40 Responses to Wisconsin Public Unions Defy The People’s Will

  • MarylandBill says:

    I am ashamed that a site claiming to be Catholic would engage in such blatant misdirection. The average teacher’s salary in Wisconsin is not $100K. The article cited correctly states that total compensation, which includes, pension, salary, health benefits and probably other benefits, is over $100K. The average teacher makes $56K.

    Yes, the correct information is in the article cited, but the statement made in the post is wrong as stated and requires the reader to follow up to get the truth. A Catholic web site should put a higher standard on truth.

    In general, I am more often than not discouraged by the fact that American Catholic in general seems to be more interested in blogging about economically conservative (even though faithful (not cafeteria) catholics in the USA can disagree on those ideas) topics and even football than they are about issues of real substance to American Catholics.

    RR: With respect to the $44K in benefits, I can easily believe that figure. The cost of health insurance, particularly the relatively generous health plans state workers get, will probably top $15K per year for a family plan. In similar fashion, a generous pension that kicks in at 55 means the average teacher will be collecting their pension for almost as long as they actually spent working (Figure someone who makes it to 55 has better than even odds of making it to 80). Add other benefits like life insurance, sick pay, vacation pay (Though most teachers only get a few days of that per year), disability coverage, etc. and I can well see the figure hitting $44K.

  • Darwin says:

    MarylandBill,

    I would imagine that the mistake you point out is the result of mis-reading rather than malice. Assuming the contrary does not appear to get anyone anywhere.

    That said, most people prefer not to have to accept salary or benefit cuts. I don’t see the teachers are necessarily a “selfish bunch” for trying to keep their total compensation package the same as it is now. However, given that the public probably does not want to increase taxes further, they’re clearly going to have to end up accepting some sort of cuts, whether it’s some teachers getting laid off or all taking a benefit decrease.

    That, or the cuts get pushed off onto some other budget item and teacher compensation remains the same while some other program gets cut.

  • kyle kanos says:

    Bill, if the State Gov’t didn’t pay for those items for the teachers, they’d need to pay the teachers more money so that they could afford those items. It’s not so much a “blatant misdirection” as a “understanding finances differently than you” type of thing.

    I also believe you, Bill, are missing out on a lot of posts if you think that these guys only post about football and economics.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Bill,

    Total compensation equates to everything the teachers receive.

    It’s interesting how you read into what I typed as malice.

    RR,

    100% of what you say is untrue.

    See, if I wanted to, I can make stuff up like you.

  • Phillip says:

    My wife worked for the diocese as a school teacher. Made 29K after being a teacher for 12 years. Health and dental benefits were minimal and required a huge contribution. NO retirement benefits. Also no union allowed. If it was social justice for the Church…

  • Blackadder says:

    I wonder if vacation time is included as part of the benefits calculation. If so, then it’s easy to see how the average teacher would be getting more than $44k in benefits.

  • RR says:

    You can’t include unpaid vacation as part of total monetary compensation. If we did that, the unemployed are very well off.

    One of the biggest benefits of the union busting bill, IMO, is that it allows collective bargaining only for wages. That should result in less non-wage compensation. We’ll get a better idea of the total compensation.

    Tito, what did I make up?

  • Ricky Vines says:

    Fire them all. Replace them with non-union teachers. Charge them with fraud and derilection of duty. Suspend the licenses of the doctors who gave them fake excuse slips. Use the videos and pictures as evidence. This must not be allowed to prevail.

  • Kevin in Texas says:

    RR,

    I don’t think I understand your point, or I think you may just be missing Tito’s (and mine) about teacher pay (and no, not maliciously):

    Let’s say a public school teacher works 200 days/year (including school-year holidays off and summer vacations)–I don’t know if that figure is too high, but let’s just use it for comparison’s sake. Then let’s take a private-sector employee who works 260 days/year (with the usual holidays off and two weeks paid vacation). if Jane teacher makes $56K in salary for those 200 days, while Joan private-sector employee makes $60K/year for her 260 days of work, then who gets the better salary, annual work time considered? That’s why many economic writers, when discussing salaries for teachers and professors, will perform a simple equivalency calculation to those in the private sector who receive far less time off. It doesn’t matter if one considers the summer vacation of teachers “paid time off” or “unpaid time off” if their salaries for their actual work time are considerably higher than those for the equivalent work time of private-sector employees.

