The Only Winners in Wisconsin are the Packers

Yesterday, the Republicans in Wisconsin edited the unions bill to make it non-fiscal, thus eliminating the Wisconsin procedural requirement that all senators be there. Thus, since there was quorum the bill in its new form was passed by the State Assembly and is expected to be approved by the Senate today.

It’s hard to fault the Republicans for ending this mess. It had to end, and if they weren’t going to abandon the bill it was best to figure out a way to get it passed and move on. That doesn’t change the fact that their bill is in clear violation of Catholic Social Teaching by stripping the workers of their right to unionize on benefits.

In the end, this episode underscores just how dysfunctional our democracy is. Democracy is based on different ideas interacting and challenging each other. Today however, ideas don’t mix; we are left with mindless slogans about empty ideas left to do battle not on the merit of the idea but rather the brute force of the quantity of supporters. In Wisconsin, the Democrats abandoned debate and vote in favor of grinding the process to a halt. The Republicans shattered the rights of workers in order to no longer discuss issues with the unions. Neither side showed any interest in a true debate or an attempt to compromise. In this case, we all lost.

29 Responses to The Only Winners in Wisconsin are the Packers

  • Jay says:

    Huh? How did taxpayers lose by this move? “We” did not all lose. The “we” who have had to actually weather our current economic collapse came up way ahead.

    Thank you, Governor Walker and Wisconsin Republicans.

  • Joe Green says:

    Gee, and all along I though democracy was about majority rule. I guess it depends on whether your party is in power as to whether democracy works. When the Dems were in charge under Jim Doyle they rammed through a $2 billion tax hike in 24 hours with little debate. The Republicans were there, debated, voted and lost. Thus the will of the people is expressed through their representatives.

    Now that the GOP has the power and the Dems are in the minority and run away from 3 weeks to avoid their sworn duty, suddenly “we are lost.”
    Since when is collective bargaining “a right”? Clearly, not held by the vast majority of American workers. Thus, it necessarily is a privilege or an advantage won statutorily 50 years ago and now reversed — statutorily.

    The winners are the taxpayers, which pay the salaries of the government workers who contribute 95 to 100% to the Democrats, which are mere puppets of the unions.

    As for the notion that there was no time for debate on this issue, Walker campaigned on spending cuts, told the Dems well beforehand what was going to be in the bill, held 17 hours of hearings at which many testified, gave the Dems ample opportunity (3 weeks) to return to Madison to debate, offer amendments and, yes, negotiate. But, with their union paymasters calling the shots, the Fugitive Fourteen continue to enjoy their extended vacation largely at taxpayers’ expense while the rabble trashed the Capitol. Meanwhile, sheriff’s deputies from several counties hundreds of miles away were forced to go to Madison to keep the peace leaving their home counties vulnerable to crime.

    I am one Wisconsite who hopes Governor Walker busts every union down to its last member, including the vastly overpaid teachers who, for 8 months a year, teach little more than “conflict resolution,” “self-esteem”, and the proper use of condoms.

    There, I feel much better now.

  • Art Deco says:

    That doesn’t change the fact that their bill is in clear violation of Catholic Social Teaching by stripping the workers of their right to unionize on benefits

    Did the Swiss Guards have a union at the time of Rerum Novarum?

  • RL says:

    That doesn’t change the fact that their bill is in clear violation of Catholic Social Teaching by stripping the workers of their right to unionize on benefits.

    Really? Is what happened really that and is it really a clear violation of CST? So CST is no longer really about human dignity and justice, but merely a collection of positive statements dogmatizing various societal structures and embracing of a “get whatever you can get for yourself” mentality without regard to justice, sustainability, or the common good?

    You realize that what the Church is backing is the right to associate and to use that association as leverage in the service of justice and human dignity, right? That doesn’t sanction the actions of every association, nor does it mean the association is in pursuit of justice. For example, the NEA is called a union and indeed functions as a bargaining unit. However, it doesn’t mean that they’re not essentially different from a large corporation – and one of the worst sorts. Is the NEA acting in justice when it supports abortion on demand, when it funds such programs, when it contributes to politicians that perpetuate such injustices? How about when “in service” of it’s members it lobbies to stifle the rights of parents to educate their children as they see fit? What about the horrible immoral “educational” programs and methods the NEA supports and executes? i.e. sex ed (especially to the very young), etc.?

