Wisconsin Green Party: Statement on public workers

This statement comes via onthewilderside, via the South Carolina Green Party, and is posted at The Wisconsin Green Party website:

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Thu, 02/17/2011 – 10:30pm

The Wisconsin Green Party salutes the state’s public workers, and stands in solidarity with their fight to retain full collective bargaining rights with their employers.

The budget crisis facing the state was not brought on by public workers, and if there is to be a recovery, workers, public and private, must be the primary beneficiaries.

Scott Walker’s attempt to “repair the budget” on the backs of public workers is not about money, it’s about power. State workers earn less than their counterparts in the private sector, and often go years without a wage increase. Walker wants to permanently take away the ability of these workers to have a say in their health insurance and pensions.

While Walker attempts to divide workers into “haves” and “have-nots,” he continually pleads the case for the real “haves.” At a time when profit margins at the S&P 500 companies are at an all-time high, taxes for these corporations are approaching all-time lows.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Walker’s “laser focus on jobs, jobs, jobs” is really about increasing the wealth of his financial backers. His pledge to create 250,000 jobs in the next four years leaves out an important detail: each one of these jobs will be at minimum wage—at least until he can end the minimum wage.

Of course, state workers have borne the brunt of economic crises before. Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle came into office eight years ago promising to cut 10,000 state jobs in his first term. Walker’s just building on that legacy.

We urge legislators to turn back on this course of attacking public workers. Hosni Mubarak thought he could ride out the outcry, but the sleeping giant, once awakened, proved unbeatable.

Mike McCallister, 5th Congressional District Representative to the WIGP Coordinating Council

26 thoughts on “Wisconsin Green Party: Statement on public workers

  1. Kimberly Wilder Post author

    I love this blurb from the statement above. I feel like it’s the kind of zinger that could use a drum roll after it:

    quote:

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that Walker’s “laser focus on jobs, jobs, jobs” is really about increasing the wealth of his financial backers. His pledge to create 250,000 jobs in the next four years leaves out an important detail: each one of these jobs will be at minimum wage—at least until he can end the minimum wage.

    end quote

  2. paulie

    The Wisconsin Green Party salutes the state’s public workers, and stands in solidarity with their fight to retain full collective bargaining rights with their employers.

    Seems like a conflict of interest to me.

  3. paulie

    State workers earn less than their counterparts in the private sector

    If that is the case in Wisconsin, it’s not like most states. Given that Wisconsin is a “progressive” state, I doubt that it is.

  4. paulie

    Also, if that was true, it must be that they would be better off without a union. After all, private industry is maybe 6% union, and state employees are universally or almost universally unionized.

  5. paulie

    His pledge to create 250,000 jobs in the next four years leaves out an important detail: each one of these jobs will be at minimum wage—at least until he can end the minimum wage.

    A) Each one? Seriously? How’s that possible?

    B) Until he can end the minimum wage? Because a lot of people are willing to work for less? Please explain. And if there are a lot of people willing to work for less than minimum wage, why is it better to force them to be unemployed?

  6. Kimberly Wilder

    Paulie…

    Your comments seem more like guesses than facts.

    You are usually so progressive, I am surprised to hear your lack of understanding of the importance of this situation.

    It is not about this one set of workers, or even just “public segment” workers. It is about a Governor suddenly deciding that instead of fighting a fair battle about budgets and salaries, he will try to pull the rug out from under the process and take away established rights and processes.

    Anyway, there are some important facts at this post:

    12 Things You Need to Know About the Uprising in Wisconsin

    http://newstrust.net/stories/5254599/toolbar?ref=sp

    Here is an excerpt, which I think addresses some of your faulty reasoning above:

    quote:

    8. Public sector workers have, on average, more experience and higher levels of education than their counterparts in the private sector (they are twice as likely to have a college degree).

    9. When you adjust for those factors, they make, on average, 4 percent less than their private-sector counterparts.

    end quote

  7. Kimberly Wilder

    My personal thoughts on government unions:

    I do see some strategic dilemmas/structure problems in having government workers unionized.

