Bargaining Rights Not Connected to Budget Problems

The rabid right-wing Republican NewsBusters screws up yet again, but does bring up an accuracy issue worth taking a look at, Wisconsin State Senator Smacks Down Chris Matthews: ‘You’re Completely Uninformed’

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews tried Monday to push the liberal media meme that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker exempted police and firefighters from his budget repair plan because their unions endorsed him in last November’s election.

Chris Matthews a liberal. Only a group of bloggers who make Nixon look like FDR would think Matthews is a liberal. The same Chris Matthews who praised Bush 43’s leadership, “What’s the importance of the president’s amazing display of leadership tonight?” and “We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical…” In News Buster’s world anyone who is not genuflecting 24/7 for the far Right agenda qualifies as a liberal. If there is a liberal meme that Walker is letting police and firefighters have their collective bargaining rights as a quid pro quo for their political endorsement, I’m not aware of it. Since Matthews is not a liberal, as far as I know he does not even qualify as a party of one. Is he and anyone repeating the quid pro quo meme mistaken? Yes they are, NewsBusters. This is the important thing to remember. Not all the police and firefighter unions and their various divisions endorsed Walker. Walker did give almost all of them a waiver on his demand to end all collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. This waiver is one of a few very relevant flaws in the argument Wisconsin Governor Mohamed Hosni Mubarak Walker. If bargaining rights are somehow connected to balancing the state budget, than the same standard should apply to all public employees. Bargaining rights have nothing to do with balancing the budget. It’s like discussing the monthly budget with your spouse and suddenly claiming if they would stop talking for the next year the checking account will be magically balanced. Talking is just that. Maybe Walker is afraid he will not be able to resist those sweet talk’n labor leaders in the future.

The current stand-off in Wisconsin has created some friction between unions because of the police and firefighter exceptions, Law enforcement union members ‘at each other’s throats’ over budget plan

The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association, which represents about 900 state troopers, inspectors, police communication operators, Motor Vehicle Department field agents and other state police, includes some members who have been exempted from Walker’s plan, said WLEA President Tracy Fuller on Sunday.

“Our union is being torn apart about this,” said Fuller, who is a State Patrol inspector from Madison. “We’ve got members at each other’s throats.”

Walker exempted the State Patrol and its inspectors from the bill, but UW and Capitol police, among others in the WLEA, would lose their collective bargaining rights if the budget repair bill passes.

“I want to tell our members not to turn and destroy each other when we have to do battle against the governor’s budget proposal,” Fuller said. “Let’s not kill each other over this thing.”

Fuller said he regretted that the Wisconsin Trooper’s Association, which is an organization made up of many WLEA members, endorsed Gov. Scott Walker – WLEA itself did not endorse anyone, he said.

Fuller, who said the State Patrol did not ask for the exemption, said the WLEA is meeting Tuesday to decide whether it can survive. WLEA members had been affiliated with AFSCME Council 24 before breaking off on their own in 2005. State troopers and inspectors make up about half the membership, Fuller said.

The lead for this story is unfortunate. The WLEA (Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association) recently posted this take on Walker’s radical change to state policy and public employees,

To – WLEA Members
From – WLEA Executive Board (Message 1)

On Friday, February 11, Governor Walker announced his plan to radically reshape Wisconsin’s public employee laws. The proposed bill, which the Governor refers to as a Budget Repair bill, goes far beyond that. One could argue that the doctor diagnosed a sprained knee, and the Governor’s solution is to amputate both legs. After all, if you get chop the knees off, you won’t have to worry about spraining them again. Of course, the treatment seems a little radical as a solution.

Statutes describe what is supposed to happen when a state employee union contract isn’t approved. 111.91(1) … If the legislature does not adopt without change that portion of the tentative agreement introduced by the joint committee on employment relations, the tentative agreement shall be returned to the parties for renegotiation.

Governor Elect Walker got his way in December when the legislature failed to approve the tentative agreements. The proper procedure would have been to reopen negotiations. However, no negotiations happened with any unions. Governor Walker was quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after the budget repair bill was introduced by saying, “I don’t have anything to negotiate,” Walker said. “We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years. People have ignored that for years, and it’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth. The truth is: We don’t have money to offer. We don’t have finances to offer. This is what we have to offer.”

As employees, we all know that there is more to negotiations than just economics. Under current law, wages, hours of work and other conditions of employment are subjects of negotiation. The Budget Repair Bill won’t just require state employees to pay more for insurance. It would abolish all bargaining other than wages, and those wages would be capped at the consumer price index.