    I agree that this Wisconsin thing was a circus and is likely a poor means and may prove to be a less than desirable outcome. Yet, there’s much more that can be questioned about some unions, how they exist, to what degree they serve justice in this day and in what sector of society. I have now found myself balking at almost claim someone makes structured as “clearly against CST”, “clearly the Catholic position”, “that’s not the Catholic way”, etc. Usually I find such statements to stem from a very narrow and simplistic understanding of the substance of Catholic teaching and it’s that simplicity that leads the person to make such a pronouncement so authoritatively. I’m not saying you’re doing that though, Michael. I find you to be very reasonable and thoughtful. I guess that was why I was a little surprised to see the statement I quoted.

  • Yeah, I’m not clear that this outcome is “clearly against Catholic Social Teaching.” The Wisconsin public workers are not being told that they can’t belong to a workers association, or even that they can’t collectively bargain, just that they range of what they can collectively bargain on is restricted to salary rather than benefits.

    So, for instance, if they believe that they’re unjustly being made to pay for too much of their health care, or made to contribute towards their retirements, they can demand more take-home pay to balance that.

    While one can take it from CST that workers should be able to collectively bargain for benefits, I don’t think that the only possible conclusion is that all workers or even all unions must have a binding agreement from their employers to negotiate over that particular aspect of compensation.

  • Pinky says:

    Everyone seems to be down on this article, especially with regard to CST.

    What strikes me most about the Wisconsin story is that it was actually about something. This wasn’t a matter of sloganeering; I think there was plenty of debate even if there was no compromise. I can’t fault the Republicans for sticking with the principles they campaigned on, nor can I fault the Democrats who used every rule of order to their advantage. I imagine that a compromise could have been worked out, but that’s easy to say from a distance.

  • How did taxpayers lose by this move?

    I’d love to hear how the taxpayers won by having a two or three week deadlock, the schools shut down for how many days, and by paying for security for all those protests.

    Yet, there’s much more that can be questioned about some unions, how they exist, to what degree they serve justice in this day and in what sector of society

    I would agree with that, particularly since I find teacher’s unions to be the most abhorrent of the lot. However, that doesn’t mean you eliminate the right to collective bargaining on benefits. I had no issue with anything else in the bill. I’ll need to go pull up the language from encyclicals, but workers do have a right to collectively bargain.

    The Wisconsin public workers are not being told that they can’t belong to a workers association, or even that they can’t collectively bargain, just that they range of what they can collectively bargain on is restricted to salary rather than benefits.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think CST contain a limitation regarding wages. Furthermore, I think the distinction is tenuous; after all, benefits & wages are both compensation, albeit in different forms. I’m not sure what the meaningful distinction would be in regard to collective bargaining & the rights of workers.

    Workers of the World Unite!!!

    You got me. I’m a commie.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    You got me. I’m a commie.

    No, you’re not a commie, you’re just making absolutist comments about Catholic Social Teaching and its applicability to this current situation. It doesn’t make you a red, it just makes you wrong.

  • Phillip says:

    “I could be wrong, but I don’t think CST contain a limitation regarding wages.”

    I think the limitation would be the common good. Now I think we’re free as Catholics to disagree with whether the current benefits enjoyed by the Wisconsin Teachers unions are in accord with the common good.

    Also, as you seem to know, please note which CST document states that the govt. must allow unions to negotiate benefits or they will be in violation of CST. I suspect you won’t. I suspect that as far as rights go, Union rights, like property rights, are not absolute and subject to limitation.

  • Jonathan says:

    The compendium – http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html#The%20importance%20of%20unions – has some very good discussions on unions and their rights.

    Most importantly:

    305. The Magisterium recognizes the fundamental role played by labour unions, whose existence is connected with the right to form associations or unions to defend the vital interests of workers employed in the various professions. Unions “grew up from the struggle of the workers — workers in general but especially the industrial workers — to protect their just rights vis-à-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production”.[667] Such organizations, while pursuing their specific purpose with regard to the common good, are a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life. The recognition of workers’ rights has always been a difficult problem to resolve because this recognition takes place within complex historical and institutional processes, and still today it remains incomplete. This makes the practice of authentic solidarity among workers more fitting and necessary than ever.

