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LABOR PAINS: Labor Union Protests in Wisconsin

UPDATE 8/9/11:  The big ta-doo in March spurred a recall campaign.  In Wisconsin today, voters will turn out to cast their ballots to recall up to 9 senators (6 Republicans and 3 Democrats). What happens in WI today will have implications for national politics. 

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Originally posted 3/1/11: This is a complicated, yet kinda simple situation.  The Governor of Wisconsin wants to balance his budget.  He also wants to please the people who voted for him and helped finance his campaign to get elected with a “lower taxes, smaller government” mantra.   So, the Governor cut taxes a couple weeks on the job ($117 million to business), which decreased his state revenue, now what’s a guy to do?  Cut spending on public union jobs and shrink the size of government, of course.  Yippee. Everybody happy?

Nope.  The Governor asked the public unions to cut their salaries and benefits for the sake of the greater good and fill the budget gap of $137 million, so they did it.  They weren’t super psyched about it, since they had been promised increased benefits over the years in lieu of pay increases, but they agreed.  So, now is everybody happy?

Nope.  This is where snow storms, picket signs and tens of thousands of peeved workers get a little painful to follow.  It seems that Governor Walker also wants to take away the union’s collective bargaining rights (which allow the unions to negotiate with the state for employee benefits when it’s contract renewal time – think of it as the “lobbyists” for workers).  It’s a biggy…and is being viewed negatively by 67% of citizens in Wisconsin (click to see poll results for the country by age, sex, income, education and ideological demographics) as heavy handed and an outright attempt to bust the unions altogether. 

So, the collective bargaining sticking point has taken this local story, nationwide.  The desire of people to rally and have their collective voices heard is Americana as we know it.  We allow it.  We encourage it.  Heck, we celebrate it here and we get excited when people do it in other nations, as well.  Our rights to peacefully assemble and petition our government are fundamental.  Union protests have sprung up in California, Colorado, and even conservative Texas (which by the way, has no collective bargaining and the 2nd largest budget deficit in the nation) over this issue.  So, if striping the rights of workers isn’t the easy answer to balancing the budget, then what is this really all about?

Why not let unions collectively bargain?  The Governor can always say “no,” right?  It’s kind of like when our kids ban together and ask for something…we can always say “no.”  But, when they stick together, it makes it harder…so, we have to be smarter, stronger, faster, more consistent and nibble MAMAs.

So, this is where is gets simple again: It’s all about money (and not only the kind that’s used to balance budgets, but the kind that is used to win elections, too).  Whoever has the most money, has the loudest voice to influence public policy.  The unions collect dues that fund political initiatives and campaigns.  So, bust the unions and take away key funding from political opponents, which is what some say is going on in this case.  In the private sector, for example, companies hire lobbyists who are paid to represent their interests at the state and federal levels.  Political action committees raise money purely to fund political campaigns of candidates who would represent their special interests, if elected. Money.  Money.  Money.  

The influence of the all mighty buck is really the painful part of our current process.  Money is power.  And, we know that “power corrupts and total power corrupts totally.”  So, let’s at least attempt to keep things balanced, shall we?  Private needs public, public needs private, employers need employees, employees need employers, men need women, women sorta need men, Republicans need Democrats, Democrats need Republicans, yadda yadda…because we are the the checks that keep things balanced. We need the push and pull of democracy.  Without it, we will lose our balance.  Because if we take, take, take all the time from the people that don’t vote for us and give to the ones that do (regardless of political party), dollars tip the scales of influence, citizens feel minimized and that’s what gets people riled up and protesting in the snow. We’ve got to have some economic give and take, some shared sacrifice, or our country will tip too far in one direction and fall flat on its face. 

Yes, money is power and it’s important to be realistic when considering how politics really works. But sometimes it’s fun to just “go there” and imagine what America would look like without the influence of money in politics – if big business gave up their lobbyists and labor gave up their unions and everyone just did the right thing.  Hooray – everyone happy now?

What do you think MAMAs?

