When thinking about what is happening in Wisconsin in regards to Unions and Walker’s movement to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees, it’s important to consider about what it is about unions that have prompted this all. For a while now, Unions have had a large hand in creating financial instability on the state and local levels. State Governments can no longer realistically continue to fund public employee benefits without severe consequences. There’s a notion that Unions are downtrodden, struggling to keep wages fair, and to make ends meet. A lot of focus is on the teachers in Wisconsin. The federal government’s national compensation survey estimates that local public school districts pay teachers an average of $47 per hour in total compensation, including $13 per hour in benefits – figures that far outstrip not only what private school teachers earn but also the average of what all professional workers earn in private business, a category that includes engineers, architects, computer scientists, lawyers, and journalists (Shakedown by Steven Malanga, Page 29 - http://bit.ly/faA654). It’s not just the teachers, as a 2005 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found, public-sector workers earned 46 percent more in salary and benefits than comparable private-sector workers. That gap has since grown larger: from the first quarter of 2007 through the last quarter of 2009, according Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the average value of hourly compensation (wages plus benefits) rose by 9.8 percent for employees of state and local governments, compared with 6.9 percent in the private sector (Shakedown by Steven Malanga, Page 17 - http://bit.ly/faA654
The cost of the protests in Wisconsin can be measured monetarily and ideologically. At the forefront is the actual cost that was required to police the protesting and ensure everyone involved stayed safe and unharmed. While $3 million (http://bit.ly/hUMlyc) is nothing to blink at, the movement that has begun to follow the protests may prove to be even costlier. Wisconsin is in a state of stagnation due to the ongoing protests. The shape of discussion about what should happen in Wisconsin on a daily basis is no longer relevant and every question begins to be looked at as how it relates to the Scott Walker and the Budget Repair Bill. Other issues, important issues are being ignored while the focus on Unions and Collective Bargaining hold up everything else.
There are a lot of issues with how Congressman Kucinich went about questioning Governor Walker before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The first problem with his “performance” was that he clearly structured his questions to get a specific answer out of Governor Walker. He didn’t want Walker to explain his position at all and even if he had given him time to speak, he wasn’t really interested in hearing Walker’s explanation anyway. The whole thing seemed to be an elaborate charade to get Walker to say the magic words that would make him look bad. When explaining about how a certain measure would save the people of Wisconsin money, Kucinich interrupted and refused to acknowledge the point Governor Walker was trying to make. It also seems ironic for Kucinich to make accusations about Walker’s plan having political undertones when Unions spend millions of dollars every year lobbying for political candidates who promise to continue to help the unions. “When you have a system where unions can contribute heavily to elect the people who pay them, corruption is inevitable,” says Mark Bucher, founder of the Education Alliance, a group that tries to help elect candidates who are independent of unions (Shakedown, Steven Malanga, Page 56 - http://bit.ly/faA654)
The outcry from democrats in and out of Wisconsin about the passing of Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill seems disingenuous. There are a lot of questions about who was pulling the strings of the democratic senators from Wisconsin who fled the state. Fleeing the state to stop a bill that would have passed had they been there doesn’t exactly give the best image of democracy in action. The bill would have passed had they been present, so it seems to be more of a formality to ultimately get the bill passed. This is not to mention that the democrats and media reaction to this issue has been completely overblown. The model that Walker is hoping to break from is one that only 25 other states in the country follow. It seems to be an exaggerated response to trying to break from something only half of America has place in the first place (http://bit.ly/f1qPas).
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt may be kindred spirits.
They both understood the fundamental fact that collective bargaining in the public sector is not a “right” protected in the Constitution; it is a privilege that for too long has been exploited by unions.
As Steven Malanga from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research writes:
Walker’s proposals to severely limit government union prerogatives are simply a recognition of something that political leaders and union officials across the ideological spectrum recognized for decades in America before the 1960s, which was that, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote, “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
With the national spotlight on reform in the public sector, the role teachers play is ever more important. With over 3,000,000 members, teachers make up the largest section of the public sector.
Many union negotiated contracts protect their teachers with the LIFO (Last In, First Out) policy that protects teachers who have been in the system longest when layoffs hit, like the recent layoffs in the Milwaukee Public School District (http://bit.ly/jlSdqO).
With recall elections ramping up in the state of Wisconsin, citizens of the state are being asked to make a very brief decision on how they feel about Scott Walker’s legislation and the Republican State Senators who voted for it.
However, in that short time since the budget bill was passed into law, Wisconsin has seen a number of positive signs. School districts throughout Wisconsin have begun reporting the amount of money that Governor Walker’s budget has saved them. One of the first districts to report was the Kaukauna School District where the school was facing a projected $400,000 shortfall. They now project a $1.5 million surplus thanks to Governor Walker’s Bill. What’s more is that these changes will allow the school to bring on additional staff and reduce class size.
Per the Kaukauna District’s press release:
“These impacts will allow the District to hire additional teachers, reduce projected class sizes from 26 students to 23 students at the elementary level, 28 students to 26 students at the intermediate/middle level, and 31 students to 25 students at the high school level. In addition time will be available for staff to identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group experiences.” http://bit.ly/naeBU3
What is “fair” compensation for workers? We hear the term “fair” thrown around a lot and with the national attention that was paid to the new budget bill in Wisconsin earlier this year, one might think that Republicans feel public sector union employees are overpaid while Democrats are simply defending the “fair” compensation of public sector union employees. An interesting situation has been developing in New York. Like many other states, New York is struggling to keep a balanced budget, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has spent much of his first year in office figuring out a way to restructure public sector union contracts.
His proposed contract (detailed in the graph below) was eventually accepted by the largest union of state workers in New York, the Civil Service Employees Association. However, the second-largest union in the state, the Public Employees Federation (PEF), voted down the new legislation. New York State has subsequently sent out layoff notices to nearly 3,500 PEF employees.
Ohio has a major vote coming up. The citizens of the state have to decide whether or not to pass controversial legislation, Senate Bill 5, into law. Recent polling would suggest that the bill is headed to defeat, but many in the state are still probably in favor of some sort of legislation curbing public sector spending.
It seems as though many are skeptical that change needs to happen in Ohio. You hear talk of union-busting, or that the legislation is too overreaching. The issue is being viewed as a political issue – not one rooted in fiscal responsibility.
Enter Rhode Island.
Senate Bill 5, state legislation to sharply curb the collective bargaining rights in Ohio, was voted down by a significant margin on Tuesday. The vote (61% for repeal, 39 against) highlights that the legislation introduced by Governor John Kasich was simply too overreaching for the state.
As the vote neared, money poured into the state as both sides tried to win the spin war on the effects of the legislation. Some feel the vote may have turned on inclusion of police and firefighters as part of the legislation. Many worried that without bargaining rights, these unions and workers wouldn’t be able to ensure that the highest of level of public safety was provided to citizens. Police and firefighters were left out of the legislation that was passed into law in Wisconsin.
Really, the issue was doomed the moment collective bargaining was brought into the discussion. Very few in the state had issue with increasing health care and pension contributions, and those stipulations of the bill are likely to be passed into law at a later date. However, collective bargaining holds a certain esteem that is hard to break from.
Here’s a look at some of the interesting stories concerning Public Sector Unions and Fair Compensation during the week of 12/5/2011:
- It was another busy week in Wisconsin where stories started coming out about Kenosha teacher, Kristi LaCroix, being harassed because she came out in support of new legislation in Wisconsin and appeared in a television commercial voicing her opinion.
- The New York Times ran an interesting piece in which they come to the conclusion that public sector employees are retiring sooner than they previously had.
- In response to the New York Times piece, Daniel DiSalvo posted a blog over at Public Sector Inc., calling into question some of the findings in the article.
- We’re starting to see social media and the internet play a large role in the campaigns for and against a recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
- Finally the USA Today took a look at how lucrative pension packages, once only offered to police and firefighters, are now being offered to thousands of more state employees.
By Kyle Olson
By and large, politicians are not willing to tackle the unsustainable costs they’ve created. Consider Illinois public employee pensions.
Public employee pensions have been a state expense. Therefore, a big chunk of legacy costs don’t need to be shown on school district books. But new legislation proposed by Senate Democrats seeks to change that. They want local school districts to bear that burden.
By Kyle Olson
When Detroit Public Schools were assigned an emergency financial manager by the state, we thought he would have the power to turn things around, more or less, with a snap of his fingers.
Turns out that’s not the case, due in large part to a thick document known as a teachers contract, or collective bargaining agreement. In Detroit (and most other school districts across the nation) these documents contain seemingly mundane provisions that cost taxpayers and school districts millions of dollars.
By The Education Action Group
Over the past year, a lot of people have been talking about “the 1%” versus “the 99%.” But if you’re concerned about one class exploiting another for economic gain, that’s the wrong way to look at the problem.
As Wisconsin voters head to the polls for Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election, they and citizens across the country will confront an enduring myth that has fueled public spending and debt from coast to coast: Government workers, Americans have been led to believe, sacrifice for the public good, earning less money than if they quit their posts and entered the vastly more lucrative private sector.
While this meme may have held water at some point, it does not now.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s 53–46 percent victory over Milwaukee’s Democratic mayor, Tom Barrett, in Tuesday’s recall election is the Proposition 13 of the 21st century. In 1978, California’s famous property-tax-cut referendum ignited the supply-side tax-relief movement. Similarly, Walker’s win will encourage elected officials to demand that taxpayer-funded government employees earn realistic wages and pay their fair share for benefits. Likewise, Walker’s triumph should stiffen politicians’ spines so that they insist that government-union bosses live by the same rules as the rest of us.
Seconds after Scott Walker was projected to survive his recall effort, narratives were churned out, providing quick and easy explanations for the events that transpired.
On MSNBC we were told that this election was simply a local issue and that it would have no bearing on the upcoming Presidential election. On Fox News, Walker’s win was heralded as a huge victory in the fight for fair compensation: A huge blow to unions was dealt and a new era of fiscal responsibility would be ushered in. Unfortunately these narratives take up lives of their own, and prevent understanding this complex issue.
So where is the truth? Unfortunately it’s not as easy as saying the answer lies in the middle.
In the past two weeks, four cities have been faced with bankruptcy: Stockton, CA: Mammoth Lakes, CA: Scranton, PA; and San Bernardino, CA.
Who’s next? Over at the Public Sector Inc. blog, Steven Malanga takes a look at some of the cities that could be facing bankruptcy. He targets three cities: Harrisburg, PA; Woonsocket, RI; and Detroit, MI as the cities that are facing insolvency in the near future. However, the truth is that there are many more who are on the verge.
LOS ANGELES - Union-funded hacks like those at the Economic Policy Institute tell us public employees have it rough. Their pay is so low they resort to eating dog food at night. Their pensions are terrible and no one – and we mean no one – should be subjected to such poor health care coverage.
It baffles the mind, then, to look at the honest numbers. Because when one does, it shows that the people at EPI are little more than union shills spewing cooked up numbers to satisfy the paymaster.
The Chicago Teachers Union made headlines a few months ago when it was revealed that the union was demanding a 30 percent raise in its new contract proposal.
Such an enormous raise – regardless of the supposed justification – would be unthinkable in a district with a $665 million budget deficit and a 9.8 percent unemployment rate.
Reason #54,678 why teachers unions are the enemy of students and taxpayers: They sue school districts over “unfair working conditions,” then agree to a hefty raise as a settlement.
That’s exactly what happened at Redford Union, a financially struggling school district in the metro Detroit area. The district has been fighting Big Labor so long that collective bargaining battles have become as common as varsity football games.
The Redford Observer reports that the union recently took the district to court “claiming unfair working conditions pertaining to health insurance costs.” That’s because the district had imposed health insurance cost-sharing on employees (something that’s becoming common in districts across the nation) and somehow the union considered that “unfair.”
The 2012 election is now in the rearview. While the election proved to be a successful one for many Democratic causes, there were still many signs for optimism for those looking for reform of the public sector.
Perhaps the highest profile issue concerning the public sector was a ballot proposal in Michigan that would have enshrined collective bargaining rights for government employees into the state constitution. Many were very nervous that such a strictly binding proposal would hinder contracts in the state for years to come. The proposal failed, and the vote wasn’t all that close, with only 42% of voters supporting the proposal.
Get The Facts
"A Primer on Government Pay"
"Two Americas: Public Sector Gains in Recession"
"A $176 Billion Gap for Public Pensions"
"Collective Bargaining Doesn't Work in the Public Sector"
"The Little State with a Big Mess"
ENGAGING WITH OTHERS
October 26, 2012
Phil, on Detroit News
October 25, 2012
Phil, on Newsvine
October 23, 2012
Phil, on Madison
September 17, 2012
Bill, on Huffington Post
September 01, 2012
Bill, on Huffington Post