Thursday, November 10, AD 2011

As the father of an autistic son who my wife and I love more than our lives, and who we will be caring for during the rest of our lives, I have one word to describe the activities of the Service Employees International Union as detailed in the following story from the Washington Examiner:  Despicable.


If you’re a parent who accepts Medicaid payments from the State of Michigan to help support your mentally-disabled adult children,  you qualify as a state employee for the purposes of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). They can now claim and receive a portion of your Medicaid in the form of union dues.


Robert and Patricia Haynes live in Michigan with their two adult children, who have cerebral palsy. The state government provides the family with insurance through Medicaid, but also treats them as caregivers. For the SEIU, this makes them public employees and thus members of the union, which receives $30 out of the family’s monthly Medicaid subsidy. The Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) deducts union dues on behalf of SEIU.

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5 Responses to Thieves

  • Michigan is among the worst of the progressivist, nannyish, union-dominated states. You may recall that some union, it may have been the SEIU, actuallly had a law passed allowing them to take money from home-based child-care providers here. (Nation-wide conservative outrage and the influx of Republicans in the ’10 elections has rendered the law nugatory, but it seems to be on the books still.) Unions are so entrenched here that new Republican majories in both houses and a Rep. Gov. haven’t made a bit of difference. (This, by the way, is what will happen nationally with a Romney victory–it will be meaningless.) Realize also that state employee unions use involunntarily collected funds from state-paid employees to lobby for increased state-employee pay so that they may collect more lobbying funds to lobby etc.

  • I despise unions, also, Donald. My story is entirely different than yours, however. When I got out of the US Submarine Service, I went to work at a commercial pressurized water reactor as a union I&C technician. One incident in particular convinced me to get out of the union. Like all light water reactors, we had an acoustical monitoring system used to detect loose parts in the reactor coolant system during operation at power. Even very small loose parts (tiny nylon springs, almost mircoscopic washers, etc.) can be dangerous because if they get past the debris strainers at the bottom of the fuel assembly rods, they can impact the soft zircalloy metal that keeps the fuel pins intact. After repeated vibrations, the zircalloy can undergo what’s called debris fretting, and the fuel pins could be exposed to the reactor coolant. Of course that would result in the release of fission products directly into the reactor coolant system, and that is not a good thing. The US NRC takes a very dim view of failed fuel elements, because that means that the first barrier to fission product release [ (1) fuel rod, (2) reactor coolant piping, and (3) reactor containment ] has been degraded. Usually when that happens, adjacent control rods have to be inserted to suppress neutron flux in the area so that the fissions in the affected fuel rod will be stopped, but that messes up thermal neutron flux profile across the core, and a whole set of other effects happen. Sometimes a complete shutdown is required and the defective fuel assembly has to be removed. That costs a million dollars a day to do, and it is by no means a quick process.

    So what does that all have to do with unions? When, as an I&C technician, I was responsible for calibrating the system that would detect debris in the reactor coolant system and allow us to take corrective action before that debris might cause a fuel element failure. There is a Regulatory Guide on all this – RG-1.133:

    Unfortunately we had an old analog system that we used for this purpose, and we had no calibration procedure to make certain the system (we called in the metal impact monitoring system or MIMS) was working right. So I figured out how the system worked (having been a Navy nuke, I was used to taking things apart and putting them back together again, and then writing a procedure to reflect what I had done). I then wrote the procedure that the aforementioned Regulatory Guide required and turned it into management.

    The union shop steward confronted me with what I had done, yelling at me that I was costing them union jobs and overtime. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Overtime was more important to this guy than having a correctly written procedure to calibrate a system that we would use to detect impending fuel element failures and prevent an unnecessary plant shutdown. This would save the company millions (and keep the publc safe – duh!). At that point I made up my mind to get the heck out of the union. I was successful within a year or so of that decision and never again have I had to work in any union, thanks be to God.

    I could tell you many other stories – union techs waiting till 3 pm quitting time to tell us there was a problem, and they did it deliberately to get the overtime. After all, at a nuke plant problems have to be addressed post-haste. Another example – engineers at a sister nuke plant voted in the union. When I went to teach them, if the class or the test lasted even one minute past their normal quitting time, they would just walk out. No responsibility. No accountability.