19 Responses to LABOR PAINS: Labor Union Protests in Wisconsin

  1. Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm #
    Opinionated MAMA

    I live in WI, and have been to the protests on five separate occasions (two of them with my 13 and 15 year old children in tow). It was GREAT conversation with the kids. I think you summarized it beautifully in your article. That balance is exactly why I am up there helping the protesters. I own my own business that employs 4 people, I will never see any of the breaks that Walker gave to business. WE as a society, get to make choices about our values and what is important to us. Education, taking care of people who are less fortunate, middle class jobs and a middle class lifestyle….all great things to fight for. To think that the Gov. and his party have managed to pit middle-class Americans against their neighbors and community members….it's just pure genius on their part. The question is….are we going to eat each other alive and allow them to achieve what they intended…that they have nothing in place to balance their need for reckless, regulationless, and rampant capitalism at any cost?
    Money isn't everything….ask me, I'll tell you cause I'm a small business owner, and things sure don't come easy. I work hard for every dime and so does my husband. That doesn't mean that I'm unwilling to pay my fair share of taxes if it means that other human beings have basics that the rest of us take for granted. God Bless America and the great state of Wisconsin (and I'm not just saying that as a PR thing like the politicians do…I mean it and think we need it!)

    • Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA

      Thanks for your insights MAMA – it is fascinating to watch it all unfold and I am really proud that O-MAMA got it right. There has been so much confusing information on this topic. This is about trampling people's rights…whether you agree or disagree, we have to protect people's right to have a voice. God bless America.

    • Anonymous March 3, 2011 at 8:24 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA

      The whole episode has just raised the awareness of a lot of complacent people – myself included!

    • Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 3:59 am #
      Opinionated MAMA

      I agree, concerndmama. My cousin, who has been a teacher here in Northern WI for 14 years, came with me the 2nd weekend of the protests. She said "I'm ashamed to admit it, but I didn't vote in the election for Governor. I always make sure I vote in the Presidential election, but then don't pay too close attention to the others. Now I realize why politics matter! Now I see how every vote counts." While it was frustrating to here she didn't vote, I was so relieved to hear her realization. It gave me hope for our country.

    • Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 11:43 am #
      Opinionated MAMA

      I do think that we are all waking up to the fact that WE are so lucky to live in the United States of America – we take our rights for granted. The tea party shook up the right and the union is shaking up the left. Regardless of where we stand on an issue, we have to take a stand and VOTE. That's how we shape the future. I am a little like your cousin. I always vote for Pres, but all the rest… I'm usually "too busy" to pay attention to what the little squabbles are about. Now, I get that it is a priority because elections do have consequences. The news is overwhelming sometimes…who knows what is REALLY going on? That's why I like this site. I get my daily dose in a "friendly way," get some different opinions and click a few links if I want to know more. And, I don't feel like an idiot. I actually know what's going on in our country and what I SHOULD be thinking about.

  2. Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 6:10 pm #
    Opinionated MAMA

    It's bigger than WI. It's about corporate America (generally, Republican) trying to bust the unions (generally, Democrat) because unions are the only counter to the corporations financing of (buying) elections. Get rid of the unions and it's cheaper and easier to buy the elections. If the Republicans could, state by state, bust the unions (this bill cancels unions ability to collect dues via automatic pay and requires an annual vote from members to remain relevant) then they could cozy up with each other and laugh at the poor suckers who work for a living. Any working class American who supports the republican party is foolish to think that a single corporation has their best interest at heart. It's about the bottom line, baby. $$$$ is all that matters. Not education. Not medical care. Not worker rights. Not even civil rights – since this bill also included a rule that requires a state issued id to vote in elections – a sure way to squash the disenfranchised voter and buoy up the republicans. Ugh.

    • Anonymous March 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA

      Why is it that you think that corporations are supposed to look out for you? you do a job, you get paid. You do it well, you get paid better. You take the job because you like the pay, the benefits. You leave it for another because someone else offers more. This is competition. We are not living in a utopia and the Democrats cannot make it so. We all need to take responsibility for ourselves. That is not to say that there are not those who need help. There are and we should help them. But the idea that the corporations are the big bad guys is silly. They are providing the jobs we all need. They pay the taxes that provide us with the services we all want. They invent the wonderful things we all want to buy. YOu cannot have it both ways. And by the way, we the people more so than ever before own the corporations….with 401K's we are all stock holders. So unless you are willing to give up your things, divest yourself of your stock and quit your job, you need to stop trashing the corporations.

  3. Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 11:57 am #
    Opinionated MAMA

    the people agreed to price cuts, lessoning of their benefits etc;;; the only thing they did not want to give up was their right to collective bargaining. it has nothing to do with balancing the budget.
    it is a total power play by an elite few.

    • momof3 March 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA
      Democratic MAMAS
      MAMAS 6th - 8th Graders
      MAMAS 1st - 5th Graders
      MAMAS Pre-School - K
      Party MAMAs

      WOW?! What just happened? What lesson should we glean from Wisconsin separating collective bargaining from the budget to pass it without a quorum? "Cheaters never prosper?" "Divide and conquer?" "Liar, liar pants on fire?" I am just disgusted with the whole thing. Collective bargaining was NEVER a budgetary issue and the Republicans showed their true colors today when they separated it from the bill. I am too ashamed to tell my kids.

