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Wisconsin Teachers and The Right to Work | An Independent Voters View

Updated on May 20, 2011

 I think it is safe to say there is a big “Broohaha” going on in Wisconsin at the moment over the Governors plan to increase employee contributions, to both retirement and healthcare insurance for teachers throughout the state. At the same time stripping their union of collective bargaining rights for the teachers. These are two inter-related but separate issues if you believe the Unions, and one issue if you believe the Gov Walker.


The issue of teachers paying more in to their retirement and health insurance seems to be agreed upon by all sides, though I don’t think it was last Thursday. So the protests are focused on the issues of the new restrictions on collective bargaining rights and issues in the future. These types of issues even more than pay, are the heart of what unions do.

Governor Walker won a majority in the last election beating his Democratic rival by 6 percentage points; not a landslide, but a solid majority of the 5.3 million residents of the Sate of Wisconsin. I have read that this plan was mentioned during the campaign, and he has a clear mandate and a constitutional requirement to balance the budget, which has a 3.6 Billion dollar shortfall. His plan will help alleviate that shortfall by 300 million dollars (a little more than 8%).  His premise is that the other things union bargain for collectively, work rules, sick leave etc all have a cost involved and that it provides a necessary tool to local education boards, to keep costs down. The provisions requiring annual votes and non-collection of union dues are viewed as ‘Union Busting’.

 I’ve heard many say that unions are no longer necessary, and I think in most cases folks would be right. The problem is that there is still that small percentage of companies and governments that will ignore or violate standards of fairness and safety. This is particularly true in times like these of high unemployment. Nobody wants to return to the days of abuse. The rise of the union in the Postal Service was due to the many abuses by supervisors, of clerks and carriers and the nepotism of local postmasters. So I am leery of a government without unionized employees. They serve as a proactive check and balance in the government workforce.

So what is the way forward? I think it is to make Wisconsin a ‘Right To Work’ State. According to Wikipedia “Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further and authorizes individual states (but not local governments, such as cities or counties) to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule, an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if he or she joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not he or she is a member or financial contributor to such a union.”

Personally I think this is a better way to go than the restrictions Governor Walker has written in to the legislation. The 23 states that use these rules have been seeing new industry locate in their states; low taxes help too. It allows the freedom of workers to join or not join. Keeps the unions looking over the shoulder of management (left or right) and that can and usually is a good thing. It also pushes the unions to work in a more co-operative way.

One final note - I applaud both the Teachers Union supporters, and the Tea Party/Gov Walker support protesters, on a peaceful Saturday of debate in Madison Wis.


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    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      WMH - Yep that's why I like living in a 'Right to Work' State. I don't understand when the folks in the 24 closed Shop states don't demand change. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Wealthmadehealthy profile image


      7 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

      Funny thing I have noticed about the unions is that when you are in one, whether you want to go on strike or not and risk losing pay, you have to do what the union wants to do. There are people I know who will not take a job if they are being forced to join a union at the same time. I have seen this happen where I live. This is an impossible statement I am making next, but it would be so nice if everyone could just get along and live in peace. Great hub Hmrjmr1....many valid points in here.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Mic - thanks for stopping by and of course the saga continues nearly 3 weeks now with no resolution in site except that some 1500 state of Wisconsin workers are going to be laid off come 1 April.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      7 years ago

      Great write. There's so much politicking. The "common" workers everywhere just want simple stuff. Fair stuff. Good wages. A good work place. We can do it all. But we're not androids. God bless Hmrjmr1!

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Tara - I think the Wisconsin voters did place blame and followed through during the last election relative to those who allowed these contracts. The new reality is here. Everybody is gonna have to adjust. It's not going to be easy or fun for anybody. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Tara_in_NE profile image


      7 years ago

      I can see both sides to this. I'm willing to pay a little bit more for quality police and fire protection and to attract GOOD teachers to my community (a small town is where I live).

      And I want decent roads; I hate to have to swerve my car at ninety degree angles six or seven times, ON ONE ROAD, to avoid potholes.

      But let's face it - states are broke, no more bailouts down the pike, and average income people can only pay so much in tax increases while their salaries stay flat (MINE is, anyway) - that's if they're lucky enough to have a job.

      I DON'T want to go back to the days when six year olds were working twelve hour shifts with their parents in rat infested anthrax laden mills, do you? And if you don't want to pay ANY taxes for police, firefighters and road maintenance crews, and if you don't want to have any teachers, maybe you ought to live in the plateaus of Mongolia.

      With all due respect, I think a lot of people here miss the point: the union members in Wisconsin WERE willing to negotiate! They know times are tough. I don't believe they were being all that unreasonable to WANT to negotiate with the Governor.

      He took that opportunity away. THAT is what they are upset about.

      My feeling is if people want to place any blame, they should put it where it belongs- on the city and state governments who inked up these contracts back when times were good, and didn't even consider that times could possibly get tough. JMHO.

      Fantastic hub.


