Update II, 4:05 PM: Writing on the Townhall blog, Guy Benson offers up some exclusive video footage of the Wisconsin Democrat senators running away. John Hayward at Human Events offers some fascinating insights and concludes with a bit of powerful advice: “Governor Walker should take a page from the handbook of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and face the unions down. Every teacher who participated in the illegal strike, or brought students to political rallies, should be fired immediately. The taxpayers of Wisconsin don’t have Hollywood celebrities and millionaire union bosses to brew up angry mobs to press their demands. They don’t have the luxury of slipping away from jobs they’re already nervous about to march around the state capitol. The only thing they’ve got is a determined governor, who should join with his colleagues in other states to level the playing field between tax payers and tax consumers, by breaking the public unions once and for all.”
Update, 2:50 PM: Scott Walker sends out a clear message to runaway Democrat legislators: “Their actions by leaving the state and hiding from voting are disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of public employees who showed up to work today and the millions of taxpayers they represent.”
We can debate whether new Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans have chosen a wise course tactically, but there’s no doubt they have demonstrated some serious political fortitude in taking on a major problem. Senate Bill 11 was supposed to come to the floor today. A key part of the solution to a major budget challenge similar to those faced in other states, SB 11 would restrict government union collective bargaining (except for public safety workers) and requiring public employees to pay greater shares of their health and pension benefits.
Yesterday it was union protesters littering signs all over State Capitol property (a press release from U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s office also suggests union members surrounding the governor’s private residence), and today it’s this: All 14 state senate Democrats are on the run from the police to prevent a vote from taking place. Wow. Brilliant strategy.
Of more than historical footnote, Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to grant collective bargaining rights to government workers–just over 50 years ago, in 1959. More than two decades earlier none other than President and Democratic Party icon Franklin D. Roosevelt observed what a bad policy idea that would be:
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.
Even FDR wouldn’t give conscience to the idea of unionizing government workers. Today the party of FDR flees its responsibilities in a manner befitting a slapstick comedy or a bad reality TV show to protect government employee unions from any setback of power. Maybe FDR was onto something.
In times when government budgets everywhere are going in the red and many families due to unemployment and other economic struggles can’t afford more in taxes, we need to be able to have serious, civil conversations about curtailing lavish public employee benefits and curbing government union power. And we need to begin by understanding the critical differences between unions in the private sector versus unions in the public sector.
Another must-read comes from the Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci — who comments on the teachers union sickout strategy [average teacher salary on sickout? Somewhere north of $77,000], offers a realistic assessment of what this type of legislation can accomplish, and highlights some classic union-as-management hypocrisy:
I believe Ms. Swoboda and every other NEA official are sincerely convinced of the benefits of collective bargaining. It’s just that they take a less expansive view of its scope when it comes to their own employees.
Scott Walker soon may not be the only governor with the cross-hairs of uncivil political rhetoric on him, because Wisconsin is not alone. Similar bills are moving through legislatures in Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee.
The taxpayers have given and given and given. Government employee unions have taken and taken and taken. Some officials stood up and said, “Stop.” The path is unsustainable. It’s time for the unions to take less so we can balance the budget without burdening the taxpayers and private businesses struggling to create jobs in a difficult economy. Something has to give. Wisconsin may be just the beginning.
But first, the cops have to catch those Democrat legislators on the run.