All eyes in the nation have been on Wisconsin the fast few days as public employee unions (and their allies in the Democratic Party) have thrown a temper, trashing the state’s capital and smearing its elected officials, even threatening them with death.
The stakes in the state couldn’t be higher. “As Wisconsin goes,” Michelle Malkin writes, “so go the rest of the nation’s bankrupt and near-bankrupt states.” What we’re seeing in the Badger State, we need to be seeing in the (once-)Golden State. And when it happens here, what we’ll see in Sacramento will make the goings-on in Madison seems like a a rather sedate affair.
But, confronting the public employee unions is a necessary first step to fixing the underlying structural problems behind each state’s impending insolvency. What the editors of the Wall Street Journal observe about Wisconsin is also to be found here in California, but to a much greater extent:
Unions are treating these reforms as Armageddon because they’ve owned the Wisconsin legislature for years and the changes would reduce their dominance. Under Governor Walker’s proposal, the government also would no longer collect union dues from paychecks and then send that money to the unions. Instead, unions would be responsible for their own collection regimes. The bill would also require unions to be recertified annually by a majority of all members. Imagine that: More accountability inside unions.
The larger reality is that collective bargaining for government workers is not a God-given or constitutional right. It is the result of the growing union dominance inside the Democratic Party during the middle of the last century. John Kennedy only granted it to federal workers in 1962 and Jerry Brown to California workers in 1978. Other states, including Indiana and Missouri, have taken away collective bargaining rights for public employees in recent years, and some 24 states have either limited it or banned it outright.
And for good reason. Public unions have a monopoly position that gives them undue bargaining power. Their campaign cash—collected via mandatory dues—also helps to elect the politicians who are then supposed to represent taxpayers in negotiations with those same unions. The unions sit, in effect, on both sides of the bargaining table. This is why such famous political friends of the working man as Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia opposed collective bargaining for government workers, even as they championed private unions.
The Wisconsin reforms which other states should emulate would reduce the leverage they’ve had by having representatives on both sides of the bargaining table. These reforms would, to be sure, mean a loss of power for the unions, but would not render them impotent. It is the loss of power which so offends them, power they’ve gained at the expense of those who pay their salaries, the citizens of Wisconsin.
No wonder they’re fighting so hard. They want to hold onto their power. If they succeed at retaining it, as Bryan Preston notes, there will be consequences to their victory:
If the unions win, Ohio, California, maybe even New Jersey and other big union states are at the unions’ mercy. And we’ll get nowhere on our massive national, state and municipal debt problem. Nowhere.
But, should the elected governor of Wisconsin and the newly elected Republican majority in the state legislature prevail, Preston foresees a brighter future for the Badger State:
But if Walker wins? He will have shown that when the left personalizes and demonizes, he stands as a true leader stands. We will start to make progress on the debt bomb.
Stand firm, Governor Walker, Wisconsin Republicans. Our nation’s fiscal solvency depends on your success.