For the Children?

The heat is on, and in a big way. I have been writing about the new governor in Wisconsin, Scott Walker and his bold moves on the budget. The government workers unions have mobilized fully, organizing large demonstrations on the capital square. Traffic was snarled yesterday here in downtown Madison. We had a customer in the area who desperately needed materials. We had to wait until after hours to get to their facility, but we took care of them and they were very happy with our service.

Today, I believe, is the last day for the demonstrations. I did see a Repbublican guy on the news last night who said that he has the votes to get this legislation through.

But I think today the unions will have pushed their demonstrations too far.

City of Madison schools are closed today, due to a “sick out” by the teachers, who will all be on the square protesting the cuts. I don’t really know for sure, but I am betting that the teachers will get paid for today, and will not lose a sick day.

But the parents of the children won’t be so lucky, unless they have generous employers. Those parents who have to scramble for day care and can’t find any will have to EAT a sick day or a vacation day – or simply won’t get paid since they have to stay home and take care of their kids and can’t make it to their jobs. This is the real world and how it works. I think this would be the best lesson for the kids to learn today, since their normal lessons won’t be taught.

7 thoughts on “For the Children?”

  1. I do like the reforms up in Wisconsin. It is a stark contrast to our status quo die-hard blue state.

    I am not sure I understand what lesson the kids at home learn, though. Are they learning that government workers have rights that their parents don’t have? Are they learning that the people that teach them care more about their benefits (all out of synch with the public sector) then they do about the children that they are teaching?

    Whomever on the left said “never let a crisis go to waste” is finding a believer in your governor. With the economy picking up a bit but still reeling it is time to wrest the power away from the unions, especially since as a Republican they are stone against him anyways.

  2. What lessons are the students going to learn? Dunno, the teachers could actually do better by avoiding the rally, appearing before their classes, and teaching a lesson on, say, the Pullman Strike, what kind of bad things can happen from an across-the-board pay cut, and how George M Pullman went down in history as a villain.

    I am not saying this by way of snark: I mean this in all seriousness. Teachers have a very powerful bully pulpit in the form of their classrooms, the Labor Movement is an important part of American History and a completely legitimate topic of classroom discussion, and the classroom instructor has considerable control over how that subject is presented. That bully pulpit is a much more powerful tool of persuasion than some rally on the Square.

    There are three components, however, to the proposed Budget Repair bill.

    One component is an across-the-board pay cut of state workers, and yes, when your salary is held fixed and fringes formerly paid by your employer are now deducted from your salary, that is indeed a pay cut. That I-work-in-the-private-sector-and-have-had-my-paycheck-reduced-by-the-increased-benefits-contributions-deal-and-you-get-no-sympathy-from-me-pal may indeed be how the politics of this plays out. I believe that most state workers understand the need for shared sacrifice and accept the reasoning behind this pay cut, which I will get to next.

    A second component is a broad-based rollback of unions in government employment. The first component may be a necessity, but the second component may be Scott Walker’s response to the Obama administration’s (cough, Rahm Emanuel, cough) “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” That tactic, of using the contingency of the near-term crisis to advance one’s long-term idealogical agenda, was probably a bad move from the Obama people then, and time will tell if it is a bad move from the Walker people now.

    Unlike some other place and time (cough, California, cough) the union representatives in Wisconsin are not acting unreasonably under the circumstances. Based on their calls to “bargain with us” I have watched on the TV news, they are much as signalling that they understand the necessity of the across-the-board pay reduction and are hinting broadly that they would agree to it if presented in contract negotiations, and they are as much as begging to be allowed to agree to whatever is asked in order to maintain the union as the bargaining agent.

    The third component of the Budget Repair is an attempt to deal with health insurance costs by requiring that every State employee submit to some manner of health assessment. I suppose if a person doesn’t smoke and a person doesn’t drink and a person watches what they eat, you may still get some kind of health demerit on on your employment record for being middle aged and having a BMI over some cutoff. This sort of health assessment deal is not universal in the private sector, but it is annoying and demeaning to workers of those forward-looking business concerns that have adopted it. We are already consigning smokers to a ghetto, and for those of you with a sweat tooth (adult onset weight-induced Type II diabetes!), the Michelle Obama reforms of carrot-sticks-and-celery-for-snacks at the canteen will go into effect.

    One last question for Dan From Madison, Lexington Green, Wisconsin Cheesehead and others. Why this great concern about the protests, the rallies-on-the-square, the de-facto wildcat strike by the Madison teachers? Scott Walker has the votes to enact the Budget Repair, Governor Walker along with enough the State Legislature believe that the either the political climate is on their side (folks in Madison get a rather one-sided picture), and the workers protesting this can rally and chant all they want, but it doesn’t look to be changing much of anything.

    So Dan From Madison and one of his customers were inconvenienced by the traffic tieup on the Square yesterday. That seems to be a small, small price to pay to let a bunch of disgruntled government workers blow off some steam. If Univeral Health Care is the dream of the Liberal-Left, Right-to-Work is perhaps the dream of the Conservative-Libertarian-Right, and it is indeed historic that Scott Walker is willing to take some political heat to do that. So what about the protests and rallies has people around here so worried?

  3. Sweet tooth. So much for the power of the educational system.

    I agree with you that the defacto strike of Madison school teachers actually advances the anti-union cause. So again, why the worry for parents who bear costs with their kids being at home today? Madison parents are perhaps for the most part sympathetic with the teachers, and for those Madison parents who are not, it is perhaps a small price to pay in advance of Right-to-Work?

  4. Paul – I don’t have any real concern about the rallies – as you note the Republicans have the votes and all the sign waving in the world doesn’t seem to be able to do anything about it. I was just documenting this so people could see how it was going down, and to show how Walker is doing a great job (so far).

    The example I laid out of the teachers costing the people money/time/vacation days has proven to be valid, at least in my little world. Most of the people I have talked to/interacted with are not happy about the “sickout” and have no sympathy toward the teachers. Almost universally they accept that the state workers have to take cuts like the rest of the working stiffs.

  5. Is anybody organizing a Support Walker counter-protest?

    It should be on a Saturday so people with private sector jobs and businesses can attend.

    Where is the Dane County Tea Party, to get the counter-protest going? ;)

  6. This just demonstrates the inherent anti-democratic nature of public sector unions i.e. such unions gives an arbitrary group of people control over a public resource or service which that group can then use for their own enrichment.

    Why the hell should teachers be able to shut down schools just because they work there? The functioning of schools should be under the sole control of elected officials. Why does the mere fact that someone gets hired to manage or implement a public resource or service give that person the right to withhold that resource or service from the people who voted and pay for that public good?

    Imagine if we let businesses do that! We would never say that a business that contracted with the state had the right to shutdown a public service if the business didn’t get the contract it wanted.

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