Midwestern Tahrir: Workers refuse to leave Wisconsin capital over Tea Party labor law


165 Responses to “Midwestern Tahrir: Workers refuse to leave Wisconsin capital over Tea Party labor law”

  1. knappa says:

    As a reference point, I found this:
    titled “Employer Costs for Employee Compensation”

    Given that the data shows that teachers have upper midrange total compensation, I’m guessing that the tales of woe we hear are a reflection of the fact that it is really hard to start out as a teacher and that the job’s psychological baggage is high, not that established teachers are underpaid. They aren’t overpaid either, look at the data. They make salaries right in line with industries that are largely staffed by people with college degrees. (Now, if you want to pay teachers as much as the guy who bags your groceries, you might very well end up with your kids being taught by a guy who used to bag your groceries.)

  2. jstry says:

    The unions won’t be explicitly outlawed. Walker would make it so the state wouldn’t take dues out of public employees paychecks. And the employees wouldn’t have to be part of the union anymore. And if they did choose to maintain membership in the union, they wouldn’t have to pay dues in order to be a member. AND he would make it so each year the unions would have to re-certify (is that the right word?) – the people would have to vote to keep the union each year. Oh, and the union could ONLY bargain over wages – NOTHING else. And those wages? He’d limit raises to the equivalent of the consumer price index unless the local municipality voted to increase the limit. So, while the unions wouldn’t be outlawed, they would be stripped of their power to negotiate. And stripped of their financial means (with the increase in employees contributions to pensions and health care premiums, who can afford to pay union dues – especially now that you have to write a check instead of having it come straight out of your pay?). And within a few years there would be no union because employees might want the benefits of it, but they probably couldn’t afford to keep it running.

    Please do what you can to support the working class here in WI. There’s no telling where this may happen next.

  3. strangefriend says:

    I’m a little bit amused at the Wisconsin budget brawl. This is all about a deficit of $137 million. I live in Texas, & we are facing a deficit of $27 BILLION. Of course, there is $9 billion in the State Rainy Day Fund, & Democrats are pointing out that we can raise more money from sales taxes (no income tax in Texas) by closing some loopholes on businesses. But the Republicans (who hold the Governor’s office & majorities in both houses of the Legislature) say we can’t touch the Rainy Day Fund or raise taxes. Forrest Wilder of the Texas Observer says this is part of a plan to downsize government http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/shock–awe. He also points out that the deficit is due to Gov. Rick Perry’s cutting of property taxes for public schools & replacing them with inadequate business taxes that left a $25 annual hole in the budget. I may have to start apologizing for being from Texas.

    • EH says:

      Strangebrawl: Maybe if y’all had stepped up earlier it wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. There’s no need to beat up on states that are more proactive than yours.

  4. Ureachmenow says:

    Oops hit wrong button …

    THEN teachers in WI are required to take what is equivalent to 1.25 college credits per year to renew their licenses. (6 credits every 5 years) Grad credits cost about $300 per credit ($1800 out of teachers pockets btw) , and courses range from 2 days to 2 months. All done during the remaining “2 months off”. During this 2 months teachers also do major planning for new curriculum to keep up with the ever-changing state and federal curriculum requirements, serve on committees, meet with community members to build school community partnerships for real world relevancy for kids to keep them interested and motivated in school, set up service learning projects for upcoming school year and much more. Effectively equalling another months work.

    Now were at 11 months work for 9 months pay!

    Oh, and on average teachers spend $600 out of their own pockets on school supplies and another 100 sponsoring kids who can’t afford field trips or who are trying to raise $ for a school function they can participate in.

    So let’s add it up. 11 months work for “9 months of pay”. Income which is 6.8% decrease due to the QEO which was suppose to cover at least rising healthcare but which has since surpassed due to higher premiums and copays. $500 a year spent on required courses and $600 a year on classroom and student needs.

    Is anyone starting to see how insane it is to equivocated what teachers make to what they actually do? For those in the discussion who want to quantify what teachers do. Make sure you research and report accurately.

    NONE of this even addresses the jobs teachers do regarding supporting and encouraging success with the marginal, mentally or emotionally challenged (I am not gloomy special Ed here), homeless or about to be homeless, AOD home issues, nutritionally challenged, etc… Issues that present themselves at every turn as a challenge to the task of educating individuals.


    By not paying teachers wage increases for 16 years under the QEU and not acknowledging their past contributions to the budget reconciliation efforts and then coming after the reason they are 6.8 % below in pay (benefits over wages), is dirty politics and low. Saying things like “teachers only work 9 months” is propaganda and sensationalist to promote taking more income from teachers while the wealthy get tax breaks.

    Don’t look the direction they turn you, look behind as they sneak past you what they don’t want you to see.

    NOW AFTER ALL THIS…. The real issue w this bill is the rights of workers. Which is the only thing stopping a complete take over by one party that happens to have the backing of big interest and corporations. The dollar bill will determine our life choices and abilities.

    In third world takeovers they first kill the teachers so they can control the masses and their thinking with little opposition to their agenda. The less educated the better. This isn’t a third world country, but the signs are pretty clear. Unless of course your not looking or don’t want to see it.

    The children are our future. Squashing their future opportunities, hurts all of our futures!

  5. TheMadLibrarian says:

    If anyone wants a different look at the primrose path WI’s governor is proposing, please review what happened to HI’s DOE under Linda Lingle, a Republican governor. HI’s children became a political football, while Lingle attempted to union bash, er, ‘balance the budget’. This involved, among other things, 2-3 days of unpaid DOE furloughs every month during the school year.

    Unless you go into politics, most people don’t work for the government to make big bucks. They do it for job stability and a comfortable benefit package, and sometimes because they are drawn to it, like teaching. Big bucks are traded off for said benefits. Apparently I can be a state employee, have worked under union contract for decades, and because of economic trouble when I retire, I don’t get my contracted retirement. Or because of economic trouble, period, I don’t get whatever benefits I’ve contracted for, if the government decides they can’t afford it. Interesting.

  6. Wally Ballou says:

    How much respect did the demonstrators show for the State Capitol grounds?

    Thanks to Glenn Reynolds/Ann Althouse for pointing this out.

    My favorite comment: “The trash must of been planted by tea party racists.”

  7. remmelt says:

    Devil’s advocate and all, but aren’t these the same people that voted the man into office?

  8. Anonymous says:

    I doubt Union members voted for a tea partier. The political discourse right now is disgusting. Pit one group of middle or low income people against another group? All the while, the rich are laughing and getting richer. I’ve liked Obama so far, except for his compromise on extending tax cuts on the richest Americans. We simply can’t afford to have such low taxes.

  9. rivkin says:

    Fortunately, for a Wisconsin February, it’s quite warm.

    And remmelt, no, they are not. The people who voted him into office are rural people, and not unions. Only some local Milwaukee unions supported him, and they’re not happy about this as well.

    The unions he’s not trying to break are also coming out in support of the unions he is.

  10. macho says:

    Great news! Sorry to be pedant, but isn’t it “Tahrir”?

  11. Tim Howland says:

    FWIW, the unions in question here are the public service unions- teachers and government workers. Police and Fire unions are not included. The writeup above seems to suggest that collective bargaining is illegal across the state of Wisconsin, which is inaccurate (and would go against federal labor law as far as I can tell).

    • Brainspore says:

      FWIW, the unions in question here are the public service unions- teachers and government workers. Police and Fire unions are not included.

      Naturally. Because as everyone knows, government-funded police and fire departments are essential public services provided by selfless national heroes while government-funded education is OMG SOCIALISM!1!1!

  12. galois says:

    I am somewhat ignorant on this issue. How can collective bargaining be “repealed”? Is it a process that is done purely through the State? I mean, unions, like any groups, have a right to assemble under the Constitution. How can “repealing collective bargaining” stop a union from assembling and making demands? I just don’t understand how this works.

    • Anonymous says:

      If he sends in the National Guard I’d say that effectively “repeals” it.

    • RMS4400 says:

      “I am somewhat ignorant on this issue. How can collective bargaining be “repealed”? Is it a process that is done purely through the State?”

      Collective bargaining for public employees is not protected under federal law, so it is quite easy for Governor Walker to do much of what he’s doing. The only employer that they can bargain with is the state government.

      “I mean, unions, like any groups, have a right to assemble under the Constitution. How can “repealing collective bargaining” stop a union from assembling and making demands? I just don’t understand how this works.”

      While you’re definitely right about freedom to assembly, that’s not the issue here. Collective bargaining is more about being able to gather as a group and come to an agreement WITH someone else. Scott Walker is saying that he actually doesn’t care to come to the table anymore and negotiate, which is a terrible idea even if you’re a fiscal conservative. Furthermore, he’s actually not even REALLY bargaining over wages. He’s saying that they can raise their wages to the limit set by a private sector business guide, something that actually would probably lower a lot of workers wages.

  13. bcsizemo says:

    Simply stating the bill is stripping the unions ability to bargain is a little misleading. It’s simply limiting them to wage only bargaining. Which if you were police I might could see there being an issue, being a critical service (aka 24/7), but if you are a teacher then your hours are fairly set (unless I suppose you go to a year round setup, but even then the number of hours you work per day is relatively fixed).

    So what exactly is the problem? I’m from NC, so unions are that big around here. I’ve always saw them as the other side of the power trip. They can be a good productive tool, or a PITA for a company having to deal with them.

    Just remember greed can infect every organization, the union and the companies they work for.

    • RMS4400 says:

      “Simply stating the bill is stripping the unions ability to bargain is a little misleading. It’s simply limiting them to wage only bargaining. Which if you were police I might could see there being an issue, being a critical service (aka 24/7), but if you are a teacher then your hours are fairly set (unless I suppose you go to a year round setup, but even then the number of hours you work per day is relatively fixed).”

      How are teachers NOT a critical service? And teachers rarely work fixed hours and are not paid by the hour, meaning that a serious problem for educators is working “off the clock” meaning that they work and don’t get paid for it.

  14. bja009 says:

    I have a friend who’s a political hack in Wisconsin. According to him, the public unions agree that cuts need to be made – they’re protesting the governor’s refusal to even meet with them to discuss those cuts. (Also they were caught by surprise re: the collective bargaining issue.)
    I don’t mean to defend this governor. He ran on fiscal responsibility, but wants to increase the state’s debt ceiling while cutting real wages for state workers. He’s an idiot and a liar – so, a politician.

  15. MrWoods says:

    you are lucky to make $25000

    You may be surprised that your opinion on someone’s salary has no impact on if they are happy with it or not. The truth is that lower salary will lead to less people pursuing teaching, and less qualified people being teachers. Ultimately this will lead to less educated people, more outwards migration, and a worse future for Wisconsin. Underfunding education is eating your seed corn.

    For my money 25,000 per teacher is way less than we should be investing.

  16. galois says:

    Also, these changes don’t even follow the Tea Party’s stated ideology. This law increases the power of the government. What’s this guy doing? He’s not even pandering to the Tea Party correctly.

  17. retrojoe says:

    Walker didn’t win with an overwhelming majority. Saying these folks are the ones who voted for him is a bit like saying (to carry Cory’s analogy to hyperbole) that all those folks in Tahrir were the one’s propping up Mubarak.

    I voted against him despite being fairly fiscally conservative. He’s anti-education, anti-union, anti-anything that invests in the future. I have friends who’s livelihood will be severely effected by this bill and support any effort to defeat it.

  18. IsolatedGestalt says:

    While such an expression of the will of the people warms the cockles of my heart, could we perhaps not cheapen the actual Tahrir Square efforts with dilutions like this headline?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Just a small point of correction: The National Guard was only mentioned initially when Walker felt that if striking was going to occur and members of the strike would include prison guards, then he’d have to call up the National Guard to work in their places until the strike was resolved. I’m not defending The Asshole, but that’s where the National Guard figures in.

    BTW, if you see B-roll on MSNBC of the protests, and you see a sign that says: “The Only Good Walker is a Skywalker,” that’s my son, who spent the day yesterday marching with about 2000 other high school students in support of their teachers. He plans to go down there again today — as school is out again today.