    306. The Church’s social doctrine teaches that relations within the world of work must be marked by cooperation: hatred and attempts to eliminate the other are completely unacceptable. This is also the case because in every social system both “labour” and “capital” represent indispensable components of the process of production. In light of this understanding, the Church’s social doctrine “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”.[668] Properly speaking, unions are promoters of the struggle for social justice, for the rights of workers in their particular professions: “This struggle should be seen as a normal endeavour ‘for’ the just good … not a struggle ‘against’ others”.[669] Being first of all instruments of solidarity and justice, unions may not misuse the tools of contention; because of what they are called to do, they must overcome the temptation of believing that all workers should be union-members, they must be capable of self-regulation and be able to evaluate the consequences that their decisions will have on the common good.[670]

    307. Beyond their function of defending and vindicating, unions have the duty of acting as representatives working for “the proper arrangement of economic life” and of educating the social consciences of workers so that they will feel that they have an active role, according to their proper capacities and aptitudes, in the whole task of economic and social development and in the attainment of the universal common good.[671] Unions and other forms of labour associations are to work in cooperation with other social entities and are to take an interest in the management of public matters. Union organizations have the duty to exercise influence in the political arena, making it duly sensitive to labour problems and helping it to work so that workers’ rights are respected. Unions do not, however, have the character of “political parties” struggling for power, and they should not be forced to submit to the decisions of political parties nor be too closely linked to them. “In such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes”.[672]

  • Bill Sr. says:

    I think the people won!
    IF, you accept that “The People” are those who believe they are a part of the entire community of Wisconsin and want their government to treat all citizens as equally as possible regardless of their private affiliations. They also want the government to operate within a budget just as they must do in their own households and/or business. People are to be served by their elected leaders and officials in the capacity for which they chose to serve not to become puppets for union organizers and cheerleaders for mob rule. Those who chose the latter lost yesterday and hopefully will come to their senses enough to recognize an elitist ruling class is not going to work in America anymore.

  • Kyle Miller says:

    Facts:
    1. The Wisconsin legislation did NOT outlaw or break-up unions.
    2. The legislation says nothing about how private sectors unions manage themselves.
    3. The public workers union still retain some collective bargaining rights.
    4. The public workers lost collective bargaining on benefits because local governments, which is where benefits packages are negotiated, need the power to enroll the works in more affordable programs, not like the high priced ones run by the union.

    Nowhere does Catholic Social Teaching say one group of people can strong arm another into handing over their money in the form of benefits. That’s called theft.

  • Blackadder says:

    Michael,

    The issue of benefits is, I think, the hardest part of the bill to justify. Part of the problem has to do with the different nature of public sector unions vs. private sector ones. If a private employer says that he will negotiate will a union if they limit their discussions to wages, that would not seem to violate the workers’ right to organize. In the case of public sector employees, however, the employer is the state. So if the state does the same thing it looks more like a restriction on the right to collectively bargain.

  • The ongoing Wisconsin battle is merely another sign that an old era is dying. Public employee unions have succeeded in helping to push several states into de facto bankruptcy. This is a process that could not go on, and the governor of Wisconsin has just demonstrated that if a governor has the courage to do so, the power of the public employee unions can be shattered. Governors around the nation are paying close attention, and not just Republican governors.

  • Now I think we’re free as Catholics to disagree with whether the current benefits enjoyed by the Wisconsin Teachers unions are in accord with the common good.

    This is not the question at issue. I’ll freely grant that the teachers appear to be grossly overpaid with overly generous benefits. However, that doesn’t change the fact that workers have a right to collectively bargain and that right was limited by the Wisconsin legislature.

    Also, as you seem to know, please note which CST document states that the govt. must allow unions to negotiate benefits or they will be in violation of CST

    Done. Rerum Novarum, 49-57. Leo XIII details on what grounds government might interfere in the associations of workers, and none of those grounds appear to be present in this case. The burden shifts to you to show why this interference is justified.

    you’re just making absolutist comments about Catholic Social Teaching and its applicability to this current situation. It doesn’t make you a red, it just makes you wrong.

    I don’t know if its absolutist. Saving money is not a sufficient ground to justify interference with a union or collective bargaining. In this case, the right was infringed. Now, saving money would be a good grounds for entering into new negotiations with the union or setting some other kind of rule, but by preventing the bargaining Wisconsin went too far.

  • “Saving money is not a sufficient ground to justify interference with a union or collective bargaining.”

    Happens all the time in bankruptcy court for private enterprises, and that is just where states are headed, de facto if not de jure, if the cost of public employees cannot be gotten under control.

  • Jake Tawney says:

    There’s a real question here as to whether or not public sector collective bargaining is even legitimate or supported by Catholic social teaching. The problem with the public sector is that is is negotiating not with management who has profit motives in mind, but with the people’s money. In other words, when the teacher’s union negotiates its salaries it is negotiating over the tax payer’s dollars.

