Public employee unions in Wisconsin have been on the warpath against Scott Walker since the moment he took office after the Tea Party Beatdown election of 2010. Walker was elected to fix a $3 billion shortfall in the state budget. Unlike most modern day politicians that conveniently forget campaign promises, Scott Walker stayed true to his, and immediately set about the business of fixing Wisconsin’s massive budget shortfall.
I first wrote about Scott Walker and the challenges he was facing with public sector unions in February 2011 with an article entitled Union Street War Intensifies In Wisconsin. I was fascinated by the story. It seemed like a bell cow to me, telling of things to come. As the story continued to unfold I became even more interested and increasingly angry with the unions. I decided I had to see this for myself. Dallas Texas was too far from Madison Wisconsin to fully appreciate what was happening. I ended up at Ground Zero for the War With Unions in Madison Wisconsin on what turned out to be the day with the biggest protests. I ultimately wrote a series of articles about unions, collective bargaining and Scott Walker, culminating with Justice Done In Wisconsin As Supreme Court Ruling Crushes Unions, my favorite article at the time.
The obstacles Walker faced on the way towards fixing the budget were far beyond what was anticipated. As far as Wisconsin’s public employee unions were concerned, Walker did the unthinkable. He went after the cause of the budget shortfall; the public employee labor unions. How dare a governor stand up to the unions. Who did he think he was? The concessions Walker sought from the unions, while substantial, in no way deserved the vitriol and continuous protesting Walker faced. Why then, were the unions so violently opposed to Scott Walker, and on such a personal level? I think the unions were so outraged because they had had it so good, for so long, that they just couldn’t believe they were expected to concede anything.
States With Budget Shortfalls Caused By Unions
To put Wisconsin’s budget shortfall in some kind of context, almost all of the states with similar budget problems, and there are several, had those problems for the same reasons; unions. More specifically because of union contracts that had been favorable to unions for so long, they were too far gone to fix it. The inherent conflict of interest which exists between public employee unions is plainly obvious when you filter out the workers of the world unite rhetoric.
Public Employee Labor Unions contribute massive sums of money to democrat candidates. Because their campaigns have such a huge money advantage, due in large part to the unions, democrat candidates fare well and often win local and state elections. Grateful to the unions who funded their campaigns, those democrat politicians are now the elected officials who are negotiating union contracts with the public employee unions. Those democrat elected officials agree to favorable union contracts so fast, you’d think they were John Kerry negotiating with Iran. The unions, in turn, grateful for the favorable new contracts, provide even more political contributions and support to the democrat politicians at re-election time. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The Unholy Alliance Of Democrat Politicians And Public Sector Unions
The relationship between public employee unions and democrat politicians is an unholy alliance that always leaves the taxpayers with the short end of the stick. The long-term results are just as predictable. Picture Detroit for the perfect mental image of the inevitable conclusion. We all know how the story ends, but until it does, unions want every nickle they can squeeze out of the system, even if their bite significantly accelerates the death of the host. This unholy alliance should be outlawed, but the democrats will never relinquish their built-in advantage and we aren’t likely to find Republicans with the guts to do something about it.
That is, until newly elected Governor Scott Walker came along and did the unthinkable. He did exactly what he said he was going to do while campaigning; he went after the union contracts.
The unions went ballistic and retaliated with the largest, most persistent union demonstrations in fifty years. For several months, Madison Wisconsin looked like a refugee camp for liberals. In the end, Walker passed the measures he needed.
But the unions were just getting started. Employing a little used recall election law put in place to provide the people with a way to remove crooked, corrupt politicians from office, not those with whom you disagree, the unions mounted a well organized, well financed recall election against Scott Walker. Walker was forced to run for re-election less than two years after being elected. Unions from all over the country, and beyond, funded the effort, providing democrats with virtually limitless contributions.
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Recall
Even with massive union spending on the election, and perhaps because of it, Walker prevailed, actually garnering more of the vote than when originally elected. I saw reports of union spending that exceeded $60 million. It seems that the citizens of Wisconsin had a strong sense of fairness and didn’t think the recall election was proper. Nor did they like the 24/7 hate Walker ads that $60 million bought.
For his part, Walker kept his word and fixed the enormous budget shortfall. Wisconsin was $3 billion short when Walker took office. Now they have a surplus.
Now the unions are back for Walker. Wisconsin unions Monday are once again attacking Republican Governor Scott Walker, this time over a proposed budget that may result in cuts to tenure for state college professors.
With the upcoming budget session, the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee is expected to propose a plan to reform the University of Wisconsin System. While it is not yet finalized, unions warn the plan will cut $250 million in funding and will remove academic protections for professors such as teacher tenure.
This latest union battles coincides nicely with an expected announcement from Walker that he is running for President. Given Walker’s history of standing up to the unions, they will undoubtedly be Walker’s biggest adversary again.
“Today’s move by JFC Republicans to pay for Scott Walker’s tax breaks for his wealthy donors by slashing public education is shameful,” Eleni Schirmer, co-president of the Teaching Assistants’ Association, said in a statement. “These cuts will devastate a UW System that has already been cut to the bone and beyond in previous years.”
Richard Leson, an associate professor of art history and president of Local 3535 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), also argues the plan will have devastating consequences.
“The UW System has a long, rich tradition of encouraging research and learning free from political pressure, serving as a model for the rest of the country,” Leson said in a statement. “Our strong history of academic freedom through faculty tenure has protected education in the UW System from political conflict and corruption for decades, ensuring that higher learning in Wisconsin can pursue the truth wherever it might lead.”
A spokesman for Joint Finance Committee, however, notes the plan is not set in stone. The spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the plan still needs to be finalized by the committee after which point it will move onto the Senate and House. The plan could be amended by lawmakers in either chamber. If it passes the legislature, it will then be up to Walker to decide whether to sign it into law but the end result may look drastically different from the original plan.
As the budget plan is written at the moment, it doesn’t even remove tenure like some unions are claiming. As the committee spokesman detailed, the proposal only transfers authority on tenure to the Board of Regents which is already in charge overseeing community colleges in the state. The board could cut tenure, keep it the same or change it in other ways.
“In order to create an authority, the Governor’s original budget proposal removed all references to tenure and shared governance state statute in order to allow for the proposed authority to create its own policies,” Laurel Patrick, press secretary for Walker, told The DCNF. “This would allow the UW Board of Regents to address the issue of tenure going forward.”
Though unions are blaming Walker, the proposed budget was approved by members of the committee and was not proposed by the governor. Walker, though, has become a go to target for unions because of his efforts to reform labor policy in the state during his first term.
The reforms, known as Act 10, significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state. It also required public unions to hold a renewal vote every couple of years to determine if workers still wanted them. Labor unions and supporters adamantly opposed the law and even tried to get Walker thrown out of office.
Republicans in the legislature went a step further in the past year when they passed a law which banned mandatory union dues as a condition of employment. Though Walker wasn’t directly involved in creating the measure, unions blamed him anyways.
“It’s worth noting that the reforms included in Act 10 eliminated requirements for seniority and tenure in schools,” Patrick continued. “Many of the critics claiming these changes will cause harm are the same types of voices who said public education would be harmed because of our Act 10 reforms. Today, graduation rates are up, third grade reading scores are up, and ACT scores are second best in the country.”
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