Wisconsin again

by Harry on February 19, 2011

The protests today were much bigger, again, than the day before. Rumours are swirling that maybe Sarah Palin will turn up tomorrow (not that her support is likely to do us much good, but that’s life) and even Obama (in which case he’d better be a little more energetic in our support than he has been). My guess is that Palin is the more likely of the two. The news today is that the Assembly vote has been delayed till Tuesday (this morning’s meeting was such fun that the Reps shut it down). If you are within traveling distance, and have the time, the Capitol in Madison is the place to go. Be there by 11.

(My 14 year old stayed up all night, and testified before the Assembly at 5.20 am, pointing out that whereas most of the testimony of schoolkids had been about teachers, janitors and clerical staff were in an even worse situation because in theis economy it will be even more difficult for them to get other jobs and they are less likely to be married to other people with well paying secure jobs. At least, that’s what she told us. With not an iota of pride. Unlike her father.)

{ 82 comments }

1

Kris 02.19.11 at 5:30 am

Students have had such an amazing presence all week. On that note, see this:

Student energy & perspectives: three days of footage (Feb 15-17) from the Madison WI protests: http://bit.ly/e4eEz2

I see some West High students in it too.

2

Spaghetti Lee 02.19.11 at 5:50 am

With not an iota of pride. Unlike her father.

It’s wonderful. What I have loved the most is how Wisconsin’s teenagers and high schoolers have come out to support their teachers. I wonder if Walker thinks he’s winning the next generation of Wisconsinites over to the Republican party by trying to destroy their schools and put their teachers on the streets.

3

Timothy Scriven 02.19.11 at 6:38 am

Maybe I’m just paying more attention, but it seems to me that in the last few year or so, the left has started undergoing something of a global renewal. Great stuff.

4

Ja 02.19.11 at 8:47 am

The Wisconsin protests are really inspiring. Keep posting!

5

Christopher Phelps 02.19.11 at 9:00 am

There may be an interesting moment or two here as the more working-class or lower middle-class Tea Partiers realize that their pensions and wages are about to be destroyed, even as the Tea Party leaders nationally try to mobilize their base for the attack on the public sector.

The emerging national common sense line, by the way, seems to be that Wisconsin workers should accept benefits and wages cuts while preserving collective bargaining. I suppose that’s realism, in its own fashion, but I’d much rather see a broad countermobilization to solve the budgetary crisis by taxing the rich and the corporations properly.

If I were in Madison today — sorry, Harry, a transatlantic flight is not in the works — I’d carry a big sign saying “Tax the Rich! They Made this Lousy Crisis”

6

skippy 02.19.11 at 11:21 am

0k i havent been following this story 100% , but why would sarah palin be attending what seems like essentially a democratic protest, and one by public sector unions at that?

7

superdestroyer 02.19.11 at 11:38 am

The daughter was arguing against the union position. The union would prefer the state lay off thousands of people instead of taking pay cuts for all people. since the laid off people will be out of the union, the union will not care about them anymore. But the people who remain will be more supportive of the union since they will not have to take a pay cut.

Also, why does your daughter want private sector janitors and clerical workers to have to pay more taxes so that the state employees can have great benefits.

8

Barry 02.19.11 at 12:20 pm

F*ck of, SD. It’s not about that; it’s about keeping GOP scum from sliding money into their masters’ pockets and then claiming a crisis and pulling more money out of the pockets of the middle and working class.

Ideally, it’d be about taxing the living crap out of the rich, who brought about this crisis.

9

superdestroyer 02.19.11 at 12:39 pm

If Wisconsin wants to have private sector employees to pay taxes to fund the public sector jobs, then why would it want to tax to crap out of the rich. Does it really want to signal to the private sector to leave the state.

Once again, why are so many progressives supporting the idea of laying off thousands of public sector employees instead of cutting everyone’s wages instead?

10

Hidari 02.19.11 at 12:49 pm

DFTT

11

FB 02.19.11 at 1:00 pm

“so many progressives supporting the idea of laying off thousands of public sector employees”

Who? examples please

12

politicalfootball 02.19.11 at 1:08 pm

then why would it want to tax to crap out of the rich.

Most of my family members are very concerned about this – they live in high-tax states like Maryland and New Jersey. I tell them that if they think things are so well-run in Mississippi, they ought to go there.

