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Question of the day

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* As you probably know by now, Wisconsin’s new Republican governor wants to strip collective bargaining rights from most public employee unions for everything but wages. Wages, however, would be capped at the Consumer Price Index (raises beyond that would have to approved by a public referendum) and unions would face annual retention elections.

* The Question: Should public employee unions in Illinois be stripped of their collective bargaining rights for benefits like health care and pensions? Explain.

Try to stick to the question, please.

* Related…

* Wisconsin senators living day-to-day south of border - Escape to Illinois to avoid vote on budget leaves lawmakers short on essentials

* In Illinois, Wisconsin Senate Democrats vow unity

* What’s At Stake In Wisconsin: A Primer On The Debate

* Are Wisconsin’s state and local workers overpaid?

* Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says state employees could pay twice as much for health care premiums and still be paying half the national average

* Neither side budging in Wisconsin union fight

* Labor Pains In Wisconsin: Teachers Union Calls For Return To Work

* Wisconsin budget woes at a glance

* Labor poll finds voters in select GOP Senate districts want compromise

* Rasmussen Poll on Wisconsin Dispute May Be Biased

* N.J. unions to rally at Statehouse in support of Wisconsin public workers


  1. - Leroy - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 5:01 am:

    I’d like to see Springfield cap increases to the public unions while the temporary tax hike is in effect.

    This would make simple, economic sense.

  2. - uniondem - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 5:33 am:

    Absolutely not, don’t try to fix this mess on the backs of the actual people that drive consumerism - the middle class. The real irony here is that while unions clearly endorse more Democrats than Republicans, many of the white, middle class union members left in this country tend to vote Republican, until now.

  3. - Laughing_All__The_Way - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 5:36 am:

    Sitting on the horizon is the underfunding perils of the state pension systems. Wisconsin at least is taking a proactive attempt to solve its crisis now by addressing the union problem. Not in Illinois though where the can has been kicked down the road once again in order to placate the union voters. This will assure that the state will need a bailout, bankruptcy or a mass confiscation of private property to pay the pensioners relatively lavish lifestyles. When one of those three happens, that is when Illinoisans will wake up and eliminate the stranglehold the unions have upon the taxpayers of the state

  4. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 5:47 am:

    What I don’t understand is there is never any mention of cutting back on our state elected officials pension or benefits. Its all about increasing income taxes, make the state workers pay but never do we hear what the elected officials have to give, since they are the ones that spend the tax dollars in the first place.

  5. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 6:19 am:

    @LATW: “the union problem”…Unions serve as an advocate for the state employees, just as business groups like the American Petroleum Institute advocate for business interests. Our legislators hire administrators that negotiate with unions. If you don’t like the outcome, the way to go about it is to get a different voice at the table, not attempt to eliminate one of the voices. As for “placating union voters”, the last time I looked business interests were contributing more to legislative coffers than the unions. “Pensioners lavish lifestyles” - Care to serve up a little underpinning to that ridiculous comment? Try watching a little less Glen Beck and Hannity, and do a little research on your own.

  6. - Y2D - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 6:49 am:

    No, the acts of collective bargaining are not the problem; and I really don’t the the benefits should be the precedence for discussion either. The problem with health care and pensions for publis service unions in Illinois is the failure to recognize the contribution levels and interst from investments are not adequate to fund the actuarial required contribution [ARC]. Stipping barganing rights will not correct the funding failures of the past and mislead the public with the red herring of the evil union benefits. To me the focus should be on the other side of the equation… contributions + interst and that will take increased contributions and union support.

  7. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:12 am:

    No, collective bargaining rights didn’t cause the pension shortfalls. our politicians did. As pointed out, these same politicians receive free benefits for life, on a short four year stint.

  8. - Das Man - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:20 am:

    No. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies the ability to organise trade unions as a fundamental human right. The right wing agenda to abolish collective bargaining rights for state workers appears to be a devils bargain between Walker and the Koch brothers.

    “The Koch brothers are the poster children of the effort by multinational corporate America to try to redefine the rights and values of American citizens,” said Representative Gwen Moore, Democrat of Wisconsin, who joined with others in the union protests.

  9. - Lester Holt's Mustache - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:23 am:

    No. On a slightly different topic, I specifically remember many state employees who belong to unions crowing about the coming Gubernatorial reign of one Bill Brady. One can only assume they support Gov. Walker’s move, since surely they realize that a Gov. Brady would be right now standing alongside Governors Walker, Kasich, Haslem, etc. and hoping to do the same to those union employees in Illinois who supported him so vocally. I look forward to the carefully thought out and well reasoned defense of the union-busting position that those folks will surely supply us with in the comments here today.

  10. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:32 am:

    @Y2D: I’ve never heard that contribution levels were too small to support the pension. I HAVE heard that the state has stiffed the funds on its contribution amount for the past 30 years through both republican and democratic administrations, and that is the reason for the shortfall.

    If what you say is true Y2D, that would indicate a structural problem that needs to be addressed. If you have any links to support that, I, for one, would appreciate them.

    On the other hand, if, as I suspect, the shortfall is caused by our state reps spending on programs that they didn’t have money for, well, it took 30 years to get the pensions into the current state that they’re in, and they voted for a long term plan to get the pensions on their feet already, then follow it. Pay your bills like the rest of us do. The debt you owe to state employees is no different than the debt you owe to the vendors that you are currently stiffing, except that when you stole from the pensions, it was an interest-free loan.

  11. - chi - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:33 am:

    no. a million times no.

  12. - Justice - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:35 am:

    Yes. Unions should not be permitted in any government or educational institution.

    Unions have successfully run industry out of the US, our schools are failing, and they are, in my opinion, in greatest part the cause.

    Our legislative leaders campaigns are heavily funded by unions and legislature is enacted to the great benefit of unions.

    Union employees make more money than most of their managers and those managers are locked out of any raises because of pressure on our legislators by the unions.

    Unions in government and schools is demonstratively bad for the nation.

  13. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:37 am:

    No, and I hope this is a major wakeup call to the union members who are still voting Republican. This party doesn’t belong to the likes of Don Young or Sherwood Boehlert or any other moderate or traditional Republican you can think of anymore, nor does it belong to people who are actually conservative; it’s a water carrying tool for oligarchs.

    And no oligarchs in the US are bigger than Koch Industries, which did more than anyone for Scott Walker’s campaign both through their own donations and through front groups they fund like some of the Tea Party groups and Americans for Prosperity. There’s a clause in the collective bargaining bill that enables the state to privatize whatever it damned well wants in the way of state-owned power generation and distribution facilities without competitive bidding or independent review. And what a great fit for Koch Industries, which already has quite the portfolio of energy and especially coal-related businesses in Wisconsin. Assuming they avail themselves of this new law, they’ll have a vertically integrated monopoly on their hands once Walker is done looting the state.

    Conservatism? Never in a million years. Pay-to-play that beats even our lot in Illinois? Very possibly. Value for taxpayers? You’ve got to be kidding.

  14. - jimbo2600 - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:47 am:

    No. When they bargain for healthcare & pensions they also bargain for wages. It is all one package. There is give & take on all items on the table. Leave all the options there in order to reach a reasonable compromise.