  20. cinemajay says:

    Yeah, Walker is pretty much trying to make Wisconsin the Mississippi of the midwest (sorry Mississippians).

  21. kateling says:

    Yes, the post isn’t quite right. The bill doesn’t outlaw collective bargaining, it restricts it to only wage issues. Which is a huge problem, bcsizemo. Unions will have no ability to argue for benefits, working hours, working conditions, vacation, job security, all those things that a workforce in a civilized country has a right to. This isn’t just about teachers; this affects janitors who clean state buildings, office staff, graduate student TA, and many others. The police and firefighters’ unions are exempt, and I’m sure it’s entirely coincidental that those were the two unions that supported Walker’s campaign.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Unions will have no ability to argue for benefits, working hours, working conditions, vacation, job security, all those things that a workforce in a civilized country has a right to.”

      Here’s the problem I have with unions: If workers ‘have a right to’ these things, why is a private organization in charge of enforcing those rights?

      I agree that these things *should* be ‘rights’ or otherwise legally protected, but they aren’t, and the organization that is purportedly guaranteeing those ‘rights’ is actually a corrupt political vehicle designed only to perpetuate its own existence and make a few bucks for those at the top – basically it’s a pyramid scheme that sucks a little extra from the companies its members work for to ensure nobody gets suspicious.

      The things that unions supposedly represent are important. The problem is that the people in charge of them, just like the people in charge of our government, are human beings who are corrupted by power.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I am from Milwaukee [and actively taking place in protests], but most of the people who voted for Walker, such as my parents, were from the middle of the state. The people from Milwaukee and Madison voted entirely Democrat. The rest just saw “Republican” on the ballot and because the world wasn’t fixed in 2 years, we decided to let them ruin it more.

    I hope Walker falls like Mubarak.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Go go Wisconsin demonstrators! We are on your side. The US already has utterly weak workers rights laws as it is. To weaken them further would only make things worse. Anyone who takes the democratic ideal seriously should work to balance the extreme power capital has over workers in the US today.

  24. werve says:

    Let them eat cheese…

    “Dairy Management’s longtime chief executive, Thomas P. Gallagher, received $633,475 in compensation in 2008, with first-class travel privileges, according to federal tax filings. Annual compensation for two other officials top $300,000 each.”


    • Seraphim_72 says:

      Your article notes that this person is not an employee of the State of Wisconsin, so what does it have to do with this article at all?

    • jnero says:

      I’m sorry, but could you explain how this relates? Are you saying that because a CEO makes a bunch of money, public employees shouldn’t have to contribute at all to their healthcare premiums and their pensions? How does that equate? If you’re trying to say that we could just tax those people more to raise increased revenue, why is it that the public employees should reap all the benefits of that additional revenue while middle-class private workers are left out? What makes public employees special? Why are they more entitled to anything?

  25. Anonymous says:

    I recognize that people ought to have a right to form unions and bargain collectively, but isn’t it the right of those on the other side of the table to simply not bargain?

  26. Heisenberg says:

    “this gutting of their hard-fought rights”

    Since when is Not Paying For Your Own Retirement a right? Unfunded pensions are becoming an economic epidemic. The only solutions are having public workers pay their fair share, screw a bunch of old people, or offer 401ks like the rest of the world.

    • Thorzdad says:

      Pensions became unfunded due to legislators not doing what they were legally required to do…namely, fund the pension. It’s not the fault of the workers the funds have come up short. Blame legislators that both ignored funding and, often, took money out of the pension funds to spend elsewhere. And, yes, their pension IS their right. It’s part of a legal contract both parties negotiated and agreed to. Or do contracts not apply to workers if you don’t want them to?

      As for 401k’s…You do get that such products are johnny-come-latelys in the retirement funding world. Pensions have a much longer history than 401k’s. And a quite successful history, to boot. Pensions became a problem when, as I pointed out, legislators ignored their fiscal duty to fund them. That and Wall Street wanting to get their hands on all that cash.

      • jnero says:

        They have an absolute right to the pensions they’ve earned under their contracts. No reasonable person would dispute that. However, those contracts expired and they have been working without a contract for quite some time. Just because they had fully-funded pensions in the last contact doesn’t mean they have a right to that going forward. So, no, they don’t have a “right” to a fully-funded pension anymore.
        Do you understand how contracts work?

        • Anonymous says:

          do you understand how pensions work? the funded status of a pension is not a result of the union’s contract. That pension must_be_payed, regardless of what the contract says. Some contracts may contain a provision for a more liberal funding method, but regardless of how well the plan is funded, the benefits will be payed in the future.

      • shannigans says:

        Thank you for answering Heisenberg in a much more civilized tone than I could have.

        I would also add that most public employee pension funds are often considered deferred compensation. This is because at some point the unions decided to forgo another benefit/wage increase/worker right/etc for compensation later in retirement. It is their right to receive the compensation that they earned.

        Also remember that less than 20 years ago the general consensus was that government pay was crap. That that’s where workers who had little to offer ended up because the private sector was where you went to get rich and powerful. The only bright point to a government job was that you would get a decent retirement package if you put in the time.

        Nothing has changed in the government sector. Benefits and compensation haven’t taken some giant leap in recent history, it’s that private sector compensation has taken a giant nose dive. Tather than trying to claw everyone down to the bottom with you why not try and bring yourselves back up with the help of your local union. Unions exist for good reason, industry invited them, industry has temporarily reduced their ranks but as the average workforce continues to get squeezed it’s only a matter of time before we see a mass resurgence. Long live the middle class, long live the union!

    • ultranaut says:

      “Since when is Not Paying For Your Own Retirement a right?”

      They have worked for it, it’s part of the compensation package in their contract. It’s very common in unions, and especially public sector unions, to trade away wages for retirement and health care. Most unionized public employees receive significantly lower wages than private sector employees performing in equivalent jobs. In exchange for less pay they typically receive things like better pensions and health insurance (or at least less expensive than what non-union workers pay). The problem is that governments have been mismanaging their pension systems and now they are quickly approaching dangerous territory.

  27. jnero says:

    If we’re going to talk about this, let’s make sure that all of the facts are being reported accurately:
    1. It’s 54 degrees in Madison today. The protesters aren’t exactly braving the elements.
    2. The protests are not broad based. The only organized protests are by the teachers, not the rest of the public unions. Yeah, some of the members are out there, but there is no other concerted effort.
    3. Wisconsin teachers currently pay 6% of their health insurance premiums and 0.2% of their total pension contributions. Compare that to what you’re paying.
    4. Walker said the National Guard would be used in the prisons if the prison guards walked. That certainly seems like a reasonable precaution to take. He never implied that the National Guard would be used to control protests, and there has been absolutely no serious talk of that in Madison, even from the left.
    5. The budget address was scheduled to take place off-site well before the protests began. It wasn’t moved in response.
    I’m not saying I disagree with the sentiment here, but it is imperative that the facts are presented fairly if we are going to have an honest discussion about this.

    • maura89 says:

      30,000 protesters were at the rally yesterday. They expect even more today. Are you really going to write them off because a lot of them are teachers? These are the people who are teaching the children of Wisconsin, a job that is already often thankless with low pay and an education budget with little elbow room. The teachers of Wisconsin are willing to take paycuts; they are willing to negotiate with Walker to try to find a compromise. The job they have dedicated their lives to does not pay enough for them to also afford health care and pension plans. My parents raised four children on teacher’s salaries, and even with health care we have struggled.

      • jnero says:

        The average total compensation for teachers in Madison is $79,000. In Milwaukee, it’s $101,000. That includes pay and benefits, and it’s for a 9-month contract with every weekend and holiday off. I think they’re doing okay.

        • maura89 says:

          Including benefits doesn’t really count when they are about to be taken away. Same with contracts. The average salary for a teacher is about 48,000 in Wisconsin, and that would obviously take a hit. In fact, the starting salary is about 25,000, and with Walker’s plan to eliminate contracts and raises beyond those based on inflation, that 48,000 could take a giant hit.

          Including the value of benefits doesn’t clearly portray the amount of money they are making. The money put into health care isn’t always used if a family has the good luck to be relatively healthy.

          Also, it probably isn’t appropriate to tell me they’re doing ok when I can see clearly that they aren’t.

          • jnero says:

            This doesn’t even make any sense. Employees in the private sector already contribute to their healthcare and retirement costs. Teachers are basically getting $30,000 (on average) of benefits without contributing anything. That’s way more than you’ll find in the private sector. Also, the whole purpose of insurance is to offset risk. Just because you don’t file an auto claim it doesn’t mean that the auto insurance policy you’re paying for has no value.
            You absolutely have to include the value of benefits. If you don’t think that’s important, then you wouldn’t have a problem with stripping teachers of all of their benefits. After all, those aren’t the numbers that matter.
            For the record, I am NOT proposing that that happen. They should keep all of their benefits, but there is nothing wrong with asking them to contribute.

          • alllie says:

            Employees in the private sector already contribute to their healthcare and retirement costs. Teachers are basically getting $30,000 (on average) of benefits without contributing anything. That’s way more than you’ll find in the private sector.

            Sounds like you need a union. Just because you don’t have the balls to form one but the teachers do, don’t blame them.

          • pauldavis says:

            I think you’re missing the point. Lets directly compare the two cases:

            1) employee works for $X per year, and in addition receives $Y’s worth of benefits

            2) employee works for $A per year and receives $B’s worth of benefits as part of package that costs $(B). Part of $B, call it $b, it taken from $A.

            Now, make X < A, and make Y == B. The only question that arises in such cases is whether (A – X) is greater or less than b. If it is greater then employee (1) is getting a better deal. If it is less, then employee (2) is getting a good deal. If its the same, then both deals are equivalent.

            We know from factual, recorded evidence that X (public employee salary compensation) is less than A (private employee salary compensation for a comparable position), so this point is not subject to debate.

            Whether Y == B (the value of the benefits plans) are equal should not be too hard to discover. That leaves $b, the contribution towards the benefits plans required of the private employee.

            Its not hard to see many scenarios where the public employee could indeed be paying nothing towards their benefits, and still be getting a worse deal than the equivalent private employee. On the other hand, one can certainly imagine scenarios where the opposite is true too, but one would need specific values for all the parameters before judging this.

            What is hard in these situations is that there are a lot of people, especially in a rural state like Wisconsin, who don’t have any access to “equivalent private employment”. They’re already working in the private sector for notably less than the public employees the media discusses, and often are working without benefits. For them, its not about comparing the two cases above, but “that public employee is paid more than me to start with and they get benefits which i don’t get at all”.

            So … is the solution to such a situation to reduce the total compensation given to public employees and bring everyone down to the same paycheck to paycheck life that contemporary private employment seems to generate, or to find a way to improve the situation for those currently being forced to live on less?

          • Wally Ballou says:

            I don’t know the answer to the question in your last paragraph.

            What I do know is that in a representative democracy, everyone gets to vote (albeit indirectly) on how much the public employees are paid.

            If the voters are confident that they are getting their money’s worth from what they pay in taxes to employ those public employees, the latter have little to fear.

          • pauldavis says:

            The voters will judge public employee compensation in part (possibly in large part) by comparison with their own. Given the relentless (and highly successful) efforts of capital to reduce private employee salaries over the last 30 years, its natural that those same voters might come to feel that their public employees are overpaid, even though they are doing the same quality of work that they always have and their total compensation has remained in line with the cost of living.

            As was said above: its not that public employees are earning more, its that non-public employees are earning less or not working at all. In such an environment, I think that public employess rightfully have a lot to fear. I also don’t think its entirely an accident.

          • shannigans says:

            Ha! The vast majority of the voting public couldn’t define for you the different types of services the different levels of government in their jurisdiction provides much less evaluate the performance levels in respect to pay of government employees.

            By and large, when governments are providing services at a high quality level you never notice them. You don’t notice that there are fewer homeless, drug addicts and criminals on the streets. You don’t notice that potholes are quickly filled. You don’t notice that city park landscapes are maintained and trash removed. You don’t notice that there aren’t epidemics of communicable diseases or rampant food poisonings from restaurants. Etc., etc. The conclusion then that the public draws is that the government does nothing for them besides take their money and that the people working for the government should be paid as little as possible because they don’t seem to do any work.

            The truth is that living in a well functioning society is expensive and we Americans want everything and we don’t want to pay a dime. I guess our government can pull a Walmart and import Chinese workers who will provide our government services to us for a few dollars a day. We’ll all be rich!

          • shannigans says:

            Employees in the private sector already contribute to their healthcare and retirement costs. Teachers are basically getting $30,000 (on average) of benefits without contributing anything. That’s way more than you’ll find in the private sector.

            That’s way more than you’ll find in the private sector? Not for college graduates. You have to compare apples to apples. Sure it is much better compensation than your average burger flipper, but not in comparison to other college graduate level jobs.

            And teachers do contribute to their benefits package through lower wages that have been part of their negotiations over the years. E.g.- Teachers Union- “Yes, we’ll forgo a wage increase this year but we don’t want our healthcare contribution to increase.”

            Asking them to begin contributing additional money to their benefits is giving them a pay cut. Saying this happened in the private sector only means that you were a fool for letting your boss give you pay cuts year after year. Unionize and have some strength to negotiate!

          • Karmacoma says:

            1) I like teachers who love, or at least like, their jobs. I can’t stand it when teachers complain about it how rough they have it, or are under-appreciated/underpaid. Quit whining about your job, or get a new one. A teacher works 9 months a year. An entire summer off, with a little over a month off during the school year. And despite all of the sad stories about staying up late to grade papers or tests, the average work day for a teacher is certainly not the 8-5 the rest of us have. An average salary of $48K for 8 months of work at ARGUABLY 40 hours a week translates into a virtual $72K a year if you normalize the salary to a full year for purposes of comparing a teacher’s salary to a person’s who actually works a full year. Being a teacher is a good gig. And benefits are by no means being taken away. You are just about to be held slightly more accountable for their cost (around 8% more accountable minus whatever costs your union charges you in union fees, which can be fairly significant depending on what union you are a part of). Enough with the teacher’s shoulder chip.

            2) WI ranked at #16 in in the Nation in 2008 with regard to the amount of money spent per pupil ($10,680), so please refrain from arguing that we don’t pay enough money per student. The US as a whole consistently ranks near or at the top with the amount of money spent per student, yet our test scores rank in the high teens when compared to the rest of the world. Clearly the issue is more than just that.

            3) As a State employee, your welfare is intrinsically tied to the welfare of the State. In times of prosperity, every one is fine with that. In times of economic trouble, suddenly everyone develops a conscience about what is “fair”.

            4) Walker was elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility. To all of the people that voted for him that are now upset, you are a hypocritical disgrace. “I want fiscal responsibility. What, you’re taking money away from ME to balance a budget?? Nevermind, I no longer want fiscal responsibility!!” Please.

            5) If someone could provide some data to assist in knowing how many people in the protests actually voted in the gubernatorial election I would be grateful. I suspect that a very high percentage of them did not when they could have.

            6) The tone of how union rights will be taken away forever is embarrassing. The people of WI will have the opportunity to change their minds in subsequent election cycles.

            7) Please stop with the Egypt comparisons. Egyptians make $5K a year on average with a complete lack of benefits compared to the WI union worker.

            8) As a complete guess, I will say that the majority of protesters have a debt that exceeds 40% of their annual salary, excluding school and home loans. In other words, in times of economic strife, the reigns on spending have to be dialed in a bit, and there is room to do that if people want to be economically responsible.

            9) I’ve no doubt that Walker has political motivations for some of this work. Guess what, democrats do the same sort of thing when they run the show. Oh that’s OK?

            10) Personally I’m sort of glad to see this sort of experiment being undertaken to see if the result is as expected. It certainly is a bit of a beta test, but that is somewhat necessary in difficult times.

            11) jnero says that he/she doesn’t disagree with the sentiment, and just wants facts presented, and he/she is attacked for presenting facts. This represents the union side of things quite well. And it represents significant number of protesters whose level of thought regarding this whole issue is “I’m getting some of my money taken away and I don’t like that”, which is obviously fine, but is a bit different than Egyptians fighting for their lives or Milwaukeeans fighting for an 8 hour day. If we could appropriate the balance of greed and fairness it would be appreciated.

          • kateling says:

            WTF, Karmacoma? Reasoned arguments are fine, but data-less assertions that the people protesting this move are deeply in debt and don’t vote are just ridiculous. These are obviously people who are at least occasionally politically active, and as teachers and university employees they’re well-educated and likely to vote. Their level of debt is irrelevant. Is is so hard to believe that large numbers of people cared about the election, didn’t vote for Scott Walker, and are now deeply upset by his policies and doing everything they can to prevent them from taking effect?

          • Karmacoma says:

            You’re totally right, that was kind of dumb on my part. My point was that several people I know are acting like they suddenly won’t be able to feed their families anymore, despite having 50 inch plasma TV’s, huge houses, expensive cars, etc. They have plenty of financial room to pay more for health care benefits if they ever decide to be fiscally responsible and stop piling on more and more debt every year.

            My statement about debt was meant to illustrate that the reason for the budgetary cuts in WI (to curb huge deficits) is kind of indicative of the lifestyles they themselves lead, i.e., they need to accept some of the blame. I was just going on national averages of debt with whatever my guess (which I CLEARLY labeled as such) was.

          • maura89 says:

            1) I am going into teaching because of my love for teaching. Wanting good wages and benefits does not mean I do not want to teach. In fact, the “good gig” you speak of is definitely true. I am not going to pretend that it is not a part of the draw towards teaching. But making so unions can’t even bargain for their working conditions takes away a lot of the financial draws. Good teachers should care about teaching first, but we are not going to get the brightest minds in the country with wages and benefits like those proposed (hell, we often don’t get them now)

            2) We ranked that “high” in a country with a relatively poorly-funded education system. What is the rank against the countries that have actually decided that educating their children is important?

            3) I know that cuts are necessary, and I think most people are prepared for that. I am not arguing against all cuts, I am arguing against destroying worker’s rights under the guise of a financial bill.

            4) Walker was elected because people don’t like their lives. They vote for whoever isn’t in office at the time. I did not vote for him. This bill is not financial responsibility, it is union busting. How would not being able to bargain for working conditions save money?

            5) That is speculation.

            6) That takes four years of this shit.

            7) I didn’t compare it to Egypt, so this doesn’t really apply to me. Maybe this shouldn’t have been a reply to me?

            8) I don’t know how to respond to that since you are just deciding that the people you don’t agree with must just be bad with finances.

            9) If you have no doubt of it, why are you pretending along with him that this bill is about spending? There are many ways to make cuts that don’t affect unions. Oh, and we probably could have made some money on the public high-speed rail that Scott Walker refused to build.

            10) Ok

            11) He/she wasn’t attacked; the facts were disputed. Jnero then told me I made my “side” look dumb. Who is attacking whom?

          • Karmacoma says:

            “2) We ranked that “high” in a country with a relatively poorly-funded education system. What is the rank against the countries that have actually decided that educating their children is important?”

            We ranked #1 in spending in 2005, #3 in 2008. We do not have a “relatively poorly-funded education system”. A quick quote from the Wiki page ‘Education in the United States’:

            “According to a 2005 report from the OECD, the United States is tied for first place with Switzerland when it comes to annual spending per student on its public schools, with each of those two countries spending more than $11,000 (in U.S. currency).[78] However, the United States is ranked 37th in the world in education spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. All but seven of the leading countries are in the third world; ranked high because of a low GDP.[79] U.S. public schools lag behind the schools of other developed countries in the areas of reading, math, and science.”

            But that isn’t the direct issue here. I am merely responding to your inaccurate initial comment about how teachers are misrepresented and underpaid. I disagree.


            “5) That is speculation”

            I agree, that is why I presented it as such. But about 2 million people voted in the election, with about 5.7 million people in the state. I feel good about making the claim that there are protesters who didn’t bother to vote. I think it’s difficult to act outraged when you didn’t even bother to show up for an election.

            People will have a little less than they did before. Hopefully this amounts to giving up certain luxuries in life versus not being able to put food on the table. Times are tight. We all better start getting used to living with less. We were on an unsustainable binge of hyper-consumerism anyways. I mean, I keep getting all these Facebook status updates from friends and family that are at the protests talking about how Walker is threatening their livelihoods and how they won’t be able to feed their families, etc. When I look at the bottom of the update I see ‘Sent from an iPhone” and I’m like Doh-Kay.

          • bcsizemo says:

            That’s exactly right.

            Education isn’t about forcing information into someones brain. You get out of what you put in, sometimes not at the same rate, but you have to do some work to get anything.

            And everyone complains about the kids. I’m not saying teachers and schools aren’t important, but I have the ability to teach my child through a senior highschool level. I don’t have the ability to track down criminals or run into burning buildings.

            The problem with education is the shitty ass attitude of the kids, created by lack luster parenting. For god sake Super Nanny is a show dedicated to showing how sucky parents are. I see on here time and time again, “If I did that when I was a kid I’d —– (be dead, picking myself up off the floor, crying from the beating my parents would have given me).” Exactly, when I grew up I feared and respected my parents because those weren’t hollow threats.

            How about we bring back corporal punishment? Start if off in the earlier years and in a decade you wouldn’t be dealing with this stress of kids talking back and copping an attitude.

          • Karmacoma says:

            Being sarcastic does not really contribute to the conversation. If you want corporal punishment, then start and end with yourself.

            There are many problems with education, which isn’t the topic here. Someone mentioned that we don’t spend enough on education, I was merely pointing out that we actually spend more than anyone else in the world.

        • CastanhasDoPara says:

          Not taking care of the people that teach and mold the next group of citizens is pretty damn dumb. Undereducated students make poor citizens/employees.

          79k-101k gross earnings does sound like a decent amount of money for a 9 month contract but you have to realize that those are in urban settings with higher cost of living. Not only that but many teachers that I know invest their own money and volunteer a great deal of time that they are never ‘paid’ for to make sure that their students are getting a decent education. Add on having to pay for your own (private) insurance and pension plan only lessens their ability to live at a reasonable level.

          Not only that, I think teachers should be paid twice as much as those numbers. Teaching is a damn hard job that not just anybody can do well. So maybe they are doing ‘okay’ but okay is only so-so, they could be doing a lot better and the state could be doing a lot better by them.

        • RMS4400 says:

          “The average total compensation for teachers in Madison is $79,000. In Milwaukee, it’s $101,000. That includes pay and benefits, and it’s for a 9-month contract with every weekend and holiday off. I think they’re doing okay.”

          The damning phrase here is “total compensation.” Including health benefits, pension, and other contributions to that figure is dishonest because that’s not how much take-home actual pay is for those employees. In reality, teachers and other public service don’t actually clear much more than the lower-middle class level of compensation in the US.

        • daddy_fizz says:

          Nothing like cherry picking statistics. My wife graduated from UW-Eau Claire and you are lucky to make $25000 (if you can get a teaching job with 100x applying) for what amounts to an 80hr a week job (teaching+5 preps+grading+coaching, etc). Take another few thousand off that with these changes and tell me that this sets up Wisconsin to bring in and retain the best teachers…

          • jnero says:

            Please look up the definition of the word “average”. I’m not cherry-picking anything.

          • daddy_fizz says:

            how about an “average” for “small town”, Wisconsin? Why just mention the two cities in Wisconsin with the highest cost-of-living (and the highest salaries)?

          • maura89 says:

            you are, and in fact people have reasoned why you are. To reiterate, that statistic includes benefits, which are not actual income.

        • allen says:

          The average total compensation for teachers in Madison is $79,000. In Milwaukee, it’s $101,000. That includes pay and benefits, and it’s for a 9-month contract with every weekend and holiday off. I think they’re doing okay.

          I don’t mean to be rude, but can you cite a source to that claim? I only have anecdotal evidence, but a friend who is a professor at U of W isn’t doing nearly so well.

          And then, there’s also this study http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/6759/ which shows that if you wrap up all the various benefits and differences in annual hours worked- state and public employees are still underfunded 4.9% when compared with otherwise similar private sectors of work.

          If you prefer 401ks to pensions, sure- whatever, just make sure that the total value of salary+benefits is fair and comparable between private and public sectors. This tactic of attacking pensions as being some unreasonable benefit is really a false equivalence, because people not receiving pensions are getting other compensation.

          When I read debates about this in wisconsin papers, there’s an assumption that any form of taxation to address the deficit is just out of the question- including closing loopholes without actually doing a damn thing to the tax rates. Corporations are currently using loopholes in Wisconsin to carry half the load that they did in 1980. http://www.examiner.com/bronx-county-independent-in-new-york/wisconsin-corporations-skate-as-governor-targets-public-employees?render=print

          It really seems to me that Walker is trying to shake down the weak and poor because the rich and powerful are kind of scary.

      • glaborous immolate says:

        In Wisconsin, teaching salaries averaged $52,644 in 2009-10,

      • bobthecitizen says:

        If our schools weren’t such a ridiculous failure, I’d have more sympathy. Our taxes are taken to pay for education (not a constitutionally protected industry). An education that is pathetic in terms of ranking in the world (we’re at like, what? 33rd?) The schools have become intolerant little police states that seem better at indoctrinating than educating and we get the pleasure of paying for the government to have this control of our children and therefore our future. As a parent who would sooner send my kids to a pedophile’s candy laden van before I’d send them to the monstrosity of my local public schools, I would rather see the system removed than here about “collective bargaining”. That’s my money they’re bargaining for and those teahcers are making twice what I do.

        • Brainspore says:

          If our schools weren’t such a ridiculous failure, I’d have more sympathy. Our taxes are taken to pay for education (not a constitutionally protected industry).

          Local police and fire departments aren’t protected by the constitution either. If we can lay the blame for all the problems of our education system on the teachers then why not blame crime on the police? It makes no sense to allow collective bargaining for one and not the other.

          I would rather see the system removed than here about “collective bargaining”. That’s my money they’re bargaining for and those teahcers are making twice what I do.

          To be fair, most of them probably know how to spell.

          • bobthecitizen says:

            OMG, I made a typo, quick, invalidate my viewpoint.

            Actually, where I live, police are responsible for only 10% of the crime, the last two places I lived the police were directly involved in the majority of local crime.

            I feel sorry for the individual teachers, having worked as one for 14 years. But the sad fact is our education system is completely broken.

            I’m sick of our government pouring money into a system that doesn’t work and is often being run in an orwellian fashion.

            I’m OK with fire departments, but until the police are subject to law, they are just criminals with badges in my eyes.

          • Brainspore says:

            That’s my money they’re bargaining for and those teahcers are making twice what I do.

            If our schools weren’t such a ridiculous failure, I’d have more sympathy.

            I feel sorry for the individual teachers, having worked as one for 14 years. But the sad fact is our education system is completely broken.

            So to summarize: you spent 14 years as a teacher but now make half as much, while simultaneously lacking and expressing sympathy for these particular teachers.

    • RMS4400 says:

      “1. It’s 54 degrees in Madison today. The protesters aren’t exactly braving the elements.
      2. The protests are not broad based. The only organized protests are by the teachers, not the rest of the public unions. Yeah, some of the members are out there, but there is no other concerted effort.
      3. Wisconsin teachers currently pay 6% of their health insurance premiums and 0.2% of their total pension contributions. Compare that to what you’re paying.
      4. Walker said the National Guard would be used in the prisons if the prison guards walked. That certainly seems like a reasonable precaution to take. He never implied that the National Guard would be used to control protests, and there has been absolutely no serious talk of that in Madison, even from the left.
      5. The budget address was scheduled to take place off-site well before the protests began. It wasn’t moved in response.
      I’m not saying I disagree with the sentiment here, but it is imperative that the facts are presented fairly if we are going to have an honest discussion about this.”

      I understand that you may not agree with the sentiment, but you’ve really spun this a bit.

      #s correspond to your numbering.

      2. That’s not true at all. AFSCME has gathered national support from across the country. Solidarity actions are taking place right now and more will happen from other union member who stand to lose out when this goes down.

      3. Don’t blame the workers for doing something that most Americans should do: stand up for themselves in their workplace and negotiate for better benefits. I agree that you should have benefits that are just as good as the ones Wisconsin employees enjoy, though. Why not set up your own negotiating committee? Union jobs do generally pay more. :)

      4. He actually did imply repeatedly that his usage of the National Guard would be for whatever he needed it to be… including the staffing for prisons. Just because he used it as an example doesn’t mean its all he wants to use it for.

      • jnero says:

        But this isn’t about national support – it’s about support in Wisconsin. Of course there is support from unions outside of the state, but that doesn’t matter at all. This is an internal matter, and the fact is that there is NOT broad-based support within Wisconsin. Even if every union member in Wisconsin was protesting, that’s still only 15% of the population.
        Unions don’t work, and you know that. The problem is that they always want more when things are going well – which is understandable – but they don’t want to give anything up when things are not going well. That’s what happened to the auto companies. States like California and Illinois have been controlled by unions for years, and look at how they’re both doing. That’s unionism at work. Union membership is at an all-time low, and where the unions have stayed strong, businesses and state economies have failed. What you don’t seem to get is that the money has to come from somewhere. This isn’t even a case of the workers trying to get their fair share of the pie like it would be at a private company. Those efforts, at least, can be respected. The people that the public unions are taking from are the taxpayers. They have an opportunity to vote, and that’s where their voices are heard. They also have the right to seek new employment. They aren’t slaves.

        • pauldavis says:

          Unions don’t work, and you know that. The problem is that they always want more when things are going well – which is understandable – but they don’t want to give anything up when things are not going well.

          You have to be kidding. What group of people do you think your description does not apply to? Wall Street financial traders? Corporate board members? Paid elected officials?

          If you’re going to complain about human nature, that’s fine and there’s an interesting discussion to be had there. But don’t frame human nature as “unions don’t work” unless you actually intend to be disingenuous.

          As for the practical claim about unions, I fall back on a generalization of one of my favorite quotes: the problem with corrupt,inefficient and incompetent <insert your preferred target human organization> is not <said human organization> its corruption, inefficiency and incompetence”. Unions are prone to all the same (human) failings that other human organizations – businesses, non-profits and governments – are, but you don’t see them as aligned with interests that concern you, and hence judge them as failures.

        • RMS4400 says:

          You’ve made a lot of claims here that are incorrect. Let’s start from the beginning.

          “But this isn’t about national support – it’s about support in Wisconsin. Of course there is support from unions outside of the state, but that doesn’t matter at all.”

          I actually was talking about your state. Wisconsin’s union members (at least those who aren’t still at work) are organizing en masse. To be fair to you, I’m more able to know because I know a LOT of those people and I’m actually not even in your state. I’ve got an email box that has gotten an email every 15 minutes the past few days, each from a different person. It’s easy to dismiss it when you disagree with the situation, but this is getting huge turnout on labor’s side.

          “This is an internal matter, and the fact is that there is NOT broad-based support within Wisconsin.”

          What you are actually saying is that YOU don’t support this and THAT means there is no broad-based support. I find this irrelevant to the actual meaning of the phrase “broad-based.” I respect your opinion, but so far you’ve shown very little allegiance to the facts of the situation so I can’t call that opinion informed in a legitimate way.

          “Even if every union member in Wisconsin was protesting, that’s still only 15% of the population.”

          Again, I’m sad that so many people in your state don’t have the ability to bargain collectively in a way that impacts their own standard of living. You have the ability to change that (if you, in fact, are part of the 85 percent without a union.)

          “Unions don’t work, and you know that.”

          Statistically there’s more than enough evidence that union membership is the key not just to better wages that build better communities for union members, but for people who DON’T have unions. In a way, even as anti-union as you are, you benefit from these workers being paid a fair wage because it raises your wages too. So… you should probably not be in support of cutting your own throat… why are you? For more info, read this abstract here:


          “The problem is that they always want more when things are going well – which is understandable – but they don’t want to give anything up when things are not going well.”

          Union members negotiate for their own cuts all the time. You wouldn’t know that about the current situation unless you’re paying close attention. Gov. Walker hasn’t even communicated in a bargaining capacity with the Bargaining Teams since January 3rd of this year. There was no legally binding way for the employees to even try to make the cuts HE suggested if they wanted to. The unions actually agree that cuts are necessary but they think that they could be done in a way that doesn’t make such a serious dent in the state’s ability to function. Walker’s either not smart enough to care or not aware enough to notice.

          “That’s what happened to the auto companies.

          You should really be mad at the automakers, not the employees. There are a variety of resources that could provide you with evidence of this, but I think you should start with This American Life’s program on NUMMI. In it, you’ll hear that our focus on producing cheap cars that aren’t well made killed auto production. Add to that the ridiculous gas-guzzler phase we entered in the 1990s-2000s, and you’d see that the employees who were union had very little to do with the workings of the boardroom. They (union members) ARE responsible for not being good workers though, but that’s anecdotal and case-by-case. Strategy, however, is not and CANNOT lie with the workers.

          “States like California and Illinois have been controlled by unions for years, and look at how they’re both doing. That’s unionism at work.”

          Provide evidence that the states of California and Illinois are suffering because union members are somehow controlling them, and I’ll address it. Otherwise, you’re just making an unsubstantiated claim.

          “Union membership is at an all-time low, and where the unions have stayed strong, businesses and state economies have failed.”

          Union strength is decreasing, you’re right. But you’re also proving to be contradictory at this point. Are they too weak to matter (as you’ve said) or are they too strong to be trusted (as you’ve also said?) Be consistent and maybe we can have an actual discussion. Otherwise, you’re really not saying anything at all.

          If you need more information (Which your posts show me that you DO) I suggest:

          Compensation Supplement Research done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics



          An IMF produced paper on income inequality and leverage


          so that you can get a sense of what we’re both talking about from a variety of research perspectives.

          All these resources are free, have short abstracts that provide summaries, and are published by non-partisan sources.

          Good luck.

  28. Wally Ballou says:

    What’s your interest in defending that practice?

    I’m not invested in defending it, but it happens.

    The Wisconsin governor is forcing through a major policy change, opposed by many citizens, on a straight party line vote, after winning his office by a small majority.

    It’s very similar from a process point of view to the passage of Obamacare, and it would be hypocritical to support one while opposing the other.

    One difference is that a Wisconsin public employee has the option of moving to another state or changing jobs if unsatisfied, leaving the country is not required.

  29. Getefix says:

    Pretty soon it looks like Governator 2 is going to privatize the University of Wisconsin Madison as well — one of the best public universities in the nation:


    Talk about eating your seed-corn.

    • rivkin says:

      Actually, the UW is pushing for this as well, as they can get more money, they believe, and can pay better.

      • Getefix says:

        The UW is asking for privitization? Perhaps we should ask the students, who comprise most of the UW-Madison, if they are “asking for it”. If you’re saying that those who _govern_ the resource want to sell it off for profit, well, that is right in line with what Walker is doing.

        • jnero says:

          What rivkin is trying to tell you is that the Chancellor of UW-Madison supports the move. It’s something that they’ve been pushing for for a long time. It isn’t “privatization”; it simply removes them from the larger UW system, which frees them from a significant amount of monetary constraint. For example, under the current rules, if UW-Madison alum wants to contribute money to UW-Madison, the money doesn’t all go to UW-Madison. Instead, it has to be shared with the rest of the UW System. This change would also allow UW-Madison to participate in things like group purchasing arrangements with other Big Ten schools, which would allow them to get bigger discounts than they can get under the current system. It’s not “privatization”, Getefix, it’s simply a reorganization. No one at UW-Madison has come out against the idea. The only people who don’t support it are the folks at the other UW System schools (UW’s Milwaukee, Whitewater, LacCrosse, Platteville, Eau Claire, Oshkosh, Parkside, River Falls, Stevens Point, Superior, Stout, and Green Bay) because they won’t be able to share in the revenue that UW-Madison generates. It’d be similar to how schools in other states are either “XXX State” or “University of XXX” (Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, etc.). They’re still public schools.

