Governors Declare War on Nurses and Teachers

By Bill Press

Tribune Media Services

Last week, it was Cairo. This week, it’s Madison, Wis.

Last week, it was Hosni Mubarak. This week, it’s Scott Walker.

Two days in a row this week, more than 15,000 people gathered in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol building. The crowds in the streets of Madison weren’t as big as those in Tahrir Square, but they turned out for the same reason: to fight for their freedom and to fight against a dictator. In this case, the freedom of public employees to exercise their constitutional rights, including the right to join a union and enter into collective bargaining — constitutional rights which newly-elected Governor Scott Walker wants to take away.

Under the guise of solving Wisconsin’s budget problems, Walker has declared war on public-sector unions. He sponsored legislation that would cut the salaries of state and local public employees, slash their benefits, prohibit them from bargaining for anything but wages, force a yearly vote of union members, and allow management to fire workers who try to form a union. He’s also threatened to call out the National Guard to take the jobs of any employees who refuse to comply with his new rules.

There’s only one thing wrong with Walker’s argument: Wisconsin, in fact, is in relatively good financial shape. As reported by the Madison Capital Times, it has lower unemployment than most states, its economy is booming, businesses are hiring, and it’ll end the year with a $121.4 million surplus. Not only that, its public pension plan, unlike other states, is fully funded. The only fiscal problem Wisconsin faces is how to pay for $140 million in tax breaks for corporations that Walker himself pushed through the Republican-controlled legislature in January.

Walker’s not trying to solve a fiscal crisis, in other words, because there is none. Instead, he’s making a political statement. He’s trying to destroy unions, especially public-sector unions. And he’s not the only one. Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, and Rick Scott of Florida are trying to do the same thing, using the same phony argument.

The only way we can fix our budget problems, they insist, is to cut the salaries and benefits of public employees. Baloney!

First of all, who are we talking about? Your friends, your neighbors, and the people we all depend on for community services. Police and firefighters, teachers and nurses, sanitation workers, home health care providers, park rangers, bus drivers, snowplow operators and highway repair crews. The pillars of civil society. None of whom are getting rich at taxpayer expense.

In fact, the average member of AFSCME, our largest public-sector union, makes less than $45,000 a year and retires after a career in public service with a whopping pension of $19,000 per year. Yes, there are some people today making obscene salaries and bonuses and not paying their fair share of taxes, but they’re not public employees. And cutting the wages and benefits of public employees and denying them the right to organize is not going to solve any state’s real or manufactured fiscal problems.

Not surprisingly, the war against working men and women is being waged, not only at the state level, but also in Congress, led by House Speaker John Boehner. After the midterm elections, when Boehner crowed that “jobs” was going to be the Republicans’ number one priority, we didn’t realize he meant destroying jobs, not creating them.

Yet that’s exactly what Boehner’s doing. His plan to slash $61 billion from this year’s budget will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, from air traffic controllers to meat inspectors to border guards. And when asked about the job loss, Boehner simply shrugged: “Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.”

Boehner’s wrong on the facts. According to PolitiFact, the actual number of new federal jobs created in 2009 and 2010 is 58,000. But his cynical “So be it” does sum up the Republican Party’s attitude about American workers.

As a result of their policies, millions of Americans will lose their jobs, lose their health care, and maybe even lose their homes. And all Republicans can say is: Too bad. Stuff happens. So be it. Is it too early for voters’ remorse?

© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

16 Responses to Governors Declare War on Nurses and Teachers

  1. Mr. Press, The showdown in Wisconsin is not about money for the government EMPLOYEES, instead it’s about money for the government UNIONS. Governor Walker’s bill would give government workers the right to quit their union and keep their jobs, require unions to demonstrate their support through annual secret-ballot votes, and stop state and local governments from collecting union dues through their payroll systems. The unions are afraid of losing the tiniest bit of power – period – and that’s what has created this uproar.

