This was the scene yesterday as over 70,000 people gathered outside the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.
STAND WITH WISCONSIN AND WALKER: The national battle has begun and the mission and moment of fiscal conservatives has arrived. What began in Wisconsin this week is leading to a decisive day in numerous state capitals throughout America. Organized labor responded today by approving an initial $30 million lobbying budget to stop numerous reform efforts of GOP Governors.
Labor now wants to roll back last November’s mandate. As this SEIU list demonstrates, protesters from the liberal/labor alliance are coming to your state, and they are highly motivated:http://action.seiu.org/page/s/solidarityaction
The SEIU, AFSCME and AFL-CIO leaders are correct, “Events are happening at a breakneck pace, and things will never be the same again”. Gerald W. McEntee, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) noted: “If they succeed in Wisconsin, the birthplace of AFSCME, they will be emboldened to attack workers’ rights in every state.”
In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state to permit collective bargaining for public employees. These union contracts make it next to impossible to reward excellent teachers or fire failing ones. Between 1958 and 1974, the pay and benefits of teachers increased 6%/year and starting in 1974 it increased 7%/year for the next 16 years.
Many states have found collective bargaining to be the biggest hurdle to balancing their budgets. The unions rarely concede anything in negotiations because they always prevail in arbitration.
Now, for the first time in 50 years, the union monopoly is being challenged. This is necessary because the current fiscal path in so many states is unsustainable, and there has been a sharp deterioration in their financial outlook.
Beleaguered taxpayers can no longer take it, and to save many states the union stranglehold must be broken. This is a battle which must be taken to Blue America.
Last month the deficit hawks lost the opening round in Illinois which is now America’s worst credit risk. They have not balanced a budget in a decade, and they responded with the usual liberal solution. Democrats increased state income taxes by 67 percent and business taxes by 46 percent.
The union benefit package proposed in Wisconsin is outstanding compared to what private sector workers receive.
The AFL-CIO does not want to accept any reductions. They are outraged because reform Governors such as Scott Walker (R-WI), Chris Christie (R-NJ), Rick Snyder (R-MI), Mitch Daniels (R-IN), John Kasich (R-OH) and Bill Haslam (R-TN) are telling them the truth. With huge deficits taxpayers can no longer afford union luxuries, and the overwhelming majority of public sector workers pay nothing toward their pension benefits.
WHAT IS HAPPENING?
- This week a Tennessee State Senate committee approved a law abolishing collective bargaining rights for teachers. Tennessee is already a right to work state.
- Over 60,000 left wing demonstrators were present in Wisconsin today and they are all advocating tax increases to address the state’s $3.6 billion budget shortfall. The liberal backlash will continue to be strong because they know the stakes. Of course the GOP wants to cut the budget in every state, but this crusade goes well beyond that to the very core of our nation’s fiscal problems.
- The same measures being debated in Wisconsin and Tennessee have already been introduced in Ohio and Indiana. Nevada and Florida are close behind. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) has said the focus on Wisconsin is also helping to galvanize his supporters.
- Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) ended collective bargaining for state employees on his first day in office in 2005. Now he is supporting a measure to limit negotiations by teachers to wages and benefits.
- Michigan is the Vatican City of the liberal/labor alliance, but deficit hawks are now hitting them hard in their home base. Fiscal sanity must return because a million jobs have already been lost in Michigan, and the GOP’s top priority is restoring economic growth throughout the land.
- This is a fiscal war. GOP Governors have been forced to slash aid to schools, social programs and important services, but it is not enough. The big problem involves 7.6 million overpaid public employees. They are the majority of the nation’s union movement. Practically all of them have benefit packages which are no longer affordable.
- Freshman State Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R-MI) is expressing the frustration felt throughout the heartland. She is 23 years old and was motivated to challenge an incumbent Democrat last November because so many of her friends had already left Michigan in search of jobs.
- Because of exorbitant pay packages given to public employees, her state enacted the Michigan Business Tax. Andrea says “Small businesses are job creators and this high tax suffocated them. We have two years to make a difference and if we don’t do it then we don’t deserve to have these jobs again. We are not going to waste our mandate for change, and this historic opportunity.”
- Wisconsin teachers do not have to join the union but they still have to pay union dues ($1000/year). The Governor’s proposal would end the practice of automatically deducting union dues from an employee’s paycheck. NYC Transport Workers lost that right in 2007 after an illegal strike. They then lost more than 35% of their income.
- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has already promised to call out the National Guard and it is a promise he may have to keep on Monday. If labor does not go back to work, those jobs will have to be filled. The list of applicants is a long one.
- The opposing chants were heard today at the demonstrations in Madison. The liberals proclaimed “Union Yes, Walker No,” while fiscal reformers responded “Walker Yes, Union No!” This was followed by one side shouting “Kill The Bill,” and the other responding “Pass The Bill.” Another slogan was “On, Wisconsin!” It was the cry of Arthur MacArthur in the Battle of Missionary Ridge in the Civil War. “On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!, Champion of the right, Forward, our motto, God will give thee might.”
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
The situation in Wisconsin is at an impasse because 14 Democratic State Senators are hiding out in Illinois. There are 19 Republican Senators, but 20 are needed (three fifths) to establish a quorum. Among the options being discussed are:
- Eliminate direct deposit of a Senators compensation, and require them to pick up their paychecks personally from the Secretary of State.
- Suspend absent employees without pay, and take appropriate disciplinary action for their dereliction of duty.
- Cutting off pay to the staff of lawmakers who refuse to return to work. Their offices could also be locked.
- The three-fifths requirement is for fiscal bills. For non-fiscal bills the necessary quorum is one-half, which the Republicans already have. They could introduce a stand-alone union reform bill which would not be tied to the Governor’s budget reform proposal.
- A recall campaign has already been launched against State Senator Jim Holperin (D) who was elected in 2008 with 51% of the vote. They need to obtain 25,000 signatures, and the goal is to get Holperin to come back to Wisconsin.
- Many believe unions are paying the Chicago hotel bills for the absent State Senators. It should be determined if this constitutes an illegal gratuity or contribution.
- If Walker’s collective bargaining reforms are rejected then massive lay-offs of state employees has to begin.