    • Wisco says:

      As I read the article you linked to, the proposal is not to privatize UW-Madison, but to separate it from the 25 other colleges and universities in the UW system–with a separate board, etc.

  30. avr says:

    Elections have consequences. If you don’t like the consequences, win the next election.

    • Cochituate says:

      This is just what Bill Press was saying this morning on his radio show.

      He was talking about the governors of Wisconsin and Florida coming out against the high speed rail funds that the Feds are going to make available across the country. The funds for these two states will now go to other states who can see that the investments are needed. When the citizens of these states see what is being done in their names, they will have to understand that elections have consequences.

  31. maura89 says:

    An end to most collective bargaining means an end to affordable benefits for teachers. How many brilliant minds are going to subject themselves to pay cuts, no health care, no pension plan, and no job security? An end to teacher’s unions means an end to reasonable contacts.

    On top of this, Walker is expected to announce aid cuts, so there will likely be a reduction in per pupil revenue limit authority of up to $500 per pupil.

    And on top of THAT, on Tuesday, Walker will propose an end to federal Title 1 education funding in Wisconsin. (Title 1 money is set aside by the federal government for low-achieving students in poverty-ridden districts.) (this information comes from an email from the teacher’s union)

    I am not as informed about how all of this affects the rest of the public workers (besides the atrocious end to most collective bargaining rights), as I come from a family of teachers and am studying to be one myself. This is an attack on public workers, and it is an enormous attack on public education.

    • jnero says:

      See, this is the kind of thing that makes your side sound dumb. There are legitimate arguments you can make, but this isn’t one of them. Nobody is taking away health care benefits or pensions. They are simply asking teachers to contribute a tiny amount to the costs, which is what every single employee in the private sector has to do. Get your facts right.

  32. Layne says:

    Wait, so the people who earn money from taxes DON’T want to see their awesome compensations go down now that tax revenues and budgets are completely busted? And braving the elements makes this somehow a more noble position? Would they be less heroic if they were protesting a foolish position in tropical climes?

    Nice to see some people reframing the negative tone of the article into the very real, very urgent need to reign in public spending on public-sector employees. And we’re seeing the usual, easily debunked issues – unions always work; unions work better in europe; spending less on teachers leads to stupid kids; public employees work for breadcrumbs and survive on the manna that trails their blesses footsteps. Blah blah blah.

    Facts, statistics and numbers will rebut any of these arguments. As one reader pointed out, the influence of unions in IL and CA are completely opposed to solving budget issues and instead seem intent on driving their states over a cliff. Public service employees are nigh-impossible to fire, receive extremely generous, long-term compensation, and their unions make up a very powerful, very loud lobby that always resorts to sickening scare tactics when the rest of the citizens are being asked to tighten belts.If you think entrenched unions like these are a good thing, you’re either part of a union or you’ve never tried to act against one.

    • RandomGameR says:


      Please provide some of the facts, statistics and numbers you say prove these other arguments that you disagree with to be wrong.

      Thanks in advance.

    • pauldavis says:

      There are all kinds of citizens who are not being asked to tighten their belts to anything like the extent that newly-elected austerity-minded politicans are asking the low and median-paid to do.

      There are all kinds of corporations which are not going to be belt tightening at the behest of those same austerity mind politicians.

      So why should anyone listen to calls for “we’ve all got to hunker down and suffer cuts” when the richest and most able to pay will be facing (percentage-wise, and perhaps even absolutely) the least cuts of all?

      There’s been no huge reduction in the amount of wealth in this country – just a change in its distribution (toward the top 1%) and its liquidity (its become very much less liquid from the perspective of the rest of the country).

      This story about how our state and federal governments are “broke” is a pathetic reframing of a very different story: 30 years of capital’s adventures in (1) shifting income towards flows where it is taxed less (e.g. capital gains, corporate income) and (2) reducing taxes overall. The reason our government(s) are “broke” is because of their inability to raise revenue from those that have it, partly because of a narrative that has been created and partly because those that have it are the already rich and powerful. States like mine (PA) have statutes that prevent asymmetric income tax changes, even when the last 30 years have seen wildly asymmetric income distribution changes.

      It sickens me, and it sickens me even more to hear people trying to justify this austerity nonsense as if its somehow in the interest of the majority of people in this country. Its a deceitful lie that originates in supply-side economics, a strategy that has utterly failed and as a side-effect driven our country increasingly into more debt under every Republican administration since Reagan first started re-growing the deficit in 1980.

      • Layne says:

        Interesting how the point of the issue with you quickly segues into how it’s not the unions or the unhealthy pull they are having on state budgets. The issue is greed, and worse, that old greed from the 80s that started with that damnable Republican Ronnie Reagan and his supply-side policies.

        Yet somehow it never crosses your easily-sickened threshold that in many of these cases, the unions are just as capable of becoming unduly greedy but with zero checks on their trajectory. The private, mass-financial influence and the voting bloc they create by being formed with public employees doesn’t seem to be an issue. Nor would it seem like they’re ever deemed successful enough in their mission to dissolve themselves.

        Nor would I qualify the current over-stretched federal budget as “austerity nonsense”. In fact, it’s very dire. While California’s corrections officer and teacher unions debate about what unrealistic piece of the fiscal pie they’re entitled to, the state budget is being taxed to the point of a total default.

        Lastly, I’d have a hard time qualifying the good a union does achieve when more often than not, their presence guarantees that malicious employees can’t be disciplined or dismissed. It’s not very hard to turn up deplorable cases where union mediation boards reinstate cops who commit felonies on the job (yet retire with full pensions) or teachers who abuse students but are sent off to pasture in empty rooms (but on full annual salaries).

        Concentrating on policies of a party you oppose from 30 years ago doesn’t really seem like a reasonable process for dealing with a current fiscal crisis.

        • pauldavis says:

          Unions, like most human organizations, do have quite a number of rather pernicious qualities. They don’t lack checks on this, but rather, the checks have been rather inadequate to contain the negative effects that arise, just as they have been inadequate to contain the negative effects of government and business institutions. (“Oops, we broke the economy!”). Its not hard to argue that the negative impact of unions on the US is vastly smaller than what outsourcing and irresponsible, dare I say “greed driven” financial speculation has done to the nation.

          So the question of what kinds of “checks” should exist on various kinds of human institutions is quite an interesting one, and one that I suspect we’ll still be exploring hundreds of years from now.

          As for your claim that the politics and economic strategy put in place by Reagan 30 years ago is somehow “old hat” is really a bit silly. Republicans across the US continue to trot out every element of Reagan’s bait-and-switch supply side story, promising to cut government spending while actually increasing it (but trying to spend it on things that they consider more important than would be suggested by a utilitarian consideration). It is precisely these policies that have robbed governments at every level of revenue and the narrative that they have supplied along with it has convinced a substantial number of Americans that government is the problem. We’ve had 30 years of cutting taxes justified by the claim that it will create jobs and create a better country. It hasn’t worked – we’ve lost jobs and by almost all measure are worse off as a country – and it won’t work now. Do you actually believe that as a nation we do not have the money to do what we were doing 3 years ago, or do you acknowledge that the money has just ended up outside the public purse?

          And yes, as for unions comparing WI to Egypt – there’s no accounting for the stupid PR idiocy that people will go to, but unions don’t have a lock on that.

          • Layne says:

            Thanks for your response – I enjoyed some of the points you brought up, even if I’m still at odds with the point of the dispute.

            What interests me about your comments are that it seems to contend that the private sector has been skimming more money than ever from the Feds. Your comment “robbed governments” seems to be at a direct odds with the fact that govt only has money which it first takes from the people. It’s hard to “rob” somebody of what essentially is their own money to begin with.

            I have no doubt that Regan is guilty of running up budgets and having favored programs that, 30 years later, were a poor course of action. But his message of the best govt being a smaller govt still holds true. Rather than the picture you’re trying to paint of a Federal government starved of tax dollars, there’s no denying that Federal spending and budgets are growing exponentially. Spending per capita has gone through the roof no matter which party has been in power for the last decade. This includes the favorite programs of the Republicans (military/defense) and Democrats (healthcare/social services) that get rammed through with no regard to the final bill.

            I DO in fact believe that the govt can achieve the same things it did 3 years ago or even 10 years ago. The federal budget commission recently came to the same conclusion. It’s not about the lack of funding, it’s about cutting back the spending to realistic GDP-ratios and DE-funding programs and budgets that keep growing. Defense, NEA, TSA, HHS, the list of govt agencies is neverending and there is zero incentive for any one of them to hold costs in check. We, the public, are providing the blank check.

            Not to mention that many of those agencies are either unionized (NEA) or looking to unionize (TSA). Aside from the supposed benefits a union brings to an employee, I’d love an explanation of how that benefits the public who’s forced to pay for them. Stories are easy to find about agencies being unable to fire public union employees for activity that would never stand in the private market. A dept here in FL has been trying to fire an officer who covered up domestic abuse for SEVEN YEARS. And how many govt workers do you think would be willing to phase out their jobs when they become unnecessary? I’d rather have that money in the private sector, where (theoretically) the companies go out of business when they’re inefficient. Although the administration decided to keep those failed auto and Wall Street companies in place with rushed, poorly-examined bailouts. Calling that a working example of the free market failing is incorrect.

            The worse part is that Obama has continued doing the same thing as Bush II began – blowing up the deficit and when given the chance to start reigning in the budget this last week, he chose to do…absolutely nothing. Not very inspiring.

          • Anonymous says:

            They don’t lack checks on this, but rather, the checks have been rather inadequate to contain the negative effects that arise, just as they have been inadequate to contain the negative effects of government and business institutions.

            Or rather, the checks are supposed to be governments, which in practice have showed much less interest in keeping unions functioning properly than in destroying them for business interests.

  33. Anonymous says:

    A lot of people are missing the point.

    1. The budget would have been fine, had Walker not threw in $140 million in unpaid for spending for special interests that benefit roughly 1% of the population. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/wisconsin-gov-walker-ginned-up-budget-shortfall-to-undercut-worker-rights.php

    2. Now, we have a governor who decides union workers should pay for his special interest spending in the budget. Specifically targeting unions who didn’t back him in the election.

    3. When there were only murmurs of a protest, he threatened to use the National Guard.

    This guy sounds like a dictator to me. I know a lot of people have been culturally conditioned to hate unions, I would only hope people actually read deeper than a single article to understand the issues.

  34. Anonymous says:

    My father is a public employee and an AFSCME member and he could lose these workplace rights if this bill passes. Wisconsin is the state of Lafollette. It is a state built on the backs of workers, workers who saw fit to organize and carve out their rights! It would be a travesty for this dangerous bill to pass in a place with such a history. Down with Walker. SOLIDARTIY!

  35. johnnyaction says:

    Why are public sector employees being victimized and hammered now?

    Because the right needs a scapegoat.

    Over the last 30 years benefits and pensions for private sector employees have eroded to their current pitiful state while public sector benefits and pensions haven’t been hit near as hard.

    The right is using the current hard times due to the economic downturn to excuse dragging down unions any way they can because they generally support the opposition.