    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Tony - Thanks for stopping by my friend, could well be that they have bought a phony deal from their union. I'm still not convinced taking collective bargaining rights away is a good thing. It leaves the small fry gov employee susceptible to abuse by the powers that be. I don't like the idea of not having some checks and balances in the government workplace.

    • tony0724 profile image


      7 years ago from san diego calif

      Hmrjmr you hit the nail on the head about what is really at issue here. The fact that now unions will in fact have to collect their own dues from their members as opposed to the Government doing the collecting for them.

      Now if someone does not want to give them their dues money that lowers their funds and as a result that loss of revenue in turn leaves a lot less money in the till for them to weild their influence over the candidates that they choose which of course will be Democrat.

      I think alot of those teachers have been sold a phony bill of goods by their corrupt union leadership via scare tactics. I beleieve that private sector unions are necessary because their are still many big business types who will want to exploit their workers for the most work while giving back as little compensation as possible. But public employee unions have been nothing but a complete drain on all states. Make no mistake about this is not about workers rights, this is about a substantial loss of power.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      your welcome crystolite. Thankls for stopping by!

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      babergirl - a bit of distance seems to open up a different perspective, Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • crystolite profile image


      7 years ago from Houston TX

      Thanks for the information

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I am from Wisconsin... so I have a lot of friends on facebook who keep commenting on the mess back their. I guess it is nice because I can casually ignore it because as of right now it doesn't really effect me. Therefore, I can listen to both sides of the story and stay out of it... at least for the sake of peace.

      By the way, great take on what's going on!

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Thanks for stopping by VV68, We'll see how it goes.

    • vietnamvet68 profile image


      7 years ago from New York State

      It's past time to take this country back, people are sick and tired of being stepped on by the rich and powerful.There is a revolution coming to this country I'm afraid.

      God Bless

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      AJReissig - Thanks for commenting, I think the whole education system needs to step back and look at going back to the methodology that worked so well for so many years. It wasn't till they started messing around with new math and basil reading that score in our schools began to drop.

      Even Sesame street knows that phonics works best.

      Time we fixed that as well.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Fitnzzjim - not sure they considered it but it probably is a good time to do so for all 27 closed shop states. Thanks for commenting.

    • AJReissig profile image

      Alex J. Reissig 

      7 years ago from New Richmond, Ohio

      Great article. Personally, I think every state should be a right to work state. I also think that there should be no collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Each state must live within their means, unlike the federal government who can print money at its leisure. And I blame the teacher's union's for the poor performance of our nation's schools. It is nearly impossible to get rid of a bad teacher who has seniority, no matter how bad he/she is.

      As far as the senators who skipped town, I think they are spineless. Don't agree with the bill? Then vate against it; make your case as to why the bill is so bad (of couse, when the citizens find out that these senators are merely concerned about the union political contributions, the public might not look at them too fondly).

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      7 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      They couldn't stand the heat, so they got out of the kitchen.

      Good Hub, and a good suggestion with respect to 'right to work'. Have they not considered that?

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      eovery - Thanks for stopping by. I concur with your view of the Senators, Democracy is about having the debate and settling it with a vote. They have an obligation to their state and all its voters to be on the floor and debating the issue.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      HSchneider Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Georgia is a right to work state as well and there are plenty of unions down here too. The good thing about a right ot work state is it gives you a choice.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      HP - The teachers in question have a health insurance policy that is quite expensive ($2000+ per month for a family) Because of the contract negotiated by their union they pay a very small part of it, and so too in their pension. The Governor is changing it so they pay a bit more since the state of Wisconsin owes too much money and they have to balance their budget.

      He is also trying to limit what their union can bargain for by law this is the big argument at this point. Hope that helps

    • eovery profile image


      7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      This is a hard one. The thing that has me is that the democrats railroaded democracy. They have the responsibility to vote yes or no, not to railroad it and leave the state.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      7 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I agree that the unions are a necessary evil to keep companies and government honest and in check. Your idea of making Wisconsin a right to work state sounds good. I live in New Jersey and it is a right to work state and unions are doing fine. But I do fear that our Gov. Christie will try this union busting method of eliminating collective bargaining rights. I believe this to be wrong and a power grab. So I applaud the Wisconsin workers for giving in on pension contributions but holding the line against the collective bargaining aspect.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      7 years ago from Guwahati, India

      “The issue of teachers paying more in to their retirement and health insurance “– is a news of appreciation provided it is free of politics. Why the question of paying more arises. Why did not they are being paid as normal since earlier. But what is about others. We are hearing from distance the health care system in USA is not appreciable even though the country belong to number one country in the globe.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      POP - I can see and understand the view on the free market place but government jobs are not free market, and government has all the power, I still think they are a useful check and balance in the government work place.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      7 years ago

      I am one of those people who feel that unions have outlived their day. There are other ways of handling abuse in the free market than having a union boss threaten management. Corporations have so many things in place to protect workers that the presence of a union adds nothing but trouble to the mix. The states are going under and the unions and all they demand are the biggest part of the equation. I bet there are millions of people out there who would give anything to get one of these jobs without the protection of a union. Voted up and useful.


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