Yes, there is a race to the bottom on issues like this. But that race is both tragic and preventable. Hats off to the citizens of Wisconsin.

13

Anders 02.19.11 at 1:18 pm

Christopher Phelps – why would the poorer Tea Partiers have their pensions and wages destroyed? Surely the TP self-selects for private sector, no? Or am I missing something?

14

Henri Vieuxtemps 02.19.11 at 1:27 pm

Hmm. I reckon cutting everyone’s wages signals to the private sector to leave the state, while taxing the crap out of the rich doesn’t. But what do I know.

15

Sufferin' Succotash 02.19.11 at 2:12 pm

Since I live 1500 miles away from the Union Thugs, there’s no direct way I can help them impose Sharia law on the Badger State. Does anyone out there know of any link for financial assistance, etc.?

16

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 2:14 pm

For our conservative dumbass friends, a reminder that this is pure shock-doctrine stuff- the budget “crisis” was artificially ginned up by Walker by way of big tax breaks for his puppetmasters.

Also a reminder that trashing collective bargaining rights has zero to do with plugging any budget gap- it saves no money at all on the needed timescale. The state workers have already made large concessions in recent years, but if more are really needed to place to ask for them is the bargaining table.

Try actually learning some facts instead of just swallowing and regurgitating Koch propaganda. The coordinated attacks on public employee bargaining rights in several states are an operation conceived and funded by them, right down to the almost identical wording of the proposed laws.

17

Harry 02.19.11 at 2:17 pm

SD — take it up with her. But don’t be too cocky.

18

Harry 02.19.11 at 2:23 pm

Thanks Steve. By the way SD, WEAC and AFSCME offered to support a bill which makes all the cuts Walker wants but removes all the provisions on collective bargaining and union membership. Walker has publicly rejected this out of hand. In other words, he is not really interested in balancing the budget, but in ensuring that unions are destroyed in the State so that when the economy improves workers will not be able to secure any of the benefits of growth. But I imagine this has been widely reported on FOX news, so you probably know all about it.

19

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 2:26 pm

Another reminder for the likes of SD: one of the states with a genuine and gigantic budget gap is union-hostile Texas. Any attempt to associate public-employee unions with the current round of state budget crises is a plain lie.

20

superdestroyer 02.19.11 at 2:43 pm

Harry,

If the states keep the union bargaining rights, then the unions will just suck up any increases in tax receipts if and when there is any economic recovery. Why do the Democrats want to turn every state into California with budget deficits and out of control unions.

Why should the unions in Wisconsin have more power than the federal employees unions. The federal employees do not have the ability to negotiate over pay, benefits, or seniority. Why should the state employees who are partially paid by federal block grants be able to extract rents from the tax payers of Wisconsin?

21

ben reiser 02.19.11 at 2:45 pm

22

superdestroyer 02.19.11 at 2:46 pm

Steve,

What the Democrats are demonstrating is they will never support any tax cuts, any spending cut backs, or any reductions in the scope of government. Democrats need the largess of government to keep the blocks inside the Democratic Party happy and thus need massive tax revenues to keep them happy. Giving in ground on taxes is seen as a defeat by the Democrats.

Once gain, why would anyone want to invest in a state or a country where the best jobs are the public sector jobs.

23

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 2:53 pm

SD, Texas had plenty of tax cuts. Look where it’s gotten them. Right into a California-size hole. This problem was born on Wall Street and has very little to do with the policies of individual states.

The rest is just your usual bullshit having no contact with reality. Read the asteroid thread to learn how your shtick sounds to rational people.

24

Harry 02.19.11 at 3:11 pm

SD, you think unions have that much power, do you? AFter 30 years of constant concession-making. Why, then, haven;’t they used the power in all those years? Very public spirited of them. Of course, you may just think that all the benefits of any growth should continue to go to the most privileged people in our society — we can just agree to disagree about that perhaps.
I agree completely that the Federal employees should have as much power as our state’s public sector employees. Complain to your Senator about it.

25

JJ 02.19.11 at 3:16 pm

DFTT? Digital Forensic Tool Testing?

26

superdestroyer 02.19.11 at 3:19 pm

Harry,

Supposedly Wisconsin spends over $20K per state employee on health care and other entitlements. That the state employees can get such a deal while being the best paid employees in most counties in Wisconsin demonstrates their power.

If being an underpaid state employee was so bad, then why are the jobs so hard to get and why do so many apply for every opening? I will know that the government employees are underpaid when few people apply for the jobs.