  15. - Mike - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:49 am:

    Absolutely not, and I think the question needs to be rephrased. Union don’t have collective bargaining rights. Workers do. Workers form a union to have strength and safety in numbers. Everyone comments as if unions are some outside force, but in the end it is the rights of workers, not unions, that are being curtailed in Wisconsin.

  16. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:51 am:

    No, collective bargaining didn’t cause the recession or the failure to fund the pensions in good times.

    A lot of people in the private sector hear “public employee pensions” and they think of the big cashouts for school superintendents and the legislators who have gamed the system. The reality is much different, but the perception is a killer.

    The current move against public employee unions is part and parcel of the Dixiefication of the national GOP. I’m not a big fan. If I want to live

  17. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 7:54 am:

    Whoops. If I want to live in a GOP Dixie political culture, I’ll move to Mississippi.

    Handy map on current collective bargaining rights in the states.

  18. - Living In Oklahoma - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:00 am:

    Yes. We can’t afford this anymore. While we are at it, eliminate half the state police, close the DuQuoin Fair, eliminate the benefits package for legislators, combine the comptroller and treasurers office, stop the legislative scholarship program, etc etc etc….

  19. - Downstate - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:09 am:

    I’ve been a union member, and also negotiated with the union, as a business owner.

    In each situation, negotiations always had a “backstop”. If the union got too much, at some point, the business enterprise would fail.

    There’s no such “backstop” in negotiations with public sector unions. Local school boards, municipalities and county governments, made up of part-time elected officials aren’t well matched against professional negotiators for the unions. They are outmatched. And there’s also no backstop.

    Local boards should have more local control on these issues. Our local municipality is clearly hamstrung by the pension system iimposed by the state. There’s little wiggle room.

  20. - cassandra - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:10 am:

    Does it matter? Public employees are entering the global economy more slowly than private sector employees in the US, the latter are already there, really. I doubt there are a lot of unions representing private sector workers in China and India, and other emerging nations with whom we will, increasingly, be competing. Why do we suppose public sector unionized workers outnumber private sector union workers in the US. It’s not a Koch brothers conspiracy. It’s the world economy. Did public sector workers think they could live in an economic world apart forever.

    I agree with Justice but I would point out that in Illinois state government the managers are in the union too to thanks to the Democrats under Blagojevich. And as part of the process of entering the bargaining unit, many got some very hefty raises. And they, like the workers, are protected by Governor Pat’s no-layoff agreement.
    Really, a world apart.

  21. - Do what now? - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:11 am:

    Erm - if you’re Living In Oklahoma, what is all this “we” stuff regarding Illinois?

  22. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:25 am:

    @Justice: Read the link Rich provided above to the Washington Post article regarding Wisconsin worker pay. Your perceptions are just off the mark.

  23. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:27 am:

    Here’s another article by the same guy indicating how the Wisconsin budget shortfall was created:

  24. - Y2D - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:32 am:

    Here’s a link to a discussion of the Illinois unfunded liability and the ARC -

    “While the ARC prescribes what an employer should contribute in order to cover current (normal)
    costs incurred and to pay down the unfunded liability (UAAL), many public funds in Illinois do
    not fund at the ARC. Because there are no federal funding requirements for public sector plans,
    state laws and union contracts typically establish employer contribution rates which may or may not relate to actuarial funding needs.”

  25. - stiguy - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:38 am:

    Yes. We have to stop the financial bleeding and everyone’s going to have to share in that process. If Wisconsin succeeds in breaking the union’s control over state employees, I hope Illinois has the guts to follow suit. I know other states will.

  26. - Cassiopeia - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:40 am:

    Yes, the time has come to bring some sanity to the relationship. AFSCME has become an arrogant union and has hurt the general union movement by thier tactics.

  27. - so... - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:43 am:

    Yes, yes, 1000 times yes.

    It’s not just about benefits and pensions, although those are ruinously expensive. It’s about putting the employer back in charge of the workplace.

    It is darn near impossible to sack a tenured public school teacher in Illinois. Union seniority rules mean you have to lay off the newest employees, rather than the worst employees. This kind of stuff needs to change, and if revoking collective bargaining rights for public employees is what it takes, then so be it.

  28. - Capncrunch - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:47 am:

    PublicServant: Read the link Rich provided in the Washington Post and then look at whose on thwe board of directors of the outfit that wrote the article.

  29. - Cheswick - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:47 am:

    Absolutely not. This is so much to do with making working class poorer so the rich can get richer. I would hope the elected officials in Illinois are too smart to be made such a dupe as those in Wisconsin.

  30. - Secret Square - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:51 am:

    My answer is no — with reservations.

    Since public employment, supported by taxpayers and accountable ultimately to voters, is fundamentally different from private employment, collective bargaining shouldn’t be as necessary for public employees as for private ones. In retrospect, it may have been a bad idea to allow PUBLIC employees to become unionized.

    BUT… I also don’t think it’s a good idea to jump in and try to abolish or bust them wholesale in one fell swoop either. It took 40-50 years for public employee unions to accumulate the clout they have now; I don’t think we should try to undo it all in one month or one year.

    What we need right now are leaders willing to drive harder financial and benefit bargains with unions — to level with them about what is fiscally possible (or impossible) and not simply cave to their demands in return for votes. If they can stand firm on those things, maybe they won’t need to go all the way and try to bust the unions.

  31. - chi - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:53 am:

    =Unions have successfully run industry out of the US, our schools are failing, and they are, in my opinion, in greatest part the cause.=

    Low wages in third world countries have run manufacturing out of the country. When a company moves from Mississippi to Mexico or Texas to China, is it because of unions?

    Our legislative leaders campaigns are heavily funded by unions and legislature is enacted to the great benefit of unions.

    =by this logic we should abolish all corporations. At least unions represent people, not money.=

    =Union employees make more money than most of their managers and those managers are locked out of any raises because of pressure on our legislators by the unions.=

    False. Blatantly false. Provide some data if you’re going to make such a bogus claim.

    =Unions in government and schools is demonstratively bad for the nation=

    Only five states do not allow collective bargaining for educators. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores: South Carolina, 50th; North Carolina, 49th; Georgia, 48th; Texas, 47th; Virginia, 44th. Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is 2nd.

  32. - Belle - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:54 am:

    As an ex-member of AFSCME, I detested being pushed into the Union without a choice. But, for the sake of all worker’s rights, let them take the cut in benefits while maintaining their right to collective bargining.
    What people do not seem to understand is that the high performers will leave and leave the others behind. Why stay when your working conditions have changed dramatically and you can work in an environment that is less negative.
    Is singling out 1 union over the others (police and fire who supported Walker) illegal? The unions and the benefits tend to be all tied at the hip.
    Cook the Koch Brothers.

  33. - zatoichi - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:58 am:

    No. they should not be stripped of their rights since they have a negotiated contract that all sides agreed to. The problem comes when there is not enough money to fulfill the agreement or costs exceed what the contract was based on. You can only stiff the pension payments or push for early retirements so many times before the actual cash available does not meet the on-going costs. At the same time if health insurance costs $100 at contract time and now has risen to $200, it is time to renegotiate. Both sides can claim whatever they want but at some point when the bucks are no longer there, something has to change. I do not see anything wrong with public workers paying towards their health and pension costs. Millions of other private and not-for-profit employees do everyday. Keep the collective right, but adjust to the current fiscal reality.

