TODAY'S QUESTION: Should Republicans negotiate collective bargaining legislation in Wisconsin?

Monday, February 21, 2011 | 10:18 a.m. CST; updated 9:10 p.m. CST, Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s bill prohibiting the collective bargaining power of Wisconsin public employees unrelated to wage issues is being met with heavy criticism. Protests continued for the sixth straight day in Madison on Sunday.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the protests would not influence the passage of the bill, which Walker said is needed to deal with a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall. Fourteen state Senate Democrats left Wisconsin on Thursday so a vote could not take place and refuse to return until Walker will negotiate on the bill, according to CNN.

The bill also requires government workers to put 5.8 percent of their pay into pensions and pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums, according to The New York Times. Union leaders have said they will agree to these measures if their collective bargaining rights are not cut.

On the other side of the issue, many tea party members showed their support for Walker’s bill at a rally on Saturday. They argued the bill is needed to cut spending and said that many employees in other sectors of work have seen increases in their pension and health care costs. 

With whom do you side? Should the Republicans negotiate with those who oppose the bill?


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Christopher Foote February 21, 2011 | 6:14 p.m.

5 states currently prohibit collective bargaining for teachers:
Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:

South Carolina – 50th
North Carolina – 49th
Georgia – 48th
Texas – 47th
Virginia – 44th

Where's Wisconsin with its collective bargaining for teacher... it's ranked 2nd in the country. We should keep it that way.

How can people support a party that calls for austerity measures to address short term deficits (caused in no small part by their own failed policies) and advocates for making the poor and declining middle class worse off to achieve this goal, while simultaneously cutting taxes for the wealthy?

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger February 21, 2011 | 7:16 p.m.

@ Mr. Chris, I saw this as well. Do you have any source for it?

Along the same lines, here's a paragraph from Paul Krugman's column today:

"The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence."

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick February 21, 2011 | 8:21 p.m.

Could you please provide a link for the source of your information? I have some people that really need to see that information as they continue to carry on about how bad collective bargaining is for America. It's time to confront the opinions with solid facts.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 21, 2011 | 8:48 p.m.


It's the same as Ed's:

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 21, 2011 | 8:52 p.m.

Any stats from, you know, this century? I kind of like having current data to draw assumptions from.

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frank christian February 21, 2011 | 8:52 p.m.

I understand how hard it is to impart information, relative to a subject when you don't have any.

The teachers yelling on the sidewalk instead of teaching in the classroom are in no way helping anyone's SAT/ACT scores. A FOX News producer asked for and received the needed sick excuse to get these great teachers off the hook for their illegal absences. Asked when she was sick, replied well this started (the day) and it will probably go all next week. No problem! Excuse signed and delivered. A Wisconsin Rep. replying to question why voting to stop bargaining rights except for salary, mentioned that union bargaining had forced the State of Wisconsin to furnish Viagra in health care at a cost of $785,000 to the State. Neither is this only about teachers. It is about local gov'ts as well, which are in a strangle hold of unions

There is some news you can use. Krugman could have named the "superwealthy players", Clinton, Dodd, Frank, but that wouldn't work would it?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick February 21, 2011 | 8:52 p.m.

That data is old and not valid. Try this article with a more interesting view of the data. It's still the same idea about states without teacher's unions doing poorly, but the article is up to date and completely based upon fact.
Basically put, the states that outlaw teacher's unions do really poorly at turning out their students while states with collective bargaining for their teachers do well.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 21, 2011 | 9:14 p.m.

The data I linked was published in 1999, so it's a bit dated. I couldn't find the same data from a more recent source. Here is, however, graduation ranks from 2008:
If you click on value, it will order them by %, as opposed to alphabetically. The trend still holds, though not quite as striking (Virginia ranks in the middle).

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks February 21, 2011 | 10:25 p.m.

I understand the need for bargaining in reference to jobs and contracts and that makes perfect sense in the real world but I am lost when I hear that public workers funded by tax payers are allowed to have collective bargaining.

How is it a tax funded job is allowed to negotiate with an group of individuals on pay and benefits? The job does not actually have any money and is responsible for breaking even and running efficiently. None of which public sector jobs know how to do.

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger February 21, 2011 | 11:27 p.m.

Frank writes, "A Wisconsin Rep. replying to question why voting to stop bargaining rights except for salary, mentioned that union bargaining had forced the State of Wisconsin to furnish Viagra in health care at a cost of $785,000 to the State."

And you believe this???

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush February 22, 2011 | 6:51 a.m.