    To all of the above, the usual caveats apply: no, not all teachers are so well-compensated, nor are all private employees badly compensated. And yes, for now I am a professor, although at a Catholic college whose pay rates for professors are 40% below the state average for public-college professors here in Texas. I only wish I made $56K/year plus generous benefits!

  • Blackadder says:

    You can’t include unpaid vacation as part of total monetary compensation.

    I don’t know whether summer vacation is included in the benefits calculation. But it seems reasonable to do something to take account of the fact that a teacher’s yearly salary represents pay for nine months work, as opposed to twelve months for most everyone else.

  • j. christian says:

    BA,

    I’m sure someone will rebut that it’s not a 9-month job, that there are many unpaid hours that go into teaching. Maybe so, but I think the unpaid hours vary by the commitment of the individual teacher. I think it’s entirely possible to do the bare minimum and keep the job.

  • Phillip says:

    From “On Human Work” regarding unions.

    “20. Importance of Unions

    All these rights, together with the need for the workers themselves to secure them, give rise to yet another right: the right of association, that is to form associations for the purpose of defending the vital interests of those employed in the various professions. These associations are called labour or trade unions. The vital interests of the workers are to a certain extent common for all of them; at the same time however each type of work, each profession, has its own specific character which should find a particular reflection in these organizations.

    In a sense, unions go back to the mediaeval guilds of artisans, insofar as those organizations brought together people belonging to the same craft and thus on the basis of their work. However, unions differ from the guilds on this essential point: the modern unions grew up from the struggle of the workers-workers in general but especially the industrial workers-to protect their just rights vis-a-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production. Their task is to defend the existential interests of workers in all sectors in which their rights are concerned. The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies. Obviously, this does not mean that only industrial workers can set up associations of this type. Representatives of every profession can use them to ensure their own rights. Thus there are unions of agricultural workers and of white-collar workers; there are also employers’ associations. All, as has been said above, are further divided into groups or subgroups according to particular professional specializations.

    Catholic social teaching does not hold that unions are no more than a reflection of the “class” structure of society and that they are a mouthpiece for a class struggle which inevitably governs social life. They are indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people in accordance with their individual professions. However, this struggle should be seen as a normal endeavour “for” the just good: in the present case, for the good which corresponds to the needs and merits of working people associated by profession; but it is not a struggle “against” others. Even if in controversial questions the struggle takes on a character of opposition towards others, this is because it aims at the good of social justice, not for the sake of “struggle” or in order to eliminate the opponent. It is characteristic of work that it first and foremost unites people. In this consists its social power: the power to build a community. In the final analysis, both those who work and those who manage the means of production or who own them must in some way be united in this community. In the light of this fundamental structure of all work-in the light of the fact that, in the final analysis, labour and capital are indispensable components of the process of production in any social system-it is clear that, even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.

    Just efforts to secure the rights of workers who are united by the same profession should always take into account the limitations imposed by the general economic situation of the country. Union demands cannot be turned into a kind of group or class “egoism”, although they can and should also aim at correcting-with a view to the common good of the whole of society- everything defective in the system of ownership of the means of production or in the way these are managed. Social and socioeconomic life is certainly like a system of “connected vessels”, and every social activity directed towards safeguarding the rights of particular groups should adapt itself to this system.

    In this sense, union activity undoubtedly enters the field of politics, understood as prudent concern for the common good. However, the role of unions is not to “play politics” in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or have too close links with them. In fact, in such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the £ramework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes.

    Speaking of the protection of the just rights of workers according to their individual professions, we must of course always keep in mind that which determines the subjective character of work in each profession, but at the same time, indeed before all else, we must keep in mind that which conditions the specific dignity of the subject of the work. The activity of union organizations opens up many possibilities in this respect, including their efforts to instruct and educate the workers and to foster their selfeducation. Praise is due to the work of the schools, what are known as workers’ or people’s universities and the training programmes and courses which have developed and are still developing this field of activity. It is always to be hoped that, thanks to the work of their unions, workers will not only have more, but above all be more: in other words, that they will realize their humanity more fully in every respect.

    One method used by unions in pursuing the just rights of their members is the strike or work stoppage, as a kind of ultimatum to the competent bodies, especially the employers. This method is recognized by Catholic social teaching as legitimate in the proper conditions and within just limits. In this connection workers should be assured the right to strike, without being subjected to personal penal sanctions for taking part in a strike. While admitting that it is a legitimate means, we must at the same time emphasize that a strike remains, in a sense, an extreme means. It must not be abused; it must not be abused especially for “political” purposes. Furthermore it must never be forgotten that, when essential community services are in question, they must in every case be ensured, if necessary by means of appropriate legislation. Abuse of the strike weapon can lead to the paralysis of the whole of socioeconomic life, and this is contrary to the requirements of the common good of society, which also corresponds to the properly understood nature of work itself. “

  • RR says:

    My skepticism is directed only at the $100K+ figure. Maybe public school teachers are very well compensated per hour of work but that doesn’t mean you can extrapolate from high hourly income to high annual income.

  • Pinky says:

    I know where my sentiments lie on this issue. But with regard to the cartoon, why shouldn’t the state senators take every procedural step for their cause, even including “quorum-busting”?

  • T. Shaw says:

    Here are my emotions on the issue: I hated school and I hate taxes.

    Some times the achievements of government programs do not justify the expenses.

    Pinky: One, two can play that game; Two, elections and the consent of the governed matter. Pinkoes term that “dictatorship of the majority.”

  • Big Tex says:

    In Milwaukee, the average TOTAL COMPENSATION package tops $100k.
    http://maciverinstitute.com/2010/03/average-mps-teacher-compensation-tops-100kyear/

    I’m sure someone will rebut that it’s not a 9-month job, that there are many unpaid hours that go into teaching.
    Sounds like a salaried position. This sort of thing abounds outside the realm of education. It’s not unique (and I don’t think you were asserting so) to teachers.

    My gut feeling is that teachers in WI don’t realize how well they have it comparatively. I see that in my own job (unionized engineers). Those that have not worked elsewhere don’t seem to realize that their benefits package is better than most.

  • WJ says:

    Big Tex,

    No kidding. Their benefits package is better because they’re unionized. Don’t worry, though. Soon we’ll all be scraping by on $40,000, paying the majority of taxes, and our health costs will rise and rise. Fun times ahead!

    And then the richest 1% might get to own 30% of all actual wealth in the country!!

  • Actually WJ public employee unions did well because they hired their bosses through massive political donations and providing bodies for campaigns. Then the bosses paid back the unions through lucrative benefits packages and salaries, with the tab picked up by the taxpayers. It was a sweet deal for all concerned, except for the taxpayers. Now the money has run out and the public employee unions will soon be one with amalgamated buggy whip manufacturers. Of course, any members of the public employee unions who do not like the new economic reality are free to join the rest of us in the private sector!

  • Mark Noonan says:

    RR,

    “Total compensation” reflects the amount of money it takes to employ someone – and as these are government employees, that is how much of the taxpayer’s money it takes to keep one teacher on the job for a year: $100,000.00. It doesn’t mean the teacher takes all that home, but it is the total cost. The average total compensation of a private sector worker in the United States is about 40% less – it is absurd that any public sector worker should, on average, have a higher total compensation than the taxpayers who pay the bills.

    More important than the benefit package – that issue the Democrats are willing to surrender on – is the fact that Walker and the GOP are going for the liberal jugular – if unions cannot negotiate back room deals with politicians bought via campaign contributions, then the whole liberal power structure collapses. There is no public constituency for Big Government other than public sector unions…no one who will go to the mat for spending increases on other people. While a majority might, in theory, be in favor of, say, spending more money on government education, hardly anyone who doesn’t have a kid in school or employment with government will bestir themselves to ensure that such spending happens. So, too, with spending on the EPA, the Department of Energy, Commerce, etc…only those who are directly concerned with the government actions will organize and agitate for increased spending…taking the unions out of the equation means that there simply won’t be the “oomph” behind such efforts necessary…and that means that small government people will gain the whip hand in debates.

    This action, whether it was intended or not, is a new, American liberation…freeing us from the baleful and destructive hand of Big Government…and the unions who depend upon it know it, and will fight it tooth and nail with their Big Government allies among the Democrat and RINO parts of the Ruling Class.

  • RR says:

    Noonan, I’m aware what “total compensation” is, though some others seem to be confused. I’d love to see proof of this $100K figure. It’s possible but an average of $44K in benefits seems high so I’d like to see proof.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    I really don’t know who to believe when it comes to the degree of public support, or opposition for Walker. On the one hand I can see where these protests and the Democratic legislators are doing more harm than good for their cause. On the other hand, there are still plenty of people out there who see unions as their best or last line of defense against the extinction of the middle class. I agree that the disproportionate power of public employee unions needs to be curbed, but Walker is taking a huge gamble here. He may succeed in breaking the union stranglehold on government, but it could still prove to be a Pyrrhic victory that costs the GOP far more goodwill than it gains.

  • Art Deco says:

    there are still plenty of people out there who see unions as their best or last line of defense against the extinction of the middle class.

    Business proprietors are never union members and salaried employees very seldom are outside the public sector. How does one suppose that union membership will prevent the ‘extinction’ of a social stratum they never included? Given that only about 15% of wage earners in the private sector are members of unions, it is difficult to see how more than incremental modifications in income distribution are effected by union contracts.

    Unions in our time are first and foremost a crooked lobby for the interest of public employees as public employees.

  • Katerina Ivanovna says:

    Perhaps I’m the only one who sees Americans protesting–expressing their concerns and making demands of their government–as a wonderful thing. It is a reminder that this country was founded on the principles of a representative government, so for Americans to finally stand up for their needs and make their voice heard speaks volumes about the system that we have inherited. I don’t care if it’s people protesting their second amendment right or their right to collective bargaining–it is indeed that something to embrace as citizens.

    That being said, I’m not a teacher nor a resident of Wisconsin, so for me to say that these teachers have enough money and have no reason to protest, would be overreaching. We have to be careful when we say to people “you have enough benefits–enough money to live on.” Last time I checked, that is what Hugo Chávez does all the time to our middle class back in Venezuela.

  • RR says:

    It took at lot of clicking through links but I think I got to the bottom of it. The $44K in benefits is arrived at by dividing total expenditure on benefits (including Social Security and Medicare) by the number of active teachers. It includes benefits for current retirees. It doesn’t include unfunded obligations. So there’s significant over and under inclusion. I couldn’t find which predominates.

  • Phillip says:

    “Last time I checked, that is what Hugo Chávez does all the time to our middle class back in Venezuela.”

    And what the teachers union is trying to do to the middle class in Wisconsin.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Perhaps I’m the only one who sees Americans protesting–expressing their concerns and making demands of their government–as a wonderful thing.

    You’re not the only one.

    I think it’s great that what is happening in Wisconsin (just as long as it isn’t violent).

    What I don’t sympathize with is that, with benefits included, these teachers make on average $100,000/year, more than most Americans take in.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “How does one suppose that union membership will prevent the ‘extinction’ of a social stratum they never included? Given that only about 15% of wage earners in the private sector are members of unions..”

    I find it hard to believe that union membership “never included” the middle class. Union membership peaked at about 35 percent of the U.S. workforce during the postwar industrial boom of the late ’40s and early ’50s. I would guess that a lot of them were, or became, middle class, if you define middle class as being able to buy a home and at least one vehicle, being able to purchase TV sets and most major appliances, take vacations, etc. They couldn’t all have been dirt poor or filthy rich.

    According to Wikipedia, from 1953 to the late 1980s union membership in construction fell from 84% to 22%, manufacturing from 42% to 25%, mining from 65% to 15%, and transportation from 80% to 37%.

    The question is, was this decline in union membership seen as a good thing or a bad thing by the workers themselves? Is it something that workers were by and large happy to see — were they eager to rid themselves of oppressive union bosses — or is it merely something they have learned to live with as a result of globalization, NAFTA, and other forces beyond their control, but would prefer had not happened? How many people blame union greed for driving manufacturing and other industries out of their states or overseas, vs. how many blame corporate greed? And how many blame both?

    My guess is that among those who think unions, while prone to abuses, are basically a good thing; who attribute the relative prosperity of the WWII and Baby Boom generations to unionism; and who wish they could still enjoy the benefits of union membership, are not going to be easily convinced that public employee unions are THE enemy.

    Yes, they will grouse about public employees being overpaid, lazy, and leeching off the taxpayers, and they will agree that concessions need to be made. But when push comes to shove, if they are forced to choose sides, they will side with the unions. And I suspect that certain elements of the GOP may have seriously underestimated how much residual goodwill remains toward the labor movement, and how much the public regards corporate greed (accurately or not), not union greed, as the real enemy of prosperity.

    That is why I believe that the best approach to this issue is NOT to unnecessarily stir up class warfare and pit public employees against private ones but to emphasize that it is in EVERYONE’s interest, no matter who they work for, to have a government that lives within its means and does not make promises that can’t be kept.

