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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Public rejecting bogus "public employee versus taxpayer" frame?

By Greg Sargent

You already know that the new NBC/WSJ poll finds strong support for public employee bargaining rights, with 62 percent opposed to eliminating them. But here's another crucial number from the internals:

Do you think public employees who belong to a union and work for state government, city government, or a school district should have the same right to bargain when it comes to their health care, pension and other benefits as employees who belong to a union and work for private companies?

Yes 77

No 19

Not sure 4

Keep in mind that one of the core arguments from conservatives in favor of rolling back public employee bargaining rights is that public unions are fundamentally different from private ones. Public employee unions are bargaining against the taxpayer, this argument goes, and therefore are not entitled to the same bargaining rights as private sector unions, which are merely bargaining with private employers over a share of profits.

But here we have an overwhelming 77 percent saying they are entitled to the same rights. With all the usual caveats -- this is just one poll, there has been very little polling on such questions, etc. -- this suggests at least the possibility that the "public employee versus taxpayer" frame is a bust.

One of the most important but least appreciated aspects of this standoff has been that efforts to scapegoat public employees in order to divide working Americans against each other seem to be failing, at least on the core question of whether public unions have a right to exist. We've already seen that all income groups except higher-end ones have consistently supported public employees in poll after poll. And now the public has strongly endorsed the idea that public unions are entitled to the same bargaining rights as private ones.

UPDATE, 11:11 a.m.: A new poll from Rasmussen is bad news for Scott Walker. It finds strong opposition in Wisconsin to rolling back bargaining rights, 52-39, and Wisconsinites support Dems over the Governor, 52-44.

By Greg Sargent  | March 3, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Labor  
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Next: Predictably, conservatives distort Holder's testimony on New Black Panthers Case

Comments

Never mind the fact that the bargaining rights of public employees far exceed the rights of private employees.

Posted by: johnyt1977 | March 3, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Based on Greg's grumbling, progressives seem to think they have struck political gold in Wisconsin. They’ve found an issue on which they sincerely beleive the public will support them-- protecting the "rights" of teachers and other government workers.

What they’ve really found is fool’s gold.
http://www.quinnipiac.edu/x1295.xml?ReleaseID=1562

A new survey of 1,800 registered voters from Quinnipiac University shows that the public’s view of public-sector unionism is mixed at best, and on the whole leans against the unions. An overwhelming majority of 63 percent believe they should be contributing more to their benefits. Only 15 percent believe that government workers are underpaid. A plurality of 42 percent believe they are overpaid.

The public is split evenly, but slightly against the unions (45 to 42 percent) on the question of whether government workers should have their collective bargaining rights limited. They also split in favor of the Republican governors (47 to 41 percent) in their belief that Walker and others are putting the screws to unions because of legitimate budget problems, not simply to weaken unions.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | March 3, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

kaddafi, the problem with that poll is that it doesn't describe what proposal is on the table. It asks people if they favor "limiting" bargaining rights, which could mean anything.

Plus, that's one poll versus FOUR other national ones finding strong support for public employee bargaining rights.

I'm not expecting you to care about any of these facts; just tossing them out there for others.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | March 3, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Not only do they support public employee unions, in the states where the Governors are balancing spending cuts with small tax increases they're getting support from their constituents as well. No one "wants" to pay more in taxes, but when you only offer cuts that affect the middle class, the ones you claim you're trying to help, people catch on pretty quickly. Here's a list of responsible governors trying to balance big holes in their budgets with both. Public employees across the nation are taking the hit along with the rest of us, which is more than we can say for the top 1%-5% of the economic elite.

Brown (CA) had a meeting a few days ago with some of the top cops and gingerly let them know they were going to have to take a hit, lots of nervous laughter but no one walked out.

""An adult in the governor's mansion -- what a novel concept.

Connecticut's Dannel Malloy has emerged as a voice of reason in the national debate over budgets and spending. One side is saying, in effect, "It's all public workers' fault." The other side, Malloy's, says, "No, it's not."

Malloy is not letting public employees off the hook. His budget calls for, as he says, "shared sacrifice," including $2 billion in givebacks from state workers. Without those concessions, he says, the only choice is mass layoffs. We take him at his word.

And he is proving himself willing to take an unpopular stand -- no one makes friends by proposing to raise taxes.""

""Malloy's taking the less popular but balanced approach to a balanced budget. He's talking to unions in private, not via the nightly news (concessions are coming, collective bargaining will not be touched, and as per the current plan, pensions will be funded.) What a novel concept. Anyone who thinks it's easy to get out of a budget hole ought to talk to—um—an adult. And if you do, you'll find it can be done without eliminating collective bargaining or turning the state against you. Scott Walker, take note.""

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/03/950035/-Democratic-governor-in-CT-leads-on-responsible-budget-fixes

Posted by: lmsinca | March 3, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Newsflash: The Ohio state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would curb the collective bargaining rights of public workers and strip away their power to strike.
http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/02/ohio.budget/index.html?section=cnn_latest

Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose.

Do you hear me, Lebowski? The bums will always lose!