    But, ultimately, it would be unfair to have someone who was a janitor working for the government to have less rights than other workers. While some people at the top may abuse the situation, it seems clear that government workers need the right to unionize.

    I would say that the way to address the abuse is to address the abuse. (ie: not address the abuse by indiscriminately punishing and restricting, so that the people on the bottom of the totem poll lose.)

    So, I would say that government employees should be able to unionize. But, that there should be extra care given to stop abuse and conflicts of interest. Such as, saying that family members of elected officials can in no way work for the government. Or, that if someone is in a public employee union, they cannot be paid by a political campaign.

    Also…

    I think another problem of public worker unions, is that it often gets down to the “closed door” with elected officials versus this set of people who serve the public (but, who also live in the culture of the government, and have inter-relationships with the elected officials.) I think what may be missing is the element of “stakeholder participation.”

    So, maybe instead of saying that it is not fair for public workers to bargain collectively, with elected officials, in secret, for higher wages that taxpayers must pay…add a taxpayer presence or approval to the bargaining process.

    Perhaps whenever a government negotiates with a union, there should be a requirement to have one representative who is a citizen (and citizen liaison/communicator) invited to the process. And, if it is a job that serves a specific sector (ie: teachers serving students, or administrators serving senior citizens), then a citizen member of the group being served should also be involved in the process.

    So, I do realize that when things get polarized – left vs. right, both answers seem wrong. And, the answers usually serve either the Republicans or the Democrats, conservatives or the paid left.

    What would be useful is new ways. Let’s allow government workers to have collective bargaining. But, let’s envision new ways to do it, where actual citizens are involved. (Instead of pretending that the elected officials are representing what the citizens want, because that assumption is an abstract idea, based on semi-annual elections, and not often played out in reality.)

  8. paulie

    Your comments seem more like guesses than facts.

    What exactly?

    We are asked to believe here

    1) That these heavily unionized employees make less than the overwhelmingly non-unionized employees in private industry but

    2) Their union is doing good by them

    3) Each one of 250,000 jobs will be minimum wage. Each one?

    4) That there are a bunch of people willing to work for less than minimum wage

    and if so

    5) they are better off not having a job.

  9. paulie

    But, ultimately, it would be unfair to have someone who was a janitor working for the government to have less rights than other workers.

    Why should a janitor be working for the government? Any reason why they can’t competitively bid and contract that out? I know that’s just an example, but the same thing applies to many government jobs that don’t need to be government jobs.

  10. paulie

    Public sector workers have, on average, more experience and higher levels of education than their counterparts in the private sector

    They have more experience because they almost never lose or leave their jobs.

    When you adjust for those factors, they make, on average, 4 percent less than their private-sector counterparts.

    Does that take into account pension and benefits?

  11. Kimberly Wilder

    Wow! Paulie!

    I stumbled upon stuff we really disagree on. I hope you think it is cool. It was getting pretty boring agreeing with you all the time!

    😉

    As to your comments at 9 –

    Hmmm…

    I am surprised that you would want governments to contract out services. I would rather have governments directly hire people. That way I can make sure the hiring is fair, and under scrutiny. And, the person can complain easily if they are not treated fairly.

    The other way around – contracted employees – I think is a bigger mess. First of all, how many contracts in government become “no bid”, or “fake bid”? Second of all, finding a janitor company through a contract process means finding an awfully big and sophisticated company. (How many companies have the resources to apply for a government contract? and how many are big enough to fulfill the entire scope of a government contract?) Any contract situation also includes a middle man, instead of a worker who you just pay directly.

    I really don’t see the value in contracting government out work. To me, it just mires things more deeply in the muck of big scale, and in the muck of relationships between government and corporations. The more contractors you have, the more people you have, hiding behind corporate shields, and trying to bribe government officials.

    I would rather ask my town to deal with, say, “5 humble janitors”, than with “one greedy rich man and his corporate shield”, who can hire a stream of workers he can abuse and discard at whim.

    Also, any middle man takes a cut.

  12. paulie

    I stumbled upon stuff we really disagree on. I hope you think it is cool.

    Totally cool. I love disagreement, as long as it’s friendly, not nasty. Vive le differance..

    the person can complain easily if they are not treated fairly.