    • Anonymous March 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA

      You are wrong. Collective bargaining is THE budget problem. Every school district has to go through its own collective bargaining to conclude a contract with their teachers every three to five years. No matter what the unions say they will agree to when pushed…they will do what they please when they get to the table in their local district. This has been the experience time and again. Even now, when the union said they accepted the cuts, the individual locals tried to extend the contracts they had for an additional three years keeping the benefits and contributions as they were negotiated three years ago! They wanted to get around what their union leaders were promising in the media.
      Furthermore, it is an incestuous system: In a closed shop state you must join the union to teach or work for the state or local gov't. The union collects dues and sends those dues to politicians who promise to give them what they want. It is a vicious circle. I am a teacher in PA. I have not joined the union because I believe it does a disservice to our public schools forcing school districts to hire one-size-fits-all teachers instead of demanding performance and professionalism. In addition, union dues are directed to support issues counter to good education practice: tenure, no school choice, no merit pay, firing based on seniority rather than performance. The list goes on. Republicans in WI are doing the right thing. As Mamas we should support them and hope that in the process more children will be able to go to good schools, public employees will have the same expectations for performance as their counterparts in private industry (who are paid on average less than them), and that the taxpayer will know that they are not being fleeced by the politicians who are being paid off by the unions.

    • Anonymous March 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA

      Maybe they learned from the Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who shoved Obamacare through the Congress by doing some fancy pants dancing around procedure. And they did this when they knew that a large majority of Americans did not want it. This was apparent in the polls at the time and in the elections just prior to the vote which sent a Republican Senator, Scott Brown, to the Senate from Mass. a solidly Democrat State. I am tired of Democrats doing as they please when they can and crying foul when Republicans do the same thing. Hypocrisy is rampant in the Democrat Party.

  4. Anonymous March 10, 2011 at 7:42 am #
    Opinionated MAMA

    call them on their bluff make them eat their lies show in concrete verifiable way how many jobs where created because of the extension of tax cuts for upper 2 percent. this ceo saved this much and these many jobs where created because of. then even go further and show how much would actually have been saved if the budget cuts would have gone through because then unemployment insurance would have been used, more snap, more housing subsidies, more wic, more medicade,medicare the loss of taxable dollars because lots of people would have been out of work so show us the actual savings.

    • momof3 March 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA
      Democratic MAMAS
      MAMAS 6th - 8th Graders
      MAMAS 1st - 5th Graders
      MAMAS Pre-School - K
      Party MAMAs

      Chris Matthews on Hardball just said what O-MAMA just said about the strategic reasons the GOP is trying to take down the unions. WOW!

  5. Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm #
    Opinionated MAMA

    I think if Big Business gave up their lobbyists, and the regular working people gave up their unions, the middle and lower classes would still be screwed…because those at the very top 1-2% have all the money. in the last 8 years the average income (buying power) has fallen 27%. The net worth of those 1-2% at the top has doubled. What would anyone's conclusion be???

    • Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm #
      Opinionated MAMA

      Sad, but true! I have to say I am horrified by what is going on by the newly elected Republican governors…talk about "income redistribution?!" How come we keep giving tax breaks to the people at the top, at the expense of everyone else? It doesn't make any sense?! Why did GE pay less than nothing last year – they got billions in tax credits? How about the oil companies? All of these corporations have NOT created more jobs in the US, right? So maybe the incentives need to be changed. Tax credits for jobs created.

