The Way I See It!

I am an Ultra-Conservative, Alpha-Male, True Authentic Leader, Type "C" Personality, who is very active in my community; whether it is donating time, clothes or money for Project Concern or going to Common Council meetings and voicing my opinions. As a blogger, I intend to provide a different viewpoint "The way I see it!" on various world, national and local issues with a few helpful tips & tidbits sprinkled in.

Walker, Budget Repair & Public Sector Unions

America, Union, Wisconsin, Scott Walker

From the Chicago Tribune


Lost: The common good


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has demanded that state workers contribute roughly 5.8 percent of their wages toward their retirement.  He wants them to pay for 12 percent of their health-care premiums.  Those modest employee contributions would be the envy of many workers in the private sector.


Walker wants government officials to have authority to reshape public-employee benefits without collective bargaining.  Walker wouldn't remove the right of unions to bargain for wages.


No, he is not seeking to eliminate unions, though you might get that impression from the heated rhetoric of the employees and even from President Barack Obama, who called this an "assault on unions."


Walker is trying to give Wisconsin a reality check.  In response, public workers have interrupted the Legislature.  Madison and many neighboring public schools have closed because so many teachers called in sick and left to join the protest.  Democratic lawmakers disappeared on Thursday to stall a vote on the budget measures.  Apparently some of them fled to … Illinois.


Public sentiment is changing.  There is a growing sense that public-sector unions are not battling for better, safer workplaces.  They're not battling unscrupulous employers.  They're battling … the common good.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became an Internet sensation when he confronted a teacher in an argument caught on video.  A recent Quinnipiac University survey in New Jersey showed that citizens overwhelmingly support layoffs and wage freezes for public employees to save the state government from fiscal disaster.  The poll found 62 percent of New Jersey voters had a favorable view of teachers, but only 27 percent had a favorable view of the state's largest teachers union.


Private-sector union membership has declined over the years, while public-sector unions have thrived.  One reason: In the private sector, unions and management may argue but they have a common cause.  They understand that if their company cannot compete, it will fold and no one will have a job.  Look what happened to the U.S. auto industry.


Governments don't operate under the constraints of market forces.  They operate under political forces.  Public unions play an inordinate role in the selection of management — witness the heavy union support for Gov. Pat Quinn's election last year.  In Illinois, labor and management, Republicans and Democrats, have been complicit over the years in overpromising wages and benefits.  In negotiations, they essentially sit on the same side of the table: Public officials who generously compensate workers tend to reap votes, contributions and campaign work from those same employees and their unions.


It might surprise the protesters in Madison to know that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt counseled against public-sector unions because "militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees.”  Even the late AFL-CIO President George Meany expressed reservations.


Something is happening.  Something is changing.  In Madison, we see public servants in mass protest to preserve a status quo that has pushed the state toward insolvency.  This is not labor versus management.  This is labor versus the common good.





From Newsbusters


Norah O'Donnell Misses WI Governor's Motives for Budget Cuts



Wisconsin public employees enjoy generous pensions and pay only six percent on their health care premiums, Heritage notes, benefits which in the long-run were to prove unsustainable for the state to pay out.  So Gov. Walker cut the budget to avoid raising taxes or firing 6,000 employees.


O'Donnell was sympathetic with the teachers without fully reporting on the opposing viewpoint – why their benefits were cut in the first place.  She did ask Wisconsin State Journal reporter Clay Barbour about the budget cuts.  "How much would that save the state?" she asked, without wondering if the cuts needed to be made whether they were small or not.


A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 18 at 1:02 p.m. EST, is as follows:


NORAH O'DONNELL: least 16 districts closed today due to lack of staff.  This morning the Washington [sic] State Journal ran an editorial saying, "[Schoolteachers] shouldn't walk out on their students and community.  Their absence is hurting their cause."


Clay Barbour is the state government reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal, and joins us now.  Clay, good to see you, and I know that there are some that think this is a travesty for the schoolchildren of that state.  But these teachers are talking about their pensions, and they're worried about having to pay more for their health care costs, right?


CLAY BARBOUR: Yes, yes.  They're struggling with this issue right now.  It really does come down to their right to collectively bargain, for most of these teachers.  But –


O'DONNELL: And Clay, how much....given what the Republican governor wants to do, how much would that save the state?  Is he saying that it's crucial in terms of the budget there in that state?


BARBOUR: It's unclear right now.  I mean, the governor says he needs to save about $137 million just for this particular budget, not going forward.  But the problem is, there's different ways to parse those numbers.  The Democrats say that actually he's exaggerated the numbers.


O'DONNELL: Yeah, so what's your sense of that?  You're the reporter out there.  I know there's this Democratic state senator Jon Erpenbach who said today it's not about the money, that this is really about the unions' bargaining rights, and that this is just the Republican governor taking advantage of a budget situation and trying to break the unions with this.  What is it about?


BARBOUR: Yeah, it's – I definitely think you could say that it's more about weakening the unions in this state.  The governor has put several pieces of legislation into this budget repair bill to specifically weaken the unions.  So – so I don't think there's any disagreement there.  But as you can tell from the crowds and from the unions that are bringing – they're bringing people in from out of state to fight this.  They sort of feel like this is the firewall, they've got to fight it here or they're going to be fighting it in Ohio and New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Michigan – so it really does come down to collective bargaining for most of these people.



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