  34. - Ahoy - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:00 am:

    I don’t think so, but I can actually see a lot of benifit to it. It could help get us out of debt and free up more money for education.

  35. - piling on - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:04 am:

    It’s about time my elementary school age children start making some money manufacturing clothes and mining coal to heat homes.
    Why should those children in China and other Asian nations get all the work?
    Keep child labor in America where it belongs.
    And who wouldn’t want a minimum wage worker teaching their children?

  36. - Steve Bartin - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:06 am:

    Yes. Government is a monopoly. Nothing could be worse than unions dealing with a monopoly. It’s highly unlikely that Illinois will strip unions of collective bargaining rights. What’s more likely is Illinois will continue to be a high cost place to do business further driving jobs to right to work states. Here’s a safe prediction: Illinois will lose another House seat in the next census.

  37. - DuPage Moderate - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:08 am:

    Yes, the days requiring the need for Unions has come and gone. Pay the good teachers/employees market rate, fire the bad ones, consolidate the adminstrative power and get rid of the Union bloat.

    The gig is up.

  38. - Justice - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:09 am:

    Turn around three times while repeating “Unions are good for the US, that’s why we are doing so well.”

    Unions in government and education is simply a bad idea. Lots of facts and figures to support both sides of this argument but reality supports the fact that we are not helping everyone, except union members. Its the all for us and none for you attitude that is helping our nation retain its greatness? I think not.

    Everyone deserves a good living but the legislators, after getting their fair share and taking care of their union friends, leave out a great portion of workers to fend for themselves.

    We are becoming a “house divided” thanks to the unethical alliance of unions and our politicians. Good for Wisconsin for standing their ground. We should do the same here in Illinois.

    Well, off to work in my own non-union and successful business.

  39. - DuPage Moderate - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:11 am:

    And to follow up, the comment that the Unions didn’t cause this mess is non-starter. They didn’t start this mess because they lack the ability, accountability and impact to affect anything of economic importance in the short-term. They’re all tax eaters…supported and employed though taxes. They don’t make anything, grow anything, produce anything, invest in anything….they just exist. So, while it is true they didn’t cause the problem - the reason is only because they can’t cause or solve any problems.

  40. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:15 am:

    Das Man brings up a good point about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regarding allowing the organization of workers.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is probably the greatest good that mankind is capable of enunciating. So violating that is probably not a good idea.

  41. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:15 am:

    Justice, thanks for the insight. It’s clear that unions were primarily responsible for crashing the world economy with their reckless financial wheeling-and-dealing.

    If only sober and responsible Big Finance had some influence on government and politics…..

  42. - RFR - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:18 am:

    Yes. The purpose of unions is to eliminate the disparity of bargaining power between business owners and workers. This issue is much less relevant with public sector employers, who lack a profit motive to squeeze the workers. Furthermore, public sector unions create a vicious circle, using their leverage to extract greater benefits from politicians at the expense of the taxpayer, then using dues to elect politicians favorable to their positions so that even more benefits can be extracted. Pensions are notoriously vulnerable to this cycle, because the politicians can win union support and votes by making grand promises to the unions that do not come due until well down the road. Restrictions on public sector collective bargaining are in place in many states, and would be a good idea for Illinois.

  43. - MrJM - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:19 am:

    Should public employee unions in Illinois be stripped of their collective bargaining rights for benefits like health care and pensions?

    Absolutely not. Collective bargaining is not responsible for elected officials underfunding pension obligations or for the steep decline in tax revenues.

    – MrJM

  44. - Obamas Puppy - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:21 am:

    No, it is like saying we should take away the right to strike in order to improve education. It is just an excuse to bust unions. Big business has weakened private sector unions and now they are targeting the public sector. They are convinced we need to look like China in order to compete instead of trying to raise the standard of living for all workers.

  45. - SR - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:21 am:

    Workers should have the right to bargain collectively. What is the point of a union if they can’t do that?

    However, politicians and union leaders should be honest about how much it will cost to fund pensions and health care benefits. If the contributions aren’t enough and / or the government can’t match the contributions that needs to be explained in detail, not swept under the rug until it reaches a crisis point.

  46. - Champaign Dweller - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:24 am:

    Yes, many of the pension problems are due to strong union lobbys with the elected politicians who receive large campaign contributions from those unions. If you’ve ever sat down with a public sector union to negotiate, one of the common themes you hear from them is that there is more money–you can just raise taxes. That may have worked in the past, but there just aren’t more taxes to raise to keep up with all of these benefits.

  47. - Esquire - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:24 am:

    I generally favor “collective bargaining,” but so often the teacher’s unions and public employees’ unions contribute political action committees so lavishly that contract negotiations are seldom anything more than “sweetheart” deals. I also dislike the fact that the teachers’ unions are almost uniformly 100% Democratic in terms of endorsements (rarely, rarely, in a safe GOP district, a Republican may be endorsed, but that is usually the exception to the norm).

    Okay, I am biased, obviously, but I cannot forget the Illinois teachers’ unions going all out for Blagojevich TWICE.

  48. - Shemp - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:29 am:

    If the State wants to retain collective bargaining, then it better fix the arbitration process. Most local governments are at the mercy of arbitrators who have no financial sense, or if they do, they’re hiding it. Ordering 3% raises on cities and counties run 6 and 7 figure deficits with fund balances under 25% doesn’t make much sense to me, but it does for a number of arbitrators.

  49. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:29 am:

    There needs to be collective bargaining. There must be honest, tough back and forth. If there is a favorable situation (*IF) for the public employees, its as much to do with weak politicians who did not hold strong when they could have - it was easier to give in. We are losing the middle class, and unions prevent the rich/poor gap from getting far worse.

  50. - JustaJoe - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:30 am:

    No. No. No.
    The bullying tactics (Walker, Christie, etc.)have shifted the focus to public employees and away from the fiscal irresponsibility by elected officials who spend on programs to get re-elected. Many public service jobs (maybe most of them) are within the monopolistic structure of government…no competition. Especially after investing the good part of a career, employees need an advocate for both compensation and for protection against unjustifiable labor practices. For example, without protection, local school boards would consistently pare more experienced (more expensive) teachers, reducing labor cost by hiring new graduates to replace them; in time, only the desperate would enter the profession and kids would ultimately suffer. Same is true for public lawyers, social workers, engineers, etc. Folks need to look at the long term implications and ramifications of knee-jerk actions. Illinois has the Rutan decree, but that hasn’t stopped gross abuses, just like the Shackman decreee hasn’t stopped much in Chicago & Cook County…even with watchdog monitors. So, indeed, collective bargaining needs to be retained.

    That is not to say that the state can’t really negotiate…with give and take…rather than only “give” with respect to the labor negotiations. There is nothing other than the will of the political establishment that prevents real negotiations. Play the game by the rules…don’t just declare new rules because you stink.

  51. - Knome Sane - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:34 am:

    Unfortunately, yes. When a union negotiates with business, the union and the business strike a balance between what the workers deserve and what the company can pay to remain viable and hopefully profitable.

    When a public-sector union and government negotiate, it’s lop-sided. In many cases, the union is negotiating with the exact administrations whom they help fund to get elected (or help to defeat).

  52. - Justice - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:36 am:

    Word Thanks….I too agree that ethics legislation is more important than ever, as you note.

    Both sides of the isle are responsible for the mess we currently enjoy with the pension and health care fiasco. Anything unions win regarding that, and wages, should be applied to all equally. Anything the legislators enjoy too should be provided to everyone, union or not.

  53. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:37 am:

    No, workers should keep the right of collective barganing. Think of what the Blago folks would have done to the employees if the unions were not there to protect them.
    I am a republican but I disagree with the Wisconsin Governor, he is just trying to get back at groups that did not support him.

  54. - sideline watcher - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:44 am:

    Thank you Wordslinger. I’m getting really tired of hearing about all the money that unions use to influence elections with no acknowledgment of the FACT that corporations run elections. Period. This is ideological class warfare.

    Its really gross to watch people who have a whole lot of money demonize public employees which by and large don’t retire with anything close to a cadillac pension.

    Also…in Illinois specifically, we actually have a lot of legislators who are surprisingly not independently wealthy. They didn’t come to the General Assembly as trust fund babies. People who run for elective office are actually doing a job that they should get paid for. People act like you should volunteer to be a senator or a rep. Surprisingly most of our legislators were not to the manner born.

    Isn’t a citizen legislature a good thing? Strip pensions, benefits, and lowering pay and we’ll get a legislature that is made of only independently wealthy people because they are the only ones who could afford to do it. Scary thought. Then what kind of laws would you see passed. Definitely not ones favorable to the working poor, or working families. Or any of the issues that most important to the most vulnerable among us. No…let them eat cake. (Gov Walker)

    I just saw a new article on the first generation of people to retire with 401k’s. The title was that its not a pretty sight.

    Collective bargaining is the most powerful protection we have against corporate greed. Thank you unions for minimum wage, unemployment insurance, 5 day work weeks, child labor laws, and safety in numbers that seek to protect people from threats, harassment, intimidation, and violence for standing up for your rights.

  55. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:48 am:

    An alternate approach to limiting collective bargaining within the Civil Service would be to allow workers the right to work without joining the union. Furthermore, the state should stop collecting and then distributing union dues, which the workers can pay for out of their own checking accounts.

    These two simple steps improve competition in the workplace, as non-union workers, who negotiate their individual labor agreement with management compete for jobs with those represented by the unions. This would provide a check and balance over wages and benefits that the current system lacks.

  56. - southwest - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:55 am:

    yes. It doesn’t make sense to have 97% of our state employees in the union. We cannot count on our elected representatives to negotiate when they are dependent on the unions to re-elect them. At the very least, no elected official should be able to negotiate contracts/benefits beyond their current term and supervisors/managers should not be in the union.

  57. - amalia - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:56 am:

    No. Oh, and no again. just as the governor segmented out the police and fire, now he’s trying to divide by saying, oh wait, just
    wages. drip, drip, to erode union rights.

    how did Walker do when he was a County official? check out MSNBC The Rachel Maddow show from last night. Not only did Walker use the public funds emergency argument to fire security officials, but the company he contracted to do the work, a British owned company, hired someone with a criminal record to be in charge. How responsible.

    Maddow portrays the current overseas work of this same company where photos and information have surfaced about the in country partying of the hired help. Scantily clad men in groups, coconut bras, and the most disgusting and bizarre way for one man to give another man a drink of vodka I have ever heard described.

    I guess if you don’t care about checking the background of a company or a person, to find out information that might impact the work, you can still be fiscally responsible. what a crock.

  58. - Redbright - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:03 am:

    I am short on sympathy for the unions right now. It appears to be a case of (pigs get fed while) hogs get slaughtered.

    That said, collective bargaining is not the problem. I am, however, a big fan of having to re-vote regularly. Right now absolutely nothing incents the employer to improve their employee situation once they are unionized. If there were regular chances to de-unionize, it would be real win-win for the employees and employers (just not the union).

  59. - Jellybean - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:04 am:

    Yes, there should be collective bargining but, in all fairness, there needs to be separation between the unions and elected officials. Unions should not be barred from contributing to or being involved with political issues or officials.

  60. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:05 am:

    Please read Paul Krugman’s op-ed in yesterdays NYT.

    He has nailed it. This is a power grab by the wellheeled power brokers such as the Koch brothers in Texas to further ring out whatever money can be gotten from the middle class.
    When will people say enough to this blatant attack on their prosperity (or what little is left of it?) These interests controlled the private sector salary and benefit structures and have decimated that kitty, but won’t be content until they control the public sector as well.
    The Tea Partiers are either getting played or were in on the game from the get go…

  61. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:05 am:

    @Capncrunch: Crap! The Koch brothers aren’t on the Board! It must not be worth the paper it’s printed on!

    Care to refute the facts presented in the article Capn?

  62. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:10 am:

    “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.”

    Those words by Franklin Delano Roosevelt certainly spell out his view on the topic. A view I support. There are already in place many protections for public employees, not the least of which are civil service protections. In Wisconsin, the civil service protections are some of the strongest in the country. As a state employee, I have been exposed to AFSCME. I have been a member of 3 other unions in my varied career (Boilermakers, Aerospace/Machinists and Sheet Metal Workers). Many of the issues that contributed to the rise of unions in the 19th century are issues no longer. An inherent weakness of unions these days is that some industries are not fully unionized. This leads those companies that have unions involved find it difficult to compete against those that are not. The constant pressure/expectation that wages/benefits must always go up regardless of realities can lead to jobs moving overseas.

    I am aware that there are other variables involved and know others will post re that. I am also aware that this doesn’t compare to public employees unions since most of those jobs can’t be exported overseas. However, when you have state employees engaging in a job action such as is happening in Wisconsin, and folk are seeing that the teachers are not reporting to work, this has a negative impact on how folk view those teachers. The reality that is coming home is the disparity between the guaranteed pensions/benefits that gov’t employees enjoy over the diminishing returns the TAXPAYERS are seeing on their 401Ks leaves a lasting impression on the taxpayers. This is one immutable fact. It no longer matters that the fault lies with the legislators and governers who kicked the pension can down the road. It only matters that the pensions are there and the cost is unsustainable. It may be unfair but there it is. Perceptions are important, folks.

  63. - Secret Square - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:17 am:

    Jellybean, I presume you meant to say “Unions SHOULD be barred from contributing to or being involved with political issues or officials.” I also think that would be a good restriction to place on public employee unions, without having to take away their basic collective bargaining rights.

  64. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:18 am:

    As a non-union, private sector employee, absolutely not. Unions have given all of us the protections and benefits we enjoy in the workplace, they absolutely have the right to exist. Furthermore, these public sector union members are the ones building your roads, protecting your families, teaching your children. If you want your children taught by teachers who make ten bucks an hour and have no protection in their jobs, by all means do away with public sector unions. But don’t complain when they don’t get high enough ACT scores to get into a good private college where the only decent professors left will be found.

  65. - Irish - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:21 am:

    absolutely not!
    First of all if collective bargaining is the issue then why do the legislators have a better retirement and insurance package than any employee system? They have no union. The answer is the answer to all the questions surrounding this issue.

    The legislators ALWAYS look out for themselves first. They give themselves the best pension, a pension that exceeds most employees pensions and they get it by being elected and serving FOUR years. They don’t have to work 8 years to be vested and 35 and over to get a decent retirement.

    They scheme to pay the lowest amount for their furlough days by claiming they work 24/7 365 days a year. Seriously?

    They have stolen from the employee pensions to fund their pet projects and lied about how they were going to repay the funds.

    They have kicked the budget crisis can down the road and exacerbated the problem preserve to their own jobs and they are spinning the issue to make it look like it’s State Employees’ lavish retirement packages that are causing it.

    They are not offering any givebacks from their own little fiefdoms. They are not offering cuts from their district’s projects. They are instead putting the focus on State employee benefits.

    When the GA and the Gov do their part then come back to the State Worker but not before.

    When I first started with the State the collective bargaining had just been granted to the State workers by a REPUBLICAN governor. Prior to that whole staffs would be laid off after every gubnatorial election and then hired back according to their party allegiance. The professionalism of state workers at that time was sketchy. They had no long term comittment, there were no professional standards, you just had to be a political hack of whichever party was in control of the executive mansion. The improvements that have come to the ranks of State Workers as far as dedication, professionalism, training, and those truly wanting a career in their field, have raised State Workers standards tremendously.

    A supervisor I worked for back then came out a mill that had shut down. He was a heavy contributor and hard workers for the Dems. He was offered the choice of jobs of lockmaster for one of the largest dams on a large river, or the head custodian of one of the largest most heavily visited sites in the State. No training, no experience, no idea of what he was doing.

    So before everyone gets all fired up to support removal of collective bargaining start thinking about the caliber of State employee you are going to have in the aftermath. Do you think the GA and Gov. are going to pass on the opportunity to hand out jobs to their “friends”? The business of the State has been kept running by the professional
    rank and file IN SPITE of the hacks in Springfield that come and go every four years or so. Think about how your services will be when those hacks are everywhere.

  66. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:24 am:

    Way to go, dupage dan. For a long time I have advocated here on CapFax the inherent conflict of interest between public service unions and the state and its taxpayers. Of course, your quote is from a well known corporate elitist, FDR, so we should discount it as being hateful to the working man.

    In addition to the conflict so well stated in FDR’s quote, there is another question: Fairness. The unions will always talk about “worker’s rights.” Well, what about the rights of a person who is willing to sweep the floors or shuffle paper at the DMV for a lower price than the union worker? How is it fair that a person must pay union dues (even if you refuse to pay the allocated amount for political activities, you still have to pay 95%+ of the dues for “collective bargaining”) to work? I see this as similar to a poll tax.

    We also need to separate a state workers pension from the state and its taxpayers. The pension funds have become nothing more than slush funds for legislators, forcing the state (and its citizens to be nothing more than a scofflaw on its obligations. I know that it would cost more to put people on fixed contribution/social security. However, it would be easier for the state to manage its finances since it eliminates a honeypot, provides workers with responsibility for their own money and retirement, and allows state managers to more accurately predict labor costs.

  67. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:26 am:

    Jellybean, I presume you meant to say “Unions –SHOULD be barred from contributing to or being involved with political issues or officials.” I also think that would be a good restriction to place on public employee unions, without having to take away their basic collective bargaining rights.–

    Wow. So, instead of being second-class citizens, they could be third-class citizens?

    I might go along with that, but only if it applies similarly to any associations or interest groups whose members might ever have business in front of the SEC, EPA, the courts, etc. They can still do their business, just “no contributing to or being involved with political issues or officials.”

  68. - Alexander cut the knot. - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    Yes. What other union gets to negotiate pension benefits that cannot thereafter be renegotiated and reduced because of a Constitutional prohibition against doing so? What other union works for an employer that cannot file for bankruptcy and have the contracts voided, and who can therefore be forced to raise prices (taxes)no matter what the effect on its consumers (taxpayers) and competition (other States)?

  69. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:30 am:

    DD, your FDR quote is the flavor of the month among those who despise everything about him.

    The full quote and context are provided in the link below. It deals specifically with strikes, not collective bargaining.

  70. - just sayin' - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:49 am:

    Yes, but will happen when pigs fly. There’s not a Republican official in this state who doesn’t curl up in the fetal position at the mere mention of a union.

  71. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:54 am:

    No, though this is exactly what I expected Bill Brady to try if he had been elected.

  72. - Responsa - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:55 am:

    Yes. Although “stripped” is a rather loaded word.

    Many of us who were raised to understand the historical need and still current value of unions for coal miners, meat processors, and chemical plant workers, etc., just do not have the same understanding of unions and collective bargaining for white collar and professionally credentialed government employees. Sorry.

    As an aside, since the QOTD clearly has its roots in the WI situation, in a time of federal and state fiscal problems across the country and high unemployment, the decision of the union bigs to use public employees, and especially teachers, as their standard bearers in the fight to enhance the union movement was a bad PR decision. Because of the news and scrutiny it has generated, the union leaders themselves, who are trying to blur the line between private and public sector unions may be doing more to gradually “bust” their own unions than any governor could.

  73. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:55 am:


    I am well aware of the entire quote but it was quite large. In addition, you mention strikes. Well, isn’t that what is going on right now in Wisconsin? Those teachers protesting in Madison are engaging in an illegal strike. Supported by Doctors writing fake excuse notes. This is denying school age children in Wisconsin their education. If you think the state employees in Illinois wouldn’t stage such a thing you don’t know my co-workers. FDR’s points should be taken seriously. Not just the ones you highlight.

  74. - David W. Aubrey - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 10:56 am:

    No. The right to organize a union & collective bargain is a fundamental human right. Its something that all just governments guarantee.

    To those who dissent about public sector unions in particular, I’d refer them to the history of the trash collectors in Memphis. The history of public sector unions is intrinsically linked to the end of segregation, worker safety, & civil rights.

  75. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:00 am:

    Responsa introduces another aspect that should be discussed in more depth when he brings up the PR and future aspects of the WI protests. Who wins? Who loses? What will be the overall effect on policy? These are much different questions than this QOTD, and just as worthy of consideration.

  76. - JustaJoe - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:04 am:

    DuPage Dan, good points, but some are not in reality. The “people” may be the whole employer, but the real employer is the political agent in power at the time…and if employees are subjected to changes when that agent changes, all we have is patronage by another name. The so-called “protections” for the non-elected public servant are illusory…they are not there. Without some independent ombudsman, there is no check against abuses. However, public employees engaging in an effective “strike”, if not done by the governance of their contract, is wrong…that is what Reagan’s action against the air traffic controllers was about…not unions per se as has been portrayed. Folks need to be honorable on both sides of this politically-played situation.

  77. - Boone Logan Square - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:11 am:

    Short answer: Absolutely not.

    Long answer: Read Going Down Jericho Road for why this is a terrible idea.

  78. - jayhawk97 - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:13 am:

    Dupage Dan -

    “Denying them their education” is a bit brash. Missing two days of school isn’t holding them back a year. In fact, it could be argued that the children are getting a real world lesson in politics, civics and government.

    The right to organize and to strike should not be infringed. That said, it doesn’t mean Unions are always right. There is no black and white in the real world. Corporations and unions are there to provide a check and balance on each other.