  36. kateling says:

    Regardless of what you think about unions, this is a fake crisis, manufactured for political gain. Walker claims a $137 million deficit. Walker pushed through $140 million in spending for special interest groups in January. Without that spending, the deficit wouldn’t exist. This spending includes:

    - $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation that still has $73 million due to a lack of job creation. Walker is creating a $25 million hole which will not create or retain jobs. [Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 1/7/11]

    - $48 million for private health savings accounts, which primarily benefit the wealthy. A study from the federal Governmental Accountability Office showed the average adjusted gross income of HSA participants was $139,000 and nearly half of HSA participants reported withdrawing nothing from their HSA, evidence that it is serving as a tax shelter for wealthy participants. [Government Accountability Office, 4/1/08; Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 1/11/11]

    - $67 million for a tax shift plan, so ill-conceived that at-best the benefit provided to job creators would be less than a dollar a day per new job, and may be as little as 30 cents a day. [Associated Press, 1/28/11]

    You can read a memo about the state’s finances from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/Misc/2011_01_31Vos&Darling.pdf
    They concluded that the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus. The numbers are clear: Walker is manufacturing a financial crisis in order to reward special interests and eliminate collective bargaining. Is it any wonder people are angry?

  37. rndmgrl says:

    Wisconsin’s democrat senators have reportedly left the state in order to make a required quorum for today’s budget bill vote impossible. According to republican leadership (did you know we have two brothers leading the two house majorities?!) police are out looking for them. Texas politics have indeed come to Wisconsin. Woe is us….

  38. Wally Ballou says:

    This guy only got 52% vs the other’s 48%

    American presidents have often considered 53-54% winning percentages a mandate for change.

  39. dvdsweeney says:

    One story that seems to be getting overlooked.

    Walker gins up ‘crisis’ to reward cronies
    “To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes — or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues — the “crisis” would not exist.”


    • Anonymous says:

      Where did you get your figures. I’m finding that the average teacher’s salary in Wisconsin as of 2009 was $48,743.

    • bipolarmichael says:

      You posted exactly the same link that I had been planning to post when I got off work. Glad someone else got there before me. though if it hasn’t been directly linked here’s the report itself, an interesting read if you have a bit of time and more than informative.


      Now for a couple of quick rebuttal points and then off to bed for this guy.

      I’ve lived in wisconsin all of my life, lived in madison for 50% and in the rural areas for the other 50%, and I can surely tell you that the people who elected walker are the ones who live in the rural districts, are poor, uninformed, and scared. Yes, scared and thereby willing to lash out against anyone who is different or better off, usually whomever the rich point at with their talking points. These are the people who will most be hurt by this legislation, and also the ones who most need to get themselves organized in the first place. First they need to start by electing officials who will enact policies that better their constituents instead of corporations, then they need to get organized in the workplace and rebuild their unions. For those who would say that unions drive up prices because you have to pay the workers better, then you really have no clue how much profit a corporation makes off of a single employee.

      Example: I worked at a filter factory in northern wisconsin by Eau Claire and a cheese factory in the south eastern part of the state while I was going to college. At both places we ,the workers, were told that unions were bad, and that they would pack up the factory and move it to mexico if we unionized because they wouldnt be able to make a profit. Indeed some people even got fired for talking publicly about unionization, but not a single person complained to the state boards because of how much they needed the jobs. Yet in a time of economic recession both companies were making outrageous profits, and both of them made their livelihoods based on the fact that their products were made in america and wisconsin respectively so moving to mexico was out of the option. For a numbers person, and this is per factory not just the companies: 10 million profit for the cheese factory (88 employees), and 60 million plus for the filter factory (200 employees or less). Even a child could realize those numbers are large enough to afford paying your workers better and giving them some real benefits, and the argument that these profits cover loss in other parts of the company is moot, unless the rest of the company is hemorrhaging money like there’s no tomorrow.

      Whoever said that teachers on average make 79k in madison is surely out of their mind, I have more than a dozen friends who teach there and make nowhere near that amount (even with pension and healthcare) and probably never will in their entire lives. That number is computed by using not only teachers salaries, but those of administrators (which in madison are exorbitantly high for the work they do) , counselors, techs, and so forth. In fact the administrators would love to have this bill enacted, it would mean teachers would be unwilling to lobby for new books, better working conditions(also whoever said teachers only work nine months at eight hours a day is crazy, I’ve been a teacher and never worked that little. That includes when i was working only half time) , or any little thing that they needed.

    • glaborous immolate says:

      So what is the ‘spending on special interest groups’? The article you linked eventually gets to it

      ҉ۢ $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation that still has $73 million due to a lack of job creation. Walker is creating a $25 million hole which will not create or retain jobs.

      • $48 million for private health savings accounts, which primarily benefit the wealthy. A study from the federal Governmental Accountability Office showed the average adjusted gross income of HSA participants was $139,000 and nearly half of HSA participants reported withdrawing nothing from their HSA, evidence that it is serving as a tax shelter for wealthy participants.

      • $67 million for a tax shift plan, so ill-conceived that at best the benefit provided to ‘job creators’ would be less than a dollar a day per new job, and may be as little as 30 cents a day.”

      So the first sentence is factual, what the spending is on. The next is pure spin.

  40. smgrady says:

    As a researcher at UW Madison, I am directly affected by these pay cuts. Interestingly, I help bring in substantial grant money to the UW system and am paid by that federal money (it becomes ‘state’ money when we bring it in!). Perhaps I should redirect my efforts to a state that would appreciate it.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if the cuts were across the board, but it seems directed solely at state employees, no matter if we’re responsible for educating the future generation or bringing in research dollars (or the myriad other services state folk provide). Further, as I understand it, there was no budget problem until he implemented tax cuts/pet programs. Christ, what an asshole.

  41. Setkheni says:

    I’m a Wisconsinite and in support of the protests.

    But “Midwestern Tahrir?” Seriously? Give me a break.

  42. Neon Tooth says:

    Notice how he’s carefully exempted the police and firefighters from this extreme, anti-labor bill? Despite their pensions being responsible for the largest share of unfunded pensions? This is a manufactured crisis, created to chip away at workers rights. Shock therapy, disaster capitalism, whatever you want to call it. As a number of other articles have pointed out: He was fine with spending even more money on his pet projects.

    What a sham.

    Congrats to Wisconsin folk for standing up to this Tea Party dum dum! The “Cheesehead Pharaoh” as somebody called him…lol.

  43. Rayonic says:

    Thanks for the quorum qorrection, Kateling.

    In related hypothetical news, I wonder how long the democratic lawmakers are willing to stay out of the state. I’m actually morbidly curious to find out.

  44. sterling says:

    First, some pictures and video I took from the capitol yesterday:

    The major issue is the destruction of collective bargaining. Many people are complaining that the unions don’t want to find some sort of middle ground with Walker. Well, that is what collective bargaining is all about, finding some sort of middle ground.

    The “budget repair bill” gives sweeping rights to the governor totally unrelated to the fiscal “emergency” in the state.

    The weather has been beautiful this week though, so the Wisconsin winter has been very cooperative.

    The governor was informed very quickly that introducing his budget to the legislature anywhere but the capitol building was in fact against the state constitution. So he will be quickly giving the legislature his budget in a joint session, then traveling to a local business to make his speech.

    The “privatization” of the UW-Madison is something the chancellor, and many in the university community have been pushing for for some time. Currently the state legislature has a strangle hold on nearly all facets of the university. From tuition, to compensation, to purchasing. Allowing the university some freedom to decide on tuition, staff wages, and contracts with outside entities could be a good thing. In the current set up the university has very little flexibility when it comes to spending money to retain staff and where it can spend funds.

    Wisconsin has a rich history of collective bargaining, and that is what the protests are trying to save.

  45. Anonymous says:

    I’m an anarcho-syndicalist. Out of the 309,000,000+ Americans, I’m probably among the top thousand in terms of support of unions. I believe that unions should run everything in society, with no nation-states or corporations. However, while I support the right of all workers to organize and collectively bargain, I believe that public sector workers are getting what they deserve to some extent. For years the relatively well off public sector unions refused to broaden their organizing to include lower level service workers within their ranks. Instead of funding organizer training, strikes, pickets, etc actions to empower all of the working class, the public sector unions took a pro-boss, pro-state, pro-capital line and used their dues to fund lobbying for Democrats to grow the state while doing nothing to stop the outsourcing, financial fraud, and wasteful credentialism in hiring (driving up debt by requiring college for simple entry level work) that was decimating the working class.

    Some posters have pointed out that public sector workers tend to have college degrees or even graduate degrees, and implied that they therefore deserve more money. I think one of the reasons the unions have lost power is because they now represent upper-middle class professionals instead of foodservice workers, industrial workers, prisoners, migrants, day laborers, etc lumpen and prole workers. Professionals tend identify with capitalism and the bosses; they are privileged class traitors. The real power in society comes from those that do the most labor. The labor movement needs to remember this.

    I almost welcome the end of class-collaborative collective bargaining. Workers have more power when we take direct action at the means of production and sabotage capital. Electing representatives to make a deal with the boss keeps the boss in power. General strikes and class war in the streets could decapitate the ownership class for good. The capitalists and their representatives in the state appear to have forgotten that liberalism and social democracy were their best protection against anarchist communism.

  46. Layne says:

    In related news, the union organizers are saying that requiring public employees to contribute to their retirement benefits(although still far less than the private sector) is no different than Mubarak’s policies as the dictator of Egypt.

    And a local teamster’s union rep can’t even bother to spell correctly enough to Godwin themselves.


  47. Wally Ballou says:

    Memo to all: let’s remember that it’s the Tea Baggers who use extremist, uncivil language and images.

    Something like this is clearly the product of a well-rounded intellect, intent on seriously speaking truth to power.

    • Layne says:

      Eh, plenty of crazy protesters on both sides, unfortunately. I’d be fairly embarrassed if that was my kid’s teacher though. Godwining yourself is the new protest “Get a Brain, Morans!”.

      Bonus irony if they are a civics/journo/govt teacher.

  48. nutsackylacky says:

    “Walker brought down his bill with enormous bluster, promising to mobilize the national guard against the state’s workers”

    Jesus, man. He did no such thing!! Walker clearly mentioned the national guard in reference to using them as scab labor in places like state prisons.

    You don’t help matters by injecting misinformed vitriol. The guy is a tool enough on his own. You provide him access to victim status by grossly misrepresenting his statements.

    • Neon Tooth says:

      Jesus, man. He did no such thing!! Walker clearly mentioned the national guard in reference to using them as scab labor in places like state prisons.

      Every article I’ve read says he has them ready for whatever unrest may occur due to worker dissatisfaction.

  49. Anonymous says:

    An interesting read on budget woes and how they do and don’t relate to benefits like pensions.

  50. ChristinaWard says:

    Another badger here: Wisco dems have left the state to prevent the quorum call. A last resort, but necessary.

    Many of you arguing are missing the main point of contention. It’s not that workers are quibbling about contributing to pensions or health care; it’s that this bill RECINDS the right to wholly collective bargain.

    Teachers traditionally start out at lower pay because the trade off was good benefits. All these posts about 100k a year teachers is off the mark. Principals make that much. Teachers who have a Masters and then Doctorate can make up to 75k a year. Which puts them solidly in the middle class; not Rockefeller rich.

    As a private sector employee, I don’t have as “sweet” of benefits, but I benefit from the collective gains made by unionized workers. I like 8 hour days, vacations and not having to send my teenager to work in a factory. You think that’s so far off? I’m a MKE’n. My dad started working in a factory at age 16.

    In the 1970′s a welder was making 15$ an hour with health bennies and vacation and could raise a family. Today, that same job pays $10 an hour with no health or vacay. And you can’t raise a family on that. Why the change? No unions.

    Since the 1980′s most labor unions have been decimated by laws stripping them of negotiating rights. From right to work laws, to repeals of safety laws, it’s really going down hill.

    Now I doubt many of you readers work in a factory. So you don’t feel that pain. But if the Wisco state workers lose their collective bargaining rights, it will be the death knell for all kinds of workers rights in the private sector.

    Walker is flying a test balloon for the conservatives.

    Oh, and the poster who mentioned that both state houses are both led by brothers….Republican brothers. She forgot to mention that Gov Walker just appointed THEIR FATHER as Head of the Wisconsin State Patrol. Which Gov. Walker just dispatched to “round up” any democratic legislatures they find. Really.

  51. ChristinaWard says:

    Oh, Walker exempted Fire & Police from his “kill the union” move because the Fire and Police union BACKED him in the election. C’mon. Can this be any more transparent?

  52. Anonymous says:

    Were they “workers” or teachers? Funny, the word “teacher” must be something someone was trying to avoid. “Waiting for Superman” nails it.

    • Gnatcatcher says:

      Yeah, that’s why the states with the best test scores, fastest reform/improvement are all heavily unionized and the states with the most failing schools are all non-union.

      And why the countries that are all outperforming our students on tests have heavily unionized teachers, and societies that treat teachers like highly respected professionals.

  53. ChristinaWard says:

    To re-iterate, the main catalyst for protest is NOT that workers are unwilling to negotiate; it is that the new Gov is NOT willing.

    Walker has declared that any and all state workers, except police and fire-whose unions supported him- will not be able to collectively bargain their fringe benefits. Collective Bargaining was guaranteed to state workers by the legislature in 1959. To repeal this right via a “budgetary repair bill” is disingenuous at best; it’s low-down dirty politics at it’s worst.

    Walker won the election with 52% of the vote, all from rural and wealthy suburban districts. Urban districts voted for the Democratic candidate by much larger margins. (And he was a well-known but weak candidate.) Please remember that this was the same election that lost us Russ Feingold. The Republican Party in Wisconsin did such a good job co-opting TeaParty-itis that they named the Wisconsin party leader the new National party leader. You can claim bad feelings or sour grapes all you like, but now the fire & police unions and members who supported Walker are now in Madison protesting WITH the rest of the state workers- they said: This is NOT what we supported.

    Also: If you look at local Milwaukee news; there are talking heads (mostly independents) saying that their vote for Walker was to get rid of the democrats; NOT to bring down the state. So yes, there is some buyers remorse from uneducated voters.

    So please do not think that Walker truly represents populist ideas. He is a uber-conservative wolf in populist clothing.

    Back to the issue: The protests are happening in response to the sneaky tactics and back door machinations in trying to break the unions. Not because the unions are unwilling to negotiate.

    If you like your weekends, your 8-hour day, your workplace safety, and the fact your 10-year old goes to school instead of a job; thank the workers of Wisconsin who died for those rights. (Bay View Massacre, May 5, 1886.)

    It might be a 100+ years later, but it’s obvious that workers are still in danger of losing basic rights. Let’s remember that many private sector workers are in worse positions BECAUSE Regan decimated the unions in the early ’80s. If Walker wins this battle, it will be the death knell of not just organized labor, but all struggles for workers’ rights.

    Walker and his cronies are using the time-tested strategy of “divide and conquer”. Talk radio is filled with local hosts bellowing about lazy teachers, incompetent state workers, and criminal employees. They are ginning up the mobs with a “fire them all” mantra. It’s sad to see that the home of LaFollette, Proxmire, and Victor Berger is reverting to the mentality of the most bastard son of Wisconsin, Joe McCarty.

    And with apologies to others…the phrase heard around Milwaukee is the “Alabama of the North”.

    • Layne says:

      Hmmm. So to follow that turn of thought:
      It’s NOT low-down dirty politics at it’s worst to flee the capital rather than voting on an issue that you disagree with but have no chance of winning.

      It’s also NOT low-down dirty politics at it’s worst to abandon your job and the kids that are supposed to mean so much, in order to go to the capital and angrily protest.

      Nothing this Governor might do anyway is truly the will of the people because the only people that voted him in are faceless wealthy aristocrats, stupid backwards country bumpkins and tea-party crackpots.

      And since the “right” to collective bargaining was given it can now never be taken away.

      Truly, no union has ever been suspected of sneaky tactics and back door machinations.

      Not a lot of really tough rhetorical chops to that original statement. And furthermore, you’re implying that the unions only wanted to negotiate but no one can really say if they planned to ask for LESS public money at a time when their state deficit is in the billions. Any idea what the union proposals were pre-protest?

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s also NOT low-down dirty politics at it’s worst to abandon your job and the kids that are supposed to mean so much, in order to go to the capital and angrily protest.

        Believe it or not, leaving work to protest is taking a serious risk, and is rarely if ever done en masse for petty political maneuvering. What does the Governor stand to lose or gain from this? What has he done that earns him more of benefit of the doubt than the teachers?

        And how often in this country has there been an elected representative where even half what they do can be described as the “will of the people”, let alone every single incident? Nobody used that phrase to describe the patriot act, or the bailouts, even though both were done by elected officials. Why is it used so often here, where the people are actually standing around objecting?

      • ChristinaWard says:

        Sigh, You’re turning all statements into a semantical parse-fest.

        1. Leaving Madison. Not my personal first choice, but if you look at Wisconsin history, it’s what happens. About three years ago a bunch of republicans did the same thing. Sometimes knowing the particulars of local history can help understand the decisions made.

        2. If you look at the demographic breakdown of how the vote went; yes. Wealthier, more educated counties and poorer, rural and less-educated counties. You’re the one calling them names. And, yes, publicly some are coming forward to regret their vote.

        3. Comparing dirty tricks does not absolve nor explain anything. The issue is the repeal of the whole of collective bargaining under the guise of a budget repair bill. That’s it.

        4. And the unions, pre-Walker in a democratically held house and governership were willing to concede some pension and health care benefits; they were arguing about amounts. Walker came in and said: Take this or get out. And then he put through this bill.

        I’m not looking to out “rhetorical” anyone. I’m trying to make clear what’s at stake here and why so many Wisconsinite are fighting. If you disagree, fine. But lets disagree on the core issue and not on the spin.

  54. Wally Ballou says:

    The spelling could have been correct.

    Mr. Gowey might be suggesting that Governor Walker is following in the footsteps of Hilter, Bimmler, and Ron Vibbentrop.

  55. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand state’s that think they can illegalize collective bargaining. Can someone explain to me why a union can’t play hardball and strike? Are Wisconsin and Indiana (2 states I know of who are castrating bargaining for teachers) going to call in Pinkerton’s if unions strike? There are few unions that can create as many problems as a teachers union. If Tea Party and far-right fuck-offs want to play hardball, teachers unions can destroy them. Schools shut down, kids go home, parents have to take time off their work, etc.. I don’t see how you could call teachers (and, presumably, faculty) non-critical services and can understand even less the statement that they have fixed hours. It’s painfully ignorant. I digress. Don’t discount striking. It’ll bring changes damn fast and nastily, if teachers really want to fight for them. TBH, I think lots of teachers are perfectly willing to settle without escalating the conflicts to striking.

    Our children are our future. I won’t claim that money creates a better education. It doesn’t, by itself, but education can’t happen with shitty teachers and schools. Conservatives in America seem to think that slashing and burning public education is going to make running things easier. A misguided approach. Education is preventative treatment for poverty and crime. Welfare and police cost a lot more than schools and teachers.

    Not that it’s really about the budget. I’ve been convinced for years that conservatives are waging a war on the average person’s ability to gain knowledge and intelligence. No hard evidence, just the dark age education reform conservatives pass and Faux News continued existence.

  56. Jonathan Badger says:

    The issue isn’t that cuts need to be made. Both AFSCME and WEAC are open to meeting with the governor to work out a mutually beneficial solution which would include necessary cuts while preserving negotiatary rights. Walker doesn’t want to do this. He is trying to break the unions, not to save any money, but because he’s a Republican and knows that the unions are strongholds of Democratic support. He’s a petty little political hack.

  57. alllie says:

    Finally people are waking up! The Republican attack on the freedom to collectively bargain has hit a nerve.

  58. Hamm says:

    Comparing this to Tahrir is insulting to the Egyptians that risked all for freedom.

    The U.S. Public sector is over paid when all benefits and vacation are added in and bears political weight above their numbers. They are highly influential in local politics and have the union money to back whomever will keep the gravy train rolling. Education reform has stalled primarily due to union resistance (yes, as a former teacher I recognize there are other contributing factors). I’m currently a public employee and feel that I’m overpaid for what I do.

    • pauldavis says:

      The U.S. Public sector is over paid when all benefits and vacation are added in

      Got numbers to prove this? Every study I’ve seen (and its quite a few) indicates that public employee total compensation is lower than private employees doing equivalent work. The difference that appears to make this sustainable (other than unemployment rates) is the enhanced job security. There are dozens of studies that show this, across the country, in many different employment niches. Its possible that there are a few domains (purely manual labor springs to mind) where this might not hold true.

      I’m currently a public employee and feel that I’m overpaid for what I do.

      I’ve been a public and private employee. I felt I was overpaid in all the jobs I had after I was 24, and underpaid in the jobs I had before that. Employee perception of their worth to the employer versus their actual compensation is quite an interesting workplace psychology research area. I don’t think there is much of a correlation with the public/private divide, although I suspect that people who have gone back and forth across the divide are likely to have a different perspective on it than those who haven’t.

  59. osmo says:

    Why is it always like this when people fight for both rights and livelyhood? Some arsle comes in talking about how much worse it is for some other group. At some point we are going to have to go to Burma for anyone to have the right to say or want anything better without being slapped down with the words of “well you/they have it better than X”.

    Also why did unions work EVERYWHERE ELSE? I pay fuck all for pension benefits. I have four weeks payed vacation. I have wellfare benefits if fired. If Im hurt during work in any way I get a huge cash compensation. My paycheck as a labourer and forklift operator in Sweden is HIGHER than the paycheck for a wisconsin teacher and thats with higher taxes. And thats not a high wage either. AND Sweden is doing very well economicly. The reason why: unions. WOrkers associations. Worker Movement.
    Sure now that society is turning away from industrialisation and towards a service industry its different. But unions still work.

    And of course we want more. We want an egaliterian society (depending on what union your part of, in the US most unions are kinda … wishy-washy since you guys clamped down on them hard during the 20th century but still)

    Say what you want about the political situation in Wisconsin. But until you’ve tried it, don’t knock the unions.

  60. Wally Ballou says:

    It’s easy to go to any sizable protest, cherry pick the most obnoxious/incoherent individuals, and quote them as if illustrative of the group as a whole.

    That was pretty much the modus operandi of the editors here at BB while the tea party demonstrations were going full blast.

    Sauce for the goose, as the old saying goes. It’s not hard to find video on the web today of Wisconsin teachers who you wouldn’t want teaching -your- kids.

  61. Practical Archivist says:

    I realize I’m coming late to this party, but since I’m (1) here in Madison and (2) my day job is as an archivist for the state historical society — I want to share a few things.

    First of all, none of my coworkers are unwilling to pay into their pension. They are even willing to pay more for health coverage. No one WANTS to, believe me. But we can see the shakiness of the global economy, the national economy, and naturally our state economy. We are very happy and grateful to have our jobs and want to keep them. If these cuts are truly in exchange for no layoffs and no more unpaid furlough days…? I see support for that. Obviously, I can’t speak for every state worker. I can only share what I’ve picked up from my own workplace.

    But here’s the catch — it doesn’t matter if state employees are ready and willing to pay in, because there *is* no negotiating table!

    There is only Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” which was introduced last Friday, and which he is hellbent on passing ASAP.

    Collective bargaining has kept the peace for 50 years here in Wisconsin. Take that away without the dignity of a vote? Not without a fight.

    It’s also important to me that you know this bill includes justification for firing any state worker who has more than three “unauthorized absences.” It’s unclear who is allowed to decide what is and what is not authorized. Under the old state system, it would be my supervisor. Plain and simple.

    Under Walker? Who knows.

    Probably hizzoner, but perhaps Sister Kleefisch will be put in charge of that. For those of you who don’t know, our Lt. Gov’s most memorable quote goes a little something like this: “If we let boys marry boys, what’s next? Boys marrying dogs? Tables?”