    I utterly despise unionism, liberalism, progressivism and democracy – two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner. I now work in a company where there are no union techs, and if we have to work an hour or two past quitting time to get the darn job done, then we do. Sure, we complain, but we choose to serve our customer and have a good reputation. Then our boss gives us compensatory time off. We don’t need unions. Being nuclear professionals, we are paid very well (you, John Q. Public, do the paying in your electric bill), and as a result we are expected to behave as adults. I realize nowadays that’s a unique concept.

  • A push was made a couple of years ago, I believe, by SEIU to unionize home care assistants in Illinois but it failed, mainly because of opposition from those who were serving as Medicaid supported caregivers for their own family members.

    It is stuff like this that makes me wonder what to do with my own child, who is autistic. I feel like it would be wrong to rely upon the state or federal government to care for her, particularly when it involves cooperation with corrupt entities such as this, but since my husband and I are not going to live forever and she has no siblings or other relatives close to her age, what are we to do?

  • We parents of autistic kids Elaine, and other disabled kids, will have to set up our own support systems to help all of our kids after we are gone. My autistic son’s twin brother, a very dependable young man, will carry on after we are gone, but I can understand that many parents are not as fortunate as we are, and we will all need to work together to resolve this problem for everyone.

  • Yes, it was in MI that the home based day care businesses were unionized by stealth, although I think that has finally ended. The legislature dealt with the home health care worker unionization by defunding whatever department it was that was upholding it…to no avail. Some Repub senator (a physician by the way) out of the Saginaw area has been doing all he can to keep the home health care worker union scam going.

    The unions are also trying to unionzie the student employees of Michigan U in Ann Arbor–not the ones in the school cafeteria, but the grad assistances. They tried that many moons back and failed. This time it looks like they might fail again, but YNK.

Void ab Initio

Wednesday, June 15, AD 2011


As I am sure most of you know, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision vacated the order of Judge Maryann Sumi enjoining the bill passed by the Wisconsin legislature regarding public employee unions.  The court divided along partisan lines.  The bluntness of the majority opinion is something to behold.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all orders and judgments of the Dane County Circuit Court in Case No. 2011CV1244 are vacated and declared to be void ab initio.  State ex rel. Nader v. Circuit Court for Dane Cnty., No. 2004AP2559-W, unpublished order (Wis. S. Ct. Sept. 30, 2004) (wherein this court vacated the prior orders of the circuit court in the same case). 

Declaring the orders of a trial court void ab initio is an unusual step for an appellate court.  It basically says that the trial court completely misconstrued the relevant law from the beginning, and is not to be trusted by the appellate court simply reversing the trial court and remanding the case back to the trial court.  Instead the Supreme Court ruled on all of  the issues in the case itself, with Judge Sumi now tossed out of the case by the action of the Supreme Court.  

This court has granted the petition for an original action because one of the courts that we are charged with supervising has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature.  It is important for all courts to remember that Article IV, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides:  “The legislative power shall be vested in a senate and assembly.”  Article IV, Section 17 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides in relevant part:  “(2) . . . No law shall be in force until published.  (3) The legislature shall provide by law for the speedy publication of all laws.”

You don’t get blunter than that in the law.  Judge Sumi is held by the Court to have usurped the power of the legislature!

The Court then notes that what Judge Sumi attempted to do, enjoin publication of a bill in order to prevent it from becoming law, was in direct defiance of a prior case decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court:

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12 Responses to Void ab Initio

  • My understanding is that the power of the unionists is now curtailed. I am very happy.

  • cut/paste from earlier comment:

    It’s all good.

    WI Supreme Court upheld Gov. Walker’s bill reforming public employee unions – abolishing automatic withholding of dues, which was the main cause of all this thuggery. Less taxpayer money to fund lib/looter candidates’ campaigns.

    The legislature, a judicial special election (where union organization should have been decisive), and the WISC all righteously beat them down.

    And, all along they showed us that they are thugs and, even worse, hurt a lot of (Special Olympics) little children.

  • Declaring the orders of a trial court void ab initio is an unusual step for an appellate court. It basically says that the trial court completely misconstrued the relevant law from the beginning, and is not to be trusted by the appellate court simply reversing the trial court and remanding the case back to the trial court.

