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  • Union Rule

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on March 12th, 2011 (All posts by )

    The situation in Madison Wisconsin has been so well covered by Ann Althouse on her blog, that I have not felt it necessary to mention it. Yesterday, the situation began to change. This is what union rule would look like:

    The state Senators had passed the limited budget bill that included only the collective bargaining provisions. The Democrats had blocked the fiscal portions of the bill by fleeing the state two weeks ago. Walker has had this option since they left but he and Majority Leader FitzGerald, were negotiating with the Democrats in hopes the standoff could be ended. The negotiations (not reported by the MSM, of course) broke down when it became apparent that the Democrats are nationalizing this controversy. Walker then encouraged the Senate Republicans to go ahead with Plan B. They did and the law was signed by Walker yesterday.

    Why has this issue been so inflammatory? There are even leftist academics who are advocating serious violence.

    My prediction: 10 years from now public higher education, at least in many states, will have ceased to exist. 20 years from now state governments will realize that they still own the buildings and property on their former state university campuses and start charging us rent to use them. 25 years from now citizens will complain that they can’t afford to send their children to college–any college. But by then the peasant class will be so firmly established that it won’t really matter.

    Welcome to the 19th century.

    Meanwhile, the Republican criminals in Wisconsin forced through their attack on workers’ rights, leading to an uproar in Madison. (Thanks to Steve Nadler for the link.) At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified, an issue that has, oddly, not been widely addressed in political philosophy since Locke. (Ted Honderich’s somewhat controversial work on Palestinian terrorism is a recent exception.)

    Here is a respected academic advocating political violence on the pattern of the Palestinians. The Cloward-Piven Strategy lives again ! Naturally, the two authors were sociologists.

    Why has this rather routine process in a midwest state gotten such national attention? There are at least two reasons. One is that Obama has to win Wisconsin next year to be re-elected. Wisconsin has been a blue state for many years and was the origin of Progressivism with the La Follette family. It is even the origin of the public employee unions, as the AFSCME began there. However, the Republican swept state offices in the 2010 election. Why ?

    The wave of red crashed ashore in Wisconsin as well, as Republicans took over the governor’s mansion, a Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and the state legislature.

    Political newcomer Ron Johnson defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold by a comfortable 5-point margin, and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker took the governor’s office by a similar margin over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

    Republican Kurt Schuller defeated incumbent state Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass, and Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was re-elected.

    Secretary of State Doug LaFollette was the only Democrat left standing among statewide officeholders.
    Democrats lost control of both houses of the state legislature, making Wisconsin the only state in the nation where Democrats lost a governor’s office, a Senate seat and a complete legislature, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    Why the furor ? After all, the issues were not earth-shaking ones.

    Why did this happen ?

    State taxpayers were concerned about the fiscal situation. Walker had been left a huge deficit by his Democrat predecessor. Some of this was denied by the hard left which said that there was no deficit. This has been disproved.

    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.

    Actually, the alleged “new spending consists of promised tax breaks for employers who bring new jobs to the state. No new jobs, no tax breaks. Democrats have trouble with these matters. It requires math. The same left claims that the Social Security Trust Fund actually contains funds.

    The rebuttal:

    In other words, Walker’s decisions did impact the budget — but not necessarily the budget for this current fiscal year, which is facing $137 million shortfall.

    “The vast majority of the cost of those bills … will be in the next budget, the 2011-213 budget, which has not even been debated yet,” says Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute.

    Instead, this current year’s deficit is mainly due to other factors: the nearly $60 million Wisconsin owes Minnesota, and deficits in various state departments, including the corrections department, the medical assistance program, and the public defenders’ office.

    “This stuff [the Walker legislation] will add to the deficit of the upcoming budget, but it has no immediate impact,” says Healy. “Gov. Walker is trying to be responsible and actually do something to try to stop the bleeding. And for anyone to say that somehow he made the current situation worse is just plain wrong.”

    Ezra Klein, a 26 year old UCLA graduate with no financial experience seems to be the source of this accusation. Mr Klein would do well to study the matter more, even carefully reading the letter he quotes, before making accusations.

    Under the new law, government workers will vote annually on whether they wish to be represented by a union, and the state will not be compelled to extract union dues from employees’ paychecks on behalf of the unions. Health-care and pension benefits for government workers will be set by the people’s elected representatives outside of the union-dominated collective-bargaining process, and wage increases will be indexed to inflation. Government workers still will enjoy salary-and-benefit packages that in most cases exceed what those workers could hope to command in the private sector, along with such hard-to-price benefits as enhanced job security.

    That is the real source of the rage on the left: Mandatory union representation, empowered by mandatory collective bargaining and mandatory dues deductions enforced by the state, creates an enormous flow of cash for Democratic political candidates and their pet causes. From 1989 to the present, five of the ten biggest donors to American political campaigns have been labor unions, including public-sector unions such as the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The overwhelming majority of those donations go to Democrats. The union bosses and their Democratic patrons know that giving workers more of a choice about union representation will diminish that power and reduce that cash flow. That is what this is about, for all of the cheap talk about “civil rights” — as though federal employees in Washington were being treated like second-class citizens because their unions do not enjoy the same princely powers until now wielded by Wisconsin’s

    The provisions on union membership and mandatory dues collection are stilettos aimed at the heart of union political power. In Indiana, governor Mitch Daniels decertified public employee unions by executive order when he took office two years ago.

    On his first day Daniels reversed an executive order signed by a Democratic predecessor granting collective bargaining rights to state employees. Union membership plummeted overnight. “I think they were happy to have the extra thousand dollars that would have gone to dues,” Kitchell said. Decertifying the public-employees’ union has spared Indiana pressures that have crippled other state governments. Unhindered by union demands, the governor instituted a “pay for performance” scheme, rewarding state employees who met explicit goals with raises ranging from 4 percent to 10 percent. The salaries of underperforming employees stayed flat. No one was fired, but every time a job went vacant a supervisor had to justify hiring a replacement. The number of state employees has fallen from 35,000 to under 30,000, back where it was in 1982.

    Here, I think, is the heart of the Democrat/union fury at Scott Walker. Unions, especially public employee unions, are heavy hitters in politics and support Democrats almost exclusively. The push for “card check” by the Obama administration during the last Congress was an example of payback for union support. Private industry unions have found themselves unable to win elections in attempts to organize workers at non-union plants. Therefore, they have tried to get “card check” passed while the Democrats held Congress. Card check is a term for non-secret ballot elections. The voter has to make his vote public and therefore subject to the sort of pressure seen above in the video.

    incoming legislators would do well to heed the public’s desire for big government and big labor to step back and allow the free enterprise system and job creators to get our economy moving again.

    One of the signature issues of the election was the misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act” and its “card check” provision that would have effectively eliminated private ballot voting for employees deciding whether to join a union. Poll after poll warned that voters—including union households—would reject any attempt to circumvent the secret ballot, and they made good on their word. More than 40 candidates who had voted for, cosponsored, or endorsed EFCA were asked not to return—including at least 31 who co-sponsored the bill in the 111th Congress.

    It is important to note this was an American issue, rather than a partisan issue. In the Senate, eight candidates who supported card check lost while West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who came out against the bill, won. And voters in four states, Arizona, Utah, South Dakota, and South Carolina, passed measures to head off any potential efforts to kill secret ballots in their states.

    This is an issue related to that in Wisconsin. Unions need money and dues are the “mothers milk of politics” to quote Jesse Unruh, late political power in California. Why do they need money, aside for political power? You will not read this in the NY Times or LA Times but unions are in deep financial trouble.

    ‘We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama,” declared Andy Stern last month, and the president of the Service Employees International Union wasn’t exaggerating. The SEIU and AFL-CIO have been spending so much on politics that they’re going deeply into debt.

    That news comes courtesy of federal disclosure forms that unions file each year with the Department of Labor. The Bush Administration toughened the enforcement of those disclosure rules, but under pressure from unions the Obama Labor shop is slashing funding for such enforcement. Without such disclosure, workers wouldn’t be able to see how their union chiefs are managing their mandatory dues money.

    Alarm is coming even from inside the AFL-CIO — specifically, from Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who sits on the AFL-CIO’s finance committee. Bloomberg News reports that he is circulating a report claiming the AFL-CIO engaged in “creative accounting” to conceal financial difficulties heading into last year’s Presidential election. As recently as 2000, the union consortium of 8.5 million members had a $45 million surplus. By June of last year it had $90.6 million in liabilities, or $2.3 million more than its $88.3 million in assets. “If we are not careful, insolvency may be right around the corner,” Mr. Buffenbarger warned.

    Here may be the answer to the furious and violent reaction to Scott Walker. The dues provisions and annual election provision may cut union income by up to 90%, especially in a tight economy when that $1000 in dues money could come in very handy. After Mitch Daniels ended mandatory dues collection in Indiana, union dues income from public employees fell 95%. The recent furor and walkout by Democrats in Indiana concerns that new legislation would affect private unions and their dues. Daniels has suggested that the legislature delay this issue for now. The proposals would make Indiana a “right-to-work” state.

    By the end of 2008, the SEIU also owed Bank of America nearly $88 million, including its headquarters loan and another $10 million for unspecified purposes. This is the same BofA that the union has spent the past months attacking as the face of Wall Street excess. The SEIU has protested outside of Bank of America offices and demanded the resignation of CEO Ken Lewis. We assume no one forced the SEIU to invest in real estate or borrow from a bank to finance it.

    An SEIU spokeswoman says the union works on a four-year cycle, in which it goes “all out for the presidential election” and then rebuilds its finances. She adds the union has paid back more than $10 million of the $25 million it borrowed last year. But it’s nonetheless true that the SEIU’s liabilities have continued to climb each year from 2003 to 2008.

    The dues and annual election provisions, if copied by other states in serious fiscal peril, could cut the union movement off at the knees. That is where the fury originates.

     

    11 Responses to “Union Rule”

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      You are absolutely correct. It was never about workers rights, or any other high ground. It was always about the money.

      There was yet another enormous protest today. They might as well be shouting into a toilet since the bill is signed, sealed, and done. I just want all of these college kids, bused in folks from other states and other paid protesters to gtfo. Our capitol building and grounds are a disgrace. I hope the adults show up soon.

    2. Peter Says:

      The “leftist academic” cited does not “advocate” violence, he asks whether the deprivation of collective bargaining rights (which he thinks are “human rihgts”) would justify violence. It appears to be a philosophy blog, and the question is posed to philosophers.

    3. tyouth Says:

      From foxnews online:
      “Officials did not identify the person or release any more information other than to say she admitted writing and sending two e-mails threatening to kill Walker and some members of the state Senate. The suspect was not arrested and law enforcement officials do not believe she is a threat.”

      She’s a huge threat, even if she’s 90 years old and crippled. She’s a threat to the republic and open, fair government. She should be prosecuted to the max.

    4. veryretired Says:

      This was always about politics and money, money and politics. All the rest of the rhetoric and posturing is baloney.

      Public employee unions are wholly owned subsidiaries of the democratic party apparatus. Michael Barone described the symbiotic relationship very well in an analysis a few weeks ago. The relationship exists so that large sums of money can be extracted from taxpayers, given to stalwart supporters of liberal policies, and funnelled back through the union organizations to the democratic politicians who set the scam up to begin with.

      The 19th century, industrial school model is failing, and unlikely to survive another generation. Educational fads come and go like clothing or shoe styles, ephemeral not only in effect but also in their duration. As soon as another round of tests shows that things are only getting worse instead of better, the drumbeat starts for more money, and the implementation of the newest theory guaranteed to save education.

      Meanwhile, we relentlessly process millions of young people who are alternately bored silly or utterly disgusted with the mealy-mouthed nonsense and shallow drivel that constitutes what is called an education.

      The kids know its all a fraud. Many parents are starting to catch on, aghast that the most important formative years of their childrens’ lives are given over to multi-culti nonsense and intellectual pablum.