    The actions by the WI governor are not about balancing the budget and I believe it is disingenuous for him to continue to claim so. It is an ideological political move designed to break the union pure and simple.

    Public Servant said it best:
    “If you don’t like the outcome [of the contract negotiations], the way to go about it is to get a different voice at the table, not attempt to eliminate one of the voices.”

  79. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:15 am:

    - JustaJoe - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:04 am:

    “The “people” may be the whole employer, but the real employer is the political agent in power at the time…and if employees are subjected to changes when that agent changes, all we have is patronage by another name.”

    That may be true for existing contracts, but an election DOES change the future, whether it be decertifying the union or changes to future benefits and work rules. Otherwise, we are locked into the same system ad infinitum, with no method to ever change the relationship between the state and public service employees no matter what the conditions.

  80. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:21 am:

    DD, those who miss work risk being fired under terms of their contracts. Where and when that’s practical is another matter.

    Also, as executive, Walker has power to layoff employees and has said he will do so if he doesn’t get his way.

    They’re all playing for pretty high stakes there. They’re calling in cops from all over the state as the go into session today. Whether the actions that prompted it all were necessary or just political narcissism is another question.

  81. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:22 am:

    No. I’m sad we’re even having this conversation. What is happening in Wisconsin is further proof that this is the New Gilded Age, where oligarchs rule the world. Before anyone starts lobbing accusations of class warfare, understand this: the war is over and the middle class lost.

    Citizens United was the tip of the iceberg. The corporatists have turned us against each other. The Tea Partiers have more in common with union employees than either side wants to admit, and yet they have pitted the two sides against each other.

    We used to ask “what happened to Kansas?” It’s time to start asking why so few, who control so much wealth, want to continue to pound the middle class into the ground.

    How much are you prepared to endure? How low must our standard of living become until we realize we’ve been swindled by Wall Street tycoons? When will America wake up?

    This whole debate is sad.

  82. - A Citizen - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:31 am:

    Yes absolutely! It is time to reset the game. In the 70s Pete Vallone started the process of trading away management rights and powers in exchange for political support. There is little left to trade hence the need to reset so we can play the game for a new 35 or 40 year term.

  83. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    47th: I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments…Americans are so busy protecting what they have left that they can’t see the big picture…

  84. - Bemused - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    Short answer NO. To expand on that, as has been said before Union’s are simply groups of folks banded together by common interest to improve thier condition. Folks like Lawyers and Doctors and Real Estate Sales People do the same. Some of these groups have more control than the Unions do over costs to do business with them. They also weld great influence at the Government level. As someone who has sat at the bargaining table for a constuction Union I can say increases in pay have up til recently ran in the 3-4% range. In the case of my organization the members then vote on how to place that increase, I.E. some on the check, some to retirement and what ever is needed to maintain health care. I think a lot of private sector folks receive close to the same level of raise. The employer prefers the money go to benefits from a tax stand point. Now let me point out that although the employers pay these funds to the benefit programs these are employee funded. If the workers want all the money on the check then they have no bene’s, same cost to employer. I point out all this to support what others have said about lack of funds being paid into the system being the root problem not the Unions. I think the public employees during the Edgar years actually took less pay and some pension benefits to help with the budget. What is funny is that since private sector Union pension funds had their problems they are some of the most highly government controlled and must maintain certain funding levels. If not they can be taken over by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. Not a good thing. Public employee and private corp. pensions are not so tightly controlled. They can go underfunded for long periods time without being taken over. To stay within funding guidelines a lot of Union Funds have had to lower future benefits to members, so the state folks might want to get used to the idea. For a long time Public Employee Union Folks have felt they were immune to the type of attacks directed to other Unions. Time for all of Organized Labor to remember they live together or get hung out to dry one at a time.

  85. - wndycty - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    According to the Indianapolis Star the Indiana Democrats just walked out are headed here as well.|breaking|text|

  86. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 11:44 am:

    I do not think we need to strip the ability for people to collectively bargain.  But I do think the state needs to be smarter in the agreements it signs.

    There needs to be a definite and clear distinction between management and labor.  Management needs to be able to manage without the stranglehold that currently exists.  Disciplining and/or removing workers that have been proven they are not doing their jobs is far too difficult and causes inefficiencies and higher costs to the taxpayers.

    The bumping rights issue is just absurd.  Moving people to positions that where they may have no experience can increase training costs and can cause a slowdown and a backlog of services.

    In addition to this, unions should not be able to contribute or endorse political candidates, especially those involved in contract negotiations.  This seems like the ultimate conflict of interest in the fact that contracts with unions can involve hundreds of millions of dollars.

  87. - Regular Reader - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 12:01 pm:

    I see the need for regulations on the value of labor in a free market. Unions have helped with this, and I believe workers should have the right to be represented and agree upon a contract with their employer. That’s not the problem here at all.

    The blame for our fiasco lies with the State. Unions are powerful (and can be very persuasive), and I have my disagreements with them. But the State is the one who made promises it couldn’t hope to keep. So, silence the unions? Seems the State’s too weak to stand up to anything that has a bit of power.

  88. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 12:11 pm:

    It is kind of a conflict of interest. Candidate A to Union, you help me get elected, I will be in direct power to give you a raise or something like that.

    What is the big deal about collective bargaining for public employees?

    Unions have won. THese are not mine workers, but white collar jobs.

  89. - RetiredStateEmployee - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 12:12 pm:

    I agree with 47th. Everyone should do a little research about American History. Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” would be a good place to start. Without unions, that’s where we are headed. The wealthy already own the federal government with the blessing of the Supreme Court. The rich give lip service to a middle class, but they sure don’t want it.

  90. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 12:13 pm:

    Almost all of the participants seem to agree that the Civil Service workers have a right to organize. Does that mean that people have a right to not organize and be able to refuse to join the union in any way shape or form (no dues whatsoever) or are we carving out a protected class of people?

  91. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 12:40 pm:

    My answer is a qualified yes.

    There needs to be a balance between the labor and management sides of the equation. Currently the balance of the power is skewed too far to the side of the public unions.

    As discussed earlier in this thread governments do not go out of business due to poor practices, they just pass the bill on to the taxpayer.

    Excess in labor costs have killed the steel industry in the US and are in the process of killing the automotive and aerospace industries.

    The bottom line is that elections have consequences. The policies proposed are what the politicians promised the voters. Running and hiding is a subversion of the election process.

    It would be great if the elected officials had benefits in line with those of the rest of the workers. I would also love to see that the salaries and budgets of the individual legislators be paid out of a state surplus. i.e. when the State is deficit spending the would not be paid. They would then have an incentive to fix the problem!

  92. - Truth Seeker - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 12:43 pm:

    Yes all workers should be treated as individuals and rewarded for performance and not be compensated as a class.

  93. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 12:49 pm:

    Absolutely not. Public worker unions in Wisconsin have agreed to cuts and contributions increases. It doesn’t need to go further.

    Thousands of middle class workers without unions are no match for wealthy corporate interests, and the wealthy corporate interests got the tax breaks and didn’t significantly help the economy during this recession.

    Many studies show that wealth for the top few percent keeps increasing significantly, while the rest of us suffer through economic downturns. Many people are complacent with their wealthy bosses outsourcing their jobs and cutting their salaries/benefits, and they take out their frustrations on public union people, who didn’t cause the problems.