    Nothing wrong with private sector unionization (other then government involving itself in the negotiation).

    First of all, how many contracts in government become “no bid”, or “fake bid”?

    Way too many. I did say competitive bid.

    Second of all, finding a janitor company through a contract process means finding an awfully big and sophisticated company.

    Not necessarily. I didn’t say the process can’t be split up. It could mean a small business (even one person) say we can promise X amount of work in return for Y amount of money and Z other conditions. If this is a better rate for comparable quality service as someone else, you are hired.

    I would rather ask my town to deal with, say, “5 humble janitors”, than with “one greedy rich man and his corporate shield”, who can hire a stream of workers he can abuse and discard at whim.

    Also, any middle man takes a cut.

    That’s all fine by me. It seems to me that 5 humble janitors could form a cooperative and bid on a contract where they share all the profit, rather than giving it to a middleman. They can even bid for pieces of the job individually and work as self-employed individual contractors.

    And even supposing they work directly for the government, that is a choice they make. There are janitorial positions in the private sector.

  13. Brian

    It is not and never has been about the money. As usual, the corporate media and the commenters in this thread have got the story wrong. While both the existence of a budget deficit and the compensation level of WI public employees is being heavily debated, the actual issue is about the collective bargaining rights granted to public employees. Do they have collective bargaining rights at all? Do they have unlimited collective bargaining rights? Walker’s bill severely limits the collective bargaining rights now enjoyed by public employees. You can debate compensation and deficits all day, but ultimately you are debating an irrelevant point.

    It never has been about the money.

  14. paulie

    When did I say it was about the money? I specifically said that I believe collective bargaining by government employees is a conflict of interest.

    Do they have collective bargaining rights at all?

    My answer is that the answer should be no.

    You can debate compensation and deficits all day, but ultimately you are debating an irrelevant point.

    If that’s what you came away with, I can’t believe you have read the whole thread.

  15. Kimberly Wilder

    So, on the bottom line, I say: “competitive bargaining rights” have been distorted, because the people left in the room are the big power and the medium power (the government and the unions). And, the little people, whose interest is left out, is left out of the table, because they are BOTH unfair.

    So, I think that people should re-invent how unions bargain with government, in a way that allows direct, citizen input. For example, a formula for a commission of citizens and interested parties which must be set up to sit at any union mediation.

  16. Kimberly Wilder

    Paulie –

    (Well, I think my arguing got a little punchy. So, sorry, if I was more cranky than usual with you!)

    Anyway…

    Your arguments don’t make sense to me, because you are jumping ahead to “the idea”.

    So, you are believing that if governments have contracts, they can be let out in small chunks.

    I am saying that money follows money, and things let to grow big just get bigger. So, while it seems nice to say little guys would have a chance at government contracts, because the bids could be small, I am saying that the government would tend to keep them big, to keep the money in the family of the rich and corporations who fund their political campaigns.

    Similar argument to “competitive bidding”. You seem to be saying “we don’t need the accountability of unions collective bargaining to keep government fair and on track, because the bidding process will keep contracts fair and on track.”

    And, I say, in the real world — which is where the destruction of collective bargaining could happen suddenly in Wisconsin — in the real world, government have shown that they can rig bidding constantly. We have seen it with secret and no-bid contracts related to the military. And, it happens constantly when people get insider information on bidding.

    The way the system is now, the government and elected officials, in cahoots with lobbyists and corporations, almost always cheat. You need someone to fight against them. And, for now, that has been the unions.

    I am open to a new set of watchdogs. For instance, a rule that when governments deal with corporations or with unions, there must be a certain citizen commission present.

    But, for now, the way the world is, having public worker unions is one way to make sure the big guys have to fight with medium guys before squashing us entirely.

  17. paulie

    Unions are set up to get the best possible wages and working conditions from their employers. When their employers are the taxpayers, I would agree that their employers should be part of the negotiation. As it stands, they are essentially negotiating with themselves. All the people involved in the negotiation process on “both” sides are government employees, yes?

