Thursday, February 24, 2011

Collective Bargaining Not Feasible? (Part 2)

I would like to continue the discussion from the post, Collective Bargaining Not Feasible?, because Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is standing by his claim that collective bargaining must be stripped for public employees in order to balance the state budget. Given that the unions have conceded all of the financial provisions needed to balance the state budget, what's the argument for stripping these rights?

The only evidence that Walker provides is his own anecdotal evidence from when he was a county executive. He says that negotiating with unions is "difficult," and that stripping collective bargaining rights would help local governments. Walker has added that some local governments have requested the stripping of collective bargaining rights from public employees. However, many local governments have said that they haven't requested Walker strip public employees' right to collectively bargain and that the local governments don't need such an extreme step.

About 300 local Wisconsin governments have signed a petition opposing Walker's budget, saying they oppose the stripping of collective bargaining rights. "Far from being a problem, collective bargaining is part of the solution. We work cooperatively with our employees to solve problems," Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. The local governments include large (in Wisconsin terms) constituent regions of the state such as La Crosse, Eau Claire, and Oshkosh.

As I stated in the previous post, Wisconsin has had collective bargaining rights for public employees since 1959. We've faced larger budget deficits in the past in which public employees have taken financial concessions to keep the state moving. We've never had to strip collective bargaining rights to balance the budget, because our government leaders have done the difficult task that many business owners do of negotiating with the unions.

The budget is set by our legislators. Public employees have no direct say in the state or other government budgets. So the issues with the budget cannot be the fault of our public employees. Instead, it must be the fault of those who have the power to set the budget, our legislators. If the legislators have issues they feel they can't solve by negotiating, they need to convince their constituents to put pressure on the employees. That's how democracy works. It may be difficult. It may be messy. That's democracy. That's how government has worked in Wisconsin for over 50 years.

Consider a current example. Texas is a Right-To-Work state that doesn't allow collective bargaining for public employees. Yet, Texas has a much larger deficit than Wisconsin. Wisconsin has about a two-year budget deficit of about $3.6 billion, and Texas is looking at a two-year budget deficit of near $27 billion. These are facts provided by the respective states. So, clearly budgets can get out of control whether public employees collectively bargain or not, and Wisconsin is not in nearly as much trouble as other states.

So, history has shown that collective bargaining doesn't destroy governments, our budget issues aren't the fault of our public employees, the public employees have agreed to pay more, and the local governments want to keep collective bargaining for their employees. Why can't our public employees collectively bargain?

It's a serious question that I'm asking.

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