Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 10:42 am
Haven't seen too much discussion of the anti-union plans and activities of newly elected Republican Gov. Walker in Wisconsin.

Here's a background piece:

Quote:
Wisconsin, Ohio Target Government Union Contracts
By Mark Niquette - Feb 18, 2011 7:25 AM PT

The Wisconsin Legislature may pass a bill as early as tomorrow restricting collective bargaining for public employees and requiring them to pay more health-care and pension costs. The plan prompted protests and even a sleep-in under the Capitol rotunda.

Similar efforts are under way by Republican governors including Chris Christie in New Jersey and John Kasich in Ohio as part of efforts to deal with deficits. States face gaps that may reach $125 billion next year, according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.

“Wisconsin is broke, just like about every state is broke,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said today in a telephone interview. “It’s about time people have the courage to stand up, point that out, and do something about it.”

Walker said he has the legislative support to enact the bill and that “it passes, no doubt about it.”

Unions staged demonstrations at the Wisconsin and Ohio statehouses this week. Schools in the Wisconsin capital of Madison canceled classes today because 40 percent of the 2,600 union members called in sick, according to the Associated Press.

University of Wisconsin-Madison students and teaching assistants lay down in sleeping bags in the Capitol during a hearing that lasted until 3 a.m. today, and there was a second straight day of demonstrations -- including chants of “Recall Walker now” outside the governor’s office, the news service reported.

‘Fundamental Underpinning’

The right to negotiate through a union is “a fundamental underpinning of our middle class,” Phil Neuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO president, said in a statement. “Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of hard-working Wisconsinites, we need to come up with a balanced approach that looks at shared sacrifice from everyone.”

The bill would allow public workers except police and firefighters to bargain only for wages. It would require them to pay 5.8 percent of their pension costs -- they pay nothing now - - and 12 percent of health-care premiums, up from 6 percent, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said in a telephone interview.

Walker, a Republican elected last year, proposed the measure in response to a projected deficit of $137 million in the current fiscal year and $3.6 billion in the next biennium. The bill would allow the state to save $30 million in the current fiscal year and $300 million in the next biennium.

The alternative is firing up to 6,000 state employees, the governor said.
Fateful Weekend

Fitzgerald said he expects the bill to reach Walker’s desk by the weekend. Republicans control the Assembly by a margin of 60 to 38 with one independent, and Republicans have a five-seat advantage in the Senate.

The bill wouldn’t affect employees until their contracts expire, said Peter G. Davis, general counsel of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

Public workers in Wisconsin and Ohio are not required to join unions though they may be required to pay “fair share” dues if that provision is part of the contract where they work, said Davis and Sally Meckling, spokeswoman for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the largest state union.
Meanwhile, in Columbus

In Ohio, lawmakers are holding hearings on a bill to prohibit collective bargaining for all state workers and restrict it for other public employees, while abolishing salary schedules in favor of merit pay, according to an analysis by the Ohio Legislative Services Commission.

The state’s collective-bargaining law was passed in 1983 under Democratic leadership and the goal of the current effort is to “restore some balance between management and labor,” Kasich told reporters yesterday.

Firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees crowded into the Ohio Statehouse yesterday to oppose the bill as a Senate committee heard testimony from proponents.

Witnesses with opposing views are scheduled tomorrow. The Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of about 60 Tea Party groups, said in a statement that it plans to rally at the statehouse against what it called “one of Ohio’s most important threats -- the prosperity-killing public-employee unions and collective bargaining.”


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-18/wisconsin-ohio-target-government-union-contracts-correct-.html

Hard to see this as anything but an ideological attack on unions for no reason at all. Walker ginned up this entire 'financial crisis' by passing a lot of new pro-business spending as soon as he took office, with no plans on how to pay for it. He then used that 'shortfall' to justify union-busting.

Quote:
In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state's budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.


http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/wisconsin-gov-walker-ginned-up-budget-shortfall-to-undercut-worker-rights.php?ref=fpa

Anyone actually in Wisconsin have some perspective on this?

The state went 56% for Obama in 2010, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the events today have a lasting effect when it comes to future elections.

Cycloptichorn
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Type: Discussion • Score: 36 • Views: 57,004 • Replies: 1,415

 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 10:47 am
@Cycloptichorn,
Here's a discussion of how this isn't just an assault on teachers or teachers' unions. It's a systematic attack on every single public employee in the State.