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | March 3, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I think this is a great opportunity for public unions to push for private sector unions. The fact of the matter is that if public sector unions are making more and receiving more benefits its because they are demanding better conditions and better pay and they get it. Private sector individuals should do the same. Instead of being mad and public sector unions be mad that the private sector is telling you that you arent worth all those benefits. Go out and demand better pay working conditions and benefits. Do it together and you will have a more productive working environment and can afford to live better. Push for more unions more working together to acheive the desired goal of better wages and benefits.

Posted by: Allamr18 | March 3, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Is that why you don't have a job, Kaddafi?

....

"A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it.

The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, 'Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.' "

Posted by: fiona5 | March 3, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

[Greg whined: "the problem with that poll is..."]

...the same problem with ALL polls. Their interpretation is limited by the question format. Thanks for admitting the fool's gold nature of your polling "evidence."

Plus, your FOUR polls are meaningless in the context of only polls that matter-- ELECTIONS have consequences.

Taxpayers don't expect union thug-huggers to care about election results; just tossing them out there to gnaw at your silly delusions.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | March 3, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

This is starting to make the rounds. WEZK in Monroe, WI interviewed GOP state senator Dale Schultz about the stand-off there. He wasn't kind to Scott Walker, instead describing what Walker is doing as a "power grab." He sounds like he is ready to break from the Governor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jYVrgR3Vhg

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Anyone else see a parallel between the idea that unions have gone from bargaining to achieve a fair balance between employer and employee to being unnecessary and the assertion by some in the Middle East that democracy is a train you take until you arrive at the appropriate destination? I mean, we all know that unions of the 20th century helped achieve a lot of the nice perks of being employed in this country- 40 hour weeks, 2 day weekends, minimum wages and benefits, etc... Don't we risk losing all those niceties when we decided to eliminate the train, having arrived at our destination?

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if they are rejecting the "public employee versus taxpayer" frame. The big difference with Wisconsin versus elsewhere was that the union agreed to everything Walker wanted to do on pay and benefits. This is a big difference than say NJ where the teachers unions refused to even consider a one year pay freeze.

The success of the public unions in this fight will last up until the point where state tax increases are again being discussed to address the budget issues. As the Gallup poll that was referenced in USA Today a few weeks ago notes, increasing taxes to deal with state budget shortfalls is the least popular option by a large margin.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/146276/Scaling-Back-State-Programs-Least-Three-Fiscal-Evils.aspx

Of course, voters can always live in denial and simply say none of the above in response to what they want to do to close the deficit and hope for a miracle.

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

OT:

This will obviously be incredibly disappointing to Republicans:

-Jobless claims hit 2-1/2 year low last week-

New claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to touch their lowest level in more than 2-1/2 years, a government report showed on Thursday, slipping further below a key level associated with an acceleration in job creation.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the lowest since May 2008, the Labor Department said.

...

Claims have now held below the 400,000 threshold for a second straight week. Claims below that level are widely viewed as signaling strong jobs growth and economists believe it is only a matter of time before this is reflected in the payrolls numbers.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/03/us-jobless-claims-idUSTRE7223GU20110303

My message to Dems, very simple:

DEMS MESSAGE TO GOP should be:

Don't fk it up!

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 3, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"That unions of the 20th century helped achieve a lot of the nice perks of being employed in this country- 40 hour weeks, 2 day weekends, minimum wages and benefits, etc.."

And the sad part of this mobrien is that those "benefits" pale in comparison to those horrible Euro countries and Scandinavia in particular. 5 weeks of vacation is common. Of course they do not have billionaires paying a 15% tax rate...ohhh the humanity..pity the millionaire like Rick Scott who has to live on 5 million a year instead of 8.5 million...could he survive?

Posted by: rukidding7 | March 3, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

@ronnieandrush "My message to Dems, very simple:

DEMS MESSAGE TO GOP should be:

Don't fk it up!"

Don't get your hopes up. The White House has already gone into "Lets Make a Deal" mode with the Republicans, and you know how well that worked out for Progressive priorities the last time around.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/02/AR2011030206932.html

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

The biggest weakness of labor unions is the fact that they are based in socialist ideology.

Unions become a welfare system for the lame, lazy and incompetent. The squeaky wheels get most of the oil just to quiet them down. They are never replaced with better wheels.

If unions demanded HIGH performance and quality, from all of their members, as a basis for membership and protection, unions would be all positive.

Unions would then be promoters of productivity and quality instead of demoters of same.

Posted by: battleground51 | March 3, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Btw, GREAT catch on this specific number, Greg.

I caught it too yesterday.

Another FANTASTIC take-away from this number?

33% =

Percentage of Americans who hate unions.

AND

Percentage of Americans who still approved of GWB's performance as of 2009.

Yup.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 3, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, High-Speed Rail really sux:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/news/2011/03/peregrine_to_take_flight_as_japans_newest_train.php

Thanks GOP for keeping us all stuck in traffic.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 3, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

@jnc4p

And since you're so happy to accept the will of the people via polls then I'm sure you'll support those same people when it comes to the Federal Deficit..

And so jnc4p I assume you agree with...

The 81% who favor a tax increase on the wealthy!

The 77% who believe there should be cuts in defense spending

The 74% who think we should end tax credits and subsidies to the oil and gas companies...

All from yesterday's WSJ/NBC poll.

I'm glad we can finally agree on something jcn4p..

Tax the wealthy..cut defense..stop giving tax breaks to one of the most profitable industries in the world...yeah..we are finally on the way to solving our deficit problem.

Posted by: rukidding7 | March 3, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"Don't we risk losing all those niceties when we decided to eliminate the train, having arrived at our destination?"

Depends. What if someone wants to work more than 40 hours a week?

Posted by: NoVAHockey | March 3, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

LOL...Gosh, who could have predicted???? LOL

"TRENDING: Tea Party leader: Boehner looks 'like a fool,' should be defeated in a primary"

In another display of the Tea Party movement turning on its own ideological supporters, the head of one prominent group has said that House Speaker John Boehner looks “like a fool” as House Republicans push spending cuts in their budget proposal. And that leader wants the Tea Party movement to set a goal for 2012: to defeat Boehner in a Republican primary.

To help make his point, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips even referenced a story currently feeding a pop-culture frenzy.

“Charlie Sheen is now making more sense than John Boehner,” Phillips wrote in a post to his group’s website on Wednesday.

CNN contacted Boehner’s campaign for reaction, but a spokesman declined to comment.

At issue is the spending proposal recently passed in the House that would fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2011 - which ends September 30. It would cut $61 billion from current spending levels.

Noting an earlier pledge from Republicans, Phillips said the $61 billion is not enough.

“Early on, the GOP promised to cut $100 billion from the budget,” Phillips wrote in the website posting. “The Republicans in the House quickly went squishy on that and had to be cajoled into cutting only $61 billion. Now, John Boehner is saying when the Senate comes back and they start negotiating…the $61 billion figure is not safe.”

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/02/tea-party-leader-boehner-looks-like-a-fool-should-be-defeated-in-a-primary/

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Middle school and high school students walk out to show support for their teachers and public education. In case you don't go to the link the revelations they're referring to are where the campaign donations came from which has a lot to do with the online education part of the bill.

""Idaho's Republican-dominated legislature barely blinked at these revelations, having long been in the back pocket of corporate interests. It's just politics as usual in this state. But it's getting a very strong reaction from Idaho families and particularly students. Led by kids like Saunders and Tyler Honsinger of Boise High, hundreds of students across the state have staged three days of protests, walking out of class to protest the plan and to support their teachers. Tiny Clark County School District shut down school on Monday, when a quarter of their students left school. In Boise Wednesday, about 130 junior high students joined the walkout.

It seems to be working. The plan was presented to the legislature as three bills, one that would implement the teacher firings, huge class sizes, mandatory online learning appears to have stalled out in the Senate. The Education Committee passed it 5-4, but it was returned without a vote from the full Senate, and might not be acted on again. Eyes now are on the House Education Committee, where testimony continued to run at about 95 percent opposition.""

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/03/951896/-Wisconsin-in-Idaho:-Fighting-forteachers

Posted by: lmsinca | March 3, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

The sad tale of unions and their ways.

The use for the caboose ended about 100 years ago on American railroad trains.

But, the cabooseman's job was union.

Union didn't want to lose a union position.

American trains hauled cabooses for decades just to hold a union job for each train.

!00% waste and extra cost for Americans.

That's the union way.

It drives business away.

Problem with public sector unions is their employers are taxpayers and taxpayers are captive employers.

The only way to pay for a growing bureaucracy is to keep raising taxes.

It ends when the economy goes bust and the public well runs dry.

Do we really want to get to that point?

We're pretty close, already.

Posted by: battleground51 | March 3, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

If you're a Republican, when even the giant, partisan, bias hack Rasmussen is telling you that you're in trouble...man you're in trouble.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | March 3, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

@rukidding7 "nd since you're so happy to accept the will of the people via polls then I'm sure you'll support those same people when it comes to the Federal Deficit..

And so jnc4p I assume you agree with...

The 81% who favor a tax increase on the wealthy!

The 77% who believe there should be cuts in defense spending

The 74% who think we should end tax credits and subsidies to the oil and gas companies...

All from yesterday's WSJ/NBC poll.

I'm glad we can finally agree on something jcn4p..

Tax the wealthy..cut defense..stop giving tax breaks to one of the most profitable industries in the world...yeah..we are finally on the way to solving our deficit problem."

One by one:

1. "The 81% who favor a tax increase on the wealthy!" Nope. I want a flatter, broader tax system. I also tend to believe that the wealthy will be better able to game a complex system so "taxing the rich" won't be as effective at raising revenue as generally believed.

2. "The 77% who believe there should be cuts in defense spending" Yep. However, be aware of the real world consequences for this. I.e. Don't plan on doing a no-fly zone over Libya at the same time.

3. "The 74% who think we should end tax credits and subsidies to the oil and gas companies..." Yep. I'd also add agricultural and any other business subsidies or tax credits as well. Stop picking winners and losers with the tax code.

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

The american people, according to a number of different polls, favors the WI teachers over the governor, and feel that Walker is overreaching. He is, essentially, a tyrant- a sockpuppet toady of CEOs, who wants to crush workers and strip them of their rights at the behest of his corporate masters.

David Koch, oil/gas billionaire many times over, wrote a piece in the WSJ this week, discussing how happy he was with the way Walker was doing his bidding, and that Koch would continue to shovel him money. Koch also instructed all his republican toadies in Congress to cut deeper.