Even the lowest paid teaching position had many people apply for it.

27

Witt 02.19.11 at 3:24 pm

Bravo to your daughter, and thank you for the updates. If she is lucky perhaps this will be the first of many occasions in which she advocates directly to decisionmakers about what kind of world she wants to live in.

28

superdestroyer 02.19.11 at 3:24 pm

Steve,

State budgets are in trouble because politicians have forgotten the ratchet effect. When state and local government get a windfall such as increasing real estate prices raising property taxes, the local politicians spend the money and then ask for more hoping that a booming economy will make people unconcerned about increasing taxes.

The U.S. needs to decide what it really wants to fund with its tax dollars. As long as the public sector unions support open borders and unlimited immigration and as long as Democratic Party leaders support minority set asides and racial quotas, there must be more than enough money in the budget for everything that really needs to be done.

Cut everything that is not really needed then come back and talk about raising taxes.

29

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 3:27 pm

I await SD’s learned disquisition on how this supposed process played out in Texas.

Or in shorter words, you’re full of crap.

30

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 3:29 pm

Oh, and perhaps SD might also like to explain Walker’s no doubt sophisticated economic rationale for exempting the police and fire unions from his bill.

31

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 3:34 pm

And for anyone else tempted to believe that Walker is operating in good faith rather than running a shock doctrine scam: link

32

Margaret 02.19.11 at 3:51 pm

I hope everyone reading this knows by now that SD is let us say exaggerating wildly in the claim that public employees are “the best paid”. It has been widely reported that public employees in fact are worse paid that private employees, and this is especially clear among the vast number of public employees with a college degree who are paid considerably less than private employees with a degree. Public employees do have slightly better benefits, but this advantage is wiped out because of the pay differences. Of course anyone addicted to a race-to-the-bottom would never think that it might be the case that private employees deserve better benefits. Another thing to keep in mind is that it has been estimated that if the pay cuts for public employees goes through, the resulting decrease in spending will result in up to 60,000 job losses in the private sector.

33

Jim Buck 02.19.11 at 4:13 pm

‘Once gain, why would anyone want to invest in a state or a country where the best jobs are the public sector jobs.’

Because those dollars move around out of pay packets, and hop from pocket-to pocket in the locality. If you would rather put those dollars on a slow boat to China—to join all the trillions already there–then cut taxes on the obesely rich.

34

william uspal 02.19.11 at 4:21 pm

On Wisconsin public sector wages and compensation:

http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2011/02/analogy_watch_c.html

Some, you know, actual numbers.

35

Gene O'Grady 02.19.11 at 4:31 pm

The point about janitors and clerical staff is an important one, as I learned from talking to my daughter who attends one of Oregon’s defunded state colleges and told me that the cut backs to support staff (and perhaps the loss of the better ones) makes it really hard to get your records straight in a reasonable time.

And another reminder that contrary to what he who must not be named says on a regular basis these are jobs, like customer service jobs, that take a significant amount of skill to do well. But then I remember in my phone company days in my one week of strike replacement customer service work that it was the Marketing MBA’s who were utterly incapable of doing the job.

36

superdestroyer 02.19.11 at 4:47 pm

Margaret,

What I wrote and will repeat is that in most counties of Wisconsin, the best paid jobs are the public sector jobs. In small towns and rural areas, the best paid jobs are the government jobs. That is because the rest of the citizens of those small towns are not paid very much. What is why it is so hard to get a government job in those areas. That is why in most small towns, the two nicest buildings are the city hall and the central business office of the school district. That is why those public sector workers are fighting so hard to keep their benefits. They do not want to be as poor as their fellow citizens in those small times.

37

JJ 02.19.11 at 5:11 pm

Actually, in any town, large or small, urban or rural, in the US, including Wisconsin, the best paying jobs belong to the people who own and administer the companies whose profits depend upon minimizing the wages of the people who produce them.

Communism for the rich and fascism for the rest.

38

bianca steele 02.19.11 at 5:35 pm

When state and local government get a windfall such as increasing real estate prices raising property taxes, the local politicians spend the money

Yep, on frills like $3/gal gasoline for snowplows and garbage trucks.

39

bianca steele 02.19.11 at 5:38 pm

I also might guess a place where the best-paid workers are in charge of plowing roads might be a place where there are a lot of people looking for work in the town and where the roads are reasonably well maintained, which is something even retail employers care about.