The daily question is slightly misleading. Neither the firefighters nor the police unions are being asked to give up their collective bargaining rights. That is a political "Thank you" to both of those public unions for supporting the campaign of the governor. He's only going after the opposition unions. The issue is not financial - it's political. And politically speaking, the Republicans should negotiate.

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Tony Robertson February 22, 2011 | 7:21 a.m.

Good opinion piece from one of the "No Labels" guys:

"Liberal icon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt opposed the ability of public sector unions -- government worker unions paid for by taxpayers -- to collectively bargain, saying the negotiators in such cases couldn't bind the decisions of the public through the legislature about how to run government.

Generous labor contracts can create unsustainable debt, negotiated by one generation and paid for by another. That's what we're seeing now, as the United States faces an aging population, with growing numbers of public employees retiring to draw their pensions."

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Jimmy Dick February 22, 2011 | 10:21 a.m.

In most cases the reason why those pension funds are in ruins is due to the state legislatures spending the funds over the years or in general not funding them like they were supposed. It's pretty much like the way the Federal government took the Social Security money and then cries saying it's broke.
Missouri is in excellent shape with the state employees retirement funds. This is a credit to every legislater who resisted the temptation to mess it up. Our neighbor to the East is not so fortunate.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 22, 2011 | 1:35 p.m.

H Ottinger - "And you believe this???"

A public official made the statement on nat'l TV. We know they have it. A cursory check shows Milwaukee teachers sued the School Board to get it back. Bill Clinton added it to Medicaid as soon as he heard about it. Whats not to believe? The amount?

Any questions about the "sick notes" covering the illegal absences of the teachers from their classrooms?

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger February 22, 2011 | 2:12 p.m.

Mr. Christian writes, "A public official made the statement on nat'l TV." And you lap it up? Do you, ipso pipso, believe anything any public official says? Of course not, and neither do I.

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frank christian February 22, 2011 | 2:46 p.m.

H. Ottinger - You seem quite selective in the points you choose to protest. Pick one and ignore all the rest.

"Do you, ipso pipso, believe anything any public official says? Of course not, and neither do I." This hard to swallow, coming from one of the liberal persuasion. You apparently believe J. Carter,W. Clinton, A.Gore, B. Obama N. Pelosi, H. Reid etc., etc. Do you not?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 22, 2011 | 3:14 p.m.

Personally, I do not believe public employees should have (1) bargaining powers, or (2) the ability to strike.


Because the results of those negotiations force a coercive payment from taxpayers; failure to "pay up" can result in civil and/or criminal penalties for taxpayers, plus forfeiture of properties. When a union representing private industry bargains for higher wages/benefits, I as a consumer can choose whether to participate/purchase/contribute to the bottom line; there is no coercion. There IS coercion with public employee bargaining powers...and strike abilities.

There's a difference between the two.

I do agree that much of the problem is weak-kneed officials unable to say "no". I'm also aware of the enormous pressure put on those same public officials. It's too bad that opposition voters don't weigh in when contracts are negotiated.

I also believe the days of the argument, "We need to provide better benefits/salaries so we can attract superior employees" are long past. Fact is, the laws of labor supply-and-demand are absent for public employees at the same time they are quite active for private employees. It should not be that way.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 22, 2011 | 3:18 p.m.

PS: Wisconsin Democrats (and other runners) need to remember that leaving the state to avoid a a two-way street.

No whining when that happens.

(Didn't the same thing happen in Texas way-back-when over re-districting? Is this habit-forming or sumpin'?)

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger February 22, 2011 | 3:25 p.m.

@ Frank: (sigh). Sometimes yes; sometimes no. It's called "critical thinking." I even believe some stuff Fox News puts out, Frank. But most "public officials," Democrat or Republican, parse and prevaricate. If they were honest 100% of the time, they'd never get elected--or re-elected.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks February 22, 2011 | 3:56 p.m.

Christopher Foote here is a current news story on Wisconsin.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 22, 2011 | 5:16 p.m.

@Mr. Parks,

Yes, the state of our educational system is admittedly not good. I fail to see how lowering incentives to work in the educational field will help the matter.

Also the article you link is sighting a government report from here:
They are referencing page 33, which shows raw reading scores as well as proficiency by state.

Here is how 8th graders performed in your non collective bargaining states (proficient/advanced):
Georgia (27%)
North Carolina (29%)
South Carolina (25%)
Texas (27%)
Virginia (32%)
Average non collective bargaining = 28%

Wisconsin (34%)

National Ave = 30%

Only Virginia is above the national average, and none of them are better than Wisconsin. The average is 28%. Now maybe that 6% difference doesn't matter to you, but if you were a parent with kids in the public educational system in Wisconsin, I don't think you would be so cavalier in your embrace of Mr. Walker's political agenda.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 22, 2011 | 5:21 p.m.

Oops, that should be "citing" and not "sighting".

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 22, 2011 | 5:39 p.m.

@Mr. Williams,

Here's a study comparing state and local employee wages versus the private sector:

Table 4 on pg. 9 shows comparable workers in the private sector earn 14% more annually (10% more for hourly wage workers) and if you include benefits the private worker's annual total compensation is approximately 8% greater.

The negotiated contracts are not excessive, they are in fact below the cost that the private market would bear.

P.S. I'm sure Mr. Delay remembers those redistricting days fondly:

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 22, 2011 | 5:56 p.m.

Mr Foote: Have you heard me...even once...argue whether public or private employees make more money? Check out the above posts.

Methinks your post is better directed elsewhere.

I'm arguing something entirely different.

PS: If you recall my prior posts on teachers in the other forum, I'm supporting of obscene salaries for teachers. IF some conditions are met...which have been outlined elsewhere and is perhaps a posting topic for another article.

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frank christian February 22, 2011 | 9:44 p.m.

from Mr Foote: "Yes, the state of our educational system is admittedly not good. I fail to see how lowering incentives to work in the educational field will help the matter."

As is always the case, Foote's concern is not with those of our people, in this case, their education, but how our government can best benefit from their service. Time and again, it has been shown that money, particularly gov't money is not the answer to problems in our public education system, but Foote's worry is that those funds may be reduced. May I say that Mr Foote has been and will always be, most concerned with the amount of money received from and the amount "invested" into our economy, as opposed to whatever good the transactions may do for our people.

Do I have the wrong Mr. Foote?

(Report Comment)
Michael Schoelz February 22, 2011 | 9:46 p.m.

@ Frank: I'll engage: No one cares about the illegal sick notes. They're a non-issue considering the conflict at hand. As I'm sure you are aware, that form of argument is called ad hominem and has no logical value.

God, why don't those lazy teachers just do their job? As we've seen in multiple standardized tests our highly gifted children just don't seem to score well compared to other countries. It can't be our kids, lets blame the teachers and demand that in place of knowledge, the teachers will just train our kids to do well on a highly politicized test that will serve them terrifically when they end up in a cubicle doing more mindless busywork (we can also blame poor people too, for bringing the average down). Anything else we can pin on them? Well Clearly, we should pay them less and take away their labor rights cause they are costing us a ridiculous amount of money during a recession, and then we'll give tax breaks to corporations so that they can hire our now supremely educated children to be cogs in their machine and then the corporations will graciously lead our country.....

back to 1890. In an ideal world. Least we can do is dream, right Frank?

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 23, 2011 | 8:59 a.m.

michael S. Why do liberal, in your case, unionists, always begin the argument at the point of their choosing rather than the beginning?

The illegal sick notes are of great concern to all who believe in the rule of law. Those not concerned are the ones breaking the rule and those (again you)backing their illegal action. Public Employees in general were given the right to bargain but not strike in the 60s by Kennedy and Democrat Congress. First thing L.A. teachers did was strike.

Were unions allowed in the teaching profession to benefit the student? No way! Unions everywhere are formed to benefit the members. Your concern for "politicized" tests is well founded. The unions have been trying and succeeding to influence curriculum since the beginning. D' Governor Grey Davis, thinking he could stop his recall by the people, grandly announced he was stopping an effort to change by the NEA and that unions were not going to dictate what is taught in CA classrooms! Little late,as we know, he got recalled anyway. Poor people have, I believe,generally done well in our public education system. Might be hard to prove. I don't believe they are identified as a group by anyone but the elitists of the left. We have just seen thru the public/private salary debate that all liberal studies show that our best educated are going into Government.(the reason they are paid more according to libs.)

We don't need to change ages, just the knot of anti-capitalists in our gov't, trying make us over to their vision of what we should be. Nice talking to you.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 23, 2011 | 10:15 a.m.

@Mr. Williams,

Perhaps I misunderstood your comments. I was responding to this:

"I do agree that much of the problem is weak-kneed officials unable to say "no". I'm also aware of the enormous pressure put on those same public officials. It's too bad that opposition voters don't weigh in when contracts are negotiated.

I also believe the days of the argument, "We need to provide better benefits/salaries so we can attract superior employees" are long past. Fact is, the laws of labor supply-and-demand are absent for public employees at the same time they are quite active for private employees. It should not be that way."

Implicit in those two statements is that public sector remuneration is above market value.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson February 23, 2011 | 12:13 p.m.

@Michael Williams: To expand on your point:
"A crucial distinction has been lost in the debate over Walker’s proposals: Government unions are not the same thing as private-sector unions.