    Besides, Catholic teaching on the dignity of the worker is always based on the dignity of the human person, and when the teacher’s union (I can only speak here in relationship to the teachers because I myself am one … I wouldn’t want to over generalize to other unions) decided to violate the dignity of the human person by promoting agendas that support abortion, homosexual unions, etc., thy lost the right to be “covered” under Catholic social teaching.

  • American Knight says:

    Michael,

    You’ve been called a Commie (Tito’s tongue in cheek) and an absolutist. I have to agree with the latter. “in clear violation of CST” – no, it is not clear at all. In fact, I would say it is clear support of it. Government employees are the people’s employees – they should be there to serve first, earn money second. That could be said about everyone else; however, in the private market, employees and the firms they work for have to compete in a voluntary environment. Government workers do not compete, they are paid with appropriated funds. No profits, no market pressures, corrections or accountability. When the economy pulls back, or a firm is uncompetitive, employees get laid off or the firm is bankrupt and they lose their jobs anyway. When tax revenue declines, states borrow or increase taxes – no one gets laid off. That job security, which I believe is now in jeopardy because of the debt, should make government jobs less remunerative that private jobs.

    The right to free association is not necessarily a right to collective bargaining; however, in the private market, unions may have their place and the government hasn’t a right to stop them. Government unions are grotesque.

    Additionally, you mentioned our democracy being dysfunctional. I don’t see how. Democracy, as a form of government as opposed to a governmental process is always dysfunctional because the demos in democracy are and always will be dysfunctional (sinful). What is dysfunctional is our Republic because it is functioning as a democracy.

    Without the enforcement of the 10th amendment, the repeal of the 17th and 26th amendments, elimination of the Federal Reserve and fiat currency, and restoration of a moral culture based on Judeo-Christian values we are doomed to live in a democracy, which will devolve into a mobocracy (usually accompanied by intermittent anarchy and civil war) and then a dictatorship or oligarchy and finally a totalitarian nightmare.

    So your absolutist comments may in fact lead you to become a Commie, sadly I don’t think that would be your intent or pleasure, but once the mob rules, you’d better join The Party or prepare for martyrdom.

  • RL says:

    However, that doesn’t change the fact that workers have a right to collectively bargain and that right was limited by the Wisconsin legislature.

    I don’t think they’re being denied a right to collectively bargain. Further, the term bargain implies an action done between two or more parties. It’s entirely reasonable for one of the parties to refuse to consider a particular demand (reasonable or not), just as it’s often likely one party may demand something that may or may not be reasonable.

    As others have noted, the public sector IS different than the private sector. That doesn’t mean workers in the public sector have no rights or shouldn’t have, but there are objectively different attributes and relationships that make it different. We live in a democratic republic. When public sector union representatives bargain on behalf of their members, they’re essentially bargaining with the representatives of the citizens (which oddly enough include the union members). The thing is quite troubling when you think about it. It really runs contrary to solidarity because it makes citizens adversaries of sorts. In order for those who have chosen a career of public service to increase their lot they must extract it from those whom they serve. It’s entirely conceivable at some point they will receive more than is just, causing injustice to those who are paying. I think we’re seeing that come to fruition.

  • Phillip says:

    “This is not the question at issue. I’ll freely grant that the teachers appear to be grossly overpaid with overly generous benefits. However, that doesn’t change the fact that workers have a right to collectively bargain and that right was limited by the Wisconsin legislature. ”

    But again collective bargaining is in regard to the common good. Like private propertly, collective bargaining is a right, but not an absolute right. And as you note teachers who are grossly overpaid and have overly generous benefits in an time when the state is millions in the whole, this right arguably can be limited.

    “Done. Rerum Novarum, 49-57.”

    Read it. No where does it say the state may not limit collective bargaining rights in regards to benefits. No where is that wording present. You may interpret it as so. But that is for you to argue. Others may in good faith disagree given the limits to the rights of collective bargaining and the need to consider the common god.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “In the end, we all lost.”

    I would have to agree with that. As important as these fiscal and politicial issues are, were they really worth all the hatred, insults, disruption, intimidation, and mistrust the bill and the protests against it generated?

