“This is the Master-Ring, the One Ring to rule them all.”
The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is in the fight of his life to destroy the Master-Ring of Wisconsin: collective bargaining by public union employees. For it is collective bargaining that empowers public-sector unions over the fiscal order of his state, pure and simple. And he’s rightfully leading the way to get public finances in order to close the upcoming budget gap of $3.6 billion without firing 170,000 public employees. He’s simply asking them to contribute to their retirement and health-care benefits at a level that’s less than that of the private sector.
Scott Walker is keeping his promise to the 5.7 million people of Wisconsin by making sure changes are made to the current collective bargaining agreement favoring the 400,000 public union workers in Wisconsin. His mandate from voters is to get control of such generous agreements made in 2009 by a Democratic legislative branch that worked in partnership with public union leaders. A boiling point has been reached, and it should be no surprise that Walker means business.
Scott Walker fought unions in his nine years in the Wisconsin Assembly, and beginning in 2002 at his latest post as Chief Executive of Milwaukee County. President Obama knows that collective bargaining is what this is really about, as he told a Milwaukee TV station, “some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions.” Obama’s campaign group Organizing for America has set up shop in Madison, and his friend Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO, can be heard leading the assault.
The liberal left will be quick to point out that a recent USA Today / Gallup poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to the proposal in Wisconsin. Yet clearly respondents are confusing worker rights with collective bargaining. “Most people … mistakenly think worker rights come from collective bargaining,” Walker told USA Today Tuesday. “When you alter collective bargaining, it doesn’t alter workers’ rights,” he said. Wisconsin has some of the strongest civil service laws in the country to protect workers’ rights.
Workers’ rights are not the issue. Collective bargaining is the issue, and it’s a separate one. Walker wants to get control over the public union wages, pensions, and health care that have been floated by Wisconsin taxpayers. He wants to have public employee unions recertified by way of a vote each year. And he wants it done by the majority of union members, not just those who cast ballots. What’s unfair about that? And he’s trying to eliminate the government practice of automatically deducting union dues from employee paychecks. I’m sure not all Wisconsin teachers are union supporters. Many of them aren’t thrilled by the $700 to $1,000 per year deducted for union dues.
Walker is simply acting upon a larger trend working its way through America. The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Union Members Survey shows that union membership as a percentage of the U.S. workforce is down to 11.9% in 2010 from 20.1% in 1983, the first year the data was available. Only 6.9% of the private-sector workforce is unionized, compared to 36.2% of public-sector workers. Unionization rates declined in 33 states and rose in only 17 states.
Jobs are going to business-friendly states. Pro-union states are becoming islands in a surging sea of business-friendly states that support the private sector. According to the BLS report, half of the 14.7 million union workers live in just six states: California, 2.4 million; New York, 2.0 million; Illinois, 800,000; Pennsylvania, 800,000; Ohio, 700,000; and New Jersey, 600,000. Meanwhile, business-friendly Texas had only a quarter as many union members as New York, despite having 1.9 million more wage and salary employees.
The public union employees in Wisconsin, President Obama, Organizing for America, Richard Trumka, and others of the liberal left recognize that Scott Walker could destroy their most powerful ring: collective bargaining rights. Losing in Wisconsin would crack the 36.2% public-sector union voting bloc. Clearly the fight is for the precious ring symbolizing collective bargaining rights. And Scott Walker promises to destroy it.