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Collective Bargaining, Budgets and Political Power - What's Really Going On In Wisconsin?

Updated on February 27, 2011

The showdown between the Wisconsin governor and the public employee unions has dominated the news for the last week. It has all the elements of a political thriller; a defiant governor, legislators who have fled the state, a capital under siege by protestors and counter protestors Missing in all the discussion about the drama is the real purpose of the legislation. This bill has little to do with budgets and debt and everything to do with establishing political power in Wisconsin and around the country.

There is no question many states in the country are in trouble financially. It is basic fiscal economics of revenue vs. spending. When states spend more than they bring in in taxes there is a deficit. Either revenue has to increase, spending decrease, or a combination of the two. There is almost no way to handle the debt problem by just addressing one side of the equation. In Wisconsin, the state had a surplus until Governor Walker cut corporate taxes, creating a deficit. It is somewhat disingenuous to portray public employees as living off the tax payers. They are tax payers themselves. All tax payers help fund things they may never use or even agree with. Not to mention these public employees are doing much needed jobs that they deserve to be paid adequately for.

The real issue in Wisconsin and other states such as Ohio, Indiana, New York, New Jersey and Florida is an attempt to solidify Republican political power by greatly restricting organizations that generally support Democrats. By greatly restricting or eliminating the ability to collectively bargain, the organizational strength of unions is removed. Without the ability to bargain for wages and working conditions, unions are essentially rendered irrelevant. This will have a large carry over effect in elections. Unions could not organize or raise money as effectively, meaning they would have less influence. It is no coincidence that the two major public unions that endorsed Governor Walker, police and fire, are exempt from this bill. Governor Walker stated himself, in a telephone conversation he thought was with a wealthy donor, that the real intent was to break the unions.

This is also a coordinated national effort. In that same phone call Walker said he talked to Governor Kasich of Ohio every day, and mentioned the governors of Michigan, Florida and Indiana; all Republicans with similar legislation proposed in their states. Governor Christie in New Jersey has publically spoken out against public employee unions since he was elected.

It is very questionable whether the proposed legislation would help balance state budgets as advertised. The loss of collective bargaining will almost certainly lead to reduced wages and jobs. This will reduce consumption which will lead to lay-offs in other areas. Lower consumption and employment means a smaller tax base for the state to draw its revenue. As was seen earlier, lower revenue leads to more state debt if the loss of revenue is not matched or exceeded by reductions in spending.

By weakening the ability of unions to organize and campaign Republicans can win more state houses and governor’s offices which will solidify their hold on political power. While it’s questionable whether the taxpayers will benefit from this arrangement, wealthy Republican backers most certainly will.


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    • sir slave profile image

      sir slave 6 years ago from Trinity county CA.

      I cant wait until Walker is recalled....I'm going to smear him and his ilk as hard as I can. Once the public learns of particular plans, the evil plans cannot survive the light of day. they survive on ignorance of the public, which we are here to combat. The republicans are tapping right into the diseffected portion of the population that doesn't vote, the response they are getting is wrathful and rightious. ordinary people will fight back, they may have openen up a pandoras box they cant close.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      Thank you for this well-reasoned article, Jennifer. I'd say you've pretty much called it.

      voted up and very useful

    • AJReissig profile image

      Alex J. Reissig 6 years ago from New Richmond, Ohio

      Good hub, but something I would like to point out. Unions represent the largest contributors to the Democratic Party. I don't really have a problem with this; they can donate as they like. What I do have a problem with is with is union membership being mandatory, and then the members union dues donated to the democratic party with no say from the members. For those of you who are union members: when is the last time you had a vote to donate money to a political cause? Have you ever? How many people, who have been forced to join a union due to their profession, have had their dues donated to a politician that they simply detest?

    • Shelly McRae profile image

      Shelly McRae 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I hope we see more on this topic from you, Jennifer.

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 6 years ago

      Yes, Shelly, I don't usually write on politics. My husband is a teacher though so we are watching this very closely, and also dealing with much of the same thing here in OH. Unfortunately I know a lot about this issue right now.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Impressive writing! Thank you!

    • Shelly McRae profile image

      Shelly McRae 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      This hub is certainly a departure from your usual topics, Jennifer. Well thought out, if not more editorial than journalistic. Good job.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 6 years ago from California

      I thank you for the summary of what is going on in Wisconson other states. This is a very important issue that should be addressed. No matter which side you are on with this issue it is important to encourage awareness!

    • DannyMaio profile image

      DannyMaio 6 years ago from New York

      The unions are not telling the real truth. you pay high property taxes of which over half goes to the schools. I believe in good education and paying for it, but not OVERPAYING for it. In Wisconsin, they do not have a money problem in our education system, they have a MAMAGEMENT problem.

      This is what Walker said on Meet The Press which shows the two-faced union rhetoric:

      Despite promises from union leaders that they'd accept his proposal that government workers pay higher pension and health insurance contributions, Walker said, “over the past two weeks, even after they’ve made those promises, we’ve seen local union after local union rush to their school boards, their city councils... and rush through contracts that had no contribution to the pensions and no contribution to health care. In one case, in Janesville, they were actually pushing through a pay increase.”

      Cost effects of collective bargaining

      He also contended that the collective bargaining process allows unions to extract sweetheart deals such as a requirement in some contracts that teachers get their health insurance from a teachers union-owned company, which Walker said costs $68 million more than the state-run employee health plan.

      “As a former local government official, I know that collective bargaining has a cost,” he said.

      Some can't differentiate Public Workers Unions from Private Sector Unions. All benefits gained in the CBA with public workers are paid for by taxpayers. All benefits gained for private sector workers in their CBA are payed by private sector companies. When a private company is going through hard times, their unions generally give concession to help the company stay afloat. Why can't public workers do the same when the states are going through hard economic times?

      Those protesters are union thugs. They don't care about America. They only care for themself.

      This is the best evidence yet----that the Democratic Party is not just beholden to the unions, but that the unions actually run the Democratic party---why else would an entire Democratic wing of a state Senate go into hiding just to save collective bargaining for unions? Who does it really help: union bosses who want complete control over taxpayers money---------no one else!

      Unions gave Obama's campaign over $400 million in 2008 and spent over $200 million to support Democrats in 2010. All of this money was confiscated from hard working Americans who often didn't support the candidates it went to. That's a crime.

      Goodbye public sector unions. We the taxpayer are tired of paying union dues to elect Demotard politicans who scratch the backs of state workers. States are broke. Be gone!