Unions offer compromise, Gov. threatens layoffs

Sourced from: OurFuture.org

Rallies to support civil servants planned in 27 states. Bloomberg: “Demonstrations are spreading from Wisconsin and Ohio, where bills from Republican governors to curtail collective-bargaining rights have attracted thousands of protesters. Efforts include lobbying all week against measures in Indiana and a Feb. 25 AFL- CIO rally to warn New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ‘not to balance the budget on the backs of middle-class families.'”

Wisconsin union leaders offer major concessions. Wisconsin State Journal’s Chris Rickert tells Gov., “take the deal”: “…unions announced they would accept paying half the cost of pensions and 12.6 percent of the cost of health insurance — as long as they were allowed to keep their collective bargaining rights. It’s a good deal. Public workers should be able to bargain collectively, and Walker would be wise to drop his attack on the practice and compromise.”

Gov. Walker responds by threatening layoffs. AP: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker warns that state employees could start receiving layoff notices as early as next week if a bill eliminating collective bargaining rights isn’t passed soon.”

Poll shows support for union-proposed compromise. WisPolitics: “Forward Strategies is also out with a poll … of 400 registered voters in seven Senate districts held by Republicans … It found more respondents in each district favored the guv’s call to require public employees to pay 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and picked up 12 percent of their health insurance costs. It also found more respondents in each district opposed his call to eliminate collective bargaining rights on most issues. Also, more than two-thirds of respondents in each district said they agreed Gov. Scott Walker and public employees should reach a compromise a solution ‘fair to both taxpayers and public employees’ before curtailing negotiating rights.”

NYT’s Nate Silver slams Rasmussen poll claiming Walker winning public opinion battle: “It is widely recognized in the scholarship on the subject, and I have noted before, that earlier questions in a survey can bias the response to later ones by framing an issue in a particular way and by casting one side of the argument in a less favorable light. The Rasmussen example is more blatant than most.”

“Forcibly returning Senate Democrats may be unconstitutional” reports Wisconsin State Journal: “The state constitution prohibits lawmakers from being arrested while the Legislature is in session, unless they’re accused of serious crimes. That raises questions about whether Wisconsin’s runaway senators, on the lam since Thursday, can be forcibly hauled back to the Senate…”

Right-wing billionaire Koch Brothers financially back Gov. Walker and his union-busting mission. NYT: “State records also show that Koch Industries … was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Gov. Scott Walker … Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown …”

W. Post’s Ezra Klein argues Wisconsin is about power, not deficits: “To get a sense of what a world without unions would look like – a world where power is distributed radically differently – you need look no further than Walker’s own proposals … He’s already called for plenty of [sacrifice] from not only state employees, but also the low-income residents who rely on Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program. But some won’t have to sacrifice nearly so much. Walker’s campaign platform called for sharp cuts in corporate taxes, including ‘eliminating corporate taxes for the first two years of operation.'”

W. Post’s Eugene Robinson reminds that public employees made trade-offs for their contracts: “…those generous deals were not ordained by Divine Providence. They were negotiated, which means that state and local officials agreed … It has long been common for unions to accept better health and pension benefits in lieu of higher salaries – in effect, taking the money later rather than sooner. Now that these IOUs are coming due, Wisconsin wants to renege. I thought Republicans were supposed to believe that a contract is a contract, sacred and inviolate.”

And Wisconsin public employees are not overpaid, shows Tapped’s Jamelle Bouie: “…Wisconsin state workers are not overpaid relative to their private-sector counterparts … in general, public-sector workers are underpaid compared to those in the private sector … an honest account of state fiscal problems would focus mostly on the economic collapse, which sent revenues into a tailspin and cut the value of state pension funds by more than $1 trillion.”

TNR’s Jonathan Cohn suggests asking about overcompensation is the wrong question: “… there is a lot of disagreement over the proper way to adjust the raw compensation figures to account for variables like age, education, and so on … But I wonder if this whole debate misses the point. Suppose public workers really do make more than private sector workers. Who’s to say that the problem is public workers making too much, rather than private sector workers making too little?”

It’s not the union members whose greed is wrecking our economy. Robert Reich: “… the problem isn’t that ‘we’ve’ been spending too much. It’s that most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation’s total income. At the same time, the super-rich have been contributing a steadily-declining share of their own incomes in taxes to support what the nation needs — both at the federal and at the state levels.”

NYT suggests non-union Wisconsinites not sympathetic: “The effort to weaken bargaining rights for public-sector unions has been particularly divisive, with some people questioning the need to tackle such a fundamental issue to solve the state’s budget problems. But more often the conversation has turned to the proposals to increase public workers’ contributions to their pensions and health care, and on these issues people said they were less sympathetic, and often grew flushed and emotional telling stories of their own pay cuts and financial worries.”

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum argues the decline of unions has transformed the Democratic Party: “As unions increasingly withered beginning in the ’70s, the Democratic Party turned to the only other source of money and influence available in large-enough quantities to replace big labor: the business community … what choice did Democrats have? Without substantial support from labor or business, no modern party can thrive … If unions had been as strong in the ’80s and ’90s as they were in the ’50s and ’60s, it’s almost inconceivable that they would have sat by and accepted tax cuts and financial deregulation on the scale that we got … And that means things would have been different during the first two years of the Obama era, too.”

New GOP governors committed to breaking public sector unions. Politico: “Their goal: to shatter a bipartisan consensus on public labor that’s shaped politics in the West, the Northeast and the Upper Midwest since the 1960s.”

Wisconsin budget bill also authorize no-bid sales of public assets. New Deal 2.0’s Mike Konczal: “The bill would allow for the selling of state-owned heating/cooling/power plants without bids and without concern for the legally-defined public interest … The attempt to break labor is part of the same continuous motion as saying that the crony, corporatist selling of state utilities to the Koch brothers and other energy interests is the new ‘public interest.'”

Day of reckoning may yet await NJ. Gov Chris Christie: “…his agenda of balancing the budget, rescuing a pension fund that could go broke within a decade and curtailing rising property taxes — the holy grail of politics in his heavily suburban state — is far from achieved. And he still could face the wrath of voters who discover that the costs of government have merely been shifted onto their local tax bills … In his first year, Governor Christie closed a yawning budget deficit that he estimated at almost $11 billion, though in part by skipping a $3 billion payment to the pension system.”

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One response to this post.

  1. [...] for a budget deficit, Wisconsin’s public employee unions have “announced they would accept paying half the cost of pensions and 12.6 percent of the cost of health insurance — as long as they were allowed to [...]

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