    For another day, the teachers in Madison have shut down schools again so that they can protest their compensation instead of doing what they’re paid to do which is educate their students. And all because they won’t pay 12.6 percent of their health insurance premiums and contribute 5.8 percent to their pensions. Really???

    As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote: “All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. … The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.” Isn’t it amazing the President Roosevelt could figure this out but President Obama can’t – or won’t.

    Statistically, the prublic sector work makes 50% more and produces half as much as his/her private sector counterpart. I don’t think I’m the only American that sees that this has to end. And here’s to hoping that the beginning of the end happens in Wisconsin.

  2. Typical right wing talking points. I pity the future of the American education system with the bullying tactics of this republican agenda. By the people? Try by the corporations which run this country now.

  3. Love your show Bill! Where are the tea baggers and their support for the working class now? Where is “Joe the Plumber” and “Joe six-pack”? Sarah are you listening to those in Madison because they are those very people that you pretended to defend! The tea baggers also called Presidant Obama a communist for “redistributing the wealth” well what do you call giving $140 million in tax breaks to the rich at the expense of salaries and benefits of public workers?
    Isn’t this to redistribution of wealth? Or highway robbery!

    Keep up the good work!
    Trish Hughes
    Teacher in South Carolina-help!

  4. Hi Bill – I’m a long time listener who wakes up at 3am to get my daily jolt of the real truth. I stand with the public employees who deserve our unflinching support. I taught school for many years and know the dedication it takes. Thanks for your show, your insights, and your courageous stand on the progressive isssues. Keep up the good work. We need you. Bev in LA

  5. “I don’t care come rain or shine; just as long as I get MINE.”

    Stay at it, Union Brethren. In no time at all, you will have eliminated all of your jobs, and will have plenty of time to goose-step into the unemployment line. You can show us taxpayers what you tnink about us wanting to hold on to what we have worked for instead of give it to YOU.

  6. For ALL yous people out there enjoying the simple things in life,like 40 hour workweeks,weekends off, paid vacations, free healthcare,childcare,and countless other things too numerous to mention, You ALL work for me.These things you take for granted were all fought and paid for by the UNION and members of the Union.Negotiated and paid for in sweat and blood.
    You sons o bitches all work for me!
    AFL-CIO Forever

  7. I have no love for these teachers, but this is not about them. this is a direct attack against working families in the US.
    The scumbag governor of Ohio just drew first blood. It is now time for all union workers of Ohio to declare war. You must fight and resist at every turn. No cooperation and you must unite and take the whole state on strike. These monsters are your enemy. This is not about money. This is about human rights and going back to slavery.

    Warning: The DIABOLD VOTING MACHINES are RIGGED 100%. YOU MUST HAND COUNT.

  8. John Kasich is a true anomoly. His Mother and Father were both Hard Working Union Organizers and supporters till their horrific death in a car crash.What happened to Little Johnny?? Pro Corporation and Anti Human!
    If Money is Speech and Corporations are People where do me and Johnny fit in?

  9. The party is OVER for the unions. We taxpayers are getting borrowed into oblivion to pay the current pension liabilities. The taxpayers are waking up to the fact that government workers get paid MORE for the same job than private sector. They get more benefits, work fewer hours, retire earlier, and get fat pensions and free health care for life.

    I’ve been working my a__ off all my life and I don’t have any guarantees. I have to WORK for what I have, and I have to plan to SAVE for my OWN future. I’m sick of paying for everyone else.

    Get your hand out of my pocket. Get to work. Stay at work. Save your own money. Fund your own retirement.

    GRRRRRRRRRRRR.

  10. Barney, go sit in the corner and color.Theres 2 kinds of Americans
    Union Members and those who wish they were Union Members.Most Wage Slaves are usually Anti Union, so instead of complaining to their employers they complain to anyone else who’ll listen.

