. Being in the middle of a throng of rioters in no way enhances the "news".

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

Many recoil at the notion that there are places "we don't belong."

And a journalist job is not to "enhance" the news. My God, what a wicked influence these infotainment merchants have had on our country. The job of a journalist is to report the news to you. Hopefully so that you will understand better the forces shaping your life. The correct response to a demonstration of press repression is concern for your own receipt of free and accurate information. Not condemnation of those who dare venture where the forces of greed and abuse and repression think they don't belong. Wake up.

M_12 4 years, 3 months ago

I did not say there were places "we" don't belong. I said that those journalists were in a place that "they" did not belong--if personal safety was their main concern. A journalist does not need to stand in the middle of a riot to report the news. They chose--or were perhaps told-- to stand in the middle of a riot. A weather man who stands in the middle of a monsoon knows they are going to get wet. Viewers of that weather report should not express surprise or anger that the weather man got wet. Anyone who ventures into the middle of a riot is apt to get hurt. Any journalist who reports the news from a war zone knows the consequences of their choices. Media news corps love to put reporters in throngs of people demonstrating because it is gritty and "real" and does indeed enhance the news. Viewers remember the news piece more for it's setting than the actual information conveyed.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

Fair enough.

Sad, though, that we choose, collectively, to live in a world in which media news corps get away with such callous disregard for their workers.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

"Does the situation in Madison portend what might happen throughout the United States if and when our government leaders, whether in Topeka or Washington, D.C., call for major and deep cuts in federal or state spending to bring fiscal stability to the state or nation?"

Yes.

Emphatically, YES!

The wrath of a great giant has been awakened.

The right wingers may care to remember the ultimate authority in this country rests with the will of the majority. They continue to screw the middle and working classes over at their own peril.

frazzled 4 years, 3 months ago

Governor Scott Walker is not "courageous". He is a politician who got elected to office, spent a bunch of money on his friends (i.e., big business), did as much as anyone to CREATE Wisconsin's budget problems, and is now trying to use a crisis of his own making to engage in union-busting:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/wisconsin-gov-walker-ginned-up-budget-shortfall-to-undercut-worker-rights.php

That ain't courage in my book.

grimpeur 4 years, 3 months ago

This.

Editor doesn't recognize courage, nor the source of Wisconsin's financial woes.

Walker made his own problems and is trying to blame unions while absolving himself. Like the faux deficit hawks who suddenly crawled out of their holes as soon as we had a Dem president, he's a liar.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 3 months ago

"Walker made his own problems and is trying to blame unions"

And I think it's a fair assumption that he knew exactly what he was doing when he created this "budget crisis"-- he wanted a pretext for busting the unions.

Kinda reminds me of the PNAC neocons (before they became BushCo II) wishing for some new "Pearl Harbor" so they could have the pretext for invading Iraq and ramping up their dreams of American Empire.

The fact is that if the political will is there, the budget crisis nationwide could be solved rather simply.

But it would mean that the status quo would need to be massively challenged. But there are lots of vested interests who like the mess they've currently stuck us with.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 3 months ago

Gee, lookie there. Dolph is cheering on class warfare, and cheering for his side to win.

Whooda thunk it?

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 3 months ago

Did it ever occur to you that "Dolph" is a diminutive of "Adolph"?

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 3 months ago

Governor Walker is a hypocrite of the first order, given the fact that he spared the unions that supported him.

The GOP are not interested in lowering the deficit for which they themselves share most of the blame.

If they were truly interested in deficit reduction, they would focus on Defense, Social Security, and Medicare, which account for over half of government spending.

No, instead they are interested in using the deficit as a cudgel to dismantle government programs that they do not support for ideological reasons (e.g. arts, education, unions).

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

How about we unionize the military? How about seniors. Both could negotiate for more from the taxpayers.

I happen to support unions in the traditional role as voluntarily chosen representatives of the rank and file in labor negotiations with private employers.

I have severe reservation when public employees are involved. I can afford to have the local widget company close. I can not afford to have the police on strike. How to protect the public employees from the tyranny of the rest of us (want everything want to pay for nothing) is a conundrum. I have no good answers.

It appears to me that at least some of the public employees up there are already violating the law as what some of them appear to be doing is a job action prohibited by Wisconsin law. Further stokes my fears. Whatever, civility is required.

The state has a problem and the taxpayers hired the governor and legialature to solve it. They may be putting too much on the backs of the public employees or maybe the latter have excessive expectations. They do work for the public.

One caution I would offer as a public employee is that if your pot gets too big in the eyes of the great majority of the states citizens they will turn on you in a NY minute and you may end up really hurt when that happens. Careful what you wish for!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 3 months ago

Nearly all public employee unions in this country are prohibited from striking. What they get from the union is the ability for collective bargaining.

To my knowledge, the public employee unions in Wisconsin were not threatening to strike. And they were even willing to consider reduced benefits as a way to ease the strain on the state budget.

But that wasn't what Walker and his Koch-inspired Repugnicans want. What they want is to bust the unions so that they can unilaterally dictate the wages, benefits and working conditions of government employees-- in other words, they want to rule the same way that Mubarak did.

"One caution I would offer as a public employee is that if your pot gets too big in the eyes of the great majority of the states citizens they will turn on you"

And that's where the Koch brothers/Citizen's United/Fox News come in. Create the perception that public employees are evil bastards, and then you (the Republican party) can do whatever you want to them, actual facts be damned.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

The intent behind their effort to bust the teacher's union is pretty transparent.

My question is what will be the result if they are successful. Will the education our children receive be better or worse if their teachers are unable to bargain collectively?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 3 months ago

Obviously, it'll get worse. Those teachers who can get better jobs, will, and they'll be replaced by less qualified teachers, as the pool from which to select teachers will shrink-- why go to the trouble and expense of getting an education degree if the jobs will suck even worse than they do now? The rest will be demoralized to the extent that they put less effort into their jobs, leave school as early as possible, give less homework, take the max of their sick and personal leave.

But that's probably precisely what the Republicans want-- yet another self-fulfilling prophesy. Make government as crappy as possible so they can blame everything on the crappy government they created.

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

Maybe!

My understanding is that public employees in Wisconsin must - must belong to the union and must - must pay the dues (union shop) which includes contributions to union political action committees. I consider that wrong – the latter was against federal law for a while. I believe those are choices that the employee should be able to make.

Public Employee collective bargaining agreements that impose a binding arbitration essentially insure every increasing pay and benefits to the employee. That coupled with protection from firing makes for a very imbalanced situation. Elected officials who serve us should be able to say no on occasion. That is my understanding as to what the issue up there is about. We do not need to repeat the auto-industry debacle again.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

Union wages and benefits accounted for 10% of overall costs.

And auto industry unions were willing to negotiate with management, and make concessions.

I'd say the problem lies elsewhere - what about the other 90%?

And, who makes the decision to build cars that people don't want to buy? It's not the guys working on the assembly lines - it's management.

Ford did fine, and didn't need a bailout - seems like they realized they should make smaller more fuel efficient cars that people wanted to buy at decent prices.

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

Ford restructured on it’s own in 2006 - shed 30 to 40,000 jobs and obtained many givebacks from its unions - avoiding bankruptcy.

While I am sure you believe your own myths, the majority of Americans chose to buy big cars year after year. The auto industry just provided them what they wanted and make a lot of money doing so

All car manufacturers were hit hard when the economy tanked, gas prices spiked and people turned to smaller cars. Small cars were available throughout the period as we bought several. But the behemoths that surrounded us on the roads were frightening - many wearing Ford logos

I do not know where your 10% came from or whether that number is relevant in a capital-intensive industry. Data from the Fed of Chicago show that autoworkers were paid in 1997 on average twice what other production workers were. Their wages increased by about 35% between 1960 and 1995 in real terms. US production workers wages were flat with inflation over the same period.

The emptiness around Detroit is not uniquely the result of industry big wigs but heavily driven by the never-ending demand for more from the unions. Worked fine as long as there was not competition from outside the big three. When Japan came along the game was up.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

Myths? LOL.

The figures are accurate. The willingness of auto unions to negotiate is accurate. Both come from testimony in Congress.

You make my point when you comment that "people turned to smaller cars".

Are you at all interested in the huge 90% of expenses that have nothing to do with unions, or are you just interested in bashing them, even though they may have little to do with the problems at the auto manufacturers?

voevoda 4 years, 3 months ago

The unionized public employees in Wisconsin are ready to negotiate changes in the health insurance and pension provisions of their contracts. What they are not willing to do is give up collective bargaining, which is what Gov. Walker is demanding.
Collective bargaining is a right that was established in the US many decades ago. It is responsible for raising the working class out of poverty and providing with skilled workers (such as police, firefighters, secretaries, and accountants) with middle-class wages. Unions protect public employees from politically-motivated attacks on their jobs and compensation. That is why the Wisconsin union members refuse to give theirs up. Unions do not protect incompetent workers. It's bosses who protect incompetent workers.