    One last thing I want to say before I shut up already…

    *BEFORE ELECTION DAY* Scott Walker sent a “cease and desist” letter to my union insisting that they stop negotiating our contract which covers 2009-2011. See Milwaukee JS story here. I can pull out a copy of Walker’s November letter to my union if anyone wants to see it. Best way is to ping me via Twitter -> @sally_j Please be patient if it takes me a while. I’m kinda busy.

  62. Rayonic says:

    Could one of the Republican senators temporarily switch to the Democratic party? Don’t know how fast or easy that is, but it’d give them their minimum 1 Democratic senator vote.

    He could even vote the same way as before.

  63. Wally Ballou says:

    you are lucky to make $25000 (if you can get a teaching job with 100x applying) for what amounts to an 80hr a week job (teaching+5 preps+grading+coaching, etc)

    Sounds like a pretty sucky job to generate 100 applicants for every opening.

    What’s the turnover in Wisconsin teaching – how many of them leave every year for better paying jobs in other school systems or in the private sector?

    • unclemike says:

      To be fair, Wally, most of those “100+” applicants decided to become teachers years ago, when things were a wee bit better. Now that jobs are more scarce, of course more people are going to be applying for the few that become available.

      What you all (non-teachers) seem to mis-understand is that we’re not complaining about our jobs or pay. We are *defending* our jobs and our pay. A teacher usually won’t start a conversation with, “Look, my salary is $X and my hours are Y, isn’t that unfair?” But they just might respond with that to somebody who says, “You teachers with your 3 months off and your huge salaries and benefits package…”

      For the record, I teach in CA, been doing so for 20 years, and I’m at the top of my pay scale at a fairly well-to-do Orange County district (meaning I get no more raises for the rest of my life, other than COLA or longevity). I get $73K. And I get to contribute some of that salary back into my health benefits and my retirement.

      Do some get paid more? Sure, if they teach extra classes or have an additional Master’s Degree, or teach summer school, which is why the “average” salary is always a little skewed in the upwards direction.

      Again, not complaining. But defending? You betcha.

  64. mick travis says:

    Comparing this to events in Egypt is really insulting to Egyptians who faced violence and death to march and had real reason to be in a constant state of fear. The Governor of Wisconsin was just elected in free and fair elections – Egypt was run by an unelected dictator who tortured people.

    Why not just start the damn post out comparing the Governor to Hitler and get it over with?

  65. Alan says:

    Welcome to Texas.

  66. Practical Archivist says:

    P.S. This is my mostest favoritist photo from the past week: WISCO CAPITOL THUNDERDOME!

  67. Baldhead says:

    We can’t comepletely ignore benfits, though. Remember that there’s sectors where starting pay is less than $25k/ year with no benefits at all. However, what bugs me the most is this Governor apparently doing what his party wants to do on a national scale: damage benficial programs that cost comparatively little while beefing up other programs with no long term or wide reaching benefits that tend to cost more. I doubt there’s any place in the US where education spending is crippling the state economies, or where teachers would be considered to be paid “too much” (well indiviual teachers perhaps- we all knew at least one who was useless as a teacher) The teachers may not need more, but nobody benefits from giving them less.

  68. Layne says:

    True, but it’s their yard, so they make the rules. And I realize that the views on this site tend to skew one way, but I enjoy what they provide for free and feel they’re insightful and sensible.

    Maybe it’s because they ARE so intelligent that it’s disappointing to see these flashes of partisanship. When I see the current POTUS acting like this – http://reason.com/blog/2011/02/18/is-this-how-a-president-should
    I can’t imagine they’d be so benevolent were it a Republican president abusing the office to quash a state-issue. Even moreso when this administration continues to disappoint regarding the wars, freedom of speech, drug policy, and issues of personal liberty in general.

    • Wally Ballou says:

      I get more or less the same amount of pushback for my posts here as I do for the posts I make on Free Republic, so I figure I am doing something right.

  69. alllie says:

    What you are not considering is fixed voting machines.

    Wisconsin gave Obama 56.2% in 2008, closely matching his Oregon share (56.7%). But the popular progressive Sen. Russ Finegold lost by 5% in a traditionally progressive state. He trailed the final RV poll by 3% (within the 4% pre-election poll margin of error). How does one explain the 5% loss and Wyden’s 20% win in Oregon? Was it because Wyden was a popular incumbent? So was Finegold. Or was it due to unverifiable touch screens (DRE) and/or the central tabulators that miscounted the optiscan ballots? http://richardcharnin.com/2010SenateMidtermsPostElection.htm

  70. BostonMan says:

    “to stand up for their rights ”
    Freedom of speech is a right. The ability to collectively bargain with an employer is not. In my private sector job, I alone and my own merits factor into my compensation package. At least, on my side of the employer/employee equation. The last thing I would ever want is for my salary to be determined by a collective. No thanks. If I want to focus on growth and maximizing income, I would rather do it in an environment that allows an individual to do so; un-encumbered by what someone else agreed to.

    As for teachers not making enough, I’m sorry, but they knew what they were getting into when they started. When I was young and considering different career paths, income was a factor. That’s why I went into Computer Science and made out very well.

    There’s no way in hell I’d take a low paying K-12 teaching job; especially given the pay. So if someone does in fact choose to deliberately enter into that field, they made their choice.

  71. Anonymous says:

    As for teachers not making enough, I’m sorry, but they knew what they were getting into when they started.

    You’re actually saying this in a conversation about the government altering the deal (pray they don’t alter it any further)? Fine, promote a system where only the least qualified are willing to become teachers, and see where you end up in the long run.

  72. ChristinaWard says:

    Update from Badgerland.

    For context, Gov. Walker appointed the head of the State Patrol, who happens to be the father of Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald and his brother Assembly Majority Leader Fitzgerald. (All Republicans.)

    Walker sends out State Patrol to arrest Democratic Senators

    Published February 17, 2011 – BizTimes Daily

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued an order this morning for the State Patrol to round up any Democratic State Senators they can find and bring them back to the Capitol in Madison.
    Fourteen Democratic Senators fled to Rockford, Ill., Thursday. Their whereabouts this morning are not yet known.
    Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said this morning he believes Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) is home. If State Patrol officers find Miller, he will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol, Fitzgerald said.
    Walker only needs one Democratic Senator to be found in the state. That Senator would be taken back to the Capitol and forced to vote on Walker’s budget repair bill, which would revoke the collective bargaining rights of 175,000 public employees in the state.
    More coverage will follow in Friday’s BizTimes Daily bulletin around noon.

  73. Astin says:

    So these teachers, who do everything “for the kids” took sick days. 40% of the teachers took sick days and forced schools to close down. Sick days the taxpayers pay for. School closures parents weren’t expecting. Closures that cost the kids a day of school.

    Good on ya teach.

    • ultranaut says:

      Wow, I never thought of it like that. Clearly these teachers don’t give a shit about education!

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve lived in more than one place and every time teachers have asked for something, even if it was just a promised salary increase to match promotion, there’s been a public campaign against them. And that campaign always includes people saying that if they do stand up for themselves, it’ll be at the expense of the students, so they never should. Good on you for representing!

      Of course, having qualified people avoid teaching because promised benefits don’t need to be delivered, and raises are threatened every time more conservative politicians get in, is wonderful for students. It teaches them far more important lessons than classes do.

  74. ChristinaWard says:

    And now Walker is fighting this battle on new fronts. Are you familiar with Title I monies from the Feds? (Link to a pretty decent explanation: http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/11105.aspx)

    Walker just announced that he was considering Refusing federal Title One funding for Wisconsin. (MKE J/S article that discuss this and the proposed secession of UW Madison from the UW system. http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/116339939.html).

    Refusing Title One funds would most adversely affect urban areas like Milwaukee & Madison. Which are the areas that supported his opponent in the November elections.

    • Wally Ballou says:

      So an elected official is pursuing a policy that adversely effects those who by and large did not vote for him?

      Must be a first.

      • Anonymous says:

        Corruption and abuse of power are very old traditions, but not venerable ones.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Considerijmng how low voter turnout is, and how many citizens are too young or ill to vote, I think that only a small minority odf the total population IN FACT actually voted for this guy, and NOW he’s attacking the majority using the Government to do so.

        This guy only got 52% vs the other’s 48%, but only of voters who actually bothered to vote.
        And to attack is not to govern.

        That’s the way to start civil wards.

  75. maura89 says:

    A good quote from the Huffington Post (article can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/16/wisconsin-governor-scott-walker-backlash-public-workers_n_823901.html?ref=fb&src=sp )
    “But some questioned whether his proposal is really financially necessary. The governor himself claims that Wisconsin can save $165 million by the end of next June simply by restructuring existing debt. Additionally, the share of corporate tax revenue funding the state government has fallen by half since 1981 and, according to Wisconsin Department of Revenue, two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes.”

  76. Timmers says:

    This is a democracy. If you can’t win a vote, that doesn’t mean you take the ball and leave the field until the other side — a majority — gives you what you want.

    Anyway, this won’t end well for the Dems, in so many ways. Just think of the GOP political ads being cut right now.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is Not a democracy,it’s a representational democracy.

      Walker won with 52%; the winning votes coming from rural and wealthy suburban districts. In urban areas,the democrat won. Mind you, this is also the election that swept out Russ Feingold. This is more an effect of the United decision that allowed unfettered flows of conservative, business, and special interest monies into the election process. So is this what the people of Wisco wanted? Probably not. But it sure is what the Republican money-ed interests want.

      This is a trial balloon. As Wisco goes, so will the rest of the nation.

      • Karmacoma says:

        Are you serious? Because someone that isn’t like you voted for someone else, the majority-elected candidate isn’t valid in your eyes?

        It was a fair election, bottom line. Just because the election didn’t go your way you do not give you license to act like it doesn’t count. If you would like a different result, then try convincing some of the several million fellow Sconnies who didn’t vote in 2010 to consider voting next time they get the chance to.

    • Neon Tooth says:

      “This is a democracy”

      Thanks for the unintentional laughs.

  77. DoctressJulia says:

    I was there!

  78. Ureachmenow says:

    The Wisconsin Legislature enacted the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) law in 1993. The QEO law – and the revenue controls that restrict the amount of money school districts can raise – were enacted in order to limit school spending. Those measures were combined with a commitment that the state would provide two-thirds of the costs of schools on a statewide average (this figure varies by community).

    Under the QEO, school boards have the option of unilaterally limiting pay and benefits for K-12 teachers so long as the combined increase is 3.8%.

    As rising health insurance costs have eaten up most of the 3.8% total compensation target, teacher salaries in Wisconsin have stagnated and even declined. As a result, Wisconsin teacher salaries fell 6.8% from 1997-98 to 2007-08, when adjusted for inflation. For 2007-08, Wisconsin’s teacher salaries ranked 21th in the nation at $49,051, down from 20th the year before, and below the national average of $52,308.

    TEACHERS HAVE BEEN TAKING PAY CUTS FOR YEARS and have been the only sector legally mandated to fall nearly 1% a year overall income wise ( and during some of the “boom” years I might add.

    As for the myth that teachers only work 9 months being incessantly elaborated on. Teachers get paid for 8 hr days. They get few days of prep or planning time without kids. One day to get ready for each year and maybe a few staff development days through the year. They have to break down their rooms for the summer so custodians can do their thing. All the rest is face to face instruction time w the kids, 180 days of the year.
    Now you can count that as 9 months if you are looking to short change what it really takes to do the job and what teachers really do to do the job.
    Teachers typically come in 2 weeks before the job starts to put their rooms together, meet on committees, create new policies to make the school safer and instruction more effective. They usually stay 2 weeks after schools out putting things as custodian or facility managers request for improvements or cleaning and close the year our on policies that worked vs needing improvements, with action points for the next school year. For those doing the math we’re at 10 consecutive months of work.
    During the year teachers get paid for an 8 hr day and work 10-12 hours during the week and then put in another 10-15 hrs on weekends. – let’s average it to a 60 hr work week. I won’t go into what teachers do in non face to face time w kids as it ranges from calling parents to getting needed supplies to grading to writing letters of recommendation to tutoring and much much more.
    THEN teachers are required to (varies by st

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