    I don’t know, I wouldn’t be so strong in stating void ab initio that way. Generally, it occurs when the trial court acted without jurisdiction, therefore the order it entered had no force or effect from the moment it was entered. It is usually not a comment on the trust to be placed in the trial court or its legal acumen, rather simply a statement that the order lacks validity from a legalstandpoint. Many jursidictional questions can be close calls, with reasonable arguemtns both for and against. teh question of separation of powers and what legisaltive actions (or failure to act) a court can and cannot review is not a simple question.

  • Man, my typing stinks.

  • As a general rule I don’t disagree with you cmatt, except that in those situations normally the case is remanded back to the trial court with the expectation that the trial court will follow what the appellate court orders. It is far more unusual here where everything the trial court did is vacated, and the apellate court takes the case away from the trial court and decides it completely itself. I have not seen that too often, and I think the decison here was intended to be a slap at the trial judge, especially when the rest of the opinion is considered.

  • Except now the unions are suing over the constitutionality of the law, saying it treats different public sector unions unequally – some lose their collective bargaining rights, while others – such as police, fire, et al – get to keep them. One hurdle crushed, another to get over.

    What’s your opinion on their lawsuit? Does it depend on the judge hearing the case, or does it have merit?

  • The judge hearing the case usually has a vast impact on litigation. I doubt if it has merit since government contracts usually do not come under equal protection analysis unless discrimination is evident on some basis such as race or sex. A government is under no obligation to recognize public employee unions at all, so the argument that a state government may not treat them differently under statute strikes me as farcial on its face. Many states, for example, restrict the ability of certain unions, usually police and firemen, to strike, and those restrictions have been upheld time and again.

  • Turning out to be “the Lawyer Relief bill.” The unionistas are already in federal court trying yet another legal maneuver to block implementation. Meanwhile the Democrats, as usual, are doing everything they can to be obstructionist including prolonging recall elections in senate districts where they were challenged. WI, my home for the past 15 years, is a national embarrassment.

  • Joe,

    NY has WI beat by miles.

    They’re about to legislationally sanctify sodomy and we hear not one word from any church leader anywhere in the Umpire Stake.

    Plus, they keep voting for sordid solons like Anthony Weiner.

  • Mr. Shaw. Re Weiner, not any more. And, yes, I was born and bred in NYC and know all too well about its sordid past and present.

  • T. Shaw,

    While I agree with youur sentiment (NYS is worse than WI), it is inaccurate to state that nno clergy on NYS has spokeen against the pending sanctificattion of homosexual filth by the NYS legislature. The USCCB president, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of NYC, has issued the obligatory statements against tthis at the USCCB meeting televised yesterday afternoon on EWTN TV. I got home from work about 5 pm and caught somethinng about him speaking on this very topic. Please see this web link for more details:

    Nevertheless, you are correct. Bishop Hubbard of Albany, NY – the guy who eulogized Andy “I am an adulterer” Cuomo who is intent on sanctifying godless sodomy and who lives with his concubine and to whom Hubbard distributed Holy Communion – has done much to damage the Church in NYS. Yet he remains the USCCB social justice flunky. NYS is filled with like-minded clergy, and thus when I visit my children in Syracuse, NY, I find more than half the pews in the Catholic Churches empty.

    The clerical embracing of godless liberal progressive demokracy has done much to weaken the Church in the Empire State. Sorry, folks. That’s the way it is. Too few good clergy and too many heterodox ones

  • Sorry, guys, that my iPad repeats letters. It can’t handle fast typing at this web site.

One Response to Solidarity Forever?

Public Employee Unions Explained

Friday, March 11, AD 2011


Now, there is a good deal of evidence in favor of the opinion that many of these societies are in the hands of secret leaders, and are managed on principles ill-according with Christianity and the public well-being; and that they do their utmost to get within their grasp the whole field of labor, and force working men either to join them or to starve. Under these circumstances Christian working men must do one of two things: either join associations in which their religion will be exposed to peril, or form associations among themselves and unite their forces so as to shake off courageously the yoke of so unrighteous and intolerable an oppression. No one who does not wish to expose man’s chief good to extreme risk will for a moment hesitate to say that the second alternative should by all means be adopted.

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum




Klavan on the Culture, you are correct!  Public employee unions, by funding Democrats and providing election workers, effectively were able largely to write their own compensation packages, taxpayer be hanged.  It was a decades long merry party at the expense of the public, and many states are on the verge of bankruptcy as a result.  The battle over public employee unions is just the opening round in a huge political fight across the nation as the states, which are unable to simply print money as the federal government does, desperately grapple with looming fiscal insolvency.  Change is coming as change often does:  brought about by onrushing reality.

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8 Responses to Public Employee Unions Explained

  • Spot on! Collective bargaining is not a right. If it actually was, why is it the case that every person in this country is not obligated to be a member of a union in order have the “right” to collectively bargain? It is all about Democratic power and money but not about rights.

  • This is a really good one too. It’s by the Heritage organization and a little shorter than the other 2.

  • Public employees are like mothers in many ways…no one appreciates what they do until they aren’t there doing it. When schools deteriorate, good students no longer study to become teachers, long lines persist at government facilities due to worker shortage, children who are abused do not get the services they need, individuals with physical, emotional and/or mental challenges are left untreated…maybe some of you will begin to realize that many government workers are providing valuable service to a variety of vulnerable populations. And none of them are getting rich.

  • “Public employees are like mothers in many ways…no one appreciates what they do until they aren’t there doing it.”

    Considering the absenteeism rampant among public employees as opposed to people in the private sector a lot of them on any given day aren’t doing what they are paid to be doing in any case.

    “When schools deteriorate”

    We are spending more on public education today, adjusted for inflation, than we have ever spent, and the results are pathetic. That helps explain the rise in the homeschooling movement.

    “good students no longer study to become teachers”

    Education majors usually come from the bottom 25% academically of their colleges and universities.

    “long lines persist at government facilities due to worker shortage”

    We have that now and we have more people working for the government now than at any time since World War II.

    “children who are abused do not get the services they need”

    That is the case now, judging from the treatment that kids receive from the government in cases where I am appointed Guardian ad Litem for them by courts.

    “individuals with physical, emotional and/or mental challenges are left untreated”

    Once again, that is the case now. Scandals involving abuse of mentally handicapped individuals in government care are routine, often involving physical and sexual abuse by public employees.

    “maybe some of you will begin to realize that many government workers are providing valuable service to a variety of vulnerable populations.”

    Nah, I think it more likely that more people will awaken to the fact that governmental institutions created to help people have become giant cash cows that provide often rotten treatment to the people they are ostensibly meant to aid.

    “And none of them are getting rich.”

    Almost all of them are doing far better than they would if they had to hustle for a job in the private sector.

  • “We have more people working for the government now than at any time since World War II.”

    That depends on what level of government you are talking about. Federal employment has grown quite a bit, but not necessarily state and local employment. You need only look at all the vacant office space in downtown Springfield next time you’re here to see evidence of that. Many agencies of the State of Illinois have shrunk drastically in the last 10-15 years or so. The agency I work for once employed 25 people; it’s down to 14 today and with two people near retirement will probably be down to 12 shortly. Many state parks and historic sites like Lincoln’s New Salem that once employed numerous full time and seasonal workers are running almost entirely on unpaid volunteer help today — and their physical condition, sadly, shows that.

    I do think that some of the Lincoln sites would be better off being privatized in the long run (a la Colonial Williamsburg) and there is probably enough interest in Lincoln out there to get well-heeled donors interested in a foundation for that purpose. But the reason I suggest that is precisely because the ability of state government to handle these tasks is shrinking, not growing.

  • I would stand by my contention Elaine and I believe the numbers bear me out.

    My county is actually an interesting example of the process. Livingston County in Illlinois has had a remarkably static population for over a century. We had 40,000 people approximately during the Grant administration and we have that today. When my former partner was growing up in a town of 4,000 in the Sixties the town had one cop and two part timers. We now have seven cops and three part timers. The growth of government employment at all levels in this country has been explosive since the Sixties.

  • Well, actually if you look at the chart, federal employment went DOWN in the 1990s and even in 2010 hadn’t quite bounced back to the 1990 level. My guess is that a lot of that decrease had to do with cutbacks in the military following the first Gulf War and the various rounds of base closings prescribed by the Base Realignment And Closing (BRAC) commission.

    As for overall federal and state employment, law enforcement is obviously one of those sectors of public employment that HAS grown explosively as cities and suburbs expand, crime rates go up, and state and federal government provide additional funding for hiring cops. Public schools in fast-growing areas also have to hire more people. They also have to hire more aides and support staff in recent years for things like special education, as I’m sure you know. Since the overall population of the U.S. has increased by 60 million since 1990 it stands to reason that schools and law enforcement would have to grow with it.

    Also some states went through a prison-building spree in the 1980s and 90s and those prisons obviously have to be staffed. Even so, understaffing and working guards overtime to the point of exhaustion is a common problem at some institutions (just ask someone who works at Pontiac Correctional Center ).

  • “My guess is that a lot of that decrease had to do with cutbacks in the military following the first Gulf War and the various rounds of base closings prescribed by the Base Realignment And Closing (BRAC) commission.”

    You would be correct in that assumption Elaine. The military went through a substantial reduction in force following the end of the Cold War.

    “As for overall federal and state employment, law enforcement is obviously one of those sectors of public employment that HAS grown explosively as cities and suburbs expand, crime rates go up, and state and federal government provide additional funding for hiring cops.”

    Population expansion has little to do with it Elaine. What has a lot to do with it is the earmarking of funds as you point out, and also legislation criminalizing fairly trivial matters. After 28 years doing criminal defense work, I’d say much of it is for nought. Local governments tend to use traffic tickets as sources of revenue which involve a fair amount of court time; very low level drug arrests; orders of protection that turn non-physical boyfriend and girlfriend and husband and wife spats into criminal cases; etc. A good 80% of criminal cases today I would estimate have little to do with maintaining public order and a great deal to do with a mistaken belief that government can micro-manage society and cure all ills.

    “They also have to hire more aides and support staff in recent years for things like special education, as I’m sure you know.”

    In regard to increased aides and support staff at schools I view almost all of this as wasted expenditure in my opinion. Schools have gotten endlessly bureaucratic and this development has helped further degrade the performance of an already shaky public school system. The movement to homeschooling is a testament to failing public schools even as we pump ever more funds into these bottomless money pits.

    “Also some states went through a prison-building spree in the 1980s and 90s and those prisons obviously have to be staffed. Even so, understaffing and working guards overtime to the point of exhaustion is a common problem at some institutions (just ask someone who works at Pontiac Correctional Center ).”

    I have represented quite a few guards at both Pontiac and Dwight. The stories they tell me have given me very little faith in how DOC spends our taxpayer funds. Additionally our prisons have effectively become hostels for very low level criminals, not their original intent, rather than places where only the most serious felons are sent. The abolition of county farms where low level offenders decades ago were sent, and which usually ran at a profit to the county, has helped create this problem.

    Our society has operated under the twin illusions that government can truly transform society and cure almost all ills, and that we had limitless funds to support such government. Both these illusions are ending before our eyes.

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

  • I’m very skeptical that they receive more than $44K in benefits.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Bill,

    Total compensation equates to everything the teachers receive.

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


    100% of what you say is untrue.

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

  • 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…

  • Phillip,

    Your wife will be rewarded in Heaven. She is an excellent example of selflessness and self-giving.

    Wisconsin teachers are the diametric opposite.

  • 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.

  • Tito,

    I’d tell her that but she might use it the next time she wants that trip to Florida. 🙂

    I like Jonah Goldberg’s take:,0,4678423.column

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Some more perspective on public unions’ power. Again, contrary to CST? Probably.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. “

  • 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.

  • 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”?

  • 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.”

  • In Milwaukee, the average TOTAL COMPENSATION package tops $100k.

    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.

  • 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!

  • Here is a link to a list of top political donors 1989-2010. It is astonishing that the Republicans are competitive politically in this country with the way the Democrats dominate big money donors, mostly, but not exclusively, labor unions, with most corporate donors giving similar amounts to Democrats and Republicans.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • RR,

    People in the video within this link ( plainly state it. They appear to be school board members of some government functionary… and not some sort of budget cutting crusader.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    You mean the Tea Party? 🙂

  • “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.