Traditional, private-sector unions were born out of an often-bloody adversarial relationship between labor and management. It’s been said that during World War I, U.S. soldiers had better odds of surviving on the front lines than miners did in West Virginia coal mines. Mine disasters were frequent; hazardous conditions were the norm. In 1907, the Monongah mine explosion claimed the lives of 362 West Virginia miners. Day-to-day life often resembled serfdom, with management controlling vast swaths of the miners’ lives. Before unionization and many New Deal–era reforms, Washington had little power to reform conditions by legislation.

Government unions have no such narrative on their side. Do you recall the Great DMV Cave-in of 1959? How about the travails of second-grade teachers recounted in Upton Sinclair’s famous schoolhouse sequel to The Jungle? No? Don’t feel bad, because no such horror stories exist.

Government workers were making good salaries in 1962 when President Kennedy lifted, by executive order (so much for democracy), the federal ban on government unions. Civil-service regulations and similar laws had guaranteed good working conditions for generations.

The argument for public unionization wasn’t moral, economic, or intellectual. It was rankly political."

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 23, 2011 | 12:55 p.m.

So since you are more moral than those you choose do denigrate, do us all a favor and STAY out of politics.

(Report Comment)
Kota Gray February 23, 2011 | 8:47 p.m.

Ah heck, fire them all and let the illegals work for minimum wage, we all save $$ and they get to move to Wusscussin. O.K.?

(Report Comment)
Jean Blackwood February 27, 2011 | 3:13 p.m.

I couldn't rightly click "YES" because there is nothing to be negotiated. All Americans have the right to form and join unions and to benefit from collective bargaining. As one sign at the rally said "United we bargain. Alone we beg."

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 27, 2011 | 4:19 p.m.

And if I owned a business, do I have the right to tell those wanting to unionize that they should bugger off and clean out their desks? The right to freely associate works boths ways, right?

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush February 27, 2011 | 10:51 p.m.

"And if I owned a business, do I have the right to tell those wanting to unionize that they should bugger off and clean out their desks? The right to freely associate works boths ways, right?"

Only if you're (1) Sen. Paul (R-Ky) and want to illegally discriminate against an entire class of people or (2) wanting to go back the Gilded Age.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 28, 2011 | 2:47 a.m.

Yes, stunning logic, that response.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson February 28, 2011 | 9:42 a.m.

Supporters of the Madison protesters, and the AWOL Dem senators ("flee-baggers") seem to miss the differences between public-sector unions and private-sector unions. Private-sector unions play an important role in balancing the interests of labor, against the power of management, particularly of private companies and large corporations. What demonic globo-corporate hegemon are public sector unions fighting? In Wisconsin, as in other states, it is the taxpayers, who elect representatives in the state house. These public-sector unions take dues money to back Democrats, essentially trying to hire their own bosses. As has been pointed out by "wacko right-wingers" of the past, like FDR and George Meany.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm February 28, 2011 | 10:20 a.m.

@ Tony

Do you also feel the same way about Police Unions? What government institutions that do not use tax funding? Do those workers not deserve the same rights that other Americans get?

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 28, 2011 | 11:13 a.m.

@Mr. Robertson,

If your premise were true, one would expect that total compensation for public sector workers would exceed market valuation. Numerous studies have demonstrated that this is not the case, here's a recent one:
This is the same study I posted for Mr. Williams who made a similar argument.
Here is a chart from that study:

The data suggests that those negotiating contracts with public employee unions are not being overly generous. The opposite actually appears to be the case; the data indicates that the public union compensation is approximately 8% below market value.

Compensation levels below private sector prevailing wages + benefits suggests that collective bargaining rights should be strengthened, not weakened.

I would also note many contracts are signed at the county level, not just by the governor. If the people don't like the contracts signed by their representatives they can vote them out, and elect other representatives who are either more generous or parsimonious, depending upon the voter's perspective. This is how democracy works. You will note that in accordance with this view of democracy, the unions AGREED with Gov. Walker's spending cuts with respect to their wages and benefit premiums.
The deal breaker is the effective ban of collective bargaining and the requirement that unions have to vote every year to remain a union. Contrary to what you will hear from the media, Gov. Walker never ONCE said on the campaign trail that he would eliminate collective bargaining for public employees.
I disagree with FDR and Meany, unionization is a right that should be afforded to all workers.
Here's St. Ronnie arguing that being in a union is a basic right:
(one of the few times I agree with him)

What is your argument against collective bargaining in light of this reality, i.e. negotiated contracts are below private sector compensation levels?

(Report Comment)

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