Brent Garner 4 years, 3 months ago

This is basically a hissy fit over who's ox gets butchered in order to balance the state budget. Wisconsin is facing a $3.6 Billion dollar shortfall in its budget. Therefore, the state must either increase revenues--this usually means a tax increase, or cut expenses--this usually means either layoffs or wage reductions. Those are the simple choices. The single largest expense in any state is personnel. So, it follows that if one elects to close the budget gap via the trimming of expenses route, one cannot avoid trimming personnel costs. To act otherwise is to show a lack of grip on reality.

Of course, certain parties seem to think that the only solution to a budget shortfall is a tax increase. Those suggesting this seem to be subscribers to the static model rather than the dynamic model. In the static model it is assumed that the change proposed will only have the outcome desired. The dynamic model says that for any change there could be multiple outcomes. One clear outcome when taxes are raised is the potential for employer flight from the state. If you want proof of that merely look at Wisconsin's neighbors Michigan--specifically Detroit--and Illinois. Or, you can look at California. New York City is also experiencing the flight of capital due to high taxation.

In the Wisconsin case, the governor and the legislature, both elected by the majority of voters remember, ran on a cut the budget/no taxes platform. It should not be surprising that the elected representatives are delivering on that campaign position. (Or maybe it should be surprising given that so very few politicians actually carry through on their campaign promises.)

What I find alarming is that the protesters, many of them teachers, are engaged in potentially illegal activity--fraud--by staging a "sick out" and then going to the capitol to protest. The tax paying public should be most unhappy about this.

llama726 4 years, 3 months ago

The tax paying public should get over it, then (3 to 1 odds that someone calls me an elitist in the next reply). Teachers still have a right to peacefully assemble. The union is there to protect them; I can understand why they'd want to keep it that way. Their employers aren't showing any respect to the terms of their employment, why should they then be required to do so?

"Flight of capital" is a legitimate concern. You can't tell me, though, that this is about money. The unions have agreed to the financial terms of Governor Walker's proposal - they just want to retain collective bargaining rights. This is no longer about budget, but power.

What I find alarming is that people still think this is a financial issue. It's a union busting issue, and there's no reason to cheer for this Governor.

seriouscat 4 years, 3 months ago

There are some valid critisisms of unions both public and private. If there were no seed of truth contained in the anti-union propaganda it wouldn't be so effective would it?

But once again the debate is being couched in black and white rhetoric and the absoute worst examples of union corruption are held up as the effigy for the rest of us plebs to burn to make ourselves feel better.

All these people really want is to retain the collective bargaining that is the only protection they have left from the cost saving race-to-the-bottom practices the rest of us have been enjoying for the last few years.

How many people reading this are folks who got fired from a job right before retirement, or part-time workers who are only given enough hours to ensure no benefits? Higher paid workers are routinely fired regardless of performance, benefits are slashed... we are sliding backwards!

Walker is the opposite of courageuos. Getting rid of unions' bargaining power is throwing the baby out with the bath water and will not help the systemic problems in governance that lead to the budget crises.

camper 4 years, 3 months ago

This is more than public workers unions. In fact, we are continually asking our younger work force to compete against workers all over the globe. America has always had one of the highest standards of living, but it will be scaled down continually as the global market expands. This may be good for world peace and commerce, but may not be so good for american workers. It would be hard to explain to a kid that after spending 25k on education that he has to compete globally, and that it is likely that his/her job will be outsourced, that he/she may have to get further education and also be willing to relocate, and by the way, ten years later, you are back at square one.....you must learn a new skill to be competitive. How many of these cycles can one go thru in a lifetime? I'd say one or two, but going forward it might be once a decade that our workers must be willing to go thru extreme changeover.

For this reason, I believe America is suspect to having some discontent. I'm 43, but many of my colleagues are getting out pencils and calculating how it is that we will safely get to retirement.....let alone worrying about the younger generation who has much farther to go and will be presented with great challenges.

Darrell Lea 4 years, 3 months ago

The overuse of rhetorical questions in the editorial indicates that the same writer of the "Saturday Column" probably wrote this as well.