  • Actually, the claim that a group of people have enough money so we can tax them is quite a leftist thing.

  • 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.

  • “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!

  • Check out this statement by Bp. Robert Morlino of Madison concerning the labor situation:

    This is linked to also over at Fr. Z’s blog. (The note about the statement only being intended for distribution within the diocese doesn’t mean no one else is supposed to read it; it means that it is particularly addressed to Catholics of that diocese.)

  • 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

  • It was Pope JP the second that should be the pope in my last paragraph of a previous post , Sincerely, Ed M. waterbury, Ct.

  • 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.

The Battle of Wisconsin

Friday, February 18, AD 2011

Last November the people of Wisconsin went to the polls and elected Republican Scott Walker governor and gave the Republicans a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.  Scott Walker, mirabile dictu, is actually delivering on what he promised to do in the campaign:

The proposal marks a dramatic shift for Wisconsin, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees.

In addition to eliminating collective-bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.

Republican leaders said they expected Wisconsin residents would be pleased with the savings the bill would achieve — $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

“I think the taxpayers will support this idea,” Fitzgerald said.

Wisconsin has long been a bastion for workers’ rights. But when voters elected Walker, an outspoken conservative, along with GOP majorities in both legislative chambers, it set the stage for a dramatic reversal of the state’s labor history.

Under Walker’s plan, state employees’ share of pension and health care costs would go up by an average of 8 percent.

Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.

In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs. Walker has threatened to order layoffs of up to 6,000 state workers if the measure does not pass.

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18 Responses to The Battle of Wisconsin

  • “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war . . . ”

    Love the new slogan: “WTF.”

  • You took the words right out of my mouth there Don! More later.

  • The really sad thing for me is that the “protesters” have enlisted students and their own kids in their tantrum of greed. What are those kids being taught in school and at home?

    This whole thing is sickening just like the NFL players using collective bargaining for their millions.

    I am reminded of the comments of Gov Christie in N.J. to a teacher who was protesting cuts. His advice was if the job was not to her liking she should search for another.

    Is it at all surprising that Pres.Obama is supporting the Unions? These public employees unions and other unions are a major factor in his election as many members vote mindlessly based on union propaganda.

  • I live in Madison, and it is chaos here. What’s interesting is that amongst my friends and acquaintances, the battle lines are not drawn by party or ideology, but strictly on union membership.

    I’ve seen solidly Catholic, pro-life, tea-partying friends posting pictures of Scott Walker with a Hitler mustache. I’m completely disgusted.

    The public schools are all closed due to a Wildcat Strike. The Capitol has been trashed.

    I’m sick over this.

  • I am not surprised that the Union members are upset at this. There are some aspects of what is suggested that trouble me. Note, I fully agree that many states have to cut spending, in some cases dramatically, but there are certain approaches that seem less than appropriate. In any case, in no particular order, here are my objections.

    1. Forcing Unions to vote every year to stay organized? No private company would be allowed to impose such a term on its union employees; it would be considered Union busting.

    2. Limiting pay raises to the consumer price index without a referendum? I can certainly see suggesting pay cuts, or staff cuts to help balance the budget. But frankly, if the state is limited to consumer price index for raises, they might have a hard time attracting and retaining good employees in a number of important areas. Lets remember, in lean times, the government is probably not going to give them those pay raises, but how will they make up the difference when good times return? More importantly, what happens during periods when wages in the private sector start increasing faster than the CPI does? And Referendums? Has Wisconsin learned nothing from California?

    3. How is this actually shrinking government? It might shrink government costs, but it essentially promises to keep everyone in government employed?

    Ultimately, this seems less like an attempt to shrink the government and more like an attempt to bust unions. Further, while I might agree that there are too many state employees, many of them make considerably less by choosing their particular professions than someone with a similar level of Education could in the private sector. My wife was a teacher before she became a stay at home Mom. Her Salary was only 3/5’s what mine was despite the fact that she had a Master’s Degree and I only have a Bachelor’s. Is there inefficiency in government? Yep, is there waste? Are there people who are sitting on their buts not doing a whole lot? Absolutely. But the key is to shrink the government and get rid of the waste, not punish the effective police officers, firemen and teachers who are effective.

