Wisconsin State Employees' Union and the Wisconsin State Budget Deficit
For now, the issue between the Wisconsin State Employee Unions and the Wisconsin State Government has been settled - state employee’s collective bargaining privileges are diminshed (excluding fire and police employees), they will contribute more to their own healthcare and retirement AND....the state will no longer garnish employee wages for union dues on behalf of the Unions. The last point, automatic deductions, means the unions will be responsible for collecting their own dues from employees who join the union.
Regardless of how you received your information on this issue, did you hear of any right to be protected other than the right to collectively bargain? Is that even a right or simply a decades old negotiated labor arrangement between unions/employees and employers? Do arrangements/agreements evolve into irrevocable rights over time never to be renegotiated or rearranged? With respect to employee rights; I did not read or hear of any employee rights specifically in need of protecting. Were the working conditions intolerable or rampant discrimination and harassment? Were wages being garnished illegally (besides union dues being garnished), unlawful hiring, firing, rehiring? Ask yourself, "what employee rights did I hear or read about in need of protecting beside collective bargaining?"
- If you are not pro union are you against protecting employee rights?Department of Labor, EEOC, OSHA, Civil Rights Division of DOJ, EPA: combined, these Government agencies have budgets in excess of $14billion/yr and have thousands of employees/officers protecting employee rights. If you are an employer, having dealt with any of these agencies, you know this - these agencies are 100% employee advocates and they are serious about what they do. This does not take into account all the state and local laws and state agencies that offer redundant protection in the name of employee rights. The icing on the cake? Lawyers who will sue any business, any employer any time for anything. If you are not pro union, that does not make you against protecting employee rights. If unions went away tomorrow the Department of Labor, EEOC, OSHA, Civil Rights Division of DOJ, EPA would still be here with the billion dollar budgets, thousands of employees, and the ability to fine and incarcerate the guilty. You can be opposed to the redundancy of unions and still believe in the protection of employee rights.
- Why are union leadership and the politicians so adamant about collective bargaining and the garnishment ofunion dues?The Wisconsin battle presents the perfect “cataclysmic” storm for unions and the politicians they support. First, state union employees will have to contribute to their own health insurance premiums and retirement ( still pennies on the dollar compared to the rate private sector employees contribute). Let’s remember, regardless of how much state employees contribute toward their own benefits, all of what a state employee earns comes from taxes, and it is the tax payer on the hook for 100% of what state employees receive, whether in wages, benefits, or benefit contributions.
Going forward, Wisconsin state employees will pay more toward their health and retirement benefits. At the same time the the State of Wisconsin will no longer automatically deduct union dues from state employees who must now submit their own dues. In fact, you can make a case that the Wisconsin state employee has gained rights as they have a choice and could opt out of paying union dues after the current contract expires.
Now you have Wisconsin employees paying more for their benefits (approx. $2,000 more a year) with a choice of voluntarily paying into aunion. As wages are not garnished by collecting union dues, where do you think many State employees will choose to save money? Union dues most likely. Now you know why the union leadership and Progressive politicians are up in arms - they just lost their guaranteed revenue stream. How many of the 300,000 state employees can opt out of $400 to $1,000/yr dues before it impacts the union coffers? If every state employee paid $400/yr in union dues that’s $120 million in union dues. That would be $120 million in tax payer dollars in union bank accounts.
What does the union do with $120 million dollars (and that is a rough estimate on an average of $400/yr dues and 300,000 state employees)? We have already established that unions do not need to protect traditional employee rights. The Federal Government spends billions to do that and unions do not spend any money on something they can get from the Federal Government. So where does the money go? Surely some of it goes to maintaining the union itself; offices, salaries, management, office supplies and such. Where else do those dues go? In the last two years, the ten biggest unions in the country gave approximately $20 million to Democratic politicians compared to a few thousand to Republicans. What motivated the Wisconsin Democratic Senators to abandon their duty, their state and their constituents? It wasn’t for the benefit of the state employees, but rather in their own political self-interest that they left the State, preventing the necessary quorum to vote on the Wisconsin budget which included eliminating the garnishment of union dues from state employee wages.
This is the crux of the issue - the guaranteed revenue stream from state employee to unions to politicians. Oh, and the granting of collective bargaining "rights" is how the politicians who received the union contributions paid back the unions and their employees -- a Ponzi/pyramid scheme with the tax payer at the bottom.
The average union member’s interest most likely does not include much beyond maintaining pay scales, benefits, and probably good working conditions. If we are honest, these are issues important to all of us as employees and employers whether we are a union and non-union member. The other issues -- those are issues that seem to drive union leadership and politicians. If the regular union members do not come together to purge out the extreme factors within their leadership ranks, unions will either become extinct or bankrupt the states and country.
- What do Unions Leaders want protected from?What do unions protect their members from? The best I can tell, they protect their members from Free Enterprise principles and relationships. Unions are no longer fighting for employee rights, but for employee privileges -- sheltering them from the same principles and standards that exist in the private sector employee/employer relationships. Employment is based on time not performance. Retirement with a pension often in excess of income earned while working, little to no personal contribution, and at a much earlier age than in the private sector, with minimal contribution to other generous benefits. The typical union employee has an income and benefit package more than 30% higher than the same job in the private sector.
The Government employee has the best of everything. Better wages, better benefits, employee rights protected by State and Federal Governments, and a quid pro quo political/union relationship granting them privileges that cannot possibly exist in an economic model where compensation is based on performance. In the Union business model, compensation is endorsement based not performance based.
Would the average state union member accept the same working terms and conditions available in the private sector? How would we know? As long as the mouthpiece for the unions reflects the union leadership and not union membership how will there be a return to normalcy in the union/employer relationship?Three very informative articles
- Why should you care about what is happening in Wisconsin?You should care about what is going on in Wisconsin because you most likely live in a state that either has this issue or will in the very near future. Understanding the issues in Wisconsin will better prepare you to define and defend your position later.
Not being pro union does not mean anti-employee rights - DOL, EEOC, DOJ, OSHA will still be in place if unions are not. Protecting the unions does not protect employee rights any more than what they are already protected by State and Federal agencies, it is protecting the revenue stream from taxpayer to union leadership to elected official that seems to be the more immediate goal. It is the same type pyramid scheme that sent Bernie Madoff to prison. Protecting the current union based business model is to support endorsement based employee compensation instead of performance based compensation. We see how well that worked for GM, Chrysler, and much of the US manufacturing industry.
The unions served a purpose once upon a time. If the current system is not reformed, unions will have outlived their usefulness. Just the way it is sometimes -- societies must evolve and transition. What the unions demanded decades ago in terms of wages, safety, and other rights the States and Federal Governments now spend billions to protect. To be clear, the issue is much less about the union member and more about the union system, and the quid pro quo relationship between union leaders and politicians. Let us distinguish: the American worker is still one of America’s greatest assets while union leadership and lobbying have become a detriment.
It is time for the current system to evolve and we must acknowledge the current union system has outlived its usefulness. It is just time. The present union system is broken and corrupt, evolving into something it was never meant to be. The time has come for unions to evolve with the current economic times or they will continue to be purged from the market place.
In 1971, Ayn Rand wrote an essay, entitled, "Don't Let it Go." She was referring to our sense of life, which she described as an individual's "pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence." According to Rand, this sense of life "represents an individual's unidentified philosophy..." And she went on to explain that a nation, too, has a sense of life, which, she believed is " expressed not in its formal culture, but in its "life style" -- in the kinds of actions and attitudes which people take for granted and believe to be self-evident..." When the nation's dominant majority share the essentials of this sense of life in varying degrees, they develop the same subconscious philosophy -- observed as "national characterisitics."
What are some of those essentials that have defined the American sense of life, and which have historically differentiated us from the other peoples of the world? My list would include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following concrete examples:
Unlike the people on every other continent, we Americans do not believe that our government owns us. We have always known who works for whom. And we know that our lives belong to our individual selves.
We do not believe that our future is determined by our birth, our current circumstance, or our "station" in life. In fact, we reject the whole notion of "station."
We do not like to be "put in our place," because we don't believe that any human being should be confined to "his/her place" (and we proved that by fighting a war against fellow Americans who, earlier in our history, thought differently).
We do not like to be told that we cannot do something. Rather like defiant children, we frequently say, "Oh, yeah? Watch me."
We are not easily intimidated. And WE DON'T LIKE BULLIES!
For the most part, we believe in the concept of the "benevolent universe." We trust other people, often naively. We have difficulty believing that anyone would want to hurt us, inasmuch as we bear no ill will toward others.
We have always taken pleasure in sharing with others. But we're not big on sacrifice, and we don't like to be told that we "owe" something to someone whom we don't even know.
We routinely take initiative and step up to solve a problem -- whether or not we were involved in its creation. Just don't tell us that it is our "duty" to step forward.
Our commitment to reality is evidenced by our historically common sense approach to life. And although we believe in education, we're fundamentally anti-intellectual (we don't trust eggheads).
We are willing to work hard for what we have. And we play just as hard in the enjoyment of the earned fruits of our labor.