The single most non-sensical question asked had to be "How many other governors have the courage of Wisconsin’s Scott Walker?" What Walker is attempting with this manufactured "crisis" is possibly one of the more cowardly acts I've seen an elected official attempt in modern times. A more complete exposé of background information on this topic would have shown that, although facts do not support the conclusion the columnist is trying to draw.

It seems that the war on working people has moved from rhetoric to attempted action in Wisconsin, and will probably be going on for some time.

Bossa_Nova 4 years, 3 months ago

all of those benefits that the unions brought to us back in the day worked out just fine for everybody back before our government opened the floodgates to "free trade and competition" from low cost overseas factories. now we're all fu%#!d

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

Well, not all of us. Some have made out, and continue to make out, quite well.

The large middle class we once enjoyed in this country, of course, has been decimated.

laaiken 4 years, 3 months ago

Kissinger once said, "I cannot bring third world's standard of living up to that of the USA, but I can bring the USA down to theirs." And by busting the unions, that is what will happen. Who will buy the cars, houses and TVs when we all make $5/hr.

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

The people who increasingly hold what used to be our jobs!

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

Exactly!

And our corporate masters and the politicians they employ, could not care less.

Some people in Wisconsin seem to have had enough.

Liberty275 4 years, 3 months ago

Wisconsin serves a fine purpose. It is exposing the teachers in America for the frauds they are. They may mouth the words that they care about educating our children, but they will walk out and not teach them if they don't get their union bargained perks.

I've always thought of teaching as a calling, something you do because you want to further America by providing knowledge and challenge to our kids. Unfortunately, it appears most teachers are in it for the nine month's work for twelve month's pay.

It is sickening how unions have corrupted what should be our most noble profession. They have turned what should be our finest citizens into little more than greedy state sycophants more interested in lining their pockets than shaping our future.

Yes teachers, we loathe you. We loathe you because you shirked off your selfless desire to make America better in exchange for socialist mediocrity and petty cash.

deec 4 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, the school marm who worked for a pittance and a free soddy died a long time ago. Teachers want to be paid like the college-educated professionals they are now.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

Wow.

Teaching, social work, etc. are indeed callings, but does that mean that those in those professions shouldn't be well respected and compensated for them?

As a nation, it seems to me that we should put our money where our mouth is - there's lots of talk about how important education is. If we really believe that, then our compensation should reflect it.

Do you get well paid for your work?

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

People in our system are not compensated based on the collective PC. They are compensated by the market. If you have a skill much in demand you make more. If there are many of you than you make less. There are many teachers. Paying teachers more means the rest of us have less - a lot less. Fair wage - yes. Excessive wage - no.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

PC? I don't know what you mean by that.

If education is important to us as a society, which is often claimed, then teachers should be compensated well for their contributions.

Your comment about the "market" simply serves to show how deficient that can be in evaluating compensation, if it's true.

And, how money is distributed is complex - it's not at all necessarily true that if teachers make more, the rest of us make "a lot less".

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

JAFS

Here comes the Borg again. The collective is better at determining wages than the market.

I value education and I pay what I must to get it provided at a level adequate to my perceived needs.

Why should I pay more than I need to pay because you think a group you like should be paid more?

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

"The collective" is simply a description of us as a nation - if you think we're the Borg, ok.

If we have certain values as a group, then those values should be reflected in how we act, including how we compensate various professionals.

Your 3rd comment only makes sense if education is simply private - then each person pays for whatever education they need (or don't need). With public education, we make shared decisions about that.

How much do I "need" to pay for public education? I have no children in public schools, and probably never will. Therefore I have no personal need for it.

So should I simply be able to "opt-out" of taxes that support it? It's about 1/2 of our property tax bill.

What about wars? I think we engage in too many, and do so rather badly, considering the technology and advanced military we have. Should I be able to "opt-out" of military spending?

That's not how the tax system works - we all pay into the pot, and then spending is determined by our collective values, as represented by our elected officials.

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

jafs (anonymous) replies… "The collective" is simply a description of us as a nation - if you think we're the Borg, ok.

Sorry JAFS, it isn't. It is a reflection of 20-30% of the populace that want to control everybody else, Clearly a majority of us do not want to pay teachers more as we do not. The governor of Wisconsin ran on what he is doing. What happened to the power of the collective in Wisconsin? Maybe it does not reflect the majority there?