  • “2. Limiting pay raises to the consumer price index without a referendum? I can certainly see suggesting pay cuts, or staff cuts to help balance the budget. But frankly, if the state is limited to consumer price index for raises, they might have a hard time attracting and retaining good employees…”

    Last time I had a pay raise due to CPI was when I was in the military. Since that time, the only time I’ve gotten a pay raise is when I changed jobs.

  • Ultimately, this seems less like an attempt to shrink the government and more like an attempt to bust unions.

    What’s the downside?

    My wife was a teacher before she became a stay at home Mom. Her Salary was only 3/5?s what mine was despite the fact that she had a Master’s Degree and I only have a Bachelor’s.

    Sorry she got gypped.

  • Steve, earlier this week about 4,000 Illinois teachers descended on our capital to protest legislation infringing on their rights. However, you didn’t hear about it on the national news. Also, I live in Springfield and work across the street from the capitol, and can verify that the protest was entirely peaceful and orderly. There was nowdisruption whatsoever of state government, and the protestors left the Capitol grounds just as they found them.

    Surprised? I’m not, because the teachers in question were actually homeschooling parents protesting a bill that would have forced them to register with the State Board of Education. They got what they wanted (at least for now) without having to call in Jesse Jackson, the DNC, or anyone else.

  • In theory, although often not in practice, unions can be a benefit to the employees and a check against those who seek profits at any expense. What would have happened in Poland without the unions to stand against the Communists and the martial law? I am a little confused though, aren’t unions for government employees essential engaged in collective bargaining against the people they allege to be serving? We are not shareholders, we are citizens. Last I checked government was not designed or intended to be a profitable (financially) enterprise and judging from their fiscal state they wouldn’t know how to make a profit anyway, they are practically all broke.

    It seems that forces are aligned to pit those who ‘serve’ the public against the public. This is not only sad, it is disgusting. When the government is broke all citizens are affected, so shouldn’t those who work for the government share some of the same pain as the rest of us? Or, are these people a special class? For all government employees on this site, I am not directing this at you, this is in regard to those who find government work a reward for themselves and not an act of service, paid or not.

  • Steve

    If the mere thought or mention of having the union fat cats, who collect billions from the working class to see that they can forever seat the right people in Washington who will perpetuate their desire to leverage local and state governments and control public workers through premium salary and benefit plans unavailable to most private sector workers, cut some slack for the good of all the people in Wisconsin and not have the state go bankrupt causes them to act like enslaved Egyptian rioters it should give you an indication of just out of control their lust for power has become.

  • A few further thoughts/ramblings:

    I don’t think it was necessary or prudent for EITHER side to escalate this dispute to this level.

    The unions, of course, should not have gone nuclear over pension and health insurance concessions that while significant, are not out of line with what employees of other states have been asked to do. (Illinois state employees like myself already pay as much or more toward their own pensions and health insurance than Wisconsin state employees are being asked to do.) I don’t blame them for not LIKING it — no one, regardless of whom they work for, wants to suddenly be forced to cough up hundreds or thousands of dollars more every month — but it is fiscal reality that has to be faced.

    That said…. I also believe Walker may have overreached by going beyond the financial concessions to actually imposing limits on collective bargaining itself. He might as well have waved a red flag in front of a herd of raging bulls or tossed gasoline on a fire that, up to that point, could have been contained with minimal damage.

    Adding further fuel to the flames was the manner in which Walker announced last week that he was calling up the National Guard. The intent, apparently, was to have Guard members ready to FILL IN for prison guards or other public safety personnel who might walk off their jobs. However, it has widely been interpreted as a threat to use force against the workers themselves — and Walker has not, in my opinion, done enough to dispel that notion. Among people of a certain age it conjures up images of Chicago in 1968, Kent State, et. al. Most people don’t remember that era very fondly, if they remember it at all (Walker himself, at age 43, wouldn’t) but in the People’s Republic of Madison, there may still be some who do.

    I agree with the general goal among fiscal conservatives of putting the brakes on out of control public sector unions. But it took more than 50 years for public union power to reach this point, and it is just not realistic to attempt to undo most of all of that in just a few days or weeks. I fear that Walker AND the union leaders are engaging in grandstanding for a national audience at the expense of Wisconsin citizens, and at the risk of igniting a culture war not seen since the Vietnam Era. (Walker’s recent attempts to poach businesses from Illinois, despite the fact that Illinois’ new tax rates are still LOWER than Wisconsin’s, reinforces this notion for me.)