40

Bruce Baugh 02.19.11 at 5:52 pm

Superdestroyer wrote and will repeat lies as often as he, she, or it feels moved to do so.

I’m interested in the same thing JJ is, this vision of a typical community as having no resident lawyers, landlords, business owners, or inheritors.

41

Cranky Observer 02.19.11 at 6:02 pm

> What I wrote and will repeat is that in most counties of Wisconsin, the
> best paid jobs are the public sector jobs. In small towns and rural areas,
> the best paid jobs are the government jobs. That is because the rest of
> the citizens of those small towns are not paid very much.

Of course, SD fails to note that the majority of the population of Wisconsin (as in many states) does not live in “most” of the counties – it is concentrated in a small number of more densely populated counties. In other words, the better-off urbanites, who tend to be more Democratic and often (but not always) more liberal are being taxed to subsidize the thinly populated rural counties – which then vote for hard radical right Republicans. The “high paid gub’mint jobs in rural counties” is just another instantiation of the welfare paid to rural Republicans, due to most states having at least one legislative chamber with non-democratic square mile-based membership.

Cranky

42

Christopher Phelps 02.19.11 at 6:05 pm

Superdestroyer (apt name) seems to think that if there’s a working-class job that pays decently and has benefits it is often a union job. This is actually true. Superdestroyer seems to think this is why these jobs should be eliminated. That is where he goes wrong. In reality, studies have consistently shown that union pay and benefit scales bring wages up for all workers, that where there are higher rates of union density there are higher standards for all workers.

This is not a fight of Wisconsin’s public workers. It is a fight for Wisconsin’s standard of living. And, by extension, all of ours.

43

Russell L. Carter 02.19.11 at 6:11 pm

“This is not a fight of Wisconsin’s public workers. It is a fight for Wisconsin’s standard of living. And, by extension, all of ours.”

Fundamentally, the Tea Party is a brilliant political ploy: it has convinced enough of the poorest that their salvation can only be achieved by impoverishing themselves further. All that remains is to eliminate the minimum wage, and non-urban America will become a workers paradise, not far removed from 19th century Russia.

44

Henri Vieuxtemps 02.19.11 at 6:50 pm

I get the impression that they are not so much against the unions, but rather against the public employees. And if you dig deeper, they probably don’t mind some of the public employees (e.g. cops, ‘the troops’), but mostly the teachers, social workers, and such. IOW, they don’t like any manifestation of a welfare state. I get the impression that people “in most counties” feel that they don’t need it that much, or that it’s not worth the money. The confusion, perhaps, comes from the fact that well over a trillion dollars of their tax money is spent on ‘defense’.

45

christian_h 02.19.11 at 7:10 pm

Well I don’t think we should deny that there is a lot of anti-union sentiment out there. This is of course not surprising since all media, including the somewhat liberal ones, are viciously anti-union when they mention unions at all. Every day, you will read at least one story about the 100k overtime pay that janitor received last year or the 100k pension this former teacher receives or the 75k that teacher who isn’t teaching but can’t be fired because of seniority rules gets every month. and that’s in papers like the L.A. Times.

46

Cranky Observer 02.19.11 at 7:16 pm

> I get the impression that people “in most counties” feel
> that they don’t need it that much, or that it’s not worth
> the money.

Which explains why rural conservative tea party Republican counties across the nation are such net beneficiaries of tax-based transfer payments from government(s).

Cranky

47

Patrick S. O'Donnell 02.19.11 at 7:22 pm

Inspired by recent events in Wisconsin, I thought it a propitious time to post my bibliography for “the world of work and labor law,” along with an introductory apologia (although I don’t deal with the relevance—presuming there is any—of the difference between public and private sector unionism): http://ratiojuris.blogspot.com/2011/02/world-of-work-and-labor-law-select.html

48

David 02.19.11 at 7:38 pm

I’m proud of your daughter!

