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  • Guest Blogger: In California Unions Are The Government

    Today Wisconsin, tomorrow California? The battle between government unions and state budgets was inevitable once the unions were given collective bargaining rights over the past 50 years.

    The battle boiled over the past few weeks in Wisconsin as Republicans in the Legislature are attempting to repeal the state’s collective bargaining law for public-employee unions, along with requiring state workers to pay half their pension costs.

    A Rasumssen poll released Feb. 24 showed that 67 percent of Americans disapprove of Democrats’ tactics in Wisconsin, where all the state’s Democratic senators fled the state to prevent a quorum vote on the reforms.

    Also on Feb. 24, Rasmussen found that, after his support of striking Wisconsin teachers, the rating of President Obama’s leadership skills has dropped to a new low: “Thirty-seven percent (37%) rate his leadership skills as good or excellent while 40% say poor.”

    So the president’s tactics have backfired. Tthe Washington Post reported:

    Obama accused Scott Walker, the state’s new Republican governor, of unleashing an “assault” on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would change future collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.

    The president’s political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to get thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.

    As in California and most other states, the actions are prompted by declining budget revenues during the Great Recession and escalating public-employee pension and wage costs.

    Unions ARE the Government
    Collective bargaining is a key issue because it gives unions immense clout in negotiating with state and local governments. Unions and government employees insist that it is their right to organize and present a united front to the government.

    The catch, though, is that they are the government. Collective bargaining in the private sector means that labor sits one side of the table and management, such as at GM or Ford, sits on the other side. That’s different from government, where the unions sit on the labor side of the table — but also, by electing pliant politicians to power in state houses, city councils and school boards, sits on the management side.

    This was graphically illustrated last fall by the statement of a union leader. “This is our opportunity to elect our own bosses,” California School Employees Association Chapter 224 head Ronda Walen said about a said of an election concerning the San Juan Capistrano Unified School District. That means the unions — not the taxpayers — get to decide union pay, perks and pensions. No wonder California has a $25 billion budget deficit and effectively is bankrupt.

    No wonder ordinary citizens — the folks who pay the taxes and stand for hours, even days, in DMV lines — finally are fed up. Many ordinary folks standing in unemployment lines or going through foreclosure — even as their taxes go up — are finding it difficult sympathizing with Wisconsin teachers whose average pay and benefits total more than $100,000 a year.

    Wisconsin has the highest teacher pay in the Midwest. Despite that high cost, two-thirds of Badger State 8th graders aren’t reading at a proficient level,according to numbers from the U.S. Department of Education.

    Some union backers have compared the Wisconsin protests to those in Egypt against the departed Mubarak regime. But the protests there were against the Egyptian government and its repression and robbing of ordinary citizens. In Wisconsin, the protests are by government workers who are well paid.

    Coming to California?
    In California, collective bargaining — letting government-union members “elect their own bosses” — was allowed when the Dills Act was passed in in 1978 and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown during his first term in the office. Brown since has defended his action. And unions played a crucial role in his election in November.

    Brown won’t repeal the unions’ collective bargaining rights, as his Republican counterparts are trying to do back East in the states of the plains and prairies. But he faces the same problem they do: Declining revenues and rising union-worker costs.

    Gov. Brown’s solution to the state’s $25 billion budget deficit has been $13 billion in spending cuts and $12 billion in tax increases. Republicans in the state Senate and Assembly, barely more than a third of the members in each house, have so far remained stalwart in refusing to join the majority Democrats in putting a tax-increase measure on the ballot in June.

    Even if the measure ends up going to an election, it may not be passed by voters. Voters vetoed a tax-increase ballot measure just last November, and another one in 2009.

    Moreover, even if a tax increases passes, it might not fill the hole in the budget. After all, a tax increase of $13 billion in 2009 didn’t prevent the current budget deficit.

    Within weeks or months, Gov. Brown well could have to face down the unions that elected him, maybe sparking protests in Sacramento. Due to the mistakes of the Legislatures of the past decade, and former governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state just spends too much for the taxpayers to bear.

    During the Davis-Schwarzenegger years, the unions had a rollicking good time, especially getting their members’ pensions spiked.

    Unions across America just don’t get it that there’s no more money. Protest as they might, high union pay, perks and pensions are going to have to be cut. Then cut again. Then cut yet again.<

    John Seiler is the managing editor of CalWatchDog.com. His email:writejohnseiler@gmail.com. The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    16 Responses to Guest Blogger: In California Unions Are The Government

    1. John, Whittier says:

      I just heard on talk radio that Jerry Brown said he will likely have the votes to put the taxes on the ballot this summer. This means there are at least five or six GOP pols that will again betray the CA taxpayer. This is a almost a replay of what took place a few years back when a few of the GOP voted to enact the largest State tax hike in US history. Also, yesterday, a couple GOP pols unveiled the Taxpayer Caucus


      The timing is very suspicious. I can't prove it, but I think the caucus announcement was just another GOP ploy to deflect attention from the others who will vote to put the taxes on the ballot. Just remember what took place a few years ago – the GOP schemed behind the scenes with the dems to provide just enough votes to pass the largest State tax hike in US history. And you never hear about any GOP pols criticizing their colleagues for continuing to betray the CA taxpayer over and over during the past decade. Most of the State GOP is complicit with the dems in ruining the State's finances.