    Now on the other side of the pond, in Michigan, we have another new GOP governor, Rick Snyder, also attempting to get significant concessions from public unions — but doing so through the existing negotiation process, respecting the bargaining rights already in place. Snyder seems to be doing only what is necessary and NOT going out of his way to treat the unions as enemies to be destroyed at all costs. (Yes, the unions are starting to raise heck there but that may be more of a reaction to what’s happening in Wisconsin than anything else.) Even Chris Christie in New Jersey hasn’t, to date, ticked off unions to the extent Walker has. We’ll see whose approach works best in the long run.

    Finally, Knight’s comments about the role of unions in society are right on the mark. There’s a reason why unions exist, and why the Church from the time of Leo XIII defended their right to exist — in the PRIVATE sector. Those who work for a private employer accountable to no one but himself or to the shareholders may need recourse to a union; those who work for a democratically elected government accountable to voters and taxpayers, not so much.

    You all may be aware that Abp. Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee issued a statement regarding the situation and the Church’s teaching on unions. I may have more on that later today if someone else here doesn’t beat me to the punch 🙂

  • The unions didn’t go nuclear over pension and fringe benefits.

    From AFSCME

    We have said all along that we are willing to sit down with the Governor to address our budget challenges. Let me be even more clear today: We are prepared to implement the financial concessions proposed to help bring our state’s budget into balance, but we will not be denied our God?given right to join a real union.

    For us, public service isn’t about money. No one ever said “I want to be a nurse to get rich.” Or “I want to be a teacher so I can buy a huge house on the lake.” Being a public employee is about sacrificing to help improve the lives of our friends, family and neighbors.

    We will meet the Governor half way. But we will not ? I repeat we will NOT ? be denied our rights to collectively bargain. We will not under any circumstances give up our freedom to join a real union.

    Our voice has been heard in every corner of this nation. And it will continue to be heard until the Governor sits down with us with the true interests of the state and the rights of its citizens at heart.

    Hopefully this will put an end to Walker’s false flag operation, but I’m doubtful.

  • Well if you can’t trust Afscme….well, actually you can’t trust Afscme. I have absolutely no doubt however that the powers that be at the helm of the public employee unions would be willing to throw their members under the bus on salary and fringe benefits as long as they can get rid of two key provisions: annual elections to stay recognized as the union and the right of the unions to grab the dues of members through payroll deduction. Why is this? Because public employee unions, like most unions, are intensely unpopular with a signifcant fraction of the workers who are required to belong to them. Given an annual free choice, and the ability of each worker to decide whether to fork over their dues money, public employee unions would quickly go the way of the Dodo. Public employee unions in modern times have never relied upon the fervor of their members, rather they have always relied on coercion of their members courtesy of the State. If that is gone, the bottom falls out for them, and the union bosses realize that.

  • Leaders that can manipulate and turn a normal god fearing working man or woman into regulated union robots who on command become enraged leaving their jobs and forming what some might call a pre-lynching mob simply by a plea to have some economic equity between themselves and non-union workers for the sake of all have to at least be willing to negotiate without creating havoc across the state. We pray this situation can soon return to some degree of civility that the president most recently has called for.

  • “the unions didn’t go nuclear over pension and fringe benefits”

    Which is exactly my point. If Walker had stuck to those issues and not gone for th jugular, so to speak, we would not be seeing all this chaos.

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  • “Given an annual free choice, and the ability of each worker to decide whether to fork over their dues money, public employee unions would quickly go the way of the Dodo. Public employee unions in modern times have never relied upon the fervor of their members, rather they have always relied on coercion of their members courtesy of the State. If that is gone, the bottom falls out for them, and the union bosses realize that.” Substitute “sovereign state” for “worker”, “political” for “public employee”, “federal government” for “the State” and “federal bureaucrats” for “union bosses” and you will have the logical meaning of the United States Constitution until 150 years ago.

  • For “logical” substitute “Confederate” and for ” until 150 years ago” substitute “until Appomattox”.