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  • Coolidge, Reagan, and Now Walker

    As Americans watch Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stand firm against union demands, we should pause to remember two former governors who also resisted riotous protestors: Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. As Massachusetts governor in 1919, Calvin Coolidge resisted the unionization of police officers. As soon as police officers began protesting in the streets, Coolidge responded by reminding the people that “there is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Coolidge’s resolute stance against burgeoning police unions resonated with the people of Massachusetts, and soon many citizens in other states looked to Coolidge as a national leader.

    In a similar instance, President Ronald Reagan, who had previously served as governor of California, clamped down on union riots in August 1981. Throughout his career Reagan understood that sometimes compromise is necessary, but not in the case of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, who demanded a 20 to 50 percent salary increase with a simultaneous cut in work hours. When the strikers refused to back down, even after Reagan explained that anyone who refused to return to work would be fired, he followed through and fired 11,345 controllers and barred them from federal employment.  The actions of both of these governors have been since praised as firm, courageous examples of proper authority.

    Governor Walker has become a beacon of conservative leadership as he follows these great men. A man of power may settle for convenient solutions, but a man of integrity will remain steadfast to his principles amidst a sea of discontent.

    Brittany Baldwin is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Coolidge, Reagan, and Now Walker

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Right now there are two bright light in the GOP and one in the Dem's.

      Chris Christie and Scott Walker for the GOP and surprisingly Cuomo (Dem) in NY. All doing the same thing – taking on the damaging public employee unions. The three understand they do not have the resources to continue the fraudulent public spending.

      I was hoping to include some new congress members in that list – but I simply do not see any. No one in congress has the spine to combat the business as usual federal government. I applaud the hard work of the governors who are standing up against the tyrany of the public workers. I also am ashamed of the weak GOP in the District of Columbia who have been beated down by the federal workforce. But perhaps it is in their best personal interest to benefit from the $1.6 trillion additional debt. How many millions of this debt will land in these congress members back pocket. The states get it and are fixing it. The feds are continnuing stealing our money, our kids money and our grand kids money.

    2. Frances E. Johnson says:

      Excellent story! "Coolidge, Reagan, and Now Walker"!

      Your story gives hope as it tells our history!

      I really appreciated your very well-written story!

      Thank you!

    3. Patrick, Canton, MI says:

      Unfortunately, I fear that Scott Walker is going to lose his battle in Wisconsin to restrict collective bargaining rights to only wage issues. There are too many other issues, such as retirement and health benefits, that the general public would allow to be determined by collective bargaining. The best course of action is to allow collective bargaining but equalize the powers, as described below.

      Collective Bargaining

      People don’t realize that the role of collective bargaining fundamentally differs in the public sector. In the private sector the transaction is a purely private one between employer and employees. Though the outcome indirectly affects others (by raising prices), consumers have more liberty to avoid the effects. For example, if a company grants too much, a purchaser of products can switch to another product or supplier. Competition prevents the employer from granting too much and the union from demanding too much. But in the public sector there is no competitive constraint. At least until the next election, citizens not involved in the transaction are forced to accept the effects. Unions are very careful to not reveal (or realize) that they are in fact granted a special privilege in the public context. Most state bargaining laws enable or require state officials to settle employment issues through the bargaining process rather than by other methods, such as legislative approval or public referendum. If negotiated contracts were subject to stronger oversight and constraints, unions would be less able to force measures on the state (and its citizens) that benefit primarily their members. What’s happening in Wisconsin is an out-and-out power struggle – not just between unions and state officials but more importantly between unions and the public. Unions don’t want to lose their relatively more powerful position. They surely would reject any strong requirement for the public to approve contracts negotiated by state officials. What’s needed is something to equalize the power but yet allow collective bargaining. Both in Wisconsin and elsewhere, elected officials should allow collective bargaining but require clear public approval of negotiated contracts, at least by 2/3 legislative approval and preferably by referendum. The 2/3 requirement (instead of 1/2 + 1) is warranted because of the inability of the public to affect the matter until the next election and the absence of any competitive constraint on union demands or state official concessions.

    4. Pingback: Coolidge, Reagan, and Now Walker – HUH? « Angry Badger

    5. Barbara J. Elliott says:

      Well done, Brittany! Your piece gives me one more reason to miss Ronald Reagan. It was a fine moment when he backed down the air traffic controllers and I was proud of him then, as I am now. The examples you have cited here may strengthen the backbone in the current crop of leaders who aspire to true principled leadership. They are going to need it.

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