49

roger 02.19.11 at 7:39 pm

I think the Unions concession might be a mistake. Surely they aren’t going to stop the conservatives like SD, who don’t want to tax the rich – for they might move out of the state of Wisconsin, which is a meaningless threat – and who will then ask why poor janitors should be taxed for an education system, with the presupposition that their children will just be janitors too, and won’t use that system, cause after all, they just don’t have the brains.
A sort of capitalist version of feudalist thinking.
Wall Street Journal just engaged in a bout of statistical illiteracy to prove that the rich were moving out of Oregon because they were taxed at a higher rate, intentionally confusing the fact that the rich were hit by the recession and thus report lower incomes with some type of Galtist pilgrimage to that tax paradise, Somalia or something.
This is something the right does. Which is why I am not at all sure that the concessions in terms of wages and pension contributions are a good idea.
Now is the time to demand higher taxes on the wealthy, period. And to demand good public services. Paid for by those higher taxes on the wealthy. Wisconsin can decline, if it wants to, into the shambles of a Southern state where there are no Unions and the economy has essentially become parasitic on big corporations that innovate elsewhere and come to the South for non-union workers. A parasitic position that is unsustainable.
I’m hoping, though, that the people of Wisconsin, the vast majority of whom would be well served by maintaining their public infrastructure at the highest level possible, reject the right’s siren call to cut their own throats in order to preserve country club culture.

50

roger 02.19.11 at 7:45 pm

Oh, and the issue of what the pay scale in Wisconsin is doesn’t have to be settled by anecdotes. The bureau of labor, paid for by taxes, keeps those kinds of statistics. Here: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wi.htm#00-0000. There’s no breakdown of whether “construction managers” or “financial managers” are in the public sector, but I doubt it.

51

Brett Bellmore 02.19.11 at 7:50 pm

52

Cranky Observer 02.19.11 at 8:02 pm

> I’m proud of your daughter!

Seconded!

Cranky

53

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 8:11 pm

Brett, nice straw man, my name is not Rachel Maddow and I did not say that he created the deficit. But 1) he did increase it by $147 million practically the moment he took office, by handing tax expenditures to his cronies; 2) the state budget is nowhere near “in crisis”, especially ex those Walker tax breaks, and the previous Democratic administration had already closed a bigger budget gap without any shock doctrine nonsense. No, Walker didn’t create (but did enlarge) the deficit, but he created an artificial “crisis” (what I said above) in an easily manageable situation.

Conservatives prove over and over again that they’re simply goddamned liars.

54

Steve LaBonne 02.19.11 at 8:12 pm

Re Harry’s daughter: thirded!

55

Harry 02.19.11 at 8:31 pm

SD
lower wages for comparable jobs are compensated for somewhat by more secure benefits and job security. I know this is incredibly hard to believe but lots of people choose teaching (or nursing or social work) because they want to make a contribution to the good of other people, and are willing to take a hit on overall material compensation to be able to do such work. My wife, for example, given her skill set, the hours she works, and the competence with which she does her job, would be earning 3 times as much in the private sector, but then she’d be doing something less socially valuable, and that matters to her. One of our occasional commentators here could have walked into a top Law School (and he knows it) but chose to qualify as a social studies teacher instead. Why? Well, he can answer it. Of course, if we crap on teachers enough, we can reduce the quality of our teaching force. Especially in this younger generation (compared with mine and the one in between) there are large numbers of talented youngsters who care more about contributing to society than making large amounts of money. In fact, I’m surrounded by students like that. I find it humbling (and somewhat shaming), but I understand how annoying it must be the tea-partiers etc. I want those young people to have the kind of health care benefits (for example) that everyone in the rich world who is not American takes for granted. If the wealthiest 10% were not buying health insurance or health care or investing in retirement, I’d give some consideration to the possibility these were optional extras.

56

Harry 02.19.11 at 8:38 pm

And thanks for joining in my pride everyone. She’s been there all day today again (I did coach her how to stay out of trouble, and told her to coach her friends — I’ve been brutally beaten up at this sort of thing — in fact you can watch! around 0.46, which was before the real brutality began:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKfQgUn7UNg
– but I’m buggered if I’m having her go through anything like that at the hands some silly bugger who uses his hard-won weekends to complain about the unions that gave it to him.

57

Margaret 02.19.11 at 8:51 pm

Seconding Harry’s most recent comments, (and hurray for his wife as well as his daughter), it seems to me that most people are not only aware that teachers teach for the good of other people at considerable financial sacrifice, but, for reasons that entirely escape me, appear to think they are, in so doing, only doing their duty. How many times in recent days have you read comments condemning teachers because “they don’t care about the children, they care about their jobs.” Caring about your working conditions is tantamount to abandoning your duty to MY children.