Now, many of these people will probably lose their next elections. But they are disposable, even if they don't know it yet. Because Koch can always buy another one to replace them. They don't understand that they will be used and then thrown away like so much toilet paper.

Also, when people see in their own states that their new governors are delivering big tax cuts to corporations -- even ones who operate in other countries -- and then making big cuts in education and health care to pay for it -- if they are not Fox-stupid, they will get that they are getting hosed.

Posted by: fiona5 | March 3, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

NoVa- It's a good point. Many of us do work more than 40 hours, so perhaps not the best example. My basic point is that we do enjoy a number of protections as employees because of the unions. I think some of their approaches could be improved- more merit-based compensation and less protection for the "weak links" to start. But I worry that if they are eliminated, some of the better protections we enjoy might not be far behind. Assuming many of those who oppose the existence of the unions are conservative, and therefore likely to oppose "big government" as the protector of our rights, who would fill the shoes of the unions as protectors of the working class? The balance of power and resources is vastly unfavorable to individual employees vis-a-vis their employers, so, in my opinion, it is not sufficient to say that individual employees can protect themselves.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Also, with respect to public sector unions, their involvement in promoting candidates for office who they then get to negotiate with would be more problematic but for Citizens United. Corporations, presumably representing the interests of private taxpayers, and other collectives, are able to spend as freely as unions and presumably are capable of balancing the desire to please the union constituents on the one hand with the desire to please the corporate/private industry/taxpayer constituents on the other.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"Don't plan on doing a no-fly zone over Libya at the same time."

We should not plan on doing this under any circumstances. It's a fools errand. We should commit to humanitarian aid. Period.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"""I want a flatter, broader tax system"""

= MAJOR tax hike on the poor and middle class

GREAT idea (nooooooot)! Hilarious.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 3, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

All, more good work from Adam Serwer knocking down conservative distortions on the New Black Panther case:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/03/testifying_before_a_house_appr.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | March 3, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that “less than a quarter of Americans support making significant cuts to Social Security or Medicare to tackle the country’s deficit.” Eighty-one percent said that placing a surtax on millionaires is either a “totally” or “mostly” acceptable way in which to reduce the deficit."

I do so hope the republicans continue to talk about cutting Social Security.

By the way, the rightwing Rasmussen is out with a new poll that is frankly just devastating for Gov. Walker. Just devastating
Could you link to it, Greg, when you see it?

Posted by: fiona5 | March 3, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Anyone wanting to keep track of court cases affecting the Healthcare law, Kaiser Health News is keeping track. There are 22 cases as follows:

All over the country, lawsuits challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are working their way through the federal courts.

KHN is tracking the status of 22 cases, below, and will update those and other new cases on this page.

* Court overturned law or part of law: 2 cases
* Court ruled law constitutional and dismissed case: 3 cases
* Court dismissed for lack of standing or procedural problems: 3 cases
* Court dismissed but gave plainiff right to refile: 1 case
* Court decision pending: 13 cases

The site gives a thumbnail of each case also.

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2011/March/02/health-reform-law-court-case-status.aspx

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 3, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

@fiona5 ""A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it.

The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, 'Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.' ""

This begs the question of how the cookies got on the plate in the first place.

"The American people, according to a number of different polls, favors the WI teachers over the governor, and feel that Walker is overreaching."

This is absolutely true. Once the unions agreed to all the concessions Walker was demanding on pay and benefits, it definitely weakened his argument that they were being intransigent and part of the problem. This stands in sharp contrast to the tactics the unions tried in NJ.

Andy Stern probably put it best in his interview with Ezra Klein:

"It’s turned into a Democrat versus Republican fight, not a good government versus bad government fight."

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/02/andy_stern_it_may_not_end_beau.html

And in a Democrat versus Republican fight, the union can fight to a draw (i.e. keeping the right to collectively bargain in exchange for the the pay and benefit concessions)

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Re: Rasmussen.....

Bwaaaahahaha!

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 3, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Is the "right" to collectively bargain something that is legally determined, is it a contractual term, or has it morphed from one to other over time? I honestly don't know, so thanks in advance for answer.

Posted by: bzod9999 | March 3, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"This begs the question of how the cookies got on the plate in the first place."

And the answer is NOT that the CEO put them there. The beiginning of cookies getting on the plate by is someone having a vision, granted. Past that, a whole lot of other people bring investment $, management talent, production skills, and in many cases, physical labor to the table that ultimately produces the cookies. The cookies do not magically appear through CEO effort alone. That's why the CEO is not entitled to 11 cookies out of 12.

Show me a CEO with an idea and nothing else...no workforce, no investors, no production staff, and I'll show you someone whose got nothing tangible.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 3, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

@suekzoo1 ""Don't plan on doing a no-fly zone over Libya at the same time."

We should not plan on doing this under any circumstances. It's a fools errand. We should commit to humanitarian aid. Period."

Make sure to let Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) know that.

"We have joined with allies in making clear that Colonel Gadhafi must go. He has lost all legitimacy. We cannot be halfway about that goal," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said Wednesday, urging the administration to be ready to enforce a no-fly zone over the North African nation "as necessary."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2014380984_libyanofly03.html

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110302/pl_nm/us_libya_usa_kerry

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/03/AR2011030300542.html

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

""This begs the question of how the cookies got on the plate in the first place."

