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.

Change in Wisconsin

Change in Wisconsin

 Newly elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not backing down from a fight to protect taxpayers.  Walker has proposed reforming the state's collective bargaining laws to protect taxpayers.  The Wall Street Journal takes note:  Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker has laid out an ambitious agenda, such as turning the department of commerce into a public-private partnership and lifting the cap on school vouchers. But his boldest idea may be rescinding the right of government employees to collectively bargain. Mr. Walker floated the idea last week in response to union opposition to his modest proposal to require employees to contribute 5% of their pay to their pensions and to increase their health-care contributions to 12% from as low as 4% today. Even along the Left Coast most state workers contribute 10% of their salary to pensions. The Republican estimates that these changes would save the state $154 million in the first six months. Over two years they'd reduce the state's $3.3 billion budget gap by nearly 20%. The ability of public workers to form unions and bargain collectively is a phenomenon of the last century when state and local governments were relatively small. But it has proven to be a catastrophe for taxpayers, as public unions have used their political clout to negotiate rich deals on wages, pensions and health care. California governor-elect Jerry Brown greased the wheels for his state's long fiscal decline when he allowed collective bargaining during his first stint in the statehouse in the 1970s. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and then Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri rescinded collective bargaining by executive order in 2005, and the change made it easier to cut spending and restructure government services. In Wisconsin, the legislature would have to rewrite the Employment Labor Relations Act, but Republicans will control both the assembly and senate and have the political incentive to go along with Mr. Walker.Rescinding public collective bargaining rights restores a better negotiating balance between taxpayers and government employees who ostensibly work for them. Political officials are no longer on both sides of the bargaining table—representing taxpayers in negotiations with the unions while seeking union cash and endorsements when running for re-election.