Winners in Wisconsin: Taxpayers

Winners in Wisconsin: Taxpayers

Subscribe to The National Right to Work Committee® Website Updates by Email Wisconsin demonstrates the monopoly power of government unions can be broken and the Wall Street Journal takes notice: Congratulations to Wisconsin Republicans, who held together this week to pass their government union reforms despite unprecedented acting out by Democrats and their union allies. Three weeks ago we described this battle as a foretaste of Greece come to America, but maybe there's hope for taxpayers after all. The good news is that Governor Scott Walker's reforms have been worth the fight on the policy merits. The conventional media wisdom is that Mr. Walker "overreached" by proposing limits on the ability of government unions to bargain collectively for benefits. But before he offered those proposals, Democrats and unions had refused to support his plan that public workers pay more for their pensions and health care. Only later did they concede that these changes were reasonable and will spare thousands of public workers from layoffs. Unions can still bargain for wages, but annual increases can't exceed the rate of inflation. Unions will also have to be certified each year, which will give their dues-paying members a chance to revisit their decision to unionize. No longer will it be one worker, one vote, once. Perhaps most important, the state will no longer collect those dues automatically and give them to the union to spend almost entirely on politics. The unions will have to collect those dues themselves.The collective bargaining reforms also mean that this won't merely be a one-time budget victory. Government unions know that financial concessions (and layoffs) they agree to during recessions are typically won back when tax revenues increase and the public stops paying attention. They merely need to elect a friendly governor. Mr. Walker's reforms change the balance of negotiating power in ways that give taxpayers more protection. If Mr. Walker's effort can be faulted, we'd say it's for not stressing enough the value of these collective bargaining changes for taxpayers, and how public unions too often end up on both sides of the bargaining table.

Codependency

Subscribe to The National Right to Work Committee® Posts by Email Why are Democrats in Wisconsin and Indiana fleeing the state rather than vote on reform measures? It's because Big Labor and the Democratic Party are completely codependent upon each other, the Investors Business Daily opines: The fleeing Democrats in Wisconsin and Indiana say they are protecting state workers, but they have plenty of self-interested reasons to hit the road. Their self-imposed exile and national Democrats' support show just how key Big Labor is to their fortunes. Unions have long been a backbone of support for the Democratic Party. They have become even more important in recent years as they ramped up campaign efforts. Without them, Democrats have no chance of reversing the GOP's 2010 gains. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the top public-sector union, spent a reported $87.5 million nationally in the 2010 election cycle — 99% for Democrats. The Chamber of Commerce, by contrast, spent $75 million. The National Education Association spent $40 million, and the Service Employees International Union spent $44 million. That doesn't count the unions' importance in get-out-the-vote efforts, in organizing rallies and in other election activities. There will be 91 electoral votes at stake in the seven upper Midwest states from Minnesota and Iowa to Pennsylvania (excluding President Obama's home state of Illinois). In 2008, Obama won all those states, including a narrow victory in Indiana. But in 2010, Republicans in the area had their best election in decades, picking up 16 House seats, two Senate seats, and five governorships. Only Minnesota's governorship flipped from Republican to Democrat.

Athens in Mad Town

The Wall Street Journal's view of Big Labor's effort to shut down Wisconsin to prevent reform: For Americans who don't think the welfare state riots of France or Greece can happen here, we recommend a look at the union and Democratic Party spectacle now unfolding in Wisconsin. Over the past few days, thousands have swarmed the state capital and airwaves to intimidate lawmakers and disrupt Governor Scott Walker's plan to level the playing field between taxpayers and government unions. Mr. Walker's very modest proposal would take away the ability of most government employees to collectively bargain for benefits. They could still bargain for higher wages, but future wage increases would be capped at the federal Consumer Price Index, unless otherwise specified by a voter referendum. The bill would also require union members to contribute 5.8% of salary toward their pensions and chip in 12.6% of the cost of their health insurance premiums. If those numbers don't sound outrageous, you probably work in the private economy. The comparable nationwide employee health-care contribution is 20% for private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average employee contribution from take-home pay for retirement was 7.5% in 2009, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute. Mr. Walker says he has no choice but to make these changes because unions refuse to negotiate any compensation changes, which is similar to the experience Chris Christie had upon taking office in New Jersey. Wisconsin is running a $137 million deficit this year and anticipates coming up another $3.6 billion short in the next two-year budget. Governor Walker's office estimates the proposals would save the state $300 million over the next two years, and the alternative would be to lay off 5,500 public employees. None of this is deterring the crowds in Madison, aka Mad Town, where protesters, including many from the 98,000-member teachers union, have gone Greek. Madison's school district had to close Thursday when 40% of its teachers called in sick. So much for the claim that this is "all about the children." By the way, these are some of the same teachers who sued the Milwaukee school board last August to get Viagra coverage restored to their health-care plan.