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Union-busting in Wisconsin

February 18th, 2011 · 5 Comments · Human Rights, jobs, Labor, Politics, Populism

There is a strong game plan abroad in the land to bust unions. Most unions these days are for government workers. So the new Neocon Republican governors are out to break those unions, in Ohio, and New Jersey and Florida, and most prominently in Wisconsin.

Governor Scott Walker the Governor of Wisconsin only since November created $187 million in tax breaks for international corporations and now demands that teachers pay for a resulting $17.5 shortfall in public education by simply adding health care expenses to each teacher’s family budget. Since most private workers pay into their health insurance premiums, they don’t realize that public employees take less salary and give the state government a break…and therefore the public employees let the state pay health benefits in lieu of salary increases. The state then uses its leverage to negotiate a much more favorable rate.

The workers get lower base pay and some other benefits that they do pay for, like pensions and insurance, etc. The state saves money because they created value through the economy of scale. The workers generally get better health care and the state pays less out of pocket because they pay a smaller amount than they would have paid workers if the workers had paid premiums out of pocket.

Now the state wants the teachers and some other categories of public workers to pay the health care benefits out of their own pockets that they already paid for in reduced salaries. So they got less money originally. Now they are expected to pay more. And all so that some creep of a governor can pay off his election debt to a rich billionaire Right Winger.

Of course today, people are out of work. And that means that when teachers do object to a law that will basically cut their roughly $50,000 incomes down to $45,000, they may sound to some people who are unemployed or took pay cuts, that they are whining. The reason it sounds that way is that the Governor and his Neocon allies in government want it to sound that way. The teachers would merely like to discuss this, since it has only been introduced into the Wisconsin legislature for less than a week before the Governor asked for an immediate vote.

Even that might not be such a bad thing except that the law says that the state employees must also give up their rights to collective bargaining…to union representation. Governor Walker has refused to discuss any of this with state workers and tried to pass the bill in three days.

The Wisconsin public workers would be foolish to simply give up collective bargaining without an enormous fight. Once they can do this, what else can the legislators and the Governor do to workers? Child labor? outsourcing jobs to India? Immigrant workers? 50-hour weeks? All the restrictions on employer abuses came from union organizing and lobbying Congress to write humane laws. This governor knows nothing about humanity. His job is to pay off his debt by busting the union.

This situation reveals the fine hand of Karl Rove plastered all over it. Rove, the master of divide-and-conquer politics, has virtually admitted as much recently on Republican Television (Fox News Channel)

But the fact is that teachers, most of whom spend a lot of time learning stuff to teach that stuff to kids, some of whom ain’t so easy to teach, are pretty well educated and a lot of them could find better jobs. But those are the ones we want to keep especially, so paying a really good teacher fifty grand and then sweetening the deal a little with health care benefits that the state probably gets for about $3,000 a year ain’t so bad.

After all, teachers don’t do an unusual amount of skydiving or motorcycle racing and most of them don’t even smoke. So how much could it cost the state? Governor Walker needs to focus on getting his people better benefits for lower cost rather than spending all his time finding ways to chisel his employees.

We need good teachers, good firefighters (or lots of standing water) and good cops more than we need more tax breaks for corporations. Many teachers have Masters degrees these days and many cops and firefighters have college degrees but just love their jobs and take pride (ever heard that word governor?) in what they do, which at its base is helping others.

Let’s contrast that with the beneficiaries of Walker’s largesse. We know, for example, that Walker is a Tea Bagger. In his most recent election, this last November, he received something like $40,000-$65,000 from the Koch Industries PAC. He also received a similar amount from the Chamber of Commerce and about $3.4 million from the Republican Governors organization which in turn was financed partially by Koch, Rupert Murdoch and others. So he owes the Koch Family big time.

Just a short comment on the Koch Brothers. Charles Koch took over the family business in 1967. He’s Chairman and CEO. He did so after having earned an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in chemical engineering, all from MIT. He took Koch Industries from a $70 million corporation to a $90 billion corporation today, the second largest private corporation in the U.S.

This guy didn’t just fall from the sky. He knows what he is doing, knows how to get what he wants. Strangely for such an intelligent and educated man, he seems to favor avoidance rather than headlong solutions to problems. He claims to plan long-range, but his actions say that he has spent most of his time avoiding problems and decided rather to simply “cheat on the test” one might say.

In other words, rather than accepting scientific evidence of the pollution caused by his corporations, he has always denied the evidence of pollution, climate change or any of the issues that might cost him money. He prefers to fund sort of pseudo-scientific lobbying groups called think-tanks, like the Cato Institute, that promote positions that have no scientific merit, but pretend to have so that they might confuse the issue for the public. Not surprisingly, all of their research turns out to come down on the side of the “Koch Family Business Values” (Koch Industries)

Koch has spent over $30 million fighting against policies that he rightly should have spent in remediation. Oddly enough, with his background, Charles Koch could have made enormous contributions to society’s knowledge and experience with managing the environment. But he unfortunately chose otherwise.

Koch is an arch-conservative, an ultra-Right individual which means that he is against unions, against the minimum wage, against all forms of welfare and against Social Security and Medicare. He wants to repeal all the provisions of health care reform.

This is the man who provided a large share of the money to elect Scott Walker. Now it should be clear to anyone why Scott Walker wants to kill the state unions. This is what the Koch family…the people with the long view of history have been planning. Americans simply did not know that we had anyone that sinister and that traitorous and that greedy among our major citizens.

Whatever Democratic organizations you belong to, you should contact. We must all become involved one way or another with the effort to defeat this group of super-rich individuals who have the advantage of having no scruples. Hitler had the advantage on the West because he would kill anyone to get his way. He would kill his own soldiers, his own citizens, even old men and young boys to follow his fanatic path.

These people are equally as fanatic. It is pretty clear to see. The election was in November. Already Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio and Chris Christie in New Jersey and Rick Scott in Florida…among other Republican governors…are working towards the complete removal of unions from government employment. Once the workers are weakened, then the governor will act unilaterally to lay off workers, cut salaries increase work rules, and add health insurance payments to the cost of being a government worker in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin may not win this battle. They may not have enough votes from the people that they elected to keep from losing everything. Remember Walker and his overwhelmingly Republican state government was not appointed. They were elected by the people of Wisconsin.

Welcome to the real world, folks. These are the Tea Party nut cases that you elected and now you have to live with it. They were not appointed. They were all voted in. Beware of what you wish for, because you may get more than your wish. In this case the people of Wisconsin gave Charles Koch his wish….to tear down the fabric of Wisconsin…and Ohio and Florida…society. .

Remember the most important facts. There is no crisis in Wisconsin government. There is a three billion dollar shortfall but that is over time. Part of that shortfall are the perks and breaks that Walker just gave away to business and the rich.

The teachers and other workers in Wisconsin work for good but not exorbitant wages. Their health care was negotiated fairly by the unions which often give back wage increases to help employers…the state in this case…save money by contracting for lower health care costs than individuals or the unions could.

Remember…$178 million in tax breaks already given to corporations. Leaving a shortfall of $17.5 million in education. Let the governor find that money somewhere other than out of the pockets of hard working teachers and other government employees.

This governor turned down billions in government assistance which the state will eventually take. They will have to. High speed rail is a necessity in this country to enable us to meet the needs of later in the 21st Century when we have more people, and there will be a lot more people, and less oil. Wisconsin will eventually get the money and the thousands of jobs that go with the development of high speed rail. But in the meantime, other states will push ahead. Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, and elsewhere will receive the funds that Scott Walker turned down.

When there are at least a dozen people unemployed for every job that is created, we need to do everything we can to help grow the economy. To turn down programs that will create literally thousands of good-paying, long-term jobs is foolish and cruel when there are so many people unemployed.

Borrowing a page from Karl Rove’s book, Walker is trying to divide the people of Wisconsin who work in private business from the government workers. It is the old Rove strategy…find a major issue, like abortion, or the death penalty, or who pays what in taxes and then spin it to put half the people on one side and half on the other.

This is the plan of more than one Republican governor. John Kasich the new governor of Ohio is cutting taxes by 4.2%. That will bring in fewer revenues. But at the same time, he turned down $400 million in funds to create high-speed rail because he doesn’t believe in high speed rail. So he will cut government salaries instead to cover $8 billion in budget deficits rather than putting a hold on his tax cuts and taking the jobs that would, definitely put the state in the black again financially.

Rick Scott the former, head of HCA, the company that paid a $1.7 billion fine to the government for cheating on Medicare and for some unfathomable reason now the Governor of Florida will also reject the money for a high speed 85 mile link between Miami and Orlando. Florida would have received $2.5 billion and 5000 jobs.

Those five thousand jobs could have jump started the economy in Florida which is a disaster. But, thanks to the politics of the slimy Mr. Scott, it will not. Scott is a scumbag of the first order.

So it is not about health benefits for teachers in Wisconsin. It is about Koch Industries and the insatiable greed of people like Charles Koch, Scott Walker, John Kasich and Rick Scott (who took $8 million of the $100 million he received as a bonus from the company he ran that cheated the Medicare system and used it to get himself elected to the governorship of Florida by buying up huge blocks of television time. Apparently almost being a criminal pays.)

There is nothing philosophical or metaphysical about the plans of all these Neocon governors. It is simple down-and-dirty, payoff-and-bribe politics. Shut down anything that will create jobs. Give more tax breaks to the rich. Screw the middle class. And confuse enough people at election time so that the Neocons can be elected and steal and destroy as much as possible before the people find out and turn them out again. That’s the game.

It’s called political hardball and it is time that you got in the game and started to fight back. These people should not be allowed to live in this country, let alone run a state in this country.

But if there is no good reason for it, then it is merely a cynical ploy to lower wages. And that is exactly what has happened in Wisconsin.

Tea Party Governors Walker of Wisconsin, Kasich of Ohio and Christie of New Jersey believe that this is what the majority of Americans believe as well. Evidently they do, because if they are wrong, then people whose incomes are being reduced and their future incomes are being jeopardized will undoubtedly organize recalls for all three governors and others.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • TonyD

    I read a book a few years ago — “Strike”. It tells the history of the labor unions.

    Interestingly, all the famous strikes were started by the workers. And, every time, the Union leadership was doing their best to stop the workers from striking. Over and over again, the Union leadership was “co-opted” by business values, and represented their own interests, which were tied to the owner’s interests.

    So we seem to have a broken system where the pendulum swings either toward workers/unions or toward business. So, while I’m glad to see unions “wake up”, I can’t help but notice that it only happens now that the union is looking at the loss of its ability to require membership dues.

    So, really, we are seeing the self-interest of union leaders causing them to do what they should have been doing long ago if they were really interested in workers. I still remember when Detroit was being destroyed by the self-interest of it management and the unions did nothing. (Ross Perot wrote a great book about that when EDS was acquired by GM. If you think that the auto industry was destroyed by Japan, then it is worth reading that book.)

  • Parker

    I agree with the other comment that Union leadership has been imperfect. But the reality is that they represent countless workers across the country and remain the only voice for them (besides their vote) when it comes to big time politics. Due to Citizens United, working class people are being overshadowed by the interests of billionaires. With the break-up of AFSCME, the top 10 political contributors will all be corporations and maybe SEIU and corporations typically support tools like Walker. It’s important that the 14 Dems, Wisconsinites and everyone around the country hold strong against this blatant takeover.

  • Larry B

    What’s so very sad about what is now taking place all over this country as it relates to organized labor- its members and its failed leadership is very complexed but not without resolve its hard to be aganist something at the same time be working with that something aganist those who you outwardly represent unions are No longer for their members for all you can collect from them are dues while on the other hand you can collect millions from the corporations in the form of bribes working aganist your members the people need to create themselves a real union because the one that they have has been sold to the highest bidder.

  • Clint B

    I don’t understand why people still support teachers’ unions. If you require accountability from the teachers, students and administrators; the students will perform better. If you get rid of the unions, and the workers demand higher wages by not accepting jobs otherwise, then wages rise due to high-demand and low-supply.

    Make the government follow the same rules as the private sector and you’ll have better wages and benefits. Rely on the unions, and you’ll continue to have high-paid unions and low-paid teachers; and the students will continue to suffer.

  • Joshaughn

    “If you get rid of the unions, and the workers demand higher wages by not accepting jobs otherwise, then wages rise due to high-demand and low-supply.” If the workers “demand” then who does the demanding? The individual worker? How much leverage will the individual worker have? We know from experience. Almost none. “…not accepting jobs otherwise…”? That is only possible for a very few people…very few. So what it means is that they will have to give in to employer demands. Employers have the jobs and the wages, so they have the leverage. To balance the leverage, you need a group of people to go into the employer and say that wages are too low or working conditions are dangerous or they need to find a way to gather up some kind of retirement fund. You can call that group a union or a guild or whatever you want, but, as you can see from Wisconsin, at certain times, power…economic power or political power will try to overwhelm even the organized workers.