Thursday, February 17, 2011

Walker's Anti-Union Plan

Alright.  I am most certainly not pro Union.  But the proposal by new Wisconsin governor Scott Walker disgusts me.  As a Libertarian, I believe that in the areas where government does need to be involved (police and fire protection, education, infrastructure, etc.) it needs to be run like a business.  Most Republicans, I'm sure, would spout that line as well.  They point to the fact that the government must be fiscally responsible.  I would also argue that beyond fiscal responsibility, this means that they must find the most effective way to provide services, and treat their employees with the same dignity and respect that they expect private businesses to.

On that note, I have two major issues with what little I have read about Walker's proposal.  First, the issue of not forcing public employees to pay union dues, and requiring a vote every year to keep these jobs represented by a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  In principal, I am all for both of these options.  I believe in right to work states, and I believe that they ensure that a) union dues are kept reasonable and affordable, b) that unions continue to represent their constituents, and c), coming out of a and b, that unions are serving their actual purpose, rather than being corrupt bastions of the Democratic political machine, kept in place because people (both employers and employees) have no other options.  I do not, however, believe that it is fair to make Wisconsin a right to work state for public employees, and continue to allow other unions to compel membership due payment.  Similarly, I am all for requiring an affirmative action on the part of employees to maintain a CBA.  It reduces complacency, and ensures that unions are actually acting as unions, rather than as campaign fundraisers for Chicago and New York Democrats.  It holds unions accountable to their membership.  Again, however, this criteria should be applied to all unions, not just those representing public employees.

My second issue is the idea of a law limiting the positions public service unions are allowed to push for in CBA negotiations.  This is ridiculous.  This is akin to two teams playing football, and one team deciding that the other team is no longer allowed to use their fourth down, but must punt it.  Negotiations are a game, albeit an important one that affects people's livelihood.  One side cannot unilaterally change the rules of the game.  Unions should not be statutorily limited in the pay increases or other concessions they seek.  I do believe that union, especially government union, wages should be kept in line with non-union wage increase rates.  But I believe that negotiations are the outlet to express this, not by limiting what options are even on the table.

Not only is this an issue of taking away the rights of unions and their employees, it is also an issue of taking away legal authority granted to other parts of the State and Local governments in Wisconsin.  The right to negotiate teachers' contracts is given to the Boards of Education, or, in the case of higher education, the Board of Regents.  By limiting the options that are even up for negotiation, Walker and his allies seek to take away the authority of these bodies, as well as the bodies which govern police and fire protection throughout the state.

This is a slap in the face to voters and politicians throughout the state.  Walker is essentially saying, "I don't trust you to do your jobs, so I'm going to make it easy to do it the way that I would."

The answer to out of control public services unions is not to limit what they can and can't ask for.  It's to elect and appoint responsible people to the positions which are responsible for negotiating CBAs on behalf of the state.  Elect and appoint regents, councilmen, and board members who know the word "no," and aren't afraid to use it.  Elect and appoint people with the same fiscal viewpoints as the majority of Wisconsinites that elected Walker.  Drive a hard line in negotiations, but make sure those negotiations are fair.

Just like private businesses, state agencies should have to deal with absurd Union demands in negotiations.  And just like private businesses, those agencies should be willing and able to put their feet down, and say "No," even if that means risking a walkout or a strike.  Just like private sector union employees, public employees have medical concerns, children to feed, and mortgages to pay.  The state has to have the confidence to essentially dare them to give that up for an indefinite amount of time, rather than receive outrageous pay increases or pension payments.  But, the state should not stop them from even asking for those raises.

An anti-union governor?  All for it.  An anti-union, anti-process, back alley governor?  No thanks.

Organizing America a History of Trade Unions

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