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Posted at 4:29 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Scrooge-ism in Wisconsin's union battle

By Harold Meyerson

In a blog post earlier today, Chuck Lane takes issue with my dire assessment of Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to deny collective bargaining rights to the state's public employees. Lane links this denial of bargaining rights to the state's need to cut costs, though the woods are full of governors just now who are cutting costs without taking the extraneous step of stripping from workers their right to bargain over their conditions of work. He questions whether Walker's comments about calling out the National Guard in the event that protesting workers disrupt state services signaled a harking back to the good old days of the 19th century, when governors routinely called out the Guard to break strikes and the occasional striker's head as well. In fact, Walker's remarks were widely interpreted to mean just that, so much so that his spokesman, Cullen Werwie, felt compelled to subsequently clarify them, writing that "the Guard would be used just to continue those services" that were disrupted. The problem here wasn't my reading of Walker's fast-and-loose rhetoric, it was the rhetoric itself.

Lane is particularly enamored of the governor's proposal to require all public sector unions to have an annual vote of their members on whether they want union representation at all. Annual? If we're moving to annual referendums as a matter of course, why not compel Wisconsin's elected officials to have one-year terms? Why require just one and only one kind of institution to have to run for re-election, as it were, continually? The answer, it's clear, is that Lane's real objection is to the existence of public employee unions altogether.

Public employees, he asserts, "do not have a fundamental right, either moral or legal, to bargain collectively -- for the very good reason that they work, ostensibly at least, for the people, not for profit-making private corporations." Because it's up to the individual states to grant or deny those rights to their public employees, he notes that some states that deny those rights are not the "economically stagnant, plutocratic utopias" (my wording) that I fear will result from "the union-free nightmare" (Lane's words) I conjure up.

In choosing the words "economically stagnant, plutocratic utopia," however, I was referring not to any one state in particular but the United States as a whole -- a nation that for all intents and purposes is already union-free in the private sector, where the rate of unionization is now 6.9 percent. My point was that if membership in public-sector unions falls to the rates in the private sector, as Walker, Lane and a host of conservatives plainly desire, we should expect to see the consequences of the effective elimination of collective bargaining become even more profound. Those consequences become clearer with each passing day, as corporate profits continue to rise while productive domestic investment and wages either flat-line or decline.

What's not clear is whether Lane believes that private-sector workers have a right to bargain collectively, either. The one remedy that would have effectively restored that right by enabling workers to join unions again without fear of firing -- the Employee Free Choice Act, which failed to pass in the last Congress -- was one that Lane rejected. For that matter, he's expressed doubts about the wisdom of minimum-wage legislation. Lane may not only be unconcerned over wage stagnation at a time of soaring profits, but if you lump all his positions together, he actually seems to favor it, or at minimum to advocate policies that ensure it -- Ebenezer Scrooge-ism for the 21st century.

By Harold Meyerson  | February 17, 2011; 4:29 PM ET
Categories:  Meyerson  | Tags:  Harold Meyerson  
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Comments

Vast Majority of hard-working taxpayers DON'T have collective bargaining rights!
At one time, many decades ago, there was a need for unions, but Not today.
Just look at what unions spend their time
and money on: POLITICS!
The proof is in the pudding.

Posted by: ohioan | February 17, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Get the goldarned "unions" .. you know..the mafia...out of "public service." I don't pay taxes to support flipping unions who stick a gun in my back and say gimme your wallet or we strike and your kids go without an education.

Look a**##le, you work for the government. The voters determine what we want or don't want. So you do your danged job. But don't try to intimidate me the voter..or you're going to go the way of the air traffic controllers who tried that trick during Ronnie's first term!!

Oh and Meyerson, it's a shame the voters of Wisconsin can't fire YOU!!!

Posted by: wjc1va | February 17, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Another liberal writer supporting a liberal cause working for a liberal paper in a heavily liberal town.

Last time I check, Scrooge meant being rich and not sharing to poor. I do recall states are doing this because they don't have a cent to their name, they are in debt. So they have to borrow from their children's future, is that what you want. Screw your kids so your lazy bums can retire in comfort.

Posted by: tiredofNonsense1 | February 17, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

The GOP and their drone army hates the middle class and will do everything within their power to destroy us. It's on, slugs. 2012 can't get here soon enough.

Posted by: ExConservative | February 17, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

The Governor completely exempted the three highest paid unions (police, firefighters, state police) who were the only ones to support his November campaign.

He poisoned the situation by playing political favorites, by picking a needless collective bargaining fight, and by announcing that he had given the national guard notice of his plans so they could be ready to fill in.

In his spare time he's trying to dismantle the University of Wisconsin system.

Posted by: jack824 | February 17, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

It seems obvious form reading the posts of some readers that ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately your arguments are both morally and logically wrong.

Here are the facts, as an educator I am required by the state DPI to complete certification every five years. This year I borrowed $8,000 to take the college courses require for the 316 license necessary to keep my job as a reading teacher.

I make less per hour than my sister-in-law who works at Wal-Mart distribution loading trucks. She has no job related expenses required by her employer.

