Wisconsin – What Really Happened?

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We’ve ceded our power to unions
By Patrick McIlheran   3/09/2011
Frank Zeidler, former mayor of Milwaukee, unstinting ally of labor and by then doing work for AFSCME, wrote 42 years ago that government unions change democracy.
The rise of government unions, he wrote, created “what amounts to a two-chamber local government” – elected officials in one and unions as the other, with taxes and budgets requiring the consent of both. This curtailed the sovereignty of the governments that voters chose, he wrote: “This is a revolutionary principle rather quietly at work in American government.”
And a revolution jolly well needed, unions now say – or chant or howl – as Gov. Scott Walker proposes limiting their bargaining powers to help the state out of a $3.5 billion fiscal hole. Only through the adversarial give-and-take of bargaining, say unions, can we ensure a fair deal for all.
If only it were adversarial. In Madison, that two-chamber government is more along the lines of owner and subsidiary. A watchdog group got hold of e-mails showing Mayor Dave Cieslewicz working with state Senate Democrats’ leadership to slow Walker’s bill, allowing time for the city to lock in high-cost contracts.
Eventually, Cieslewicz called his city council into emergency session to ensure that unions would still get 2% and 3% annual raises, recession be damned, and that taxpayers would go on paying nearly all the health insurance premiums.
Walker has demanded that state workers start paying their designated share of pension costs and about 12.6% of health premiums, half what’s ordinary in the private sector. He suggested but could not require cities, counties and school districts to do the same, since state aid would be cut sharply. Now, Madison cannot, having colluded with unions. It would need a $22 million tax increase to cover the aid cut instead, its comptroller said.
“It’s like a hockey game where they abandoned the goal,” said Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele, one of two council members not to vote for the deals. “There’s no decency.”
There is logic, however: Cieslewicz has enjoyed union support, just as have countless other officials who, elected as watchdogs of taxpayers’ money, instead licked the hand that fed them.
Unions now say they’re ready to pay what Walker demands, if only he leaves their bargaining powers intact. As for local contracts, they say they’ll be reasonable there, too, if officials ask nicely.
Really? The City of Milwaukee, as it happens, is asking nicely. It’s trying to settle current contracts with firefighters and police. Anticipating that state-aid cut, Milwaukee asked unions to voluntarily accept health and pension concessions.
The unions’ response: Get lost. Police will make some concessions, but only if they gain control over specific staffing levels in a slew of jobs. That, says Pat Curley, chief of staff to Mayor Tom Barrett, would unacceptably handcuff crime-fighting and cost real money. The firefighters’ union is actually demanding richer benefits as well as more control over staffing. Such demands not only cost now but would raise the starting point for future contracts.
The unions have a strong hand. Even when Walker’s bargaining limits go into effect, they don’t touch firefighters and police – the governor said he didn’t want to risk a walkout – and state law since 1971 has given Milwaukee safety unions especially favorable arbitration rules. Unions don’t have to give anything, so they won’t.
This is telling, since Walker’s union critics have insisted they’re just fighting for rights against an intransigent governor. Walker, however, was offering last weekend to compromise to get Democrats out of Illinois and his bill passed (something that may have happened as of this column’s deadline). He’d have allowed unlimited raises and bargaining on more issues that unions have called important. Democrats, and presumably their union masters, refused, since Walker wouldn’t give up the part that shields taxpayers, the health-care bargaining limit.
The question Walker has raised is whether Wisconsin was prudent in giving government unions power over budgets that federal unions and those in many states do not hold. Serving as a de facto parallel chamber of every government has served Wisconsin unions well, but what about the rest of Wisconsin?
We see the result. Madison’s mayor scrambles to do unions’ bidding. In Milwaukee, Barrett (who opposes Walker’s moves) tries to make bargaining work – and is stiff-armed. We have ceded power to unions, and they are in no mood to surrender any of it or use it for the common good.
http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/117700098.html

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0 responses to “Wisconsin – What Really Happened?

  1. The union bosses know their ponzi scheme is crumbling down. It’s time to take what’s left before it’s all gone. The same thing happened in the private sector 10 years ago when many of the top company executives liquidated all their shares.

     
  2. Seems to me the Bolsheviki (unions and their proles) became elitist in their attitude about themselves and their “rights”. No one has the RIGHT to rip off another fellow citizen’s hard earned money (taxes) to fund so much as a pencil’ much less their more than generous bennies and medical, salaries, which in the state of Wisc. are more than good.

     

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