Tag: Collective bargaining

Walker Wins Again

Another setback for the unions:

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious law stripping most public workers of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights in a decision hailed by Republicans but not undoing a state court ruling keeping much of the law from being in effect.

The decision marks the latest twist in a two-year battle over the law that Walker proposed in February 2011 and passed a month later despite massive protests and Senate Democrats leaving for Illinois in a failed attempt to block a vote on the measure.

There are a huge number of related lawsuits involved in this, including the state court ruling that the law couldn’t be applied to schools and local government employees. I suspect, at some point, this will come under one umbrella before SCOTUS.

The Wisconsin Elephant

The big story for the next month is going to be the recall of Scott Walker. The Democratic primary is on Tuesday and they seem to be coalescing behind a semi-electable candidate. And then, in June, we’ll have the recall election. If you want to keep up, I highly recommend Ann Althouse (actually, I recommend her even if you could give two shits about the election). She’s front-and-center of the fight, objective and insightful.

For obvious reasons, I see this is a critical election. State employee benefits are the bomb hovering over the fiscal futures of many states. And it matters who is making the decisions. Steven Malanga explains why:

Indiana’s debt for unfunded retiree health-care benefits, for example, amounts to just $81 per person. Neighboring Illinois’s accumulated obligations for the same benefit average $3,399 per person.

Illinois is an object lesson in why firms are starting to pay more attention to the long-term fiscal prospects of communities. Early last year, the state imposed $7 billion in new taxes on residents and business, pledging to use the money to eliminate its deficit and pay down a backlog of unpaid bills (to Medicaid providers, state vendors and delayed tax refunds to businesses). But more than a year later, the state is in worse fiscal shape, with its total deficit expected to increase to $5 billion from $4.6 billion, according to an estimate by the Civic Federation of Chicago.

The reason is because Illinois employees get extremely generous healthcare benefits and pensions, funded entirely by the state. Even Rahm Emmanuel is beginning to notice businesses fleeing for Indiana and Wisconsin. Illinois is the disaster Walker wanted to avoid.

But there is a political price to pay for that. Or … maybe not. The funny thing is that the Democrats aren’t running on the issue that sparked the recall.

Since last summer, unions have been throwing millions at defeating the man who reformed collective bargaining for government workers and required union members to pay 5.8% of their paychecks toward pensions and 12.6% of their health insurance premiums, modest contributions compared to the average in private business. As the May 8 Democratic recall primary nears to determine who will run against Mr. Walker on June 5, this should be their rhetorical moment ne plus ultra.

So, let’s see. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the front-runner, has focused his campaigns on jobs, education, the environment and “making communities safer.” One of Mr. Barrett’s ads singles out “Walker’s War on Women,” with nary a mention of collective bargaining. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is heavily supported by union groups, but even her issues list makes only passing reference to collective bargaining.

There’s a very good reason they aren’t running against Walker’s reforms: because they’re working. Wisconsin property taxes fell for the first time in two decades and their business environment is now ranked as top 20. The state has already saved a billion dollar, mostly by allowing governments to shop for health insurance rather than forcing them to buy it through the union. And, in fact, the changes saved union jobs, allowing costs to be cut without firing teachers. Thousands of union employees still have their jobs today — albeit with lesser benefits — thanks to Walker and the Republicans.

The Democratic refusal to run on this issue is an acknowledgement that Walker was right.

The unions can see how dangerous this is. The only way we are supposed to deal with these problems is by raising taxes. If Walker is re-elected, it will not only vindicate his reforms but show that politicians can take on the unions and still win re-election. And so they are pulling out the stops.

(Of course, this stop out-pulling is coming without the media terror that would ensue if this were a Right Wing recall. If Sarah Palin talked about “taking out” a governor, she’d be forced to apologize, unlike Richard Trumka. If outside money were pouring in, we’d hear about Koch Brothers and Citizens United. And I’m sure the unions will try to re-ignite the protests — only without the hand-wringing that accompanies Tea Party rallies. The fight in this election is on many fronts, the media being one.)

Keep an eye on this election. And if you live in Wisconsin or know those who do, encourage them to vote like hell. This may end up being more important than the November election.

Fallout from Wisconsin battle between DNC/Unions and Gov. Walker

And then there was one less money making machine for the democrats in WI:

The Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin at Madison dates to 1966. In 1970, following a four-week strike, the graduate students at Madison became the first T.A. union to win a contract. Over the years, the union — affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers — has been a leader in the drive to promote collective bargaining for graduate student workers.

Last week, after hours of debate, the union’s members voted not to seek state certification to continue to act as a collective bargaining agent. Union leaders said that the vote was a close one (they declined to reveal the totals), and taken with very mixed feelings by both those seeking to continue state certification and those arguing against. Those who carried the day argued that the new state law designed to limit the power of public employee unions made it impossible to operate effectively, and that the organization will be able to do more for T.A.s by not seeking to be certified as an official union.

Under the new state law, pushed by Governor Scott Walker, public employee unions like the one that represents Wisconsin T.A.s must be “certified” with a vote of members each year. Typically, once unions win a vote to represent a bargaining unit, they do not need to return for elections year after year — if ever. Further, under the new law, the unions can negotiate only for limited wage increases; they can’t negotiate over benefits, working conditions or other issues.

As I predicted back when this battle came to my attention: when democracy was finally introduced to these funding machines for the very WI democrats that union bosses would end up “bargaining with” for more money and power, these unions would all wither like vampires exposed to sunlight. Walker’s new law was not opposed by the left and the union bosses because it was going to rob employees of their income, benefits, or barganing power: it was opposed by the left and the bosses, and opposed in a dragged out, no holds barred, scorched earth campaign that failed anyway, because without forced union dues and any real reason for the union bosses to serve the union membership – to earn their confidence and vote by wisely spending their dues, so to speak – which the previous system basically insulated union bosses from, they simply could not survive as an entity or keep doing what they have been doing to the WI tax payers.

Walker’s new bill made dues a voluntary thing for members, but more importantly, it required annual recertification for organized public labor unions, and it is obvious that these unions can not exist when their membership has both the freedom to vote to recertify or to withould dues if they don’t like what is being done with their money, and the response of the union bosses backed that assertion/opinion up with this admission:

Union leaders said that they couldn’t function well if they had to effectively be in a perpetual organizing drive for the annual union votes, and also if they had to pay annual fees to be certified. “Our membership was keenly aware of the sort of resources and energy it would take in order to hold on,” said Adrienne Pagac, co-president of the union and a doctoral student in sociology at Madison. She said that the leaders of the union did not make any recommendation to the members on how to vote, and that the AFT did not seek to influence the vote, opting to let the rank and file make the call.

Seeking certification year after year, she said, “would have meant diverting resources and neglecting all of the other things we do for members – representing them at the work site, being advocates for them, engaging our community.” Pagac added that “being a union member is not just about sitting across the table from management and hammering out a contract. It’s about democracy in the workplace.”

WTF is she talking about? Perpetual organizing drive? That’s al union bosses did anyway: campaign for democrats and live high off the hog, in the most undemocratic system possible to their membership. What really went down is that they did the math, figured out they wouldn’t be able to get anything like the money they where siphoning off their membership now that dues were voluntary, and more importantly, realized they would have to work at keeping members happy to get recertification every year, and figured it was not worth the effort. Especially with their perks all but gone. So now they are decertifying that union. Win-win for the T.A.s and the tax payers of Wisconsin, in my opinion. Huge loss for the democrat machine and the union bosses that lived large & in charge off their membership. Next please.