Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is grappling with a $3 billion budget shortfall. As with other bankrupt states, a big part of the problem comes from public employee union pensions and benefits. In his latest budget proposal, he asked Wisconsin public employees to contribute 5.8% toward their pensions, while state workers would have to pay 12.6% of their health insurance premiums.
He also wants to trim back collective bargaining rights for public employees, which expanded greatly over the last two years or Democrat control. According to the Wisconsin State-Journal, “the Democrats lifted limits on teacher raises, for example, and forbid arbitrators from considering local economic conditions when settling contract disputes.” Walker’s reforms would scale back collective bargaining rights, limiting them to negotiations over pay rates, in an effort to prevent the development of lavish and unsustainable benefit commitments.
Walker’s austerity measures have provoked insane fury from public union workers. The SEIU has gotten involved, helping to bring thousands of union supporters to protest at the state capitol, where they carried signs comparing Walker to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Propagandist Michael Moore pitched in via Twitter, calling Wisconsin “the new Cairo” and urging union members to “shut the state down.”
Amazingly, public-school teachers staged a massive “sick out,” actually closing down public schools in Madison on Wednesday and Thursday because so many of them refused to show up for work. Some of them illegally dragged their students to political rallies. The teachers union has admitted it contacted teachers and encouraged them to skip out of class so they could attend the rallies. Given the political clout of education union bosses, it comes as no surprise when WUWM News in Milwaukee reports that Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, will be contacting Governor Walker to pressure him on behalf of the unions. The President is also said to be “monitoring” the situation.
According to HTR News, protesters “questioned why money should be coming out of their pockets at a time when the governor and Republican-led Legislature have approved tax cuts of $140 million during a special legislative session earlier this year.” Yes, giving private citizens some of their own money back is evil, when luxurious union benefits need funding.
An instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College wailed, “I don’t understand why there can’t be enough good faith in the institutions that are working with these employees to make budgetary decisions and negotiate with the unions to come to some responsible decisions.” Maybe it’s because those institutions encourage illegal sick outs that result in schools closing down, and the teachers drag their students to political rallies where they compare the Governor to a deposed dictator?
The Wisconsin showdown is the inevitable result when insolvent state governments confront the unyielding demands of public unions. With outright exploitation of workers a thing of the past, especially in the public sector, the purpose of such a union is to extract greater compensation in exchange for political support. Benefit and pension commitments are the easiest way for politicians to pay off unions, since these promises don’t require immediate expenditures which might annoy taxpayers. When the commitments become unbearable, the union deploys its political weapons: protest rallies and strikes.
In the private sector, if management gives in to unreasonable union demands, the enterprise is eventually bankrupted. Governments don’t go bankrupt – they indulge in deficit spending or raise taxes. As long as we allow public sector unions to exist, they will be at war with the American taxpayer… and unions are quite willing to trample taxpayers, and their children, in orchestrated stampedes to maintain their power and benefits, no matter how dire the financial situation.
Governor Walker should take a page from the handbook of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and face the unions down. Every teacher who participated in the illegal strike, or brought students to political rallies, should be fired immediately. The taxpayers of Wisconsin don’t have Hollywood celebrities and millionaire union bosses to brew up angry mobs to press their demands. They don’t have the luxury of slipping away from jobs they’re already nervous about to march around the state capitol. The only thing they’ve got is a determined governor, who should join with his colleagues in other states to level the playing field between tax payers and tax consumers, by breaking the public unions once and for all.