Quote:
What Most People Don't Understand About the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill

by Puddytat

I have been attending the rallies, watching the coverage, reading the blogs and comments and come to the conclusion that most people don't know the true horror of this bill. I have come to set the record straight particularly when I saw a Front Page Diary here on Daily Kos that, again, talks about this bill only affecting state workers.

There is no fiscal crisis in Wisconsin. Governor Walker reports a nearly 130 million dollar deficit, but doesn't report that he caused it by giving a 140 million dollar tax break to large multinational corporations here in Wisconsin (e.g. WalMart). However, this cover story gives him an excuse to do the unthinkable.

State workers in Wisconsin have been without contracts for some time. The latest agreement (containing major concessions) was not passed by the State Legislature last year due to political maneuvering which led one Democrat to vote against it (he was later rewarded with a position in the new Walker administration).

But that's not really what I came to talk about. I came to talk about a so-called Budget Repair Bill to solve a fake budget crisis without addressing the budget at all.

So, what's in the bill? Prohibition of any unions or collective bargaining for most state workers. Those that continue to have any union representation at all will be limited to bargaining for wages only which will have a mandatory limit which will be set annually by the State Legislature. So, basically, the boss will tell you how much you are permitted to ask for.

No collective bargaining over insurance (so employees can be given high deductible junk insurance with no say in the matter), benefits, pensions, holidays or personal days, vacation, working conditions, adequate staffing, class size, worker safety issues, mandatory overtime, shift selection, requests for days off, etc.

If that wasn't bad enough, union dues would no longer be collected through payroll deduction so the unions would have to collect the dues themselves member by member. On top of that, unions would need to recertify every year . This is the same process that is used when employees band together to form a union in the first place; a process already so onerous and difficult (therefore, profitable to the many union-busting firms across this country) that new unions and locals are rarely formed.

Think that's bad? The real hidden horror is that Scott Walker didn't stop with state employees, but extended the impact of the bill to all city, town, village, and county employee in the State of Wisconsin. That's the real reason that thousands of public employees are in Madison. It's why non-public employee unions are supporting us. It's why students, patients, and citizens in general have joined us.

I'm just a retired Milwaukee Country Registered Nurse. My voice doesn't count. Sometimes I wonder if all my activism counts. But my voice and my activism count today as I join with thousands of proud Wisconsinites to protest the rise of a Dictator.

I hope I've educated you to the realities of this bill. Thanks for all the support, comments, and love that we get here. Kossack love is like no otherr.


http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/18/946466/-What-Most-People-Dont-Understand-About-the-Wisconsin-Budget-Repair-Bill

The right to self-organize and demand representation against management is a fundamental right of labor in this country. The right-wing constantly demeans this right, because they really don't give a **** about labor or anything but profits. When it comes to public sector employees, they see them as some sort of serfs - people who should be paid very little to serve those who 'actually contribute' to society.

And then these guys wonder why these groups tend to vote Democratic in elections.

Cycloptichorn
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 10:49 am
@Cycloptichorn,
every public employee, except cops and firefighters...

why are they special?
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 10:52 am
@Rockhead,
Rockhead wrote:

every public employee, except cops and firefighters...

why are they special?


Because their unions supported Walker in the last election, that's why.

Great point, Rockhead, and really gives the lie to the bullshit line they are pulling.

Cycloptichorn
Irishk
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 10:52 am
@Cycloptichorn,
Do you ever read Ann Althouse's blog? She's a law professor from Madison - an Obama supporter - and is directly affected by the recent events. Although I'm not a regular reader, I generally check in whenever there's news from that area of the country. She can be both amusing and pithy.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 11:11 am
@Irishk,
Irishk wrote:

Do you ever read Ann Althouse's blog? She's a law professor from Madison - an Obama supporter - and is directly affected by the recent events. Although I'm not a regular reader, I generally check in whenever there's news from that area of the country. She can be both amusing and pithy.


And not a little crazy from time to time. She does have a balanced take on this, although her paragraph here -

Quote:
So maybe we public employees in Wisconsin are a great target — a great starting place for what is a national movement by the Republicans. I'm trying to understand the party politics. Tell me if this is correct: There are vast numbers of public employees, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Once elected, the Democrats create more and more public jobs with greater and greater benefits, and, consequently, more voters who are even more locked into voting for Democrats. This is a cycle that approaches political graft, and the Republicans, to win, must overcome all those passionate, self-interested Democratic voters. Why wouldn't the Republicans embrace a strategy hostile to the public employees? Why wouldn't they drive a wedge between the public employees and all the other citizens in the state?


- seems a little callous. Ostensibly the Democrats 'create more and more public sector jobs' because they feel those jobs are necessary to address a public need. It also seems to posit that all these people automatically vote Democratic. I don't think that's true; witness the Firefighter and Police union support for Walker in the last election, even though Dems have fought to increase their numbers and their pay over time.

On the Republican side, it's a crowd-pleaser for sure. From the commentary that you see in a lot of places, many Conservatives see public employees as one step up from scum, and so attacking them makes the base very, very happy - despite the fact that these people depend on these same services as much as anyone else does.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 11:14 am
I went to UW-Madison and live in Columbus, my Facebook page is alight with people here and there. (One status update from a Madison friend: "Forward! Forward! Forward!") (WI state motto.) Big protest here yesterday that I didn't know about until after the fact.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 11:16 am
This is a bit off topic but still relevant....

Someone sent me a link to this the other day -- pretty interesting in light of what is going on in Wisconsin

0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 12:14 pm
Quote:
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said his Democratic peers "are burning a serious bridge" by leaving the state to stall passage of Gov. Walker's budget repair bill. Troopers were sent to Minority Leader Mark Miller's home, but there was no answer, so they headed back to the Capitol. http://host.madison.com/wsj/


Plus comments from the locals
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 12:19 pm
@JPB,
I saw somewhere that they're in various "undisclosed locations" in Illinois.

Hey do you have one in your basement JPB? Fess up. Wink
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 12:20 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Quote:
Because their unions supported Walker in the last election, that's why.


Any governments that wish to suppress parts of it citizen’s population for the benefit of the ruling class need to keep the police force happy.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 12:29 pm
http://mediamatters.org/research/201102180012

In Fact, Walker's Tax Policies Have Reportedly Caused Budget Shortfall
TPM: Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau Says "Current Budget Shortfall Is A Direct Result" Of Walker's Tax Cut Policies. Talking Points Memo reported on February 17 that the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau stated that "the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office." From TPM:

[T]his broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office. [Talking Points Memo, 2/17/11]

Institute For Wisconsin Future Research Director: "Walker Was Not Forced Into A Budget Repair Bill By Circumstances Beyond [His] Control." TPM further reported:

"Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he [sic] control," says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future -- a public interest think tank. "He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts... so he could rush through these other changes."

"The state of Wisconsin has not reached the point at which austerity measures are needed," Norman adds. [Talking Points Memo, 2/17/11]

WI Fiscal Bureau: "More Than Half" Of The Budget Shortfall A Result Of Walker Initiatives. As TPM reported, the Wisconsin fiscal bureau's report "holds that 'more than half' of the new shortfall comes from three of Walker's initiatives." From TPM:

You can read the fiscal bureaus report here (PDF). It holds that "more than half" of the new shortfall comes from three of Walker's initiatives:

· $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation, which still holds $73 million because of anemic job growth.

· $48 million for private health savings accounts -- a perennial Republican favorite.

· $67 million for a tax incentive plan that benefits employers, but at levels too low to spur hiring.

In essence, public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda. "The provisions in his bill do two things simultaneously," Norman says. "They remove bargaining rights, and having accomplished that, make changes in the benefit packages." That's how Walker's plan saves money. And when it's all said and done, these workers will have lost their bargaining rights going forward in perpetuity. [Talking Points Memo, 2/17/11, Wisconsin Fiscal Bureaus Report, accessed 2/18/11]

0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 12:30 pm
@sozobe,
Cool
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 12:37 pm
ALL IS WELL!!!! Reverend photo op is on the scene!!!

Quote:
The Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived around noon Friday, speaking to the near-capacity crowd for about 5 minutes. From the second level of the Capitol rotunda, he led the crowd in chants including "Save the teachers. Save the children." Protesters swayed as Jackson led them in a rendition of the song, "We Shall Overcome." More
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 12:47 pm
@JPB,
Oh dear.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 01:01 pm
@sozobe,
Ted Strickland showed up at the protests here, I'd love to see Russ Feingold at the Madison ones. (Maybe he's already been there and I just haven't seen anything.)

Just looked around, he's talking about it but doesn't seem to be on site.

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/116430174.html
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 01:15 pm
@sozobe,
He's getting slammed in the comments at the bottom of the article in the link.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 01:15 pm
Quote:
Posted at 9:36 AM ET, 02/18/2011
Unions aren't to blame for Wisconsin's budget
By Ezra Klein

Let's be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions.
That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp rise in collective bargaining in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country's labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet, state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country.

Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession.

Of course, the fact that public-employee pensions didn't cause a meltdown at Lehman Brothers doesn't mean they're not stressing state budgets, and that the pensions they've been promised don't exceed what state budgets seem able to bear. But the buildup of global capital that overheated the American housing sector and got packaged into seemingly riskless financial products that then brought down Wall Street, paralyzing the economy, throwing millions out of work, and destroying the revenues from state income and sales taxes even as state residents needed more social services? The answer to that is not to end collective bargaining for (some) public employees. A plus B plus C does not equal what Gov. Scott Walker is attempting in Wisconsin.

In fact, it particularly doesn't work for what Walker is attempting in Wisconsin. The Badger State was actually in pretty good shape. It was supposed to end this budget cycle with about $120 million in the bank. Instead, it's facing a deficit. Why? I'll let the state's official fiscal scorekeeper explain (pdf):
Quote:

More than half of the lower estimate ($117.2 million) is due to the impact of Special Session Senate Bill 2 (health savings accounts), Assembly Bill 3 (tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses), and Assembly Bill 7 (tax exclusion for new employees).

In English: The governor called a special session of the legislature and signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health-care policy experiment that lowers overall tax revenues (among other things). The new legislation was not offset, and it turned a surplus into a deficit. As Brian Beutler writes, "public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda."

But even that's not the full story here. Public employees aren't being asked to make a one-time payment into the state's coffers. Rather, Walker is proposing to sharply curtail their right to bargain collectively. A cyclical downturn that isn't their fault, plus an unexpected reversal in Wisconsin's budget picture that wasn't their doing, is being used to permanently end their ability to sit across the table from their employer and negotiate what their health insurance should look like.

That's how you keep a crisis from going to waste: You take a complicated problem that requires the apparent need for bold action and use it to achieve a longtime ideological objective. In this case, permanently weakening public-employee unions, a group much-loathed by Republicans in general and by the Republican legislators who have to battle them in elections in particular. And note that not all public-employee unions are covered by Walker's proposal: the more conservative public-safety unions -- notably police and firefighters, many of whom endorsed Walker -- are exempt.

If you read Walker's State of the State address, you can watch him hide the ball on what he's doing. "Our upcoming budget is built on the premise that we must right size our government," he said. "That means reforming public employee benefits -- as well as reforming entitlement programs and reforming the state’s relationship with local governments." Not a word on his actual proposal, which is to end collective bargaining for benefits.

If all Walker was doing was reforming public employee benefits, I'd have little problem with it. There's too much deferred compensation in public employee packages, and though the blame for that structure lies partially with the government officials and state residents who wanted to pay later for services now, it's true that situations change and unsustainable commitments require reforms. But that's not what Walker is doing. He's attacking the right to bargain collectively -- which is to say, he's attacking the very foundation of labor unions, and of worker power -- and using an economic crisis unions didn't cause, and a budget reversal that Walker himself helped create, to justify it.

And it's not as if public employees aren't hurting. In the Wisconsin budget report I quoted earlier, the state's fiscal bureau goes on to survey the state of the economy. "Going forward, Global Insight expects private sector payrolls to grow by 2.1 million in 2011, 2.6 million in 2012, and 2.5 million in 2013. Projected cutbacks in the number of public sector employees, however, are expected to partially offset those private sector gains. In 2010, the number of state and local government employees fell by an estimated 208,000 positions. In 2011, those cutbacks are expected to total an additional 150,000 positions." In other words, private jobs are coming back, but state and local jobs are still being lost. Public-employee unions are on the mat. Walker is trying to make sure they don't get back up.

By Ezra Klein | February 18, 2011; 9:36 AM ET


http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/02/unions_arent_to_blame_for_wisc.html

Cycloptichorn
failures art
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 01:22 pm
Quote:
Fox News' coverage of the Wisconsin protests over Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to eliminate public employees' collective bargaining rights, among other things, has been marked with repeated attacks on the protesters. However, by contrast, Fox has relentlessly promoted and even encouraged viewers to participate in tea party and "Tax Day" protests over the past few years.


Fox's Double Standard on WI Protests

A
R
T
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Feb, 2011 05:13 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Wisconsin Gov. Walker Ginned Up Budget Shortfall To Undercut Worker Rights

Quote:
Wisconsin's new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker's collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.

The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

...
 

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