And the answer is NOT that the CEO put them there. The beiginning of cookies getting on the plate by is someone having a vision, granted. Past that, a whole lot of other people bring investment $, management talent, production skills, and in many cases, physical labor to the table that ultimately produces the cookies. The cookies do not magically appear through CEO effort alone. That's why the CEO is not entitled to 11 cookies out of 12.

Show me a CEO with an idea and nothing else...no workforce, no investors, no production staff, and I'll show you someone whose got nothing tangible."

Implicit in your joke is the idea that the public union employee, the tea party activist, and the CEO are all entitled to an equal number of cookies. Of the three, I'd bet that the CEO had more to do with there being any cookies at all than the public union employee or the tea party activist.

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

"Stop picking winners and losers with the tax code." Amen to that.

"Assuming many of those who oppose the existence of the unions are conservative, and therefore likely to oppose "big government" as the protector of our rights"

Depends on what those rights are. Unsafe working conditions is one thing. pay and benefit packages are different. the only reason i think public unions are a problem is that they're inserted into the political process in a weird way. i have no problem with them lobbying and or making campaign contributions. but it odd that unions can negotiate with an entity that doesn't have a bottom line to worry about. businesses can fail and the workers have every interest to make sure that doesn't happen. it's a different dynamic with government.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | March 3, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The cookies got there because I made them.

Posted by: fiona5 | March 3, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

@fiona5 "The cookies got there because I made them."

Then you get to decide who gets what. Hope they were chocolate chip.

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"Of the three, I'd bet that the CEO had more to do with there being any cookies at all than the public union employee or the tea party activist."

Don't forget government. Much easier to bake cookies when you, as CEO, with the local bakers union, can use your allies in Congress to crush the competition through onerous regulations or the tax code. why out bake them when you can out-regulate them.

maybe you can't get a baker's license -- "This is a pretzel town pretty boy"


Posted by: NoVAHockey | March 3, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

NoVa- agreed that it's different, and it's something I have had a hard time developing a firm position on. I come down on the side of the union's right to exist, but I agree their relationship with government is problematic. I think their existence is the lesser of evils. I also think that taxpayers should become more engaged and hold politicians accountable if they give away too much. If public unions game the system a little it's only a result of apathy from others who aren't doing their job in a democracy- staying informed, paying attention, and raising hell when their elected officials step out of line. Unions are now finding that there is a bottom line as governments across the country are saying "sorry, you've got to give some of that back." It's happening now because our budget crises have the citizenry waking up and paying attention. Basically, we are talking about punishing the public unions for being too good at democracy.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

also- I do not think that union dues should be mandatory

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"also- I do not think that union dues should be mandatory"

Yet, in a previous sentence you say
"I come down on the side of the union's right to exist,..."
If union dues weren't mandatory then a union wouldn't be able to exist. You know, "money makes the world go around."
You can't have it both ways. Unions aren't perfect, because we as a species are far from perfect. Unions formed in the late 19th century out of economic necessity. Read a little American history.

Posted by: filmnoia | March 3, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoi- I do come down on the side of the unions to exist, but not to force anyone who wants to be in a specific industry to contribute to them... especially if they want to be involved in politics and endorse positions with which all their members might not agree. They should exist for those individuals who wish voluntarily to participate in them.

Also... if you go through my posts I doubt you will find me insulting people simply because I disagree with them... trust me, I've read my history. Fortunately... I don't feel the need to make ad hominem attacks because I lack rhetorical skills, uh hem.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

OT

POLITICO Breaking News
-------------------------------------------------

Judge Roger Vinson has issued a stay of his own ruling that the health care reform law is unconstitutional, giving the Obama administration seven days to file its appeal. The stay means implementation efforts can continue while the appeal is being prepared.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

another day, another silly poll. As has been pointed out numerous times, the one poll that matters was taken in November. Elections have consequences.

I would like to congratulate Mr Sargent on his decision to include the entire text of the question in his discussion. That's progress.

Thank you.

That said, I take issue with this:
"Public employee unions are bargaining against the taxpayer, this argument goes, and therefore are not entitled to the same bargaining rights as private sector unions, which are merely bargaining with private employers over a share of profits."

there is no "right" to bargain collectively anywhere in the constitution. In their sheer stupidity and greed a series of Democrat politicians granted unionization and negotiating PRIVLEDGES to civil servants.

The Civil servants have abused that privledge and now a flat broke electorate is taking some of that privledge away.

It is just that simple.

Keep in mind that the only way that public sector unions can guarantee their members increases in compensation is for us taypayers to fork over more money, or sacrifice other services.

I wonder how the lefties here would respond to a choice between oh say, medicaid for single mom's amd million dollar pensions for teachers. It is hypothetical, but that's the nature of the situation we're in. We cannot afford it all so what goes and what stays?

Let me predict that the liberals will demand that eviscerate defense. OK, then how do we contend with piracy, for example?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 3, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Respect the collective bargaining rights of private sector unions. In fact, they need to figure out a way to be truly international.

Bust public unions. They are practicing cronyism, and draining the respect out of the professions they purport to represent, and the future budgets of the people they purport to serve. Bust public unions.

Posted by: MKS1 | March 3, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

" especially if they want to be involved in politics and endorse positions with which all their members might not agree."