    I agree that public employee unions have disproportionate clout (remember, I am a NON UNION public employee myself) and that they can’t go on forever demanding the kinds of benefits they have enjoyed. But, is it really wise or just for the GOP and fiscal conservatives to paint them as some kind of Marie Antoinette-like privileged class whom their own families, friends and neighbors should despise? Even the unionized ones aren’t all wealthy.

    Class warfare as a politicial strategy is doomed to fail, and cause more problems than it solves, no matter who starts it. Why not just emphasize that a sustainable government that doesn’t live beyond its means and doesn’t make promises it can’t keep is good for everyone?

    As C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape said, “Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and it is our task to lull them yet faster asleep. Others, like the present, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our job to inflame them.”

  • “were they really worth all the hatred, insults, disruption, intimidation, and mistrust the bill and the protests against it generated?”

    In my opinion yes. Few important things ever get done in the public sphere, especially against a powerful entrenched interest, without those examples of the Fallen state of Man being a part of the process. This type of return to fiscal sanity is going to happen either through the legislative process or by the states simply running out of the funds to pay public employees and to continue essential government services. I prefer the former to the latter.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    As important as these fiscal and politicial issues are, were they really worth all the hatred, insults, disruption, intimidation, and mistrust the bill and the protests against it generated?

    Any real reform is going to cause disruption and turmoil. We want our leaders to to engage in substantive change without fretting over poll numbers and worrying that a certain segment of the population is going to demagogue the issue.

    Why not just emphasize that a sustainable government that doesn’t live beyond its means and doesn’t make promises it can’t keep is good for everyone?

    And Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans have been doing that. That they’ve been outshouted by individuals protesting on the Capitol steps and certain pundits is not their problem.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    Don and Paul, perhaps you missed my point, or I didn’t state it clearly enough. Obviously “real reform” isn’t going to be accomplished without some resistance and some turmoil. But is it really necessary for either side to go out of its way to foment hatred and contempt between fellow citizens?

    I’m thinking more of the effect this issue seems to have had on individual citizens of Wisconsin and elsewhere, provoking them to disrupt friendships and family relationships, to threaten others with violence, and set extremely bad examples for the next generation. I’m thinking of the teachers who called in “sick,” the doctors who dispensed fraudulent sick notes, the police who neglected their duty to keep order and safety in the capitol building, the legislators who abandoned their posts, leftist protesters and bloggers who openly threatened violence to Walker and the GOP. Yes, that’s a lot of bad on the pro-union/leftist/Democrat side.

    But the GOP/conservative side has also made a critical mistake: implementing a strategy based on envy, on encouraging people to think that just because THEY no longer enjoy retirement security or the benefits of unionization in the private sector, the obvious solution is to stir up resentment of their “greedy” and “overpaid” neighbors, friends and families in the public sector who still do.

    With anger and pride reigning on one side and envy reigning on both sides, there’s a lot of potential for damage to real people who will have to live with themselves, others, and God long after this particular dispute is forgotten. That’s what I mean when I wonder if all this was “worth it”. The life of a state, nation, or union contract is a drop in the bucket compared to the lives of the individual souls involved.

  • “But is it really necessary for either side to go out of its way to foment hatred and contempt between fellow citizens?”

    It certainly isn’t necessary Elaine, but it certainly is human. I can recall no big political fight in my lifetime that did not have such aspects. I deplore it, but that does not alter my opinion that the fight over public employee unions is a necessary one and an inevitable one.

    “The life of a state, nation, or union contract is a drop in the bucket compared to the lives of the individual souls involved.”

    That of course is the path of the Amish down by Arcola and elsewhere in this country. Other than dropping out from society and fleeing to a monastery or a convent, I can’t think of any way to avoid being concerned with matters of public policy. We all have a duty to conduct ourselves in a Christian manner in political strife over the course of a nation, but I do not think that Christians are required to absent themselves from the public square simply because the positions they take will cause heated opposition.

    It also might be my Irish heritage. :) The Irish are used to having heated political arguments without taking them too seriously! (Unless the English are involved!)

  • Joe Green says:

    Donald, here’s a quote from St. Jerome that seems apt:

    “If an offense come out of of the truth, better it is that the offense come than that the truth be concealed.”

    By the way, this quote is used by Thomas Hardy in a preface to “Tess of the D’Urbervilles (A Pure Woman), which prompted an interesting exchange on TAC between us awhile back.

    Perhaps your somewhat dim view of Hardy would be ameliorated by reading (or re-reading?)) some of his works. He was conflicted about Christianity (as I am), which I so identify with him.

    Sorry to threadjack.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .