Marc Seals, a former English teacher in Georgia and now a professor of literature at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo wrote a long and impassioned plea regarding Governor Walker’s budget balancing efforts.
He says he has become a Democrat because the Republican Party has abandoned him. Although he is strongly opposed the idea of teachers being unionized, he apparently supports the fundamental right of [public employee] unions to exist.
He complains that every year that he lived in Wisconsin [since 2004], he has not received even a cost of living increase. He said, “We accepted this because we were told that it was the only way that we could keep our benefits package.” To make matters worse, state workers were required to take furlough days that amounted to a 3% cut in pay for each of the last two years. Professor Seals adds, “The so-called Budget Repair Bill will represent a reduction in my take-home pay of somewhere between 8 and 13 percent.”
While one can be sympathetic to Professor Seals, especially since his students appear to give him high marks, we have to be careful to put his situation in context. He failed to mention what the situation is in other states vis a vis public employee compensation. When both those actively seeking employment and those who have suspended their job-seeking efforts are counted, the total unemployment rate in the U.S. is still around 17%. Contrast that with the tenure teachers enjoy and the job stability generally enjoyed by public employees.
FDR and George Meany held that unions had no place in the public sector.
Wisconsin started that foolishness and now Wisconsin appears to be leading the way out. The problem is that government isn't management so negotiations are similar to a conspiracy where both sides decide how much to soak the taxpayer who isn't at the table. Secondly, in business the negotiation is how to split the profits. In the public sector there are no profits so guess what gets split. Yep, that's right, the taxpayer.
Union negotiations aren't usually give and take; they are how much management is willing to give. In public sector negotiations, it isn't how much management is willing to give but how much the legislature is willing to soak the taxpayer. The unions’ have a cozy arrangement with the Democrats; the unions work and donate to get them elected and the Democrats in turn give the unions a sweetheart contract. The Wisconsin legislature heretofore has been largely in the hands of the Democrats who traditionally support union demands.
The comparative statistics on compensation is another element of context that is lacking Professor Seals’ plea. I don’t have all of the facts either so I will just cite those that I recall from the various news articles on the situation in Wisconsin. The national average for teachers’ contributions to health insurance is 29%. Governor Walker’s proposal would raise the rate in Wisconsin to about 12%, well short of the national average. In Colorado, public employees contribute 31% of their health care costs. I also believe that a figure of 45% was mentioned as the differential compensation public employees enjoy over that received by private workers.
Finally, as Seals suggests, the efforts of the courageous Republicans to curb union excesses may be short-lived. That is the reason for curbing union collective bargaining rights now. Otherwise, Wisconsin will be right back in the fiscal soup as incoming Democrats give the unions everything they want. Before Wisconsin citizens vote for the Democrats again, they should insist on an understanding of the price tag on any new union demands. They also should insist on a full disclosure of Wisconsin compensation vs. the national average for comparable jobs and vs. compensation in the private sector. This must include a full valuation of tenure, job security, relative unemployment rates, retirement plans, vacation and sick leave, health care contributions, and any other benefits. I wonder if Professor Seals would be supportive of such an approach?
Working for logical immigation reform based on a stable population, a recognition of the finite nature of our natural resources and the adverse impact of continued growth on our quality of life, standard of living, national interest, character, language, sovereignty and the rule of law. Pushing back and countering the disloyal elements in American society and the anti-American rhetoric of the leftwing illegal alien lobbies. In a debate, when your opponents turn to name calling, it's a good sign you've already won.