    Speaking of which, I predict (you heard it here first) that regardless of the outcome in Wisconsin, Ohio, et. al., the next big battle over public employee benefits may be between competing factions of Democrats, right here in Illinois. Our Democratic governor recently proposed a budget that leaves public employee unions pretty much untouched — in fact ADDS more employees in some areas like prisons — but makes drastic cuts in many human service programs, in Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes, etc. And this is even AFTER approving the infamous tax increase.

    Just wait till those factions start fighting over the crumbs of the budget. If every vendor, service provider, doctor, pharmacist, nursing home, etc. who had ever been stiffed by the State of Illinois decided to stage their own protest march on Springfield, it would probably dwarf the one in Madison!

  • Ed M. waterbury, Ct. USA says:

    Mr Talbot’s comments are ludicrous. Pope Pius the Tenth and Cardinal Mannig of England two of the most faithful resolute Catholics in many years SUPPORTED unions throughout their lives. It is sad so many arrogant Republicans from the General Jaruselski wing of the GOP such as Pence of Indiana, the fool govenor of Wisconsin and the late Ronald Reagan who had so much to say about Lech Walensa’s struggle to win benefits, bargaining rights, union reps. and wages are so much like General Jaruselski (Red Poland) when it comes to workers in this country. The Governor of Wisconsin is the height of Arrogance like Gen Jaruselski when he tries to use fiscal problems in Wisconsin to treat workers like the way Lech Walenska and the Solidarity union workers were treated by Red Poland., Pius the tenth and cardinal Manning fought their whole conservative lives against this while remaining true to the morals and faith of Catholicism. Manning (English Cardinal and Pope Pius the tenth urged people to form unions. ALL benefits such as the minimum wage, 40 hour work week, defined benefits pension, sick leave were given to workers by unions forcing bosses and their shills in the government(Poland, Wisconsin-USa etc.) to give this to all USA Americans and the Polish workers after Years of oppositions to every single one of these. Non union workers often almost NEVER have a 40 hour work week, pensions ,either Defined benefit or IRA, any kind of sick leave whatsoever, let alone senority or job security. Sad to say Mr. talbot is a sorry excuse for a Catholic and like the arrogant sorry excuse for a Wisconsin govenor never read the Catholic faith conservatives like Cardinal Manning and Pope Pius the tenth,& JP the second teaching- urgeing and supporting of Catholic to join unions. This is also why the very conservative pro life John Paul the second, openly and in monetary-secret terms supported Lech Walensa in Poland trying to achieve in Poland what the unions are defending against Jaruselski’s govenor clone in Wisconsin. Manning(Cardinal) and two Popes ,Pius the tenth and JP-2nd knew and preached that without unions collective barginning for wages-benfits you have Red, China, Poland etc. and NOT a free let alone a Christian Catholic society. Shame on Mr. Talbot for claiming his anti union jargon is even remotely Catholic, Cardinal Manning, and Pope John the second and Pius the tenth said and believed otherwise. Sincerely.Ed ,Pro Life, Pro family-Pro union for everybody from Poland to Wisconsin

  • Art Deco says:

    if you define middle class as being able to buy a home and at least one vehicle, being able to purchase TV sets and most major appliances, take vacations, etc. They couldn’t all have been dirt poor or filthy rich.

    I would not define ‘middle-class’ that way.

    About 65% of the population lives in owner-occupied housing. This figure has changed little in the last several decades. About 85% of the adult population own motor vehicles. Many of the remainder are college students and old folks who are unsafe behind the wheel. Television sets were (by 1970) found in 96% of American homes. Most of the remainder were accounted for by country people out of range of broadcast signals and by members of the intelligentsia. I doubt there are too many people younger than the two of us who remember apartments with shared kitchens. The last time I was in one was around about 1974.

    The foregoing improvements in consumption are attributable to improvements in productivity. Very little can be attributed to the re-distribution (from the salaried ranks to wage-earners and between strata of wage-earners) that accompanies the formation of labor cartels. The per capita income of the United States has trebled during the post war period. That is not going to magically evaporate if the extant unions are re-chartered as benevolent associations for the purchase of insurance and the provision of portable pensions.

    As for the ‘dirt poor’, a comfortable majority of the 20% or so whose personal income from other than public benefits lies below a statutory baseline are so because they are alienated from the workforce for a variety of reasons (age, disability, or learned helplessness). Unions are no help to them. As for the ‘filthy rich’, people with sufficient assets to live in modest comfort from a private income amount to about 4% of the population. Somehow, I do not see the strata which comprehend 3/4ths of the popuation evaporating and being redistributed to these other strata because the labor cartels which organize 15% of the workforce are dissolved.

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