58

Russell L. Carter 02.19.11 at 9:11 pm

Dang Harry, I’m impressed. Those cops were really maximizing their job satisfaction beating up on old ladies and children.
Kudos to your courageous daughter too.

Does anybody have a good link to somewhat timely online coverage of Madison? There appears to be a near blackout by US media. You can find out much more about what is going on in the Middle East than you can about Madison.

59

christian_h 02.19.11 at 9:29 pm

Russell if you don’t mind an article that does not much reporting but does emphasize the hollowness that is our national media you could read the NYT.

60

Russell L. Carter 02.19.11 at 9:30 pm

Ok, maybe I’ll save someone else some time, this Wisconsin State Journal blog isn’t bad:

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_94a6b124-3c44-11e0-b097-001cc4c002e0.html?action=purge

61

Chris 02.19.11 at 10:23 pm

I get the impression that they are not so much against the unions, but rather against the public employees.

They’re against unions *and* against public employees. So when public employees have the audacity to *have* a union, conservatives practically go berserk.

62

Sev 02.20.11 at 12:36 am

#15 “Since I live 1500 miles away from the Union Thugs, there’s no direct way I can help them impose Sharia law on the Badger State. Does anyone out there know of any link for financial assistance, etc.?”
And yet(via digby) others further removed are finding the way to do just that:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WOHCTVG5OYg/TWAFJrEfWBI/AAAAAAAAB68/JifewWoLE0A/s1600/egypt%2Bwisconsin.jpg

63

Nur al-Cubicle 02.20.11 at 1:08 am

Gee, aren’t the Egyptians in the street arguing that democracy IS the right to organize unions and bargain collectively?

64

Alan White 02.20.11 at 1:20 am

Wonderful story Harry–that’s some daughter. I teach at UW Manitowoc in UW System–in my 30th year (and was a speaker in your Colloquium series back in ’05)–and just wrote a $1400 check to pay off my $3500 bridgework that of course my “Cadillac” healthcare wouldn’t pay for. There is so much propaganda put out there about how well off we “haves” are. Paul Krugman’s column in the NYT really nailed it–no one is seriously trying to rein in health-care costs, rejecting even the modest reforms of Obama’s proposals. I wonder if my cardiologist has had an 8% pay-cut lately?

65

heckblazer 02.20.11 at 1:38 am

For some reason I feel compelled to note that communism in Poland was vanquished by Solidarity, a trade union for shipyard workers.

66

Patrick D 02.20.11 at 2:01 am

Hmmm. The people who have the most direct contact with public employees (the students) are demonstrating in their favor. I wonder what that might mean?

I’m pretty sure that Walker and his ilk dislike teachers because they didn’t learn much in school. I don’t blame the teachers.

67

spyder 02.20.11 at 2:25 am

As one of the old fogeys, i first commend Harry’s daughter, wife, and Harry for supporting and advocating for the collectivized public workers. Though i am sure it doesn’t need to be said here, unions (in the USA) came about from the blood and death of hundreds over the course of several decades. Today, many of those unions are gone, mostly from the private sector which has outsourced jobs both for profits and to destroy unions. As others above have pointed out, Walker is all about destroying unions (he has a history) and is specifically funded and supported by the Koch brothers who have many large holdings in the state.

The support of the public for Wisconsin workers is in many ways overwhelming; i am surprised by the outpouring. I woke up today with that old 1967 Buffalo Springfield song in my head: “For What It’s Worth!” Young people speaking their minds, indeed!

68

rwschnetler 02.20.11 at 2:49 am

This will make or break public unions in the US. What will be crucial for both sides is how the (non government) tax paying public will see this. If they believe that the government employees are having a free ride at their expense, they will vote Walker (or whoever similar in the other states). If not, Walker and company will be voted out over time.

The one thing I believe is where the unions are making a mistake is to try and frame this as the rich against the poor. This is pitting one middle class against the other (government employed against non-government employed), and the decider will be if the non-government employed believe that the government employed deserve the entitlements/salary/whatever against what their (the non-government employed) current situation is.

Government employed here is broadly defined as any person working for municipal, county, state or federal agency. In other words somebody that is paid ultimately by a tax dollar.

69

spyder 02.20.11 at 3:03 am

70

joe koss 02.20.11 at 3:30 am

Curious as to what other commentator’s perceptions or experiences are concerning the collective bargaining rights and regulations in other parts of the world where workers do have rights to begin with, especially with respect to public employees? And what type of relations do the public unions enjoy with both their employers and the public who isn’t represented by them?