The new administration never attempted to start discussions with the WLEA Bargaining Team or any other bargaining unit. They just dropped the bomb on all of the public employee unions.

This bill carves out an exemption for “public safety workers”, but if we are honest, those exemptions will be limited. Once the draconian changes are implemented on the rest of the public employees, it’s only a matter of time until they catch the public safety workers too.

This bill has some provisions that make no sense, unless the basic intent is to bust unions. One provision makes it illegal for public employers to collect dues for labor organizations. The employer can take deductions for the United Way, or other organizations, but they are prohibited from collecting union dues.

How does that repair the budget?

Another provision requires the WERC to conduct a representation election by December 1st each year, to determine if the employees still want the union to represent them. The WERC has to bill the union for the cost of the election. Currently, if a group petitions the WERC to do an election, the WERC covers the cost. Right now, the members have the right to request an election if the majority of the members want to change or eliminate representation. Why create unnecessarily processes?

Does that help repair the budget? ( all emphasis mine)

Walker and the right are framing this as a budget crisis issue. Nothing Walker is proposing has much to do with balancing the budget and a lot to do with union busting. The WLEA notes that it is inevitable that once bargaining rights for teachers, capitol police, state workers such as accountants and other workers goes down, public safety worker rights are the next target. Governor Mohamed Hosni Mubarak Walker certainly knows how to back up his arguments with statements from solid budget experts. So he takes to Twitter. He Tweets that a budget expert backs him up, Burning Down Wisconsin: The Hidden Budget Bill Item Even Worse Than Union Busting

Tweeting throughout the day, the link was one of only four links Gov. Walker provided to information or opinion defending his bill.

It just happens that Tina Korbe, the author of that Heritage piece, graduated with a BA in journalism from the University of Arkansas… in 2010.

More? As late as 2006, Korbe was a “Top 8 finalist” in the Arkansas Jr. Miss pageant. The year before, she was a semi-finalist in the Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen Pageant. No worries though, she already was Miss Teen Diamond Lakes 2005.

So, to put that in perspective, when the governor of the entire state of Wisconsin finds time to defend a bill that could severely impact the financial well-being of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin workers, not to mention instituting the most sweeping changes to the balance of the state’s labor relations in 50 years, who does he point to? An 22-year-old (at best) who grew up in Arkansas and graduated with an undergraduate degree in journalism less than a year ago.

Are conservatives seriously still pointing to anything from The heritage Foundation for expertise on anything. Every time they bring up Heritage they bring up two outstanding issues on which The Heritage would rather forget. They proposed a health care reform overhaul that closely resembled the Affordable Care Act and which had an individual mandate. They also thought lying the nation into a three trillion-dollar debacle was a great idea. So great they fired one of their own for criticizing their position. Who is to blame for Wisconsin’s budget problems. Some of it is the general state of the economy. Revenues are down. Walker and his crony Republican bedfellows also share some much of the blame because they are acting like state-size examples of the George W. Bush administration. They are determined to ram through their agenda regardless of what the numbers say,

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Outlines Major Causes Of Wisconsin’s Budget Shortfall, Which “Include Two Big Obligations” Unrelated To Unions That Total Almost $260M. In a February 1 article, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted causes of the state’s budget shortfall and reported that Walker’s tax policies accounted for “more than half” of an anticipated $203 million decline in tax revenues…

Walker and his benefactors the Koch brothers are also using the nationwide belt-tightening to engage in some class warfare. They’re hoping to open up a rift between union and non-union workers. According to right-wing math, unions much like Reagan’s mythical welfare queen, are living high off the hog while everyone else struggles, The Betrayal of Public Workers

Even if state and local government employees are not responsible for the budgetary problems that emerged out of the recession, are they nevertheless receiving bloated wage and benefits packages that are holding back the recovery? Since the recession began, there has been a steady stream of media stories making such claims. One widely cited 2009 Forbes cover article reported, “State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33 percent higher than the private sector’s $19…. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42 percent.”

What figures such as these fail to reflect is that state and local government workers are older and substantially better educated than private-sector workers. Forbes is therefore comparing apples and oranges. As John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research recently showed, when state and local government employees are matched against private sector workers of the same age and educational levels, the public workers earn, on average, about 4 percent less than their private counterparts. Moreover, the results of Schmitt’s apples-to-apples comparison are fully consistent with numerous studies examining this same question over the past twenty years. One has to suspect that the pundits who have overlooked these basic findings have chosen not to look.

Most American do not belong to unions, but unions have a ripple effect across the economy. Rather than being resentful or envious of unions, American from every profession might want to ponder how much of their compensation, benefits and working conditions can be traced back battles fought and won by unions.