Sunday, March 13, 2011

Walker's War on Workers

We've seen local union after local union rush to their school boards, their city councils, their technical school boards and rush through contracts in the past two weeks that had no contributions to the pension and no contribution to health care. – Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Governor Scott Walker won a battle against public sector unions last week when the Republican-controlled legislature passed a portion of his so-called Budget Repair Bill. The new law strips public sector unions of bargaining rights granted by this state fifty years ago. The Governor contends that powerful unions prevent the state and its municipalities from assessing workers for pensions and health care costs.
From the beginning of this fight, Governor Walker has maintained that public sector workers covered by collective bargaining agreements pay little or nothing for pensions and health care. This assertion has been picked up by the local and national media and reported as fact.
When the fight went on over the so-called Budget Repair Bill, the Governor made the above statement. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel franchise of PolitiFact, a reputed investigative fact-checking enterprise, examined his statement and reported:
Two governmental bodies -- Madison and MATC -- tapped on the accelerator to get deals approved before state lawmakers could slam on the breaks. But two others, Janesville schools and Sheboygan County, are making their workers wait until the contracts are brought up for a vote at regularly scheduled board meetings. That doesn’t reflect the ram-it-through image Walker pointed to. We rate his statement Barely True.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed Mr. Walker for governor. Now MJS continues to support him in both its news and editorial pages. Even their fact-checkers need to be fact-checked, because the Governor’s assertion about employee contributions to pensions and health care is complete economic hogwash.
Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services (
The above is from David Cay Johnston. His excellent article deserves your attention and I encourage you to follow the above link.
Mr. Johnston shows that every employer has employee costs that go beyond the cash on the paycheck. Pensions, health care, sick pay, vacations, and employer contributions to Social Security all figure into the compensation earned by a worker for services rendered. Workers earn this compensation.
Every employer must count the full position costs of a worker, whether his employees are union members or not. No employer, public sector or private, gives his workers something for nothing. Even employers who do not compensate their workers with pensions, health care, and other benefits have to contribute to Social Security. The only exception would be if their employees are undocumented and off the books.
Governor Walker has premised his attack on public sector unions on economic nonsense. Undoubtedly, fair-minded citizens of Wisconsin were appalled to hear that state workers were not contributing to their health care and pensions. They should be even more upset to learn that the Governor has completely misled them.
Governor Walker likes to compare his battle with public sector unions to President Reagan’s conflict with the unionized air traffic controllers. There are significant differences.
President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers when, contrary to law and union contract, they went on strike. To the best of my knowledge, all public sector union members are forbidden by law from striking, unlike their private sector counterparts.
Governor Walker has attacked public sector unions that conceded to his economic demands. They were not striking. They were not threatening to strike.
President Reagan enforced the law. Governor Walker changed the law. President Reagan fought a battle forced on him. Governor Walker has picked a fight. It will not be his first.
After this battle won against public sector unions, there is the battle with the private sector unions. Even before the proposal of the so-called Budget Repair Bill, Republicans in the state legislature were talking about making Wisconsin a so-called Right-To-Work state, thereby ending closed union shops.
Governor Walker has won a battle with his so-called Budget Repair Bill. After this came the budget that cuts local funding and grants tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. Terminations of local municipal workers are sure to come. Terminated public sector employees do not buy many goods and services. As unemployment surges, wages are depressed. Every worker in Wisconsin, union and non-union, is beginning to realize that there is now a war on workers.
This is a war the Governor cannot be allowed to win.

No comments: