If You Can't Beat Them; Buy Them

Big Labor lost at the ballot box and had their forced unionism power rolled back by the legislature and is now trying to buy Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices to undo the reforms pushed enacted by Gov. Scott Walker. The Wall Street Journal reports: Wisconsin Democrats and unions are still seething over their failure to thwart Governor Scott Walker's government union reforms. Now they're trying to spin their rage into gold by aiming it at the state Supreme Court election on April 5. If they defeat David Prosser's re-election bid, labor leaders and their Democratic allies hope a newly activist court will be their proxy in the fight against Mr. Walker's policies. Until the recent political inferno in Madison took over national headlines, the Supreme Court race was a snoozefest. Justice Prosser, who has served on the court for more than a decade, was the heavy favorite to hold onto his seat. In February's jungle primary that includes all candidates (all of whom are officially nonpartisan), he won 58% of the vote, followed by 25% for second place Joanne Kloppenburg, the assistant attorney general and an environmental attorney who is now the union darling. The top two primary finishers compete in the run-off, and that race is narrowing. A liberal outfit called the Greater Wisconsin Committee has thrown some $3 million into the race and launched a website, ProsserEqualsWalker.com, to whip heat against the Governor into the race. Democrats hope a victory would discourage other Republicans who might dare to face down Big Labor. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is divided 4-3 on many cases and tilts slightly right. A defeat for Justice Prosser would shift that balance, and a notoriously liberal contingent led by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson would dominate when the court hears the Democratic challenges to Mr. Walker's reforms, which limited collective bargaining and required government unions to be recertified every year by their members. That battle was recently joined when Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi put a hold on the law, and a state appeals court ruled yesterday that the Supreme Court should decide the case. If they flip the court, Democrats are also sure to target major tort reforms that Governor Walker signed earlier this year. Watch for trial lawyers dancing in the streets. From 2004 to 2008, the court's liberal majority, including Obama nominee to the federal bench Louis Butler, overturned medical malpractice caps and established a collective guilt standard whereby any company that had ever sold lead paint in Wisconsin could be subject to tort claims.

Ready for Unionized Airport Security?

Kimberly Strassel makes the point -- as payback for big labor union support, the Obama administration greases the wheels for the largest federal organizing effort in history: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made some progress this week in rescuing his state from the public-sector unions holding it hostage. Ever wonder how Wisconsin got into trouble in the first place? Washington is providing an illuminating case study. Even as state battles rage, the Obama administration has been facilitating the largest federal union organizing effort in history. Tens of thousands of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners are now casting votes to choose a union to collectively bargain for cushier personnel practices on their behalf. Liberals are calling it a "historic" vote. It is. Henceforth, airport security will play second fiddle to screener "rights." Here's the fundamental problem with public-employee unions: They exist to compete with, and undermine, public priorities. The priority of Wisconsin citizens is a state that can provide basic services, encourage private-sector jobs, and pay its bills. Wisconsin public-employee unions, by contrast, were formed to, and exist to, erect a system that showers members with plump pay and benefits, crowding out state services and private jobs. The same disconnect is on display with the TSA. On Sept. 11, 2001, more than 3,000 Americans died after terrorists turned airplanes into missiles. It was a colossal security failure. Congress responded by creating the TSA. The merits of federalizing airport screening were always questionable, though at least the public priority was clear. Back then, a bipartisan majority of Congress agreed that a crack airport security service was incompatible with rigid unionization rules. Yet by 2008, Democratic presidential candidates were betting that security worries had receded enough that they could again pander for union votes. Candidate Barack Obama sent a letter to American Federation of Government Employees boss John Gage, vowing that his "priority" was giving Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) "collective bargaining rights and workplace protections."

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.

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.