This is why union have elections, to determine who is going to represent them.
Some unions endorse the GOP, like the cops and fireman in WI in the Nov election. Do you think they polled all their members on whether they wanted Walker? If you are a member of an organization you agree to go along with the democratic rules. Union reps support candidates whose stances support that union's goals. To have those paid reps you need dues.
As a taxpayer I don't like my money being used to kill innocent people in Iraq and Afganistan. What you want union members to have is a line item veto on how dues are spent, yet we don't have that as taxpayers. If someone doesn't like who their union supports then don't be a member of that union. Go out and look for non union work and stop the bellyaching, but then maybe they like the security that a union affords.

Posted by: filmnoia | March 3, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

As has been pointed out numerous times, the one poll that matters was taken in November. Elections have consequences.
-----------------------------------------
I think what you mean is that when whenever the side we agree with wins an election, they have consequences. How do you square your above claim with the overwhelming opposition to most anything Obama and the democrats tried to do after 2008? It's the same way I can't fully support Wisconsin Democrats after I agreed that the elections in 2008 had consequences.

As you're so fond of, Skip, you're reaping what you sowed.

By the way "privledges"? Oye...you even capitalized it.

I think Collective bargaining could also be considered a contracting "right", but I think it's a little silly to get too worked up over the use of the word right. Has someone claimed it is a Constitutional right? If it was, the Governor wouldn't be able to get rid of it and could only limit it if it there was a compelling state interest.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 3, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia- I acknowledge the issue is not so cut and dry and there is an issue of free-riders. I do think people should be able to choose not to belong to a union though. And maybe I misunderstand the way it is set up. Can you work as a public employee without being a member of the union and not have your dues taken out of your check? If so, then I have no problem with it. "If you are a member of an organization" you do agree to go along to a certain extent, but you generally get to decide whether to be a member. The tax issue is a little different though, in my opinion, because people should be able to choose whether to participate in a union, although I do see where some parallels could be drawn.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia- we may be talking about two different things. I oppose compulsory membership in unions. Those who choose to be members, of course, should pay dues.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"Can you work as a public employee without being a member of the union and not have your dues taken out of your check?"

i was fed for a few years and did not join the union. i'm not sure if that's government wide or just the agency i worked for.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | March 3, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia- we may be talking about two different things. I oppose compulsory membership in unions. Those who choose to be members, of course, should pay dues.

Posted by: mobrien83
----------------------------------------
I also agree that union membership shouldn't be compulsory, but I understand that if it wasn't mandatory many, if not most, workers would take the money and run so to speak, not realizing what they are giving up. Is till don't think it should be compulary.

I don't know how prevelant this is, but at least several of the local unions have arbitration provisions in their contracts. So when they reject an offer from the city/count etc, it goes to an arbitrator. I know of at least two such instances where the arbitrator sided with the government in making big cuts to benefits, wages etc.

For what it's worth, we need to be careful in grouping public unions so casually together. As we've seen differences in Wisc. and NJ as far as willingness to take cuts. My mom hasn't had a raise in 5 years and has seen her premiums increase along with furlough days. In other words she's taken big pay cuts. She's fine with it and understands the economic situation of the county she works for, but her experience hardly comports with the images portrayed by many on the Right.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 3, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

"I oppose compulsory membership in unions."

Then I guess that people that feel like that belong in a right to work state, and should just rely on the beneficence of their employer, which would put that worker in the same category as a serf from the Middle Ages. Your employer essentially "owns" you.

Posted by: filmnoia | March 3, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Libyan Rebels Cry Out For Help From... ChimpyBushitlerMcHaliburton!
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110303/wl_nm/us_libya_protests

"Bring Bush! Make a no fly zone, bomb the planes," shouted soldier-turned-rebel Nasr Ali, referring to a no-fly zone imposed on Iraq in 1991 by then U.S. President George Bush.

*you betcha'*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | March 3, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Pelosi-Obama-Reid (POR) Recovery Update

Gallup: Unemployment Rate Hits 10.3% in February, Underemployment Surges to 19.9%
http://www.gallup.com/poll/146453/Gallup-Finds-Unemployment-Hitting-February.aspx

*very POR*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | March 3, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, its one of those words I consistently misssspelll.

No, what I mean is that elections have consequences. Of course we opposed almost everything the Democrats tried to do. but much of it got enacted anyway, right?

so the union kids can demonstrate, Mr Sargent can crow about push polling data but the bottom line is simple: if the majority that got elected stands together, the bills will be passed.

the ultimate consequence for either party is the ability to advance their legislative agenda. Nothing much else matters. Can you pass the laws that enable your vision?

I think it is critical to get worked up about the use of the word "right". It is a typical approach of the American left. Call something a "right" then demand that the taxpayers provide it.

How many liberals commenting here, for example, believe that healthcare is a "right". It is a standard play that the left runs.

And that's what is driving Greg's phony bologna polling nonsense. By using the word "right" the pollsters pollute the data collection process. "Rights" are viewed as universal, therefore Americans view them with an intense interest.

Essentially the pollsters are asking a loaded question, and I suspect that this is done specifically to garner a desired result.

