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.

Union Bosses Fight for Dues Money

The widely respected political journalist Michael Barone's take on the battle of Wisconsin: Everyone has priorities. During the past week Barack Obama has found no time to condemn the attacks that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has launched on the Libyan people. But he did find time to be interviewed by a Wisconsin television station and weigh in on the dispute between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state's public employee unions. Walker was staging "an assault on unions," he said, and added that "public employee unions make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens." Enormous contributions, yes -- to the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign. Unions, most of whose members are public employees, gave Democrats some $400 million in the 2008 election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the biggest public employee union, gave Democrats $90 million in the 2010 cycle. Follow the money, Washington reporters like to say. The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.

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.