I Supported the Government Workers in Wisconsin and Here is Why
A few years ago, there was a dispute between state workers and the governor in Wisconsin, USA. This is an article that I wrote at that time:
I lean right on most issues but am to the left in regards of supporting the government workers in Wisconsin and across the nation. I have special insights in this area as I worked for 15 years in the past as a government worker in Ohio, Washington and, Oregon.
The union in Ohio was excellent and really protected us. In fact, it seemed the union in Ohio was more powerful than management. In Washington the union, AFSCME, was impotent and did nothing for us. It was as if it was non existent. In Oregon, the union was SEIU and I think they did quite a good job. Unfortunately, like a sap, I spent most all of my years in Washington.
Management Will Take Advantage With Reckless Abandon
I will tell you what happens when you have a weak or impotent union as I had in Washington State. Management will take full advantage in a situation like this. I worked my *&^ off as did most everyone else but It was never good enough. Management always wanted more, more, more---it was a never ending more. Early on I was a superstar but after 10 years I could barely do the job. This is because there was a never ending pile-on of duties and expectations.
My duties in Washington were central and critical to the success of the agency; there were many others doing the same type of work. Because of this, we were kind of a "dumping ground". What I mean by this is that all the stuff "coming down the pike" landed in our lap because we were the largest group of employees within the agency. There were never any take aways in terms of work but more was always piled on. It was horrible!
After I had a few yrs under my belt I thought I would be respected as a veteran employee---I was wrong. Most of us were treated like dirt and this did not change regardless of how long employed there. I was a fool for staying so long and wish I had left after two years. I had a never die, never give up attitude and now feel like a sucker. Had the union been decent and working properly things would have been much better.
The union in Washington was dysfunctional in other ways too. For example, when we had union meetings, a manager or two would be permitted to sit in on the meeting. How incredibly stupid this was! It was like letting an opposing coach sit in on your halftime talk and strategy discussion. Ah, but this was in Seattle where nothing is normal. The lesson is this, when you have no union or an impotent one like I had with AFSCME in Seattle, management will take full advantage.
But It Will Save the State Money
The Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, says the cuts he would like to make will save the state millions of dollars. Maybe it will but here is what is more likely to happen. Once the cuts are made the money will not go to deficit reduction but it will go into the pockets of Wisconsin state management. In Seattle, whenever something was taken from the hide of the workers it generally was then re-distributed as bonuses to managers...in a behind the scenes hush, hush kind of way.
To save money management will often bastardize a job or program. What I mean is this. Some money will be saved but the job will become one that is an unethical and amoral monstrosity. For example, I worked with many doctors. To save money management shifted many of the doctors duties onto the line workers. By rule this work was to be done by the doctors but management went rogue and threw the rules out the window. Management figured why pay the doctor 60 dollars an hour when we can go to the dumping ground and have the people there do it for 18 an hour... Why pay a doctor to perform a surgery if we can convince the janitor to do it for half the cost?
Most people in my position had Bachelors degrees and we suddenly found ourselves doing the work of a doctor...on top of all the work we already had. We had not been to medical school, had never performed surgery, had never prescribed medication, etc. If only the public had known their claims were not being handled properly or in accordance with law. Many of the decisions were no doubt in error. Then, management would have a meeting and give awards (and a secret bonus) to the people who ruined the program. By the way, management in Ohio tried a similar thing and the strong union there fought it and won.
Remember the Bailouts
Remember the bailouts----if we bailed out wall street corporations, banks, and a number of other entities why can't we help out the common shmucks in Wisconsin? Some of the wall street companies fell into disarray per their own fault, inept decisions, greed, etc. Often, a CEO will get an enormous bonus even though he has done a lousy job and pushed the company to the brink of destruction.
If the governor gets his way then someday, to make it seem like he was right, he will claim the budget is much better. Besides him proclaiming it how will the common person know in fact that it is so? If the budget does improve was it worth the cost?
Union Members Are Thugs and Criminals That Belong to the Mob
This myth renders me speechless and takes my breath away. Yes, all us union members are involved in drug trafficking, prostitution, putting hits on people, etc. Yes we all carry automatic weapons hah hah. What an outrageous lie this myth is! Unions I've belonged to have included an amazing diversity of people; I've never known a union member that belonged to the mob... In all my years of service I was never approached regarding any of the aforementioned vices---not even close...it is laughable.
Union members I was exposed to were overwhelmingly, decent, normal, everyday working people. Their intent was just to protect us workers from exploitation and administrative assault at the hands of management. We cared deeply about the people we served---we knew we were serving the taxpayers and we did our best. I'll trust and have faith in a group of union people any day over a group of "managers".
State Employees Are Lazy!
State employees are lazy! This is a common myth and is dead wrong. The people I worked with had very difficult, complex jobs and worked their *&^*# off. Many people became burnt out and developed health problems...and management didn't care. A decent union tries to help workers with issues like this.
By the way, state government workers are not getting wealthy doing their jobs. They really don't make that much for the work they do. It takes a number of years to work your way up to a fairly decent income. I did the work of several people but the pay stayed the same.
Government Work is Easy
State government work is easy. Really? Try to work with developmentally disabled adults 40 hours a week. You can bathe them, feed them, change their diaper, etc. Once in a while the patient will lash out and hurt the worker. Try working as a teleservice center operator 40 hours a week. You get one call after another that never stops---ever. You are expected to treat people nice and courteous even though many of them are not. Try sitting in a small cubicle for ten years with more work to do than could be done by three people, dealing with angry people on the phone, dealing with unrelenting office politics and managers who have severe personality disorders.
A state prison guard in Washington was recently murdered by an inmate!
I am amazed by my boy's kindergarten teacher. She handles 20 kids in the AM session and 25 in the PM session. Can you imagine? She has such incredible responsibility and I'm sure the burden and stress is high. You know what though---she does a stellar job and is a sweetheart of a person? Management is probably thinking---hmmm, maybe we should ask her to do more.
But State Workers Have Good Benefits
The benefits with state government were rather good. Why does this therefore mean the benefits should be taken away? I can't help it if some people in the private sector do not have benefits as good or if they have no union. Not everyone is the same weight, height, make the same amount of money, drive the same car, etc.
What Wisconsin Needs To Do
Government instead needs to make cuts in the huge entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and, Defense. This is not fair either but this is where you will get the most bang for you buck. The housing crisis problem was not the fault of most of the state workers in Wisconsin....neither was it their fault per the corporations that needed bailed out. So it is a real shame budgets now have to be balanced on the backs of the little guy. Going after state workers is a cop out. If politicians really want to be bold and fix budgets they will have to go after the bigger targets that will make a true difference.
If I Were the Union In Wisconsin
If I were the union in Wisconsin, I would perhaps make some small concessions just to be nice and to show flexibility. I might agree for my wage to be frozen for 1.5 years, etc. but I would not agree to major concessions. I would fight like crazy to maintain the right to collectively bargain. If this is taken away the union will disintegrate. The workers would then have no protections whatsoever and believe me, management would take full advantage--I guarantee it!
I know this is a divisive, politically charged topic. I know there are compelling arguments on the other side. I felt qualified to write this because I have been a state worker in three different states and have insights regarding these matters.