Gee, it all seems so harmless . .
Walker, you might have heard, wants some changes in how Wisconsin deals with unions. He wants state employees to pay 5.8% of their salaries toward their pensions (they pay almost nothing now) and he wants them to cover 12.6% of their health care premiums (their share would go up from $79 a month to about $200; the average private-sector sap pays about $330).
I’m not buying anything that comes at the top of a piece recalling “beet-faced union crowds” and claiming FDR would have cheered Walker. Roosevelt was no fan of government unions, true, but he would have been appalled at the way the rich have destroyed the fiscal health of the country. And while they were attacking the working class, he’d have been pointing out the destruction wrought by American “Economic Royalists.”
But one thing’s for sure: Walker doesn’t want a little money here and there from the government employee and teachers unions. He wants to kill them. The proof is in his “Budget Repair” bill. This is it, via Ezra Klein:
Walker tries to sell the change in collective bargaining as modest. “State and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay, they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures.” But that’s not really true. Read down a bit further and you’ll find that “total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum.” In other words, they couldn’t bargain for wages to rise faster than inflation.
And that pittance is all they’d be allowed to bargain for. So if they’re underpaid, which they probably are, tough shit for eternity. You’d never be able to get more money than a tiny bump that keeps pace with inflation. Sure, you might miss that raise and lag in the race with the cost of living, and that, too, would be permanent. This isn’t remotely legitimately bargaining for wages, it’s begging for scraps. And it gets worse:
“Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.” These rules have nothing to do with pension costs or even bargaining. They’re just about weakening unions: They make it harder for unions to collect dues from members, to negotiate stable contracts or to survive a bad year.
Exactly. This has zero to do with Wisconsin’s budget. This is clearly an angry, obsessive attack on folks the Governor doesn’t like. It’s a giant “Screw You.” Union negotiators, you’ll have to fight it out with the government every year, but you’ll have to get re-certified first, every year, and you can only collect members’ dues one individual at a time. And, of course, the best you could ever do for your people is get just enough money to stay even with inflation.
Can you imagine the same fate befalling you as an individual worker? You’d have to first elect yourself as a negotiator every year, but to do so you’d pay hundreds of dollars (I think AFSCME yearly dues are around $600), and that would only give you the right to fight it out with your employer for a raise equivalent to the Consumer Price Index. For 2010, that was 1.6%. If you’re making 50K, that’s $800. That’s the grand total of all the economic power your ‘union’ will ever wield after Walker gets done with you. Honestly, it spells the death of these unions.
Walker is just a nasty, vindictive bastard out to make a name for himself among Conservatives by whacking people they hate. If he were honestly concerned about the budget, he could’ve begun negotiating with the unions a while ago. He also could’ve concocted the legislation as a weapon — going on multiple interviews and posting editorials across Wisconsin calling it a necessity in order later to force the unions to accept painful rollbacks. Instead, he’s ramming this stripping of economic rights through the legislature with as little discussion as possible because he wants it done.
Meanwhile, those other unionized drains on the government’s finances, the police and the firefighters? Walker exempted them all. Because they vote Republican, of course. Some fiscal parasites are perfectly fine.