Governor Walker Introduces Budget Repair
This article, posted on the Wisconsin Governor’s website, claims that emergency measures must be taken in order to balance the state’s budget and ensure Wisconsin has the tools to navigate this economic crisis. The claim is supported by economic data outlining the extent of the budget shortfall. Wisconsin is currently facing a $137 million deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends on July 1, 2011. Rather than increase taxes on the citizens of the state, Walker believes it better to cut some of the benefits for state employees that could potentially save $30 million by the end of the fiscal year. The article provides no data to support that claim, however, other than that state employees would have to pay 5.8% towards their pensions (which the article claims is the private sector avg.), and that workers will pay about 12% of their healthcare benefits (approximately half the private sector avg.). However, the biggest stipulation of the budget reform bill is to limit collective bargaining rights for state workers—excluding firemen and police officers. This limits the power of state workers at the bargaining table to fight for wages only. This decision to cut benefits like this is warranted by the idea that state budgets must be balanced to ensure economic prosperity. As the country is facing a hard economic recession, it is understandable to cut back in areas of “wasteful” spending in effort to save money, which is why this bill was introduced—though many (state workers, Democrats) argue this is not wasteful.
Column: Wisconsin is About Power, not Money
The claim in this article is that the slimming of collective bargaining rights is just one piece of the puzzle in state governments’ attempts to make sure they do not default on their loans. This is backed by the logic that if state governments (or the federal government) do not pay back their loans (namely to China), we will be fiscally irresponsible, creditors will no longer lend us money, they will call us out on our loans, and our economy will slow dangerously. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to spend less, and pay back our debts. One way governments are trying to do this is by cutting government employee benefits that cost the state money.
This article then makes the claim that power of creditors matters more than the power of say, state employees, who are taking the brunt of this budget cutting. Those who lend us money have power over us—lots of power. On the other hand, teachers and state workers are less important because they don’t have the power to wreck our economy. The Wisconsin government had made the deal with teachers that if they accept lower pay than a private sector job now, they will get higher pensions in the future. The problem is that now, with the loss of collective bargaining rights, teachers will not be able to fight back—whatever the government says, goes. The claim that this is hurting teachers and government workers is warranted by the idea that collective bargaining makes things fair—both the government and its workers have a say in contracts, and the repercussions for reneging on them. With the government holding much more power than the employees, the deals will become undoubtedly more lopsided, especially in order to cut spending.
What Union Voices Mean to the Wisconsin Debate
This article is an analyzation of some things that were said over the weekend about the Wisconsin union debate on CBS’s Face the Nation. Richard Trumka, a member of the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest union, claimed major shifting in Governor Walker’s arguments and reasoning for the collective bargaining limitations. He justified this claim by countering arguments made by Republicans, those who support the governor.
“First he said it was–the budget crisis was caused because workers were paid too much in Wisconsin. We now have studies that show they’re not overpaid, they’re underpaid,” said Trumka. Educated public sector workers actually earn 25% less than those working in the private sector.
“Then he said it was about the pension. Now we find out that his pension plan, unlike a lot in the country, is almost fully funded. The assets match the liabilities.” Trumka then went on to point out that the government employees actually accepted many of the terms outlined by Walker. However, the Wisconsin government was in no way going to only let the workers accept some of the terms. That being said, this bill effectively makes government employees choose between losing their rights, or losing their job. That is the warrant for the unions’ case—no one should have to do that. This is a free country, and that is something that should be reserved for oppressive dictatorships.
What is Collective Bargaining?
This article gives a short background on the reasons for having collective bargaining rights, and what they entail. It claims that it helps workers’ representatives and employers negotiate contracts that both sides can agree on. Typically, things discussed involve hours, wages, working conditions, benefits, pensions, and rules in the workplace—the Wisconsin bill limits collective bargaining rights to wage discussion only, the reason for such stiff opposition from state employees. This claim that collective bargaining helps workers and employers reach agreeable terms is warranted by the idea that workers should have some power when speaking to their employers. This is backed by history, in that collective bargaining arose in opposition to poor working conditions in the late 19th century. In order to improve the conditions, workers joined together, using power in numbers to persuade employers to give concessions and improve working conditions.
The data supports this claim also, as collective bargaining often creates a better environment for workers and employers alike, through cooperation. Contracts resulting from collective bargaining set clear guidelines by which everyone must act. There are clear expectations, and everyone knows what is required of them. There may be some discontent, but both sides make concessions in order to find a middle ground. On the other hand, without the rights collective bargaining offer, the deals become more and more lopsided—in Wisconsin’s case towards the power of the government, which is the reason for the outrage.
Note: This article also has a space for comment, which has some strong arguments that can be analyzed.