      Convert all Washington Senate members and staff pensions to 401K before the 2012 elections. Maybe if enough Senators bail out conservatives can regain some control over budget cuts and maybe the Obama team will think twice about throwing Tea Party people under the bus.


      Convert all Washington Senate members and staff pensions to 401K before the 2012 elections. Maybe if enough Senators bail out conservatives can regain some control over budget cuts


      Convert all Washington Senate members and staff pensions to 401K before the 2012 elections.

    5. Don Bennett, Kurtist says:

      Hrere's the deal. WI Senate Democrats should go back to Madison, go on record voting against Gov. Walker's bill, and accept the end result. Then, in the next election campaign (or a second cycle if needed), make their argument with the WI voters that the new collective bargaining rules for the public unions are wrong and, if they can convince the WI voters, get Democrat candidates elected. Then in either two, or if need be four years, change the law back to what it is now.

      Gee, does that sound like representative democracy in action? Yep, sure does. The WI Demcrats don't like the election results and have decided to not play the game anymore. Can't you imagine the ourtrage the MSM would show if the WI Republicans were doing this? Well, yes, I can after watch their pathetic performance over the last decades.

    6. Tom says:

      Your argument could just as easily say "large corporations are the government." What Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is trying to do is wrong on so many levels it is ridiculous.

    7. Steve S. California says:

      So many levels? Explain please. One thing to state puffery, another to state specifics. Puts one in the uncomfortable position of having said puffery exposed for what it is.

    8. Dennis Georgia says:

      Oh well, we all know who the dems represent in states and congress, it is not the people of this country. It is special interest groups, and the union, all at the expense of the tax payer. We must be at the polls and put these people in the street.

      Gov. Walker is the only person with the guts to try and keep his state from bankruptcy, the unions do not care.

    9. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      There is a fundamental difference between private and public sector unions. When the CEO of a company sits down across the table from his union counterpart, he knows that his principle duty is to his company and its shareholders. The union is negotiating for a larger share of the profits that its

      members helped to create. When an elected official sits down to negotiate with a public sector union, his principle duty may be to his own reelection. Public sector employees do not generate profits, so their union, whether striving for higher pay, greater benefits, or better working conditions, are effectively trying to reduce the value that the taxpayers get for their money. This is fundamentally

      immoral. What Governor Scott is doing is exactly the right thing to do.

    10. Bobbie says:

      How would you fix it, Tom?

      Are you a lover of corruption or a lover of freedom? Look at the state of California and others whose backed by unions. You're not a decent person if you need someone to hold your hand with corruption. How much more do you want to cheat the low income tax payers?

      Think and chant the way they've brainwashed the easy into "nobody is better than union members. Weak and ignorant and extremely selfish. Rotten little childish attitudes. And the rich will move. Exactly what the president wants as it will collapse the economy…

    11. Richard, New Orleans says:

      Tom – How can you say that?

      The labor union at GM does not elect the Board of Directors or donate $$ to the Board election. Yet that is is exactly what is wrong with a Union that represents government employees.

      Large corporations are only the government when progressive liberals prevent bankrupt companies from going out of business with taxpayer funding.

    12. Rob DeHarpport says:

      This quote from Willie Brown – former CA Assemblyman and San Francisco Mayor sums up the public employee deal today, he said; “The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life,” Brown asserted. “But we politicians — pushed by our friends in labor — gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . This is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide . . . but at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact.”

      The facts are out there, although they are not being presented very well. Specifically as to how & why the Pensions are unsustainable.

      Most public Pensions "assume" or are guaranteed a 8% return on investment- when those investment fail to return 8% the taxpayer makes up the difference. THEN… many of these Public Retirement plans also guarantee a 2% COLA as well. Totaling 10% on their (or I should say-taxpayers investment.

      IS 10% MORE OR LESS THAN 5.3%????????????

      Why ask this question?

      Warren Buffett stated that the 100 year average return on the NYSE is 5.3%.

      As Willie Brown stated- “But we politicians — pushed by our friends in labor — gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . ."

      Governor Schawzenneger said that CA Pensions costs had increased 2000% in ten years-revenue 24%……

    13. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Yeah! That's right. California Dems don't give a damn about the Businesses and Taxpayers in California. Hike taxes, some more, maybe even Hollywood will get out of Dodge! California is choc full of Demolition Plutocrats! They will run the State off the cliff! It is already a Communist government, but instead of dead bodies all over the place like other Commie outfits, California has homelessness and free lunch! (For the moment.) They'll figure out some kind of secret bail out. Too late by the time we hear about it.

    14. Jeff, Portland says:

      Collective Bargaining between Public Unions, Democrats, and Taxpayers: Two Wolves and a Sheep deciding what's for Dinner, with the Sheep finding out about it later.

    15. Alfred says:

      Facts are for those who are incapable of creating their own reality.

      The cowardly 14 WI state senators and all liberals/progressives/whatever their latest rebranding is… ….all have no use for the FACTS.

    16. David, Sonoma, CA says:

      Tom, Please explain how Guest Blogger is wrong "on so many levels." Corporations can't make laws that force the population to buy their product or services. Taxpayers are trapped into paying for ever increasing saleries and benefits for workers whose fuctions are 'overhead' and not 'production' related.

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