But certainly the ability to bargain collectively over just about anything isn't a universal right. For example, as Scott Walker pointed out, after the WI bill is passed the civil service workers in WI will still have more ability to negotiate that the Federal Employees do now.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 3, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia- I could say the same about your gripes about paying taxes that are used to wage wars... move to a different country. Seems a little crazy to tell people that if they disagree with you they should move, but ok. It also seems a little strange to say that if they aren't forced to be in a union, then they will be subservient to their employer. Isn't forcing someone into an organization they don't want to be in making them as subservient to the union? People should be permitted to make decisions for themselves, even if the decisions they make wind up being not in their personal best interest.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Either union membership is great and people would still belong even if it weren't compulsory, or union membership is not great and people would defect if given the opportunity and you have some ulterior motive for wanting people forced to be in unions, or people are too stupid to know what is good for them and you, in all your wisdom, would force them to do what's in their best interest. Which is it?

I tend to think that people should be given options, that some people will make unwise choices and others will make wise choices, and that if unions are as great as you say, those who leave will return when they recognize the error of their decision.

The only good reason I can see to force people to participate in unions is the free-rider problem. But to me, people's liberty to choose with whom they associate trumps that problem.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Ashot- I tend to come down where you are on this. I don't think public unions are inherently bad. They serve an important function and should continue to operate with collective bargaining rights. I also agree that given the choice, some people might make a decision that turns out to be against their best interests. I just don't think it's the governments', or the unions', or your or my place to tell people what's best for them. People should be free to make bad choices.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

@mobrien83 "Filmnoia- I could say the same about your gripes about paying taxes that are used to wage wars... move to a different country. Seems a little crazy to tell people that if they disagree with you they should move, but ok. It also seems a little strange to say that if they aren't forced to be in a union, then they will be subservient to their employer. Isn't forcing someone into an organization they don't want to be in making them as subservient to the union? People should be permitted to make decisions for themselves, even if the decisions they make wind up being not in their personal best interest."

In order for collective bargaining to work, union membership pretty much has to be compulsory. There's a disconnect in saying that you favor the right of unions to collectively bargain and at the same time opposing compulsory membership in unions.

See the definitions of open shop and closed shop.

"An open shop is a place of employment at which one is not required to join or financially support a union as a condition of hiring or continued employment."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_shop

"A closed shop is a form of union security agreement under which the employer agrees to only hire union members, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_shop

For myself, I'll take open shop/right to work over collective bargaining any day, but it's worthwhile to be clear about how they actually work.

Last I checked, Virginia and other right to work states weren't inhabited by "serfs" as filmnoia claims. Among other things, workers have the right to quit their jobs at any time for any or no reason. That's not how serfdom worked.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/the-other-emancipation-proclamation/?ref=opinion

Posted by: jnc4p | March 3, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

jnc- thanks for the analysis. In earlier posts, I acknowledge that my understanding of how this works is limited. I think what you are saying goes to my conclusion that eliminating compulsory membership creates problems of free-riding, but it also gets to a point that I have perhaps missed- that employers may favor non-unionized employees to get around collective bargaining. Though I believe the right of people to associate to achieve legal ends is important and that the idea of collective bargaining is therefore a good thing, if the choice is between collective bargaining with compulsory membership and no collective bargaining, I would take no collective bargaining.

That said, is there not a possibility for some middle ground? Maybe if the unions did a superior job of delivering high-quality, well-trained, and meritorious employees, then employers would work with unions even if they had the option of hiring non-union employees. The extra cost of paying an employee who has chosen to join a union might be offset if they employer knew she was getting a well-trained, productive employee and could save a little on seeking a qualified employee.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Everyone should contemplate the following quote that very clearly takes the side of workers in the ongoing war between workers and the rich, where, under the law, many times workers are crushed under "the jackboot heel" and almost all times the rich are coddled - but before anyone responds to these following words, it might be a good idea to first find out who the author is:

"To you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You'll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you've piled up is judgment.

All the workers you've exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You've looted the earth and lived it up. But all you'll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse."

Posted by: Keefanda | March 3, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

It's quite simple , if you are in a skilled trade (electrician, sheet metal worker, etc)and you don't want to join a union, then don't. See if you can find a project to work on where you don't care about industrial safety rules, over time pay and benefits that would be things where a union is supposed to watch out for their members. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

It's no coincidence that the right to work states are predominate in the South. A worker who knows their "place" is an historical fact in that part of the country. It is a feudal mentality. Go ahead and rely on your employer's good will and be a sucker.
People have every right to take a dump in their own hat. I guess it's considered a variation of what it is to be "free."

Posted by: filmnoia | March 3, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia- completely agree that there are advantages for an employee who chooses to participate in a union. All I have said is people should be allowed to choose. Also, as jnc pointed out, people have freedom to move to seek employment with employers who treat their employees well. Of course, if you are in an industry where there is a surplus of available labor over the demand for that labor, there may be very few "good employer" options available. This suggests an important role for unions, but it also suggests that unions distort the labor market by encouraging people to pursue vocations at a rate that is disproportionate to the demand for laborers in their field.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

"All I have said is people should be allowed to choose."

Of course they should, just don't expect the hourly wage and benefits that you would get in a union. If people want to pay for their own healthcare plan, because their employee doesn't have one, then good luck. Those people just shouldn't complain about people in unions being greedy. It's those fighting for benefits and recognition that created the middle class, not some guy going out and doing his own thing . They should just "button up" and accept the choice they made, instead of being resentful about what others have had to fight for. I guess there are a lot of Joe the Plumber types out there who think that man is an "island."