    I think Walker et al. are trying to destroy the Democratic Party by taking away some of its main funding sources. Concessions, yes, union annihilation, NO!

    Take it with a grain of salt, if you’d like (I didn’t fact-check this), but I saw on Rachel Maddow last night that Gov. Walker lost a case when he worked in Milwaukee and fired some unionized security guards and replaced them with Wackenhut employees–a private security corporation. One of the replacement employees (a supervisor or head of security?) has a criminal record and did jail time. Some Wackenhut employees were shown on TV last night at a party in Kabul, drinking liquor from very unsavory places (think rear human waste disposal). The employees filed a grievance and won their case, got their jobs back and got retroactive pay.

  94. - Richard Afflis - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 1:31 pm:

    I think public employees should have the right to be represented. The unions need to realize what the perception is and if the perception is not reality, take active steps to correct the perception.
    Every union needs to concern themselves with the job they perform and the quality of the job performed. That will do more to ensure survival and the ability to get benefits for members.

  95. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 1:39 pm:


    I have family who live in WI. I lived there in a previous life. I have many interests there. I happened to be driving into WI yesterday, into the teeth of a winter storm. I listened to much talk radio on the way there/back. Gov Walker had campaigned on just this issue. He informed the minority party leaders of this pending legislation prior to his presenting it to the legislature. Per report, the issue was debated for nearly 18 hours, unprecedented by some accounts. So, this issue was not sprung on the GA as has been reported. The legislation was clear and unambiguous. It wasn’t 1000 pages long. The GA didn’t have to vote on it “to find out what is in it”. And yet, the dems seek to thwart the will of the electorate, the very people who vote and elect their representatives.

    Really, now, they lost their majority in the GA, fair and square. If the folk in WI don’t like what is going on they can always vote the dems back into power and change the law. They lost - they should get over it.

    I agree that the stakes are high here. The horrific state of the various state budgets are requiring some intense decisions. I just read that DHS is going to be cut by a huge amount. While we all knew draconian cuts were necessary to set the ship of state aright, and we all knew that the tax increase alone would not be enough, it is still quite hard to watch unfold. Even for me, a person who has been advocating for budget cuts before tax increases takes no pleasure in seeing this happen.

  96. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 1:43 pm:

    @Grandson of Man 12:49 PM,

    =I think Walker et al. are trying to destroy the Democratic Party by taking away some of its main funding sources=

    That is precisely the unholy alliance that many folk are trying to break up. The dems have become beholden to a select group of people (unionized state employees) who are benefitting at the expense of a larger percentage of the public (everyone else). That any elected official becomes beholden to such a narrow special interest is, in some folks minds, the very definition of corruption.

  97. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 1:57 pm:

    du page,

    The Republicans are beholden to big business interests who sat and profited immensely on the sidelines while the vast majority of us had to take losses. Look at statistics on income growth over the last 30 years, and how income has been “redistributed” to the top few percent.

    Please understand, Wisconsin public sector unions have offered to make concessions on salary and benefits–I believe all the way. Please also understand that public worker unions are but one of many players in an economy, and to scapegoat them by killing them is unbalanced and unfair.

    What about the Republican-led Iraq War and the massive federal debt as a result of it? Are you mad at Republicans for that? I read that there are billions of dollars that were spent for Iraq that are unaccounted for.

    I also think that it’s discriminatory that Walker is leaving alone police/firefighter unions while targeting every other public union. Does a teacher have less basic worth than a police officer? Who can quantify how important each field’s job is? Teachers also impact lives and maybe save them, by being mentors and friends to troubled kids, for example.

  98. - Oh the stupidity - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 2:40 pm:

    State employees should be able to unionize.

    What baffles me is those in the middle class that don’t understand that this is a political issue created by the Tea Partiers and Republicans to some extent to strip more rights and power away from the middle class most of them belong too.

    This is a class issue, the rich vs. the middle class, Unions helped build this country. Public employees should have the right to collective bargaining.

  99. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 2:44 pm:

    Unions have not run business out of the Illinois nor the US. Shareholders have run business out of the US. Shareholders want the higher returns made possible by cheap labor under oppressive regimes.

    I hear Kasich helped steer Ohio pensions into lousy toxic Lehman junk mortgage backed, but I haven’t yet read Matt Taibbi’s “Why isn’t Wall Street in Jail” in the Rolling Stone.

  100. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 2:51 pm:

    - Oh the stupidity - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 2:40 pm:

    “What baffles me is those in the middle class that don’t understand that this is a political issue created by the Tea Partiers and Republicans to some extent to strip more rights and power away from the middle class most of them belong too.”

    I think you have fallen into a trap many people like to believe, that Republicans and Tea Partiers are somehow naive or ignorant of economic realities. Nothing can be further from the truth. Remember that the Tea Party sprang from the understanding of the economic and moral hazards surrounding the real estate mortgage bailouts. This is a sophisticated understanding or the economic realities that escaped the geniuses in Congress like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd who, for whatever reason, have protected and expanded the now failed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Now those same middle class voters are rebelling against the public service unions since they have compared the value of those employees as determined by their compensation packages, against their own situations and the taxes they pay. It is obvious that the voters have made an informed economic decision that says while the public sector unionized employees may have at one time had legitimate concerns, they no longer have when compared to their own situations. Hence the vote for Republicans who are now doing what they said they were going to do.

    You may characterize this as class warfare. I do not. I see this conflict in purely economic terms. Taxpayers (voters) are not getting what they want, and they are not getting it at a cost they no longer want to pay. This is informed consent, the bedrock of democracy.

  101. - spring - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 2:52 pm:

    unions need to go, or atleast be limited, gov’t’s are poor managers, unions only make it worse.

  102. - David W. Aubrey - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 2:57 pm:

    @ Cincinnatus

    ” This is a sophisticated understanding or the economic realities that escaped the geniuses in Congress like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd who, for whatever reason, have protected and expanded the now failed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

    That statement proves you don’t have a sophisticated understanding of economics. Fannie & Freddie worked just fine for decades w/ traditional 30 year mortgages.

    The source of the crisis was the securitization of adjustable mortgages.

    Those bonds wrecked Fannie, Freddie, & banks all over the world.

    The problem is derivatives. Only Blanch Lincoln sought to regulate the instruments who wrecked our economy.

    Turn of Fox.

  103. - David W. Aubrey - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 2:58 pm:

    *whoops, that should have been “Turn off Fox.”

  104. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 3:03 pm:

    “…voters have made an informed economic decision that says while the public sector unionized employees may have at one time had legitimate concerns, they no longer have when compared to their own situations.”
    So those outside the realm of key personnel, corporate officers, legislators, and those carrying or selling weapons to enforce decisions were duped by the idea that they may one day also have decent wages and pensions working for the state or within a conglomerate.

    It’s okay for Kasich Walker, Sr. to meet collectively with the heavy contributors to plot & collect political dollars to swindle anyone too weak or trusting to pay attention, but union members may not be permitted gain strength in bargaining through collective action.

  105. - David W. Aubrey - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 3:04 pm:

    Also, the toxic mortgage backed securities are really what we should be discussing. They are the source of the state budget problems, directly & indirectly.