71

Myles 02.20.11 at 5:10 am

It’s obviously impossible for Scott Walker to back down now. If he does, the conclusion to be drawn isn’t that he’s had a Pauline conversion, it’s that the public employees in the last analysis have a veto over public policy.

I wish that this is resolved well, that the public employees don’t suffer the grievous damage Walker has wished to impose upon them, but however it is resolved, the precedent will not be a good one. If Walker wins, then negotiated contracts and understandings are proven to be liable to being changed unilaterally; if the public sector employees win, they’ve demonstrated what some have always suspected that they had, an extra-legislative, extra-legal veto on public policy by means of mass mobilization. The chances of a compromise are not very good.

72

Myles 02.20.11 at 5:10 am

It’s obviously impossible for Scott Walker to back down now. If he does, the conclusion to be drawn isn’t that he’s had a Pauline conversion, it’s that the public employees in the last analysis have a veto over public policy.

I wish that this is resolved well, that the public employees don’t suffer the grievous damage Walker has wished to impose upon them, but however it is resolved, the precedent will not be a good one. If Walker wins, then negotiated contracts and understandings are proven to be liable to being changed unilaterally; if the public sector employees win, they’ve demonstrated what some have always suspected that they had, an extra-legislative, extra-legal veto on public policy by means of mass mobilization. The chances of a compromise are not very good.

73

Felwith 02.20.11 at 5:46 am

What’s the difference between “an extra-legislative, extra-legal veto on public policy by means of mass mobilization” and “peacefully assembling to petition the government for a redress of grievances”?

74

Myles 02.20.11 at 7:36 am

@Felwith:

The difference is credible force. Cross that line, and you’ve crossed from peaceful assembly to peaceful revolution. I think Wisconsin is far from crossing that line yet, but it may if the situation radicalizes.

I think one of the chief things that, in British Columbia, Canada, got the New Democratic Party thrown out of power (they were completely eviscerated) was the fact that the provincial teachers’ union (and some others) had basically crippled the legislative power regarding the public sector, and the NDP, being associated with public sector unions, had given them an effective veto in public policy. And teachers don’t even make that much money!

If this was genuinely Scott Walker being an opportunistic ass, as seems the case, I am of course against him. But if indeed the Democrats (who previously controlled all three branches of the Wisconsin government) had been colluding with the public-sector unions in advance of shifts in power, my sympathies will, unavoidably, be somewhat tempered. I don’t know if that’s the case, and I am not coming unequivocally out on the side of the public-sector employees until that is disproven, because it would be very difficult to full-throatedly support people have recently engaged in self-dealing.

75

foen 02.20.11 at 11:24 am

superdestroyer: “Does it really want to signal to the private sector to leave the state.”

You are here leaving the domain of moral argument and start making “might makes right” assertions of the type fitting only for an amoral psychopath. Is that what you are? If not then stop insulting yourself and us by pretenting to be one just to obstruct moral reasoning on the case at hand.

If you have any real moral objections then state the general moral view you are basing them on. If there is a moral imperative to balance the budget in Wisconsin then isn’t the morally right thing to raise the tax on top tier wealthiest individuals in the state? Do those wealthy individuals have any good moral reason to object to or obstruct such a tax? If you think so state them as clearly as you can.

You try to pit poor private workers against poor public workers. By doing so you intentionally leave out the top tier economic elite from the discussion. You have no good moral reason to do so.

Your suggestion is also extremely bad even as a pure pragmatic, consequence focused argument. Giving in here would only be a contribution in a race to the bottom. Capital power never rests. If they win in Wisconsin they will shift the war effort to the next location. There is always a new place that is now the “worst”, where workers rights are “too strong”, where the minimum wage is “too high” (or at all existent) and so on and so on. In any state, in any country, giving up workers rights and powers have never ever helped workers as a collective. It only temporarily shifts the harm to workers elsewhere. It is an empirical fact that workers in regions like the nordic countries, with a tradition of strong union organization and influence, have much higher minimum standards, high quality public health care and outscores the US on most relevant well-being determinants.