  18. paulie

    I think my arguing got a little punchy. So, sorry, if I was more cranky than usual with you!

    I haven’t gotten that sense, at least not so far.

    Perhaps you are looking into the future 🙂

  19. Porn Again Christian

    Government Unions take money from their paychecks – which is paid 100% with taxes – to argue for more money, in other words, so that taxes can be raised. Some of this money is automatically deducted from people’s checks on government jobs, even if they don’t want to be part of the union. Even in places where they can “opt out” this is usually very difficult in practice.

    If government unions continue to exist, they should be “opt in” – that is, each employee is by default not in the union unless they request to join – rather than “opt out.”

  20. Brian

    I often don’t read the whole thread. I usually have stuff to do. I usually read the first few comments then post. Call me rash

  21. paulie

    Well, my first post in the thread was that collective bargaining by government employees “seems like a conflict of interest to me”. That was at comment 2.

  22. Kimberly Wilder

    Paulie at 19:

    Well, what I am saying, is that if you have no collective bargaining for public workers, you have even less “sides” and “positions” in the room. All you have in the room is the elected officials, trying to be cheap, trying to do things to pander to their public image and/or to please lobbyists and donors.

    So, I think instead of TAKING AWAY one party in the equation — the public workers union — I think it would be more practical, more grassroots, and more effective to cost reduction to ADD a party the equation — direct participation by ordinary citizens and/or the group that the government program is serving.

    I think that the structure that you propose, and that the Republican Governor is aiming for, is to set it up so that the elected officials are assumed, throughout their tenure, to be representing the will of the people. I think that is a naive assumption. And, one that elected officials hide behind.

    The current, on-the-ground, actual scenario is this: Elected officials get in office by stifling the competition (bad ballot access laws, using incumbency to make it hard to have competition) and by pumping money — often unfairly attained, for example by subtle deals with donors — into elections. Then, once elected, the officials act with impunity to the grassroots, their responsibility to represent, etc., by claiming that the election process validates their use of power.

    I have seen this with people wanting to overturn government decisions, or address the wrongs of public officials, but the public officials being held above ethics or the law, with the reasoning that, “Well the people elected them. And, the (only) accountability needed is the next election.” That does not work when elections are rigged, and when elections are few and far between.

    So, I don’t want the elected Governor having MORE POWER when bargaining with public workers. I want THE PEOPLE to have more power. And, that would mean adding direct citizen input into negotiations.

    Other ways to give better, direct citizen input:

    * Have the public directly elect a “Secretary of Public Workers” who directs, or at least participates in, labor negotiations.

    *Should public workers have the right to collective bargaining. (Which is iffy, because, it may produce an “unconstitutional” result, if it is determined that collective bargaining is a “right”).

    *Have the public directly vote on items such as “Should public workers receive a 10% salary this year.”

  23. paulie

    I think that the structure that you propose, and that the Republican Governor is aiming for, is to set it up so that the elected officials are assumed, throughout their tenure, to be representing the will of the people.

    I think it would be more likely to presume that the politicians would stick together with the bureaucrats, so I’d say the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, Committee for Small Government, etc, could legitimately represent the people in such a negotiation.

    Should public workers have the right to collective bargaining. (Which is iffy, because, it may produce an “unconstitutional” result, if it is determined that collective bargaining is a “right”).

    My point exactly.

    Have the public directly vote on items such as “Should public workers receive a 10% salary this year.”

    I was going to make a suggestion like that. One problem here is that as it currently stands, the government employees unions have massive amounts of money taken straight out of people’s paychecks (without asking them first) and can vastly outspend tiny citizen watchdog groups (National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, Committee for Small Government, etc) so as to influence such elections.

    On the campaigns I know of it is often by 100-1 or more.

    Also, they do little things like give government employees paid time off to campaign (often illegal, but I’ve seen it happen many times) and even give children talking points and propaganda sheets at school to give to their parents.

    If there is a way to hold such elections without undue influence, that would be better than the current system.

  24. Jesse Bush

    Do politicians actually set bureaucrats’ salaries? I think it is more typical that the bureaucracy determines their own salaries, within a budget allocation passed by politicians.

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