Why should I pay more for a service than I need because I value the service?? Does that mean I should pay my doctor more - even thought the collective is attempting to reduce his income??

Consistency Jafs. Consistency Jafs.

JayhawksandHerd 4 years, 3 months ago

"Noble" doesn't put food on the table or clothes on your back. "Noble" doesn't pay for your child's health care. Just go ahead and say what you mean to say - you don't value teachers' contributions to society, and they should just shut up and take whatever comes their way while we worry about compensating those in professions of greater worth.

What's your solution, Liberty? Do you have a college degree? If so, there are numerous routes to alternative certification available. Put your money where your mouth is and make a change! Join the ranks of the teaching profession and advocate for the "old" way! Try to live and raise a family on a pittance! Be ready to be replaced on a whim as soon as a new superintendent or principal moves into your district and his or her spouse needs a job, regardless of how well you've performed in the classroom. Or, sit around on an internet message board and bitch about things of which you have little knowledge, as you apparently have chosen to do.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 3 months ago

See the right winger's fangs when they are bucked.

Not at all a pretty sight.

Take a good look, Citizen, the wolf you've let in the door has evil intent.

llama726 4 years, 3 months ago

It takes a fair amount of ignorance to call out teachers for not being selfless enough. I'll have to let my friend who teaches in East St. Louis know what you said the next time she has to beg her friends to help her fix up a classroom, buy supplies for her kids, etc., because between her loan payments and the low pay she receives, there's barely enough left over for her to feed and shelter herself, let alone make the investments that the state can't afford in her kids.

I mean, it's not like she does anything but teach some of the poorest kids in our country. But because she belongs to a unionized profession - she is greedy, despite the fact that she could teach in a private setting, or go on to a dozen other professions and get paid more with fewer responsibilities - she is the one that is greedy?

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

Hey, If enough of you move we will pay more to replace you. Wife worked in both public and private settings. Many private settings pay less. Some good teachers are not certified in a state they moved into following their spouses so they take private jobs.

Bob Harvey 4 years, 3 months ago

I am completely comfortable in the knowledge that I don't understand all the complexities that are involved with the Wisconsin situation.

In fact I feel like a pinball in all of this. I recognize the importance of workers to organize, while at the same time I recognize managment's position of saying, "enough is enough".

So for those that know the answer, please explain to this old man how we bring these two parties into some sort of compromise. How can a government continue to bleed money? When do we realize that states simply cannot give and give? At what point does the law of economics finally come and say, "ok, enough already...you are broke and you can't pay your bills...you are now involvent?"

How easy it has been for all of us to blame the other side, all the while ignoring what we are doing to our children and grandchildren. Guess it doesn't matter....we'll be gone. Let the next generations deal with it. Yeah, that's the ticket.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

The better question is how it got this bad.

It seems to me that states should have known for some time that there were budgetary problems, and done something about them a long time ago, instead of waking up today and saying "Uh oh, we're broke!"

If revenues don't match expenses, then one can raise revenues, cut expenses, or both.

Carol Bowen 4 years, 3 months ago

Governor Walker boxed his way into a corner. His only way out is to follow through on his threats. Working with the unions to cut costs has been done before. Perhaps that would be too courageous for the governor to try.

Voters who voted conservatively did so for two reasons; 1) They thought that voting for the other side would eliminate the winner-takes-all attitude, and 2) Some actually think there is only one right way. The first group will change their votes next time.

Bob Harvey 4 years, 3 months ago

hear-me, nice post, thanks. I suppose that is one of the concerns that I have in this previously mentioned "pinball" situation. We elect one group to counter the last group we elected, who were elected to counter those obstinate, nere-do-wells that we hire the time before that.

I know I am sounding so blasted naive, but have we no one left who is somewhere, deep down inside, in it for all of us?

llama726 4 years, 3 months ago

There are plenty of people like that. Many of them are currently working in social welfare, hospitals, or our public schools. A very vocal section of our society hates them because they are paid by taxpayer dollars. Look for anyone with the username "Liberty" on this board for examples.

llama726 4 years, 3 months ago

"How many other governors have the courage of Wisconsin’s Scott Walker?"