      There is a story in the Gospels in which Jesus says, “Who among you, if your child asked for bread, would hand him a stone? If he asked for water, would give him a serpent?”

      Well, all young people desire to know what life is, and how to go about living it successfully. And, instead of the jewels of knowledge we should be pouring into their lives, we are burying them in gravel.

      Politics in education has, just as everywhere else it touches, acted as a reverse philosopher’s stone—taken gold and turned it into base metal.

    5. Ginny Says:

      I thought it was corruption – when two people negotiate how much money (salary, retirement, campaign contributions) they can get from a third, corruption is inevitable. Money & power may tend to corrupt – but I thought that was why we put the obvious safeguards against self-interest.

    6. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      tyouth Says:
      March 12th, 2011 at 11:03 pm

      The suspect was not arrested and law enforcement officials do not believe she is a threat.”

      This is a grave error. Peter says Leiter’s piece is just a philosophical discussion, which I disagree with. Unless you count something like “What is to be done?” as a purely philosophical dissertation that no one would dream of putting into practice. Threats of violence, backed by an ideological justification, WILL be turned into physical action if the law deliberately looks the other way. The death threats are already becoming part of the accepted background noise, if made by Democrats and others on the Left. Similarly, the direct threats by Wisconsin police and fire department unions to boycott businesses that refuse to join them against Governor Walker, and the implied threat of withdrawal of police and fire protection in addition to the economic attacks are an affront to the rule of law. Besides giving the Democrats their favored tactic of deciding which citizens are in their good graces and can appeal to the law and which are beyond the law because of their political beliefs; it is an opening to the corruption that is endemic wherever Democrats have control.

      If the law is not applied to Democrats, be it for death threats or violations of 42 USC 1983; then the inevitable and imminent next step is going to be killings, and government thuggery. This woman needs to be prosecuted with a separate count for each threat to each person. Sending her to prison will be an object lesson that death threats will not be tolerated as part of the Democrats’ political tactics.

      I assume that Wisconsin’s criminal statutes have something about death threats and extortion. If they have a statute about terrorism, this may fall under that. But there has to be something beyond a pat on the popo, a wink, and a nod.

      Subotai Bahadur

    7. David Foster Says:

      “The suspect was not arrested and law enforcement officials do not believe she is a threat”

      It’s none of their business whether or not she is a threat: their concern should be whether there is probably cause to believe that she broke the law as written. “Law enforcement” is here arrogating to themselves the powers of both judiciary and legislature.

    8. cjm Says:

      all functions performed by union members — especially in public service unions — are in the process of being automated. this includes replacing “teachers”. and *that* is why they are doomed…

    9. Rurik Says:

      “The suspect was not arrested and law enforcement officials do not believe she is a threat.”

      So there are laws, but they are not emforced for all citizens alike. How does this differ from Brezhnev’s Soviet Union? They, too, had “rule of law” in theory, just applied unevenly. Would it be an offense if some citizen group were to protect legislators and businessmen by promises of retaliation in kind on a scale of ten for one? Not only the woman who wrote the threats, but the LEOs who declined to enforce the law should spend long periods in the “graybar hotel”. Otherwise we are all on the shortcut to “Spain 1936”.

    10. Michael Kennedy Says:

      The other group that has suffered catastrophic harm is the police officers who cooperated with the mob, allowing them into the capitol when it was supposed to be closed, and not defending observers who were attacked outside the capitol in view of police officers.

      There was a lie going around that Walker did not include the police unions because they “supported” him in the election. It was 4 of about 400 small unions that did support him. We will now see that the police unions will not be exempt from the next round and the public, having seen the scenes in spite of MSM obstruction, will be fine with that.

    11. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Peter, I will grant that a very narrow interpretation of the following could be construed as “philosophy.”

      Meanwhile, the Republican criminals in Wisconsin forced through their attack on workers’ rights, leading to an uproar in Madison. (Thanks to Steve Nadler for the link.) At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified, an issue that has, oddly, not been widely addressed in political philosophy since Locke.

      Of course, those of us used to academic rhetoric recognize the meaning quite well.