    Republican Governors lost their state’s pension funds on Wall Street betting on mortgage backed securities (& in Illinois, “Bright Start” lost millions there as well on those securities.)

    The blame shouldn’t be assigned to the police, firefighters & teachers for the pension crisis. That data simply doesn’t support that conclusion.

  106. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 3:27 pm:


    I do not blame any individual public service employee for this mess. Furthermore, the state should live up to its contractual obligations. But the system must change or else even if we get out of the mess with the current system, this mess will cycle, we will see it again in the future.

    The mortgage backed securities were used as pension instruments because of the unrealistic promise of return made to state workers. These decisions should be made by the employees themselves who can then decide on the risk they are willing to accept with their money. Greed, fueled by economic bubbles, and political shenanigans caused the pension shortfalls. Fixed contribution is the only way to go.

    Fannie and Freddie made these crap instruments available because of HUD policies that called for “affordable” rates for housing. HUD’s interference in the mortgage market, expedited by the likes of Rahm, Raines and the rest, started under Clinton and was exacerbated by Bush. The law of unintended consequences sure hits hard on the well intentioned goal of “affordability” especially since we are not now able to afford it.

  107. - Steve Downstate - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 3:31 pm:

    Nope, not unless we want to start priding ourselves on suppressing citizens’ rights. State workers are citizens of this nation, residents of this state. Their rights to organize and engage in collective bargaining are just as important as any other citizen’s right to do so. (Not to mention, as a group, they’re not all that well-paid in the first place. Not after you lop off the top level of administration in most state agencies and just look at the regular workers’ pay.)

  108. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 3:47 pm:

    Well, Steve, would you also support an open-shop where union membership is not a requirement of the job? Are collective rights more important than individual rights when it comes to the workplace?

  109. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 3:54 pm:

    Grandson of Man @1:57 PM,

    You should re-read my post. I didn’t specify dems or GOP when I mentioned elected officials. I call any elected official corrupt who is personally benefitting from a narrow special interest.

    Bringing up the war is a tired non-sequitor of magnificent proportions. Blah, blah, blah.

    I, too, am not happy that Gov Walker is singling out only some unions for this action and not others. He will have to make his case to his constituents, come re-election time.

    That the unions are now making concessions are a belated realization that the gov’t is ready/able to make them disappear. The teachers won’t necessarily be harmed by that - but the unions will. Please understand that the Gov is wanting to make sure local taxing bodies have some tools to deal with the expanding costs of some of the benefits. Per my info, the public employee union has its’ own health care insurance company that the teachers buy into. If those school districts were able to purchase health insurance in a freer market they could reap some benefits. Gov Walker estimated savings of approx 68mil. Not peanuts.

    Can’t be done with the current system. The union has a stranglehold on the state budget. Structural changes need to be made. Wage and benefits concessions are a small part of what needs to be done to change the old way of doing business.

    Please understand that I have been a member of 4 unions, including AFSCME. I know what unions have done, what they do now, and what they want to do. If the unions are so wonderful, why do they need to have my dues paid by deducted from my paycheck? By my employer? Why do I have no say in the donations my union makes to politicians I don’t support? With my forced union dues?

  110. - Ain't No Justice - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 5:31 pm:

    No way. Let the GA, legis, etc change their pensions first or make them like the unions. Part time work at a full time pension at 100% for only 4 years of work! Give me a break! The middle class is shrinking fast!

  111. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 6:24 pm:

    chi — =Union employees make more money than most of their managers and those managers are locked out of any raises because of pressure on our legislators by the unions.=

    False. Blatantly false. Provide some data if you’re going to make such a bogus claim. –

    At the Department of Revenue, there are a number of unionized auditors who are making more than the head of the audit department and the heads of the income tax and sales tax divisions of the audit department. There are also a number of unionized attorneys making more than their supervisors. Find someone to give you names and you can look up their salaraies on the transparency web site. Blago and Quinn couldn’t have done a better job destroying the professional/management class of state employees if that had been their goal.

    Still, I say eliminate collective bargaining. The incestuous relationship between union campaign contributions in cash and kind and favorable contracts with elected officials should not be allowed.

  112. - jake - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 6:36 pm:

    It is amazing that this issue is surfacing at this time in our history. The history is very clear. People in management positions and with management skills have the ability to negotiate one-on-one with corporations and other large institutions and do o.k. People who actually produce the products of those institutions can not do that, and must be able to bargain collectively. Taking away those collective bargaining rights may seem like a good deal for society in the short run, but in the long run leads to a drop of the middle class into the class of working poor, with tremendously bad consequences for everybody.

  113. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 8:38 pm:

    47 and LL, it would be nice if we had a president — who had the public support — to use his Bully Pulpit to smack down the “malefactors of great wealth.”

    Or one who could call out the “old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

    The Roosevelt Boys had the guts and the folks behind them to call it as it was. No weasel-word, mealy-mouth stuff.

    The guy we have now, who raised $750 million for his last election and will top $1 billion for his next campaign, ain’t exactly the guy to do it.

    Shame on him and shame on us for letting the cheap hustlers take us all down while we had to cover their drunken gambling debts.

    Like the man said, if you can’t spot the chump the first time the deal goes around, you’re it.

  114. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:01 pm:

    Word, to be fair, while Obama is no FDR, FDR would have been killed in the 24 hour news cycle. How long do you think it would have taken Fox to expose the wheelchair?

    Today’s version of a GOP House budget amendment is to de-fund the President’s teleprompter. Home fireplaces would be outlawed if this was the 1930s House Republicans.

    Every time Obama has called out Wall Street, he’s accused of being anti-business. Now Bill Daley has to take an $8 million paycut to convince America that Obama isn’t Karl freaking Marx.

  115. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:15 pm:

    47, my instinctive response to that is thankfully not allowed under the decorous rules of the house.

    But I have a lot more faith in the American people. Everyone knew FDR was in wheelchair and they didn’t care. As far as how he’d handle a 24-hour news cycle and Fox News, my guess is about the same way that Sherman handled Georgia.

    To bring it closer to home, our current leaders should recall the great Phil Rock, when he was asked about some potential credit rating action by Moody’s and S&P.

    “I don’t have any constituents on Wall Street. My constituents are on Madison Street and Main Street.”

  116. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:31 pm:

    Lol word. Did I mention it was a taxpayer funded socialist wheel chair?

  117. - Oh the stupidity - Tuesday, Feb 22, 11 @ 9:46 pm:

    This is purely political and it is class warfare. Don’t fool yourself into beleiving Fox New rhetoric. The Tea Party/Republican’s need to demonize some group to expand their base. So they’ve picked the public employee unions. This is a well-oiled, well-funded initiative to further destroy the middle class. The Koch Brothers are pouring a lot of money into this.
    It could very well blow back on the Repub’s and Tea Party. The Republican’s should be ashamed they’ve let their party be taken over by extemists.
    To claim the recent Republican landslide gives them a mandate is pure pundit hogwash. The electorate was/is mad. The same swing that benefitted the Republicans will boomerrang right back as the more extreme Repubs and Tea Partiers emerge as Repub Party leaders. Bet on it!

  118. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Feb 23, 11 @ 12:50 am:

    Does anyone else find it interesting that the existing border for union and right-to-work states is the same exact dividing line between the free states and slave states?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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