  6. Anonymous April 20, 2011 at 5:09 am #
    Opinionated MAMA

    I think Scott Walker is right on. The display of those fools in Wisconsin was disgusting. I cannot believe the people that belong to unions have not realized they are getting screwed too. Years ago in the 60's my husband belonged to the Teamster's Union. It was great then but like any organization u let too big in comes money, greed and power. They do not care about the people because they are too busy lining their pockets with the little peoples money, speilling millions more on lobbiests but u can bet it is not for the benefit of the people. Now, if any of u really want to be fair why should people belonging to the union have those pension plans and great perks when in fact all of us really are paying for it. If they want to be a pawn to those crooks in the union then let them bankroll it all and leave the private sector and taxpayers out of it. Oh no, they won't do that cuz they want it all. Trumpka is the biggest crook there is and people listen to that thug. Unbelievable. People need to think through and research things for themselves instead of just going along. Collective bargaining is bull. It is not the end of the world and the leaders in the union make the members think "oh no, it is all over if we lose collective bargaining". Yeah right it is all over for the big wigs so they no longer can rob the members. How do all of u members like all your money being spent on these BS politics and u have no say in their game. But yet, we have the little SEIU working in the service industry along with many others making minimum wage and the union making them think they are getting a helluva deal with the benefits. You all should sit down and really ask yourselves, what am I getting for paying union dues and working for minimum wage. Gee shouldn't the union if they really cared about their members want to make sure the people on the lower rungs of the ladder get a fair wage because you can bet none of them have tried to make it on minimum wage which is impossible and they don't care. The unions idea of collective bargaining is to be able to keep the power. It is impossible to have the retirement plans that retirees have anymore. They, like I said are not funded by just the union people it is funded by all of us. And again, keep it all but u need to fund it all by the thugs at the top and the members if u want to fall in that trap because even if it was funded by only the members the money would not be there at the end because the crooks are too busy spending it now and making back room deals all the time. I just would suggest to you who belong to members really rethink your position and don't follow the crowd mentality. Our country is in very serious trouble because of our hugh financial debt and we are all going to have to sacrifice if we want out country to be the exception. If any of you listen to Obama and have not watched how much more he has run our country into debt and still wants to spend more money and the dangers he has presented while in office needs to be removed. If this fool gets reelected I have no sympathy for society because u can never believe what any politican says but you certainly can judge them by their actions and Obama's actions have hurt this nation considerably. American people never forget and they remember when a president really screws up but the thing that sticks with me I will never forget is when he had Netanyahu come over from Israel who has been our close allie forever. Obama basically ignored him, no state dinner was held for Israel unlike China who is not our friend and just left Netanyahu sitting while Obama went and had dinner with Michelle. He so showed his hand then and his true inners as in he does not like Israel, is pro palestinian and goes to pro palestinian meetings in this country. And I am sure none of us have forgotten the apology tour he took when he was first elected. Instead of praising America and the wonderful things she has done, he put her down. That tour to me was almost anti american and he is weak and could not lead a horse to water. The only way he suckers people in is they think he has a great smile, laid back and he is counting on that. He is no better than a con or a smooth talking salesman but 100x more dangerous. All u have to do is loog around at the gas prices, food prices and everything else. Obama has stated he thinks we should pay at least five or six dollars for gas and he thinks that will make the american people go out and buy those stupid hybrid cars HE thinks we should and was on TV TELLING people to sell their trucks, SUVS and all our cars cuz no matter what he was going to push his alternative energy through which is not even there technologically but he doesn't care cuz he is in bed with all those fools. We use gas Obama, we are not going to sell our vehicles, u are not a King but u like to dictate and would love if u were the dictator of this country cuz your whole background is that of a Muslim and u did not spend that much time in this country as a child, u were taught radical left since u were a kid despite your denials and it is all there people and they are facts if you choose to read them. I was a long time dem until i figured out it had been hijacked by socialists and Obama is just another piece of the anti american puzzle that the radical left has been trying to do to america as far back as i can remember so the next time u vote i hope u make sure u know who u r voting for cuz this fool should never have been president and has caused our country so much harm and all these things u see now ie gas, food, etc are by design. When he gets out there and says all the time, I want everybody to have the american dream so lets take all the rich peoples money and share with evryone. Wrong, the rich pay the most taxes now anyway but I could use one of obama's appts like the head of GE in charge of jobs and oh wow GE did not pay a dime of income tax to the Feds. Wonder why he isn't talking about that. Because he is getting a piece of the pie. He is wishy washy, contradicts himself constantly and never does anything fo rthis country. His town halls make me sick cuz he is phoney. He only has people in there cuz they are screened that are pro obama and if u have ever noticed he rarely has any press conferences cuz he will never answer the hard questions because the word "honest" is not in his vocabulary or dictionary. I tell u people be careful. Here is just a suble thing that parents may not even be aware of but I was going through my son's records management text that he is taking in college. As I was double checking for my son I notice in numbers they used Roman Numerals which is fine but the next one was Arabic which made me sit up and notice and then another word they were using was Quran.. I was thinking what the hell is this crap and even in records management. I called the college cuz I want to know who is in charge of putting this information in these textbooks. I found out and am going to make some noise but any parents out there from K=12 and on u had better start checking everything your kids bring home and see what isin them cuz they are trying to indoctinate our kids and will start from the very youngest so please be aware cuz if u r not it will all be over and u will be left scratching your head what happened. Stay vigilant!

  7. Anonymous August 16, 2011 at 11:44 am #
    Opinionated MAMA

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  8. Anonymous August 16, 2011 at 11:44 am #
    Opinionated MAMA

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