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  • The conservative argument in favor of public employee unions

       March 08, 2011

    I think most people are pretty dumb. However, there are some people whose opinion I respect that are firmly in the pro-union camp in Wisconsin. Contrary to popular belief, when I disagree with people I respect, I don't put my head in the sand, I try to figure out why and I actually do question if I'm wrong.

    I do think there's something wrong about public unions' place in our political lives. The unions automatically take money from employees and use that money to support the very political candidates that they'll negotiate with on their next contract. That doesn't seem right to me. If the government is beholden to the union, then who is representing the people?

    Of course, you can turn that argument around to every single corporate interest that gives money to politicians too, even if it's not as direct of an influence as contract negotiations.

    Two wrongs don't make a right though, right? The answer isn't to accept union influence, but it's rather to get rid of both corporate and union influence, isn't it?

    I know that the ultimate goal in Wisconsin is to get rid of public unions. I've pretty much bought into the idea that yeah, they serve no purpose anymore. Public employees don't need a union to protect themselves from their employer, the government, right? A ha! This is where I caught myself in some personal hypocrisy. I support the 2nd Amendment completely as a check on the power of government by the people. I certainly don't believe in the benign power of the state, so why shouldn't I support the unions as yet another counterbalance to that power?

    I think there are some serious problems with unions, but I'm finding room to compromise on this issue. What are the options for working to reform public employee unions rather than replace them? Honestly, I think that's way more important than simply cutting pay and benefits.

    I feel like no one is exploring that kind of middle ground. I think the issue in Wisconsin has simply devolved into a general leftist "Screw the man!" argument. I mean, once Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore come to town it's pretty much over, isn't it?

    Posted by kris at March 8, 2011 11:42 AM

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    #  March 8th, 2011 1:15 PM      cherlynda
    In my union we negotiate with the County Board. They are a bunch of old people. I doubt our union contributes to them. I know in a larger sense they contribute to the Demmocrats. I think the larger piece here is that it seems like Scott Walker is using public workers as a scapegoat for all the debt in the state. He is making people think that public workers make tons of money with loads of benefits. That is simply not so. Alot of those benefits were negotiated instead of raises. To me Walker is dividing the state and turning people against each other, to try to pass along his and others agenda.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 1:21 PM      kris
    Those benefits were negotiated because they were things the govt and the union knew they could give people and then they'd be long gone by the time the piper came calling.

    Now the piper's calling and so in the short term you can cut costs, but in the long term, don't you think we need to look at the process that created the problem in the first place?  
    #  March 8th, 2011 1:47 PM      james
    I think the larger piece here is that it seems like Scott Walker is using public workers as a scapegoat for all the debt in the state.

    Exactly. He's faulting them for expecting what what previously promised to them.

    Those benefits were negotiated because they were things the govt and the union knew they could give people and then they'd be long gone by the time the piper came calling.

    Not quite. Those benefits were negotiated by the government and the employees. You seem to have real problem wrapping your head around the idea that union is not some sort of third party monster, it is made up of actual people. They say Al Qaeda doesn't hate Americans, it just hates our government. The problem with that is that we are our government. Same damned thing. And attack on unions is an attack on the people just like an attack on America is an attack on her people.

    The government told these people "Yes, we agree that you're underpaid, but we don't have enough money to pay you more, so will you accept this pension plan instead?" The workers said "sure, deal done," and now the government is making them out to be greedy for holding the government to their end of the bargain. It's offensive.

    How would you feel if you won the state lottery, agreed to the 20 year payment schedule, then after 5 years the government decided that it was just too expensive to pay you? "Sorry, lottery winner. We know that was what we agreed to, but we have a deficit now, so you're out of luck. Besides, look at the people who didn't win the lottery - they think you're greedy for expecting what was promised to you."

    Constantly changing administrations & representatives are one reason we need an organization like a union watching out for its members.

    Your constant quest for a compromise is offensive. Segregation was a great compromise, wasn't it? Or how about the 3/5 compromise? You'd have been sitting there saying, "Well I'm finding middle ground, why isn't the other side willing to do the same? They are unreasonable." This is a human rights issue, not some merger negotiation.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 1:53 PM      kris
    Please explain how this is a "human rights" issue. I've heard other people say that, but I have no idea what the hell you mean by it.

    If you think I'm offensive by trying to listen to a bunch of different viewpoints, I don't even know what to call YOU comparing this to segregation or other comparing it to the Nazis. Give me a break.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 1:55 PM      kris
    Also, the state might very NOT pay its pension obligations, which is why public employees really should be pissed off at their own unions for negotiating for future benefits in lieu of current benefits for so many years.

    It's not impossible that the state declare bankruptcy rather than cut services/raise taxes to pay out future benefits  
    #  March 8th, 2011 2:02 PM      cherlynda
    I think you can compare it to Nazi Germany in that Walker is making the states people turn against each other. He is suggesting to everyone that the reason we are in debt is because of the unions. But that is not the reason, the reason is Wallstreet, the banks etc etc. So like Hitler making the German people think the reason the economy was so bad was because the Jews were taking all the money. To me it is about that. I think this is the issue everyone should be upset about.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 2:03 PM      kris
    Cherie, you absolutely CAN'T compare it to Nazi Germany and the fact that you are means that we've hit Godwin's law and no further reasonable discussion can happen.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 2:09 PM      james
    cherlynda, you're exactly right.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 2:09 PM      cherlynda
    Please, it is Cherlynda. Well you have got to know that he knows that a lot of people think government is to large. He is playing on that and also suggesting that we can get along with out so many teachers, nurses, etc. That is really putting us all in danger. I think he is ignorant of what jobs other people do. He is suggesting that these jobs have no value and he will simply lay us off cause no one needs us. If you were a teacher, nurse or other public employee I think you would find this highly insulting. I would love to see Walker in the hospital without a nurse, or in a school with few teachers etc etc..this cannot possibly make the state better. Why not raise the state tax by 2% like illinois did after they decreased the FICA tax by 2%..nobody would feel a thing. I do not understand why he is doing what he is doing and it is not right.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 2:23 PM      kris
    Cherlynda (sorry!), increasing the state tax wouldn't have been a bad idea to temporarily balance the budget. You're right.

    Personally, I have no problem with the money someone else makes when they're working. I do have some problems with sweetheart deals where people can manipulate the system to get sweetheart deals. I also have a problem with WEAC in particular because I think they're typically a barrier to any kind of educational innovation that doesn't involve "smaller class sizes!" (i.e. hire more teachers).

    I also think that the market tanked a lot of these pension funds and we legitimately are on the hook for money we don't have right now and we can't just get by "taxing the rich" because we do compete with other states and while Wisconsin is completely awesome, we do have to have a competitive business environment. I certainly wish the state would have done more to, for example, keep my old employer in the state. Those were a ton of good jobs, jobs that I certainly feel were not at all valued by the governor or mayor at the time.

    #  March 8th, 2011 2:26 PM      cherlynda
    I think you are missing the point. It is the tactics that he is using.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 2:29 PM      kris
    What tactics? Because he won't talk to the Dems to compromise? He has the votes right now, I don't know what the Dems can offer him as a compromise.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 2:51 PM      kris
    Oh, do you mean that the blame for the budget is being placed on employees?

    Yeah, I get that. I can't find a figure that says what percentage of the Wisconsin budget is salary and benefits. There's some info on other states that maybe it's around 40%, so if it's similar in Wisconsin, then yeah, reducing those costs are going to be a focus just because they're a huge piece of the pie.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 3:04 PM      BVBigBro
    "This is a human rights issue." Exactly.

    It's about my human right as a citizen to control the size and scope of government.

    You can have collective bargaining all you want but it cannot be binding upon the state, its citizens and its future citizens without depriving them of their most fundmental right of all.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 4:45 PM      cherlynda
    I have to think of it in terms of a human rights issue. I can't get caught up in the republican vs. demmocrat issues. When the demms call conservatives names all I hear is them putting dad down. So politics is personal. But I feel confident is saying that the public employees did not cause the problem. We are hard working people just like you. We already said we would pay more retirement. (even though we could fight that too). It is wrong however to single out one group of people and lay the blame on them. I think you two spent a lot of years in a house with a very vocal republican. I think that republican would see this as wrong. Remember the unions bargained with the goverments on many levels...they never said they did not have the money and agreed to those terms. That is not my fault or any other public employee.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 5:41 PM      kris
    so by "human rights" do you basically mean that it's not fair that they took their jobs with one compensation package and now are being asked to take a worse one? Because, yeah, I agree, that's not fair. The first job I had here sent me an offer letter with certain benefits and then a month after I started they eliminated some of them and that sucked and it was unfair. Same thing for retirees that had their medical benefits cut by their employers. But I don't think any of that rises to the level of "human rights". To me, that means something like banning gay marriage or segregation.

    This is about money & power.

    That's kind of the sad thing. Do you think 14 senators would hide out in Illinois to stop a vote on some bs "Defense of Marriage Act"? Of course not.

    Cherlynda, on an unrelated note, but still on the subject of money & power - I've seen a bit of Y&R lately and I'm stunned that they actually let Victor lose. It's about time!  
    #  March 8th, 2011 5:53 PM      cherlynda
    Yeah, I think Y&R should make him a homeless drunk on the streets of GC. Then his children can walk by him in disdain..I think having him like that would be a great story line. And I guess we agree to disagree.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 5:56 PM      kris
    I don't care that we disagree, I just think it's not a black & white issue and there's opportunities for compromise, that's all.

    I wonder if the Y&R writers are kicking themselves now for not letting Jack win the WI State Senate race a few years back - he could have been a part of all of this!

    #  March 8th, 2011 6:28 PM      cherlynda
    I am watching todays show now. I think Victor is really going to try to get Neal. But I am glad the kids won. Victor is an ass.  
    #  March 8th, 2011 6:33 PM      kris
    I love that Neil did Victor in. Victor deserves it for a) being an ass and b)screwing Neil over for promotions year after year

    heh - love how a discussion can morph from Wisconsin politics to Y&R - unless, of course, you're prepared to move it back with a deep discussion of how Scott Walker is like Victor Newman, the unions are like Nick, Abby & Victoria and Neil represents the general public.  



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