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« Charlie Sheen: CBS does right thing by pulling Two And A Half Men | Main | How to be more successful: Develop a curiosity about business »
Monday
Feb212011

Unions hurt their cause in Wisconsin

Union sympathizers who continue to support the state worker protests in Wisconsin are only hurting the cause of unions overall, including private sector unions.  By railing against lawmakers who were lawfully elected by the majority of Wisconsin voters, the protesters in Madison are really doing nothing more than disrespecting their neighbors.

Faced with massive budget deficits, the Republican lawmakers and governor in Wisconsin decided that part of the solution to trimming costs would be to require state workers to contribute more towards their own retirement and medical benefits.  They also sought to disallow collective bargaining among state workers for anything other than pay, with the exception of law enforcement and firefighters.

Certainly, having to pay more towards your own retirement and medical benefits is unpleasant when you're not used to doing so.  The entitlement mentality that persists among the protesters, however, is an affront to anyone who works in the private sector, which is the vast majority of the population.  In coming off the heals of a major recession, we’ve all either experienced or have known people who experienced a loss of job or a major cut in pay.

After first staging massive protests for the entire Republican proposal, the unions have since offered to concede on benefit contributions, but insist that state workers still have the right to collective bargaining. Insistence upon this notion, however, continues to miss the mark.

Voters in Wisconsin elect lawmakers who should have the right to decide how much taxpayer dollars are allocated to which resources, including human resources. By allowing collective bargaining, however, the state must go through the added process of negotiating pay and benefits with the unions.  In other words, under the current scenario, voters can’t just decide to elect those who promise to cut wages without first getting an okay from the state workers, who are always going to negotiate on behalf of what’s in their best interest, not in the best interests of the state.

The us-versus-them mentality may work in the private sector, where if you are not a part of the industry, it doesn’t matter to you.  When it comes to taking that attitude with government, and by extension the voters who put the government in place, it creates an entirely different atmosphere, especially given that Wisconsin residents have no other state government they can go to, and they have to pay taxes for services whether or not they agree with them or need them.  After many of us have experienced pain in the wake of this recession, protestors in Wisconsin are giving the impression that they shouldn’t have to sacrifice.  

Unions are dying out by the day.  If union supporters wish to maintain their credibility and relevance in the future, they would be best off leaving this issue alone. 

Here more on my most recent podcast by clicking here.

Jason Griffin is a Columbia, Missouri based writer, producer, journalist and marketing consultant. Stay current on new articles as they are released. Like on Facebook. Follow on Twitter. Subscribe with RSS.

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Reader Comments (14)

I couldn't agree more, Jason. I am pro-union but at the same time when states like Wisconsin are dealing with billions in deficits, sacrifices must be made to lower that amount and that includes asking state employees to put more of their money into their benefits and 401k. I do not agree with taking away collective bargaining rights but these unions need to be reasonable in their demands and do more to take more of the burden off of taxpayers. I also think that union membership should not be mandatory, I don't mind being apart of a union (UFW 162) but I also don't think it's fair to demand my part time co-workers pay a union dues when they are just looking to make a little extra money on the side.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

...when *you're* not used to...
...if *you're* not a part of...

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterirked

Irked, I'm glad to see the grammar police on patrol (and being the good citizen I am I fixed it).

Kate, thanks for the comment!

February 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterJason Griffin

Only trying to help. You're welcome.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterirked

Whose side are you on? You are either with the worker or against the worker. There is no budget crisis...It's a lie! over 1 billion in uncollected taxes! over 130 million in cuts to the rich.

Know this people....we have occupied the capitol...we are not leaving....NEVER, we will never give this fight up. I am willing to be there for years!!! YEARS... WALKER...many many YEARS!!!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Jason, I think your arguement is flawed here and missed the point of the protests and outrage which are getting larger and drawing more scrutiny by the the day.

The issue is the destruction of collective bargaining as a whole. By nullifying the ability of members to negotiate their medical benefits, sick and vacation time, and tying any wage increases to the consumer price index (CPI) basically voids their bargaining rights as well as a Governor and/or lawmakers who are unwilling to negotiate.

1. Gov. Walker scapegoats general public sector workers but exempts police, fire firefighters and state troopers. Why shouldn't they be included. He isn't even asking them to contribute to the cause much less stripping them of their bargaining power. In addition, this bill also nullifies the ability to strike but again exempts law enforcement and fire fighters which allows them, if need be, the right to go on strike. A bill impaired to begin with.

2. When FoMoCo decides it needs concessions, they don't wave a magic wand to get what they desire. They sit down with a bargaining team that represents the membership and hash out what is needed, negotiating all issues. Gov walker refuses to do so.

3. The perception Gov. Walker is creating that public employees are fat and need to be brought down a few pegs. The fact is public employees are, on average, underpayed vs their private sector counterparts. Moreover, the level of education is higher amongst public employees vs their private sector employees (nurses, public defenders, social workers).

You mentioned "the entitlement mentality" which strikes me as odd because upon mentioning entitlement, social security and medicare come to mind. Not all but some public employees wont see any social security when they retire because they dont pay into it. That's what their pension is for and if left up the this Governor they will see a lot less of that as well.

I do hope these workers find a positive resolution because if they don't it leaves all workers, union and non-union, public and private, with less due to, in my opinion, a Governor playing political football with their livelihoods which definitely appears to be happening.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVincent

OK - Calm down Eric. Take your medication.

I agree with the author. In the private sector, the business can declare bankcruptcy and go out of business.
In the public sector, the government can delcare bankruptcy and cannot go out of business.
Who does this hurt? The citizens of the State.
These protesters are being forced to show their true colors - thier self interests are more important than students, (whom they abandoned for thier theatrics) and even the state itself and it's citizens.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan Wood

I don't think the people get it. THE GOVERNMENT IS BROKE AND GOING BROKE. There is no money there, hello?????????? It doesn't matter what the union cooks up the government does not have the money to pay it. There is a true disconnect here.

It does not matter to the unions, they insists they get to negotiate baked in pay raises and benefits just because?

This maybe works if the business is making money but what happens when they don't? They still have to pay inflated wages and benefits? There is no advantage on either side at this point and all stand to lose. The business closes its doors and files bankruptcy and the workers go file unemployment.

When my employer cuts me down to 4 days a week there is no compromise, when my employer freezes my wage there is no compromise. After all THERE NOT MAKING ANY MONEY! They need to do this to survive.

This is not about democrats or republicans this is about BEING BROKE. Suck it up and deal with it and quite whining. Unfortunately there is no answer to this problem and it is not going to go away any time soon.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrdzins

I agree this is not helping the union cause, the union doesn't have sane people out in the public getting their storey out. They have a lot of lunatics on the loose, that makes them look bad. I agree with vincent. This is nothing but a union busting strategy by Gov. Walker. The union already agreed to pay cuts and benefits cuts. Gov. Walker wants to destroy the unions. In the last 20 years wages in America has gone down due to the loss of union jobs. Companys moved their companies to mexico, china, and other third world nations. The prices for their products didn't go down. Just wages in America. If people supported American jobs and Union Jobs, America's economy wouldn't be hurting.
I may sound like a liberal Democrat, but I have never voted for a democrat. I am a registered republican, I served 10 Years in the United States Marine Corp. I hate to see what both parties are doing to my America.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Harrison

I don't really think that paying less than 10% of your wages is asking much. Most everyone else pays much more than that to insurance. Most everyone else would like to even have pension through their job. Everyone is acting like the sky is falling or we are going back to the dark ages because there will be no more collective barganing.

If they don't like that, thousands of them will lose their jobs. I am sure they will love living on unemployment like a majority of the rest of the country is. Most people would be thrilled to have a job right now. Although nothing can get passed without the democrats who are acting like a bunch of babies right now. If I ran away because I didn't want to do my job, I would have no job. Maybe they can explain to all the laid-off workers why they have no jobs because they were wimps and fled the state so this bill couldn't get passed in time.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUnbelievable

Gov. walker has the nerve to wear that USA pin on his lapel.

He says the state is broke. This is coming from a Republican who signed a law on Jan. 31 that says that companies that relocate to Wisconsin will not have to pay corporate taxes for two years.

He also promised to slash income taxes for the top one percent of income earners who make more than $225,000 a year -- two-year budget cost: $287 million.

Another promise he intends to keep is to shelter the assets of the wealthiest Wisconsinites even more by an end to tax paid on retirement income, regardless of income -- two-year budget cost: $920 million.

If it were up to the Governor, you and I would be making $1 a day chinese laborer style working 90 hr weeks sewing some $500 Paris Hilton handbags, getting slapped in the head for taking too long on the toliet.

Now thats a Republican!

And don't get me started on the Koch brothers...Walker might as well be walking around the capitol with a receipt stapled to him because he's been bought and payed for and his handlers are cashing in...

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVincent

Eventually, the parasite kills the host. God bless the host.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterQC Ghost

Maybe the governor just needs to fold to the pressures that the unions are putting on him. Let the budget do it's thing. Then, in 20 years when a lot of these protestors are ready to retire, there will be NOTHING for them to retire on.

I spent 20 years in the navy, and the whole time I was in, I was putting away for my retirement because I don't know that the government will be able to keep up with the demand for money that is on it now, and it's only getting worse. The civil service retirement program that these people want to draw from has to be funded, and well hell, I've had to fund my own, pretty much on my own (well, I did get a 1% match after I put in 3%).

Grow up people. There was a time and a place for unions and collective bargaining, but it is past it's time.

When a union goes into collective bargaining with a private company, the board of directors who are doing the negotiating have a stake in the success of the company. If the board "gives away the farm" to the union and it's members the stockholders have the ability to fire the board and have them replaced.

When negotiations between a union and government occur, who really has anything at stake? If the union members get everything the asked for, the politicians just get reelected because they supported the union.

Who loses? Oh, the taxpayers.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarryO

correction on my last post..I only spent 12 years in the military, so I don't have that retirement check coming every month. I'm now planning for my retirement in 15 years, and am basically paying for it myself...

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarryO

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