Perhaps the biggest blunder, public employee unions and the Democratic National Committee made in organizing a practically permanent rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison was in gaining a media focus on the protests. Now, while they (and Charlie Sheen) may buy into the mantra that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, perhaps the unions, like Charlie, should reconsider.
These protests have put the spotlight on the sweetheart deals Democratic legislators secure for the public employees. Recall that in the 2010 California elections, where the public employee unions poured tens of millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns, even running the party’s get-out-the-vote efforts, media in the state focused more on the millions the Republican gubernatorial nominee spent on her effort to win the governor’s chair. And all but ignored the unions.
Now, as blogging law professor William A. Jacobson reminds us, even the New York Times is noticing the intransigence of public employee unions as states face massive budget shortfalls:
The Board of Editors of The New York Times is demanding significant cut backs in public sector union contracts, but refuses to recognize the cause of the problem, which is the entire structure of public employee unions
Jacobson is right. Read the whole thing.
That said, while the Times‘ editors may diagnose the problem incorrectly, at least they recognize that there is a problem. This added media focus may make Americans more aware just how big a factor the unions have been in various states’ spending sprees. This focus could help strengthen the position of Republican governors and legislators seeking to restrain the unions in order to protect taxpayers.
UPDATE: Michael Barone addressed this very matter in his must-read column on Saturday:
Voters are beginning to realize, thanks to governors like Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, that public sector unions have negotiated unsustainable levels of pensions and benefits — and that public sector unions are a mechanism for involuntary transfers of money from taxpayers to the Democratic Party.
It’s Barone. Read the whole thing.