A couple of union-busting pundits put pen to paper to tell the public-sector unions in Wisconsin — and everywhere — that the days of wine and roses ended long ago. In a time of fiscal crisis at the federal, state, and local level, the public cannot be expected to float Cadillac pensions and benefit plans, nor to have public policy and governance to be held hostage to union bosses. Unions have become the antithesis of democracy in Wisconsin, says … Time Magazine’s Joe Klein?
Revolutions everywhere–in the middle east, in the middle west. But there is a difference: in the middle east, the protesters are marching for democracy; in the middle west, they’re protesting against it. I mean, Isn’t it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting “Freedom, Democracy, Union” while trying to prevent a vote? Isn’t it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn’t it interesting that some of those who–rightly–protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in the Wisconsin Senate?
An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can’t be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters.
Klein calls the demonstrations in Madison “the hemlock revolution,” and says that the unions want to continue an ‘egregious” imbalance in public policy:
But we’ve had far too many state legislatures, of both parties, that have been cowed by the political power of the unions and enacted contracts that force state and city governments to be run for the benefit of their employees, rather than for their citizens. This situation is most egregious in far too many school districts across the nation.
However, at CNN, reliable liberal commentator Roland Martin backs the union play 100%. Right? Er …
The feud between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and that state’s employees has all of a sudden become ground zero in the battle between efforts by the GOP to shut down unions as they exist, and those same union workers desperate to hold on to long-fought-for wages and benefits.
This pitched battle is clearly a precursor to the 2012 elections, but it is also the latest shot across the bow of union purists who are relentless in waging a war against government and business for the benefit of their members. …
Walker wants public employees in Wisconsin to pay more for health care benefits and to contribute to their pension plans. Frankly, those are reasonable requests.
Just a few weeks ago, unions called those requests “slavery.” Now they want to concede those points in order to avoid a bigger issue:
Where he has largely run into trouble is the effort to end the collective bargaining rights of the various public employees.
That’s inaccurate. What Walker and the GOP have proposed in the bill is to require all public-sector unions (except police and firefighters) to conduct annual recertification votes, to limit collective bargaining to wages only — not policy and work environment issues — and to end the “closed shop” in the government sector. Union dues would become voluntary, and the unions will have to collect them rather than have the state do it for them. Government employees would still have the right to collectively bargain salaries, and could still choose a union to represent them. Walker’s proposal would set those terms statewide so that each local jurisdiction would operate from the same rules, allowing them more flexibility to trim costs and bring more efficiency to the public sector.
Martin says this comes down to “basic economics” and that unions face a rather stark choice:
No one likes to lose benefits. We all want what was promised years ago. However, it is simply not going to happen. As long as these budget deficits are staring taxpayers in the eye, unions are putting themselves in a difficult situation by thinking they will not have to give something back.
Otherwise, union workers will end up like the police and firefighters in Camden, N.J.; playing hardball, only to see a mayor slash their jobs and leave half of the cops with no jobs, no health care and limited future choices.
These budgets will get cut one way or the other. Either unions can get on board and protect their membership as much as possible in the transition, or they can lose big chunks of their membership — and still lose the overall battle. When Roland Martin and Joe Klein admit the obvious, the unions are in a very lonely place indeed.