Let me get this straight. Going to school and earning a degree at a cost of many thousands (tens of thousands) of dollars, then teaching in a public school, sometimes with exceptionally poor kids, where your job security depends on how well these kids test (and often, you get next to no support from the parents who try to undercut you as often as possible when their child isn't performing as they expect) makes you a coward (based on the fact that your only real protection is from your union), despite the fact that your union has agreed to help offset some of the financial mess in the state as demanded.

To be courageous, you must be a career politician (at least a decade of working as a politician) who has a comfortable office and ready funding from some of the wealthiest people in the nation. To be courageous, you must balance your budget not by maintaining your state's income, but rather, cutting the income (cutting taxes on businesses and the wealthiest few in the state). To balance this, you have to ask teachers to take a pay reduction. And when they agree to this, you must not relent, and you must demand that their union be utterly destroyed. That's courage.

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

jafs (anonymous) replies… Myths? LOL.

!. Building a car costs money. Huge expenses for tools, materials, capital. I stand by my data from Fed sources that suggests that autoworkers are spoiled rotten. 10% is probably too high for such an industry.

  1. Of course the unions claim they are ready to negotiate. They negotiated with Ford and they negotiated with General Motors. What is your point??

  2. I made a differential point between unions in the private sector - great - need more of them and unions in the public sector. I even believe in the latter but not with binding arbitration or union shops. The binding arbitration replaces the legislature as the determiner of my taxes. Not on my watch. The union shop denies individuals choice and forces them into a collective - that includes PAC's. Also - not on my watch.

  3. Please provide your authoritative reference that the US auto industry was brought low by making big cars? When the 2007 disaster hit the industry had already experienced almost two decades of decline in no small part because of non union foreign competition with cheaper and better cars. They were all big cars.

  4. We went to smaller cars in 2003 because of PC. WE abandoned smaller cars when the collective (city) failed to dig us out and my small car was not up to the task of negotiating 5 inches of rutted, frozen snow. Small cars were available and cheep. Why did people not buy them?? What possessed people to but "Hummers"?? Your small car issue is the myth I allude to.

My issue is about organized unions in government service with sweet heart contracts. Stop trying to blow smoke in support of the collective.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

Well - you're entitled to your opinion, I guess. If I were looking at a business that had gone south, I'd be extremely interested in where 90% of the money was going, and look for savings there, not simply focus on 10% of it.

The point is that unions actually do negotiate when times are difficult, and so the costs they are responsible for go down.

I have no opinion on the distinction between public and private unions, but I generally support the right to collectively bargain, which is the heart of unions.

I have no "authoritative source" - it's simply obvious to me, if you look at the cars people are buying (many made in Japan) that they are smaller and more fuel efficient than almost all American cars, as well as being cheaper.

There was a love affair with big cars - Hummers, SUV's, etc. - for a while, but if that were sufficient to keep the auto companies in business, they wouldn't have needed a government bailout.

Sorry, but you can't tell me what to do - you're not my commanding officer, and we're not in the army. I'm sure that's frustrating for you, but that's just the way it is.

And, these comments about "the collective" are baffling to me - it's individual people who join unions, work in various capacities, etc. Those are the people I'm concerned about.

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

No JAFS, you simply amuse me with your notions. All too often they are very selective - almost quaint.

In my world the management of the auto companies focused on reducing the 90 % because they had some control over it. Of course they could not address the cost of steel as environmental costs levied by the government drove that (and other costs). The nature of the unions made it hard to address the people aspect of the costs. A big mistake the big wigs made was in assuming they could continue to pass on the escalating labor costs to the rest of us.

Well anecdotally, the small cars were available from our companies as I bought them. My decision was to buy American even though I could buy a foreign small car (same size) that was better built and better equipped.

Could our inability to deploy technology be part of our problem? Was that the result of our big wigs or of a market heavily dominated by imposed costs not under the control of those big wigs and not levied on our competitors??? Shades of NAFTA.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

Well, gee shucks there, George - I guess I'm just a quaint old-fashioned guy.

There have been a few smaller cars available from American manufacturers, but as you point out, they tended to be more expensive, and not built as well as foreign ones.

"Stop trying to blow smoke in support of the collective"

George Lippencott 4 years, 3 months ago

There have been a few smaller cars available from American manufacturers,"

Well, I don't know about that - there was choice between and within brands ehren we purchased them

AS far as costs and quality, IMHO it was because of government and union interference in the market that drove up the costs of our products to the point where they could not compete.

If you want the collective get rid of the market. The market just does not cooperate with the collective

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