Last year I spent $1,586 on classroom supplies because the school district refused to buy copier paper, books, and pencils. This does not include the personal funds spent on attending mandatory teacher conventions and workshops.

Go ahead and bash the teacher's union and the millions of educators raising your children. That's right WE RAISE YOUR CHILDREN. NOT YOU. Children spend more time per week in the classroom then with their parents. Over 43 percent of the children in my school have parents who don't even bother to attend parent/teacher conferences.

So think long and hard before you attack the people paying to take care of your children - teachers.

Posted by: mrbillybaater | February 17, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I demand my employer pay 94% of my health insurance and 100% of my pension. If not, I'll "be sick" and not work.

See you in the unemployment line.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | February 17, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

I work for a large company. Our employees pay 20% of the premiums for health care. In Wisconsin, unionized government workers are being asked to pay 12.5%. When I retire, I'll get a third of my salary as a pension that will not increase with inflation. No so for unionized government workers in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is 3.4 billion dollars in debt. If this legislation does not pass, the governor will have no choice but to lay off thousands of government employees. Is it better to have a job in this economy or not?

Senator John Warner (D-Va) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga) got it right on the nose today. If our deficit continues to grow in this country, both state and Federal, we will no longer be in control of our own economy: China will. Is that what you want?

Posted by: Dodgers1 | February 17, 2011 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Well Mr. Dodgers, chances are you already make more than me, so 1/3 your salary with pension is probably more than mine. If they still have a pension when I retire. Then again, why would anyone want to be a teacher if a.) the pay is so tiny, b.) there are no benefits left, and c.) i spend a nice chunk of my paycheck making sure I can get re-certified. By the way, we won't be in charge of our own economy when we have no teachers left to teach your bratty children how to read :-)

Posted by: Rufusgoofus | February 17, 2011 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dodger, Let's deal with facts, not ideas, if or butts.

Fact 1: USA spends more money per student than any other country on this planet, probably this entire universe.

Fact 2: We are not even top 10 in literacy. nope again in mathematics.

So, who's fault is it. It might not be your fault, but you must learn to take some of the blame.

Posted by: tiredofNonsense1 | February 18, 2011 5:06 AM | Report abuse

Hyperbole, hypocrisy, overheated rhetoric, outright lies and the usual Hitler comparisons and even a poster of the governor with sniper's cross-hairs are all wearing thin. [http://hotair.com/archives/2011/02/17/the-historical-illiteracy-of-wisconsin-teachers/]

Already overburdened taxpayers are not the Ebeneezer Scrooges but the unions, who demand more and better with no end in sight and a taxpayer be damned attitude, fit that role nicely. Projection much?

In a republic, it is the taxpayers who properly have the final say, not the unions. They placed their vote and made their demands known last November. The unions have to get used to the fact that their gravy train has run out of track.

Posted by: DVL1 | February 18, 2011 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Why do public sector unions even exist? To protect government employees from the taxpayer? How about letting the free market work in the public sector? But unions hate the free market and public employees are afraid of the free market. That's why they are squealing like stuck pigs.

Posted by: DirtFarmer1 | February 18, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Annual state elections in Wisconsin? We have them if we want them. After a year in office 25% of the number who voted for governor in the last election can force a recall vote for anyone they wish to recall.

(There's a reason I researched this and know it.)

Posted by: hewhoasks | February 18, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

It's about time someone cracks down on the unions. Kudos to Gov. Walker for doing so. They are squeeling like injured pigs, but apparently their pig troth will be permanently removed from them. What a hoot! Bring on some more!

Posted by: Tommypie | February 18, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Annual state elections in Wisconsin? We have them if we want them. After a year in office 25% of the number who voted for governor in the last election can force a recall vote for anyone they wish to recall.

(There's a reason I researched this and know it.)

Posted by: hewhoasks | February 18, 2011 12:17 P
===================
Oh please. These government workers striking I guarantee voted majority democrat. They want their free gravy train.

Posted by: Cryos | February 18, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

It seems obvious form reading the posts of some readers that ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately your arguments are both morally and logically wrong.

Here are the facts, as an educator I am required by the state DPI to complete certification every five years. This year I borrowed $8,000 to take the college courses require for the 316 license necessary to keep my job as a reading teacher.

I make less per hour than my sister-in-law who works at Wal-Mart distribution loading trucks. She has no job related expenses required by her employer.

Last year I spent $1,586 on classroom supplies because the school district refused to buy copier paper, books, and pencils. This does not include the personal funds spent on attending mandatory teacher conventions and workshops.

Go ahead and bash the teacher's union and the millions of educators raising your children. That's right WE RAISE YOUR CHILDREN. NOT YOU. Children spend more time per week in the classroom then with their parents. Over 43 percent of the children in my school have parents who don't even bother to attend parent/teacher conferences.

So think long and hard before you attack the people paying to take care of your children - teachers.

Posted by: mrbillybaater | February 17, 2011 6:42 PM
========
Teachers have a tough job but thank liberal politics and abandonment of family values and personal responsibility for making it as bad as it is today.

This same liberal leadership makes you slaves to the students unable to discipline or control your classrooms.

If less teachers spent their time trying to indoctrinate their students with naive leftists points of view I'd have more sympathy.