  11. Think about it Barney,the first strike in the US was in 1615.So whether you know it or not you have a History of Labor Struggles as an American.These Struggles are the reason you are not working in a Dungeon in ice water up to your knees, 18 hours per day for crumbs of bread.
    Think About It
    Retirement? Your Retirement would have been getting shot in the head and kicked in a hole.
    The struggles continue,but people like you are the reason things are going backwards. How do you think Scott Walker would’ve treated you?

  12. Milosia:

    You have a point, but only to a point.

    Yes, the unions served an important purpose for a very long time. But their power outgrew their usefulness. They got on a roll, they realized that they had big power, and they went for the brass ring.

    My brother in law is a union electrician. The positive things I see his union doing include:

    – providing an employment mechanism (as he calls it “the list”) – so employers can call the union and request someone with specific skills
    – providing a mechanism for training and certification
    – providing a retirement planning mechanism – annuities, etc.
    – providing a mechanism for identifying and fixing safety related issues, horrific work conditions, etc.

    Those are all good.

    But when the unions over-reach, the cause a lot of harm.

    Work rules have their place (I should not be fitting gas pipes at a work site) but they often are out of control (I can’t carry a box of laser printer paper up the stairs??? puh-leeze…).

    Excessive hourly wage rates and prevailing wage rules put people out of work and cause projects to never be done. They also cause companies to move off shore and outsource.

    Excessive retirement packages saddle the currently working people – both current union members and taxpayers – with a huge burden. Paying someone 80% of their salary for 0% of their work for 20… 30… 40 years is simply unsustainable. Governments are borrowing long term money to pay current pension liabilities. You simply can’t have more people retired at 80% than you have working.

    IT IS SIMPLY UNSUSTAINABLE. In the private sector, long term employees lost their entire retirements. Look at the many pilots that had their entire nest eggs simply erased. There is a lot of blame to go around for that, not just the unions, but the situation is the same – unfunded pension liabilities that just can’t be satisfied.

    YOU CAN’T CONTINUE TO BORROW 30 YEAR MONEY TO BUY A LOAF OF BREAD EVERY DAY. You just can’t.

    I understand that the union people are very upset… they’ve had a nice deal for a long time. But it’s unfair and it’s unsustainable. So something has to change.

    Regarding the history of organized labor – it took a bunch of people with ‘stones’ to get organized. They accomplished a lot. And then it got out of control. And now it’s going to take someone with ‘stones’ to throttle it back.

    The right answer is somewhere in the middle.

  13. Let’s say you put an addition on your house. You pay a local carpenter $10,000 for his labor, and he retires as soon as your project is done. Are you willing to pay that guy $8,000 per year, every year, for the next 25 years?

    How are YOU going to do that? You’re not. That would make no sense at all. THIS… is the same argument, but on a huge scale.

  14. Bad example… try this instead.

    You’ve had a guy mowing your lawn for the past 20 year. 20 years ago you paid him $10 a week.

    10 years ago you were paying him $25 a week.

    Last year you paid him $50/week. All of these were the ‘going rate’ at the time.

    He retired last fall.

    This spring he shows up at your door every week, with his hand out, expecting you to plunk $40 in his hand. Every week. For the next 25 years. You are now mowing your lawn yourself, since you can’t afford to hire anyone else – you’ve only got $10/week left, and you’re spending that on gas for your own lawn mower.

    Multiply that scenario by 50 million or so.

    Ouch.

  15. As scenarios go, Barney, lets say you hire an Electrician to work in your basement.While he’s working he also takes out insurance on your house.Then,He burns it to the ground and collects the insurance,takes the money and retires.That is what the Corporations and Wall St. have done for you.Taken everything and left you a hole in the ground.
    The important part about Unions is the fact that you have a seat at the bargaining table. All of your examples were good faith bargaining.
    If the Co. bargains to have a man carry paper up the stairs,then, thats the deal. It was agreed by both sides.When one side breaks the contract whats next?

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