Un-earned guilt has not been an elemental characteristic of who we are. It has not been our practice to ask for permission to live.
We are an essentially life-oriented, happy people -- except for our intellectuals. Alexis de Tocqueville commented on exactly that when he traveled through America in 1831. It amazed him. And surely we must know how appealing that distinctly American characteristic has been to the millions of immigrants who have flocked to our shores. Almost everyone in the rest of the world has wanted to be touched and transformed by that part of us. And many have, while many others have died trying.
In my mind's eye, I have always seen Americans as a huge group of self-confident, big-for-their-age, somewhat awkward, a little pushy, fearless, fun-loving, boisterous, generous -- and above all, innocent -- 6th graders. Yes, 6th grade -- that year when we have finally reached the pinnacle -- being the biggest kids in grade school. That year when we walk with a bit of a swagger, and exude a sense of certainty -- about everything! And even when we lord our size and strength over the littler kids, we still feel protective toward them; eager to give them tips on how to be successful like we are. They all look up to us and can't wait until they can be just like us. And we believe that, in fact, they can be -- just like us!
That is how I think of Ayn Rand's American sense of life. It does not denote brilliance or perfection, and cannot, by itself, insulate a person against the constant cultural and political assaults against his beliefs and aspirations. But it is the most elemental aspect of the American outlook; our sense of life is the national feature most observed and commented on by foreign visitors; it is that characteristic that most distinguishes us from the countries and peoples of the rest of the world. And as I look around me today, I see this American sense of life best illustrated and represented by Governor Sarah Palin.
Ayn Rand also said that the best way to identify a sense of life is by contrasting one constellation of concretes, like those listed above, with the outward expressions of a different sense of life. Listen to the criticisms that are frequently leveled at our "6th graders" usually by embittered adults, and see if they don't illustrate a different sense of life:
"Who are you to be so sure of yourself? Nobody knows anything for sure!"
"You think life is all fun and games? Well, just wait 'til you grow up. You'll see that life is about duty and sacrifice!"
"Don't be stupid and trust every Tom, Dick and Harry. Human nature is dark and evil, and it's only a matter of time before people will disappoint you."
"It's easy for you to act so carefree and happy. You're rich and spoiled, and you've never suffered! And that's the only reason you can act so generous! Just don't expect any thanks from me!"
"Don't you know that your nice clothes, your good grades, and your 'merry sunshine' attitude make other, less fortunate, kids feel bad? Shame on you!"
"Don't you dare do anything or go anywhere without asking for permission. You can't trust your own judgment. Always, always ask for permission from the smarter, wiser people who know what's good for you and everyone else. We'll tell you who they are."
"You think you're such a big shot! I can't wait 'til someone cuts you down to size!"
"You're selfish, selfish, selfish! All you ever think about is your own happiness. Shame on you!"
"Look at you -- acting like you're so special. You're not very smart, and you don't have an ounce of sophistication. You'll never be anything but a commoner -- and a laughingstock."
"Oh, for goodness sake, nobody but you really believes that stuff about all men being created equal. Those are just words that a bunch of old, hypocritical, white men said a couple of hundred years ago."
"It's not right that you should be so happy when there are so many other kids who don't have as much as you have. If you want to be a really good boy, start giving your stuff to them. And don't just give them the stuff you no longer want or need. Give them your favorite things, too. Then, maybe you'll deserve to live!"
"Stop laughing! Life is not funny. Wipe that silly grin off your face -- before someone does it for you!"
A very different sense of life, to be sure. It isn't just that the critics don't feel the same kind of benevolence or joy in living. What is most striking is their disdain and animosity toward those who do, and their determination to strip them of their belief in themselves as people who are entitled to all of the liberty, prosperity and happiness they can earn. When we find Americans with this sense of life, we should run from them as though they were trying to spread a deadly plague -- which they are! As I look around me today I see this non-American sense of life best illustrated and represented by Barack Obama and his Progressive colleagues.
As Ayn Rand explained, "A sense of life is not a substitute for explicit knowledge." As our 6th grader moves toward adulthood, it is imperative that he engage in the intellectual stuggle that will lead him to a consistent body of conceptual knowledge. He must know not only what he believes, but why he believes it. He must hold his beliefs consciously, and not just sense them in a vague, inexplicable way. This is the only way he will be able to maintain and protect his precious American Sense of Life. In other words, he must fight for it. We must all fight for it!
At least three others caught up in the turmoil have received death sentences previously.
........"So far, 89 of defendants were tried andbased on their cases, death sentences were issued for five of them,"the statement said.