Posted by: filmnoia | March 3, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

skip- I only know how to privileges b/c I've typed the word about 50 times in a couple of motions I've written lately.

In the context of a poll, I agree that use of the word "right" is important. As for healthcare being a right, well, liberal commentators here are hardly alone in that position and may not even be in the minority, particularly globally.

mobrien- "but it also suggests that unions distort the labor market by encouraging people to pursue vocations at a rate that is disproportionate to the demand for laborers in their field."
--------------------------------------

I suppose that makes sense in the abstract, but given the job market and the tiny portion of employee, particularly private, which are represented by unions, this seems to be a theoretical issue rather than a practical one.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 3, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia- now I totally agree with your last post. Remember, this conversation started with me saying I support the existence of unions, just not compulsory membership. Having read your, jncps, and ashot's posts, I see there are some practical problems that arise from a system where there are union and non-union employees, but I still think choice trumps those concerns.

Ashot- It is definitely an abstract concern, and really, to me, not a concern since people should be free to choose to pursue vocations that might lead to less lucrative opportunities. The fact that unionization is not prevalent in the private sector perhaps indicates that working in those industries without being in a union isn't quite as bad as filmnoia suggests and that individual employees enjoy more bargaining power than in the past when unionization was more common. I should have included in my post a caveat that "this suggests an important role for unions *in industries and places where bargaining power of employees is severely limited by a surplus of available labor.*"

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The fact that unionization is not prevalent in the private sector perhaps indicates that working in those industries without being in a union isn't quite as bad as filmnoia suggests and that individual employees enjoy more bargaining power than in the past when unionization was more common.
------------------------------
I suppose that's one conclusion to draw, but there are countless others. It also doesn't meant that it was wise to abandon unions. The lack of wage growth over the last decade is an indication that it may have been a mistake. That's just one possible explanation of course.

I think filomenia's point was less that workers are treated like serfs and more that the are about as powerful as serfs. I think that overstates the case somewhat, but there is certainly truth in the statement.

Right now the economy is bad, there is plenty of labor and not enough jobs, so the bargaining power of the workers is lower. If they were still unionized they would have more power and may have been in a better position to get a piece of the large corporate profits earned over the last decade. Instead those profits went to executives and shareholders. That's obviously not illegal or wrong, but I'm not sure that would have occurred if unions were a stronger presence.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 3, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

"The fact that unionization is not prevalent in the private sector perhaps indicates that working in those industries without being in a union isn't quite as bad as filmnoia suggests and that individual employees enjoy more bargaining power than in the past when unionization was more common"

I think I read somewhere that about 30% of the US work force around 50-60 years ago were union members. Now it's somewhere in the high single digits. This didn't have much, if anything, to do with individual employees having more bargaining power. The very nature of being an individual employee doesn't give you any bargaining power, unless in the unlikely circumstance you can perform a function that no other employee can.
These jobs have been lost and have gone overseas. This country doesn't manufacture things on a large scale any more. A whole generation of skilled workers have been screwed and there is no turning back.

Posted by: filmnoia | March 3, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I have negotiated against both AFSCME and TFT [Texas Federation of Teachers, affiliated with AFT] from 1981-1992 and had been able to keep their compensation results within what projected revenues would permit the employer to pay. AFSCME has been helpful, on occasion, in recommending and contracting for efficiencies that lowered overall hiring demands and spread budgeted salaries to current employees. Both unions have locals in Austin that in the 80s and 90s were more concerned with working conditions and attempting to create a semblance of job security than with pushing the pay-and-benefits envelope, in the end game.

Just an observation. I sometimes thought my clients gave away some prerogatives to fire folks that I thought we could have kept. But I never thought they gave away the farm in terms of burdening the taxpayer directly. Now I never negotiated an AFD contract and I think from what I have read we have the highest paid FD in TX. My 26 yr. old daughter says they are cute and smart, however.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | March 3, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia and ashot- sorry I headed out on the train home and didn't get to respond. Good points both and thanks for the interesting conversation.

Posted by: mobrien83 | March 3, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

If you work for a private company, do you get to vote and elect your management every couple of years?

If private management was selected by vote of the employees, wouldn't the employees vote for and support whichever candidates for management would take the best care of them?

Bob Kastigar, IBEW Local 1220 Chicago

Posted by: SweetOldBob | March 3, 2011 11:13 PM | Report abuse

If the people at my work could vote on whether our boss keeps his job we'd all be making six figures. Of course the company would go out of business in a couple months. Our internal cost structure would make us uncompetitive and we'd never win another contract. Wonder why we keeping pumping more money into the schools and they keep getting worse?

Posted by: peterg73 | March 4, 2011 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Public employee Unions "wheel and deal" with politicians-who-want-their-vote...
and Taxpayers pay the Consequence, even though taxpapers don't have a seat at the
bargaining table.
Does this sound fair?
If taxpayers realized this, I don't think
they'd vote for the union to have collective bargaining.
Most middle-class taxpayers are NOT unionized.
So why do we allow unions & politicians to
bargain away our taxdollars-- when we have no say?

Posted by: ohioan | March 4, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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