Posted by: Cryos | February 18, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Before I found out what the real maet n potatoes issues were, you'd hve thought from the MSM that the members of these Wisconsin pub service unions were Guantanamo detainess, stripped naked and tortured w elctric lights by Cheney & Haliburton.. A closer examination revels that they a.} have jobs in an economy where millions dont b) have benefits and vacations and sick days, when millions dont have paychecks c.) have employer sposored health care when millions dont have either a or b....and theyre crying poormouth..oh poor me!!! did I mention a pension plan??? oops they have that too

That Hitler governor, that Mubarek clone
wants me to contribute more to my pension, and more toward my health care... but and heres the but...Ill still pay less for BOTH than my neighbor who works for Johnson Wax......

and I knew that before I made this career choice and so now I want all the perks my neighbor has and expect him and all other private sector taxpayers to pay FOR it!!!!!

And now , when if we try to excercise democracy in action..like the vote duh!!! its WHERe'S WALDO!!!!!! or pin the GPS on the Senate Dems who PELOSER thinks are the latter day equivalent of the Minutemen

One can only imagine the noise wed here from MSNBC/MSLSD if some grandiose spending issue were on the table and 12 REPUBs disappeared to Vegas... THE "MSM" would be all over it like cheap suit!!

Its a matter of record that 45 or is it 48 states are nearly bankrupt, and the biggest deficits somehow line up with states with the largest public service union obligations.......It doesnt take Pinochio to connect those dots..either>

You think that these protestors had the gall to drag their kids to the capitol..great example to demonstrate to your kids:

KID: Dad why are we here?

DAD: This cheapskate governor wants your mom and I to pay more for our pension contribution and health care.

Kid: So doesnt Larrys dad have a pension and he works for IBM??

Dad: He does

Kid: Whats this about? Does his dad pay less than you do?

Dad: NO..he probably pays more, and more for his health care contribution too

Kid: So its it fair for you and he to pay about the same?

Dad: NO..were teachers we have a bigger vacation, 3 months off in the summer, 2 weeks at Christmas break..no its not fair

Kid: dad??? Im not understanding this you want to pay less for the same pension he has to pay more for???.....

Dad: Son, what are you learning in that school you're going to.. this is all about you kids..all about the children

Kid: Dad..I thought you n mom were always trying to teach me about being fair....or was that just talk


Its simply amazing all the deals that can be made with an inexhaustible supply of other peoples money

Posted by: Leopard71 | February 20, 2011 2:24 AM | Report abuse

Dear Cryos,

thanks for a sensible POV..the same leftist touchy feely approach to classrom discipline has set the table for the chickens to come home to roost. Perhaps its the random law of the unvierse when one more "me generation" refuses the discipline or liberal indoctrination of an earlier "me genaeration" with near Shakespearian irony.

Some yrs ago I had considered a scond career as as a HS teacher, took the exams in the field I desired and passed the content with flying colors at age 55, despite never having taken any "Education" courses at college or grad school decades ago.

Fortunately my daughter, a HS math teacher embroiled with disciplinary problems in an adjacent state, intervened and dissuaded me in the nick of time. Apparently, she belived that my authoritarian bearing may have been successful with students, but not with the layers and minions of apparatchuks within the administrative bureaucracy...

Whew!!!!! a major bullet dodged

Posted by: Leopard71 | February 20, 2011 2:39 AM | Report abuse

I agree with what you're saying and am disappointed to read the comments.

Corporations are reaping great profits, and not re-investing back in the country, or in their workers, and yet the people in this comment thread seem to believe that workers don't need the ability to organize or seek redress. They certainly don't seem to be up in arms about yet more tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations.

As for the folks in Wisconsin: when did "employee" somehow become different because a person works for the public sector, as versus the private? Perceived security of work? There's no security in public sector work anymore. There's definitely not the pay--that's one reason why they have higher benefits, as it's been customary to swap higher pay for benefits in public sector work.

Because the jobs are so rewarding? People in the public sector get blamed for everything from the state of the economy to solar flares.

This Governor came into office, manufactured a crises, and is now using it to completely undermine the people in that the state that teach the kids, that care for the people, that do the work that keeps the state running. And he's absolutely delighted at the problems this is causing, because now, he can get his face plastered all over the news.

This is the modern form of leadership nowadays? Evidently, this is what your commenters seem to want.

I'm so tired of reading petty, small minded, and mean commentary nowadays. That's what the Tea Party has brought us: it's made us into a nation of trolls.

Posted by: shelleyp | February 20, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

This yearly representation union vote would be a good idea. As a 'fair share fee payer' as a public employee in Ohio I had to YEARLY FILE MY FAIR SHARE FEE PAYERS OBJECTION!! If I failed to do this I had to pay FULL UNION DUES!! I doubt if the UNION MEMBERS had to yearly file a request to be repersented by a union.
Worse yet I COULD NOT VOTE ON THE UNION CONTRACT even though the Union could charge me for representation and CONTRACT NEGOATIONS??
AH the shoe is finally on the other foot.

Posted by: 50william | February 20, 2011 7:57 PM | Report abuse

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