76

Harry 02.20.11 at 1:11 pm

I agree that Walker cannot back down, and nobody expects him to. There are three different reasons someone might backdown — they might be persuaded that they have not gotten things exactly right, they might fear electoral defeat, and they might fear the threat of credible force. The second and third do not apply to Walker (no credible force, election 4 years away, by which time who knows) and he has made it plain from the start that he has made his plan without consultation of anyone beyond his own people, and is uninterested in what anyone else has to say. The purpose of this is to persuade a handful of Republican state senators that they might face recall and electoral defeat (several have very slim majorities, and high density of public sector workers and the businesspeople whose businesses are kept afloat by the health benefits taxpayers provide to their public sector spouses) or, frankly, to convince the handful who oppose it that there is some political advantage to voting what they believe is right rather than what their party is bullying them to do. It has been made pretty clear privately to these senators that if they dare defect they will have no future within their party, and that they will be primaried. The demonstrations should be telling them that if they break ranks they will get oodles of Democrats supporting them in primaries and may get an easy ride in the general election. Whether the press can explain it this way or the public understand it this way is another matter.

77

Felwith 02.20.11 at 5:04 pm

Myles,

Yes, if it turns out that the public sector unions have been conspiring with Democrats to cut their own pay and benefits, I too will have a much lower opinion of them.

78

Substance McGravitas 02.20.11 at 5:27 pm

I think one of the chief things that, in British Columbia, Canada, got the New Democratic Party thrown out of power

No. The NDP’s policies and union entanglements aren’t much different since that time and they came very close to forming the last provincial government. It was all about shady/pandering leadership in Clark and Dosanjh.

79

dbk 02.20.11 at 5:29 pm

Harry,

You must be really, really proud of your daughter! Wow!

Responding briefly to your next post’s parenthetical “(skip if this bores you)”, here are a couple of interrelated reasons I can think of why it wouldn’t/couldn’t/ shouldn’t/ better not bore CT readers:

The WI governer claimed that he didn’t want to include firefighters and police in this first round of break-the-backs-of-the-public-sector-unions because these individuals provide essential services that cannot be foregone (well, words to that effect).

Implicit assumption: education’s not an essential service (this, in the same week that the President claims that education is the key to future US competitiveness, sigh).
As a devoted reader of CT, it seems to me that alot of the readers are really, truly, seriously interested in education.

Joshua Micah Marshall (see link below) suggests that the Governor omitted these two categories of public service workers from the first round of attacks (happily, the firefighters and police seem to have instinctively realized that they’re not immune; they’ll be next) because they tend to vote Republican. I’d like to suggest that though this may be the case, and Walker was basically acting from political motives, there’s a side-effect to this: 80% of high school teachers and 90% of primary school teachers are women. A (perhaps unintended, but nonetheless, real) consequence: women union members – teachers- are being targeted. It also seems to me that many CT commenters are interested in women’s place in the workforce/women’s pay/ women’s equal rights.

It would be great if some of your ever-alert and committed commenters could provide updates/links to this story as it evolves. Here are a few I picked up today (from Friday and Saturday, so about 24 to 36 hours out of date, but there’s useful background):

http://www.commondreams.org/node/65917
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/02/19
http://www.counterpunch.org/buhle02182011.html
http://www.truth-out.org/scott-walker-runs-koch-money67916
http://theuptake.org/
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/

The last link is the general one to TPM – Josh Marshall is providing frequent updates, essentially the equivalent of comprehensive political coverage at national level.

80

geo 02.20.11 at 5:33 pm

foen: Capital power never rests. If they win in Wisconsin they will shift the war effort to the next location. There is always a new place that is now the “worst”, where workers rights are “too strong”, where the minimum wage is “too high” (or at all existent) and so on and so on.

Exactly. Yeats wins the Twentieth-Century Political Philosophy Prize hands-down for “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

81

chris 02.21.11 at 2:37 pm

if the public sector employees win, they’ve demonstrated what some have always suspected that they had, an extra-legislative, extra-legal veto on public policy by means of mass mobilization

I thought the people were *supposed* to run democracies. What does it say about Wisconsin that the people are on the side of the teachers and their side is about to lose anyway?

Workers’ rights are human rights and the people of Wisconsin, to their credit, seem to understand that. The fact that the public sector employees might “win” the preservation of their basic human rights doesn’t make them some kind of shadowy conspiracy; it makes them citizens of a civilized state.

82

Steve LaBonne 02.21.11 at 2:41 pm

My guess is that the side the people are on is only going to lose until the next election.

Comments on this entry are closed.