Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Watershed Moment for Public-Sector Unions

At New York Times:

In the half century since Wisconsin became the first state to give its public workers the right to bargain collectively, government employee unions have mushroomed in size and power — so much so that they now account for more than half of the nation’s union members.

But the legislative push by Wisconsin’s new governor, Scott Walker, a Republican, to slash the collective bargaining rights of his state’s public employees could prove a watershed for public-sector unions, perhaps signaling the beginning of a decline in their power — both at the bargaining table and in politics.

Three-fourths of the states allow collective bargaining by some or all of state or local government employees. And labor’s friends and foes alike agree that if the Wisconsin legislation passes, it will create momentum for similar bills in Ohio, Indiana and other states.

“These kinds of high-profile public-employee battles have enormous stakes,” said Benjamin Sachs, a professor of labor law at Harvard. “We’re still feeling the consequences of President Reagan confronting the union in the air controllers’ strike. For anyone interested in union rights, the fight in Wisconsin couldn’t be more important.”

From Florida to California, many political leaders are seeking to cut the wages and benefits of public-sector workers to help balance strained budgets.

But Mr. Walker is going far beyond that, seeking to definitively curb the power of government unions in his state. He sees public-employee unions as a bane to the taxpayer because they demand — and often win — generous health and pension plans that help push up taxes and drive budget deficits higher.

To end that cycle, he wants to restrict the unions to bargaining over just one topic, base wages, while eliminating their ability to deal over health care, working hours and vacations. Moreover, he wants to require unions to win an employee election every year to continue representing workers.

Clearly, organized labor understands the stakes, and progressives have met the challenge with some of the most despicable thuggery in generations. And at the clip above, Gov. Walker's press conference is followed by a segment from MSNBC's Ed Schultz show. Folks obviously know the MSNBC line, but notice how they're rooting for the AWOL Democrat state senators to "hold out" as long as they can to prevent legislative passage. It's almost like something from Egyptian state-run media.


Dennis said...

My hope is that the unions keep doing the things they are until they do themselves in. Even in Milwaukee with a very liberal paper the polls are running 74 percent against the unions.
If it goes on long enough the taxpayers of Wisconsin will get an education as to what kind of money these people are making and the pensions and benefits that are at the middle of this demonstrations. I would suggest that the unions have jumped the "shark."
One might consider that even the unions are beginning to see that this may not turn out well for them because they are starting to make concessions. Several areas are already moving to recall some Democrats which would put an end to their ability to affect any legislation put forth by the Governor.
This had better be over fast because the unions will lose big time and I suspect Walker and the Republicans know that time is on their side. The more damage the union does and the more people they alienate the worse it becomes for the unions. Short term feel good long term loss.
It also tells other states they need to deal with this fast and ensure that this kind of action has consequences for those who participate.