Sep 5, 201307:16 AMBlaska's Bring It!
with David Blaska
Spare us the sad union songs
(page 1 of 2)
From the pages of In Business magazine.
My fellow gun nuts, flat-earthers, and Walker worshippers were about to begin our alternative singalong in the rotunda of the State Capitol, official permit in hand, when a radio personality and shill for organized labor began shouting. I made a high-pointing gesture, the pre-arranged signal, for the police to haul him away.
“All he was doing was asking a question,” a liberal apologist argued later. We were there to sing, not hold a press conference. Seventy of us had assembled, permit in hand, to warble patriotic songs like “God Bless America” and our take on the Woody Guthrie standard.
“This land is my land, it is not your land
... This land is private proper-TEE!”
Socialists, we are not. Later, a TV news reporter followed up on the rude radio squawker’s question: “What about your government pension?”
Pension? Seemed a total non sequitur, until it occurred to me that the sly radio guy was intimating that I should be singing in solidarity with the unionistas in gratitude for my government pension. It’s an article of faith on the left that, without unions, government workers would be more exploited than an Appalachian coal miner.
Except for a little history. State government established the first public sector pension funds, for Milwaukee’s protective service employees, in 1891, the year the Dalton gang robbed their first train. In 1907, the Wisconsin Legislature authorized local police and fire pension funds outside Milwaukee. Teacher pensions came in 1911. Mandatory pensions for other government workers arrived in 1935.
All of this was long before government employees were permitted to organize into labor unions. Gov. Gaylord Nelson signed collective bargaining into law for municipal workers and teachers in 1959. State employees climbed on board in 1967. Civil service protections for government employees — hiring through competitive civil service examinations, firing only for cause, and appealing demotions and terminations — were codified in 1905. They remain in effect.
True, final appeals — post-Act 10 — are up to the governing body: school board, city council, state government. In other words, officials elected by the people themselves. People like the newly elected school board member — no Republican — whom the Madison teachers union president called “Public Enemy Number One.”
Which raises the fundamental question: Against whom are the government labor unions organizing? Franklin D. Roosevelt answered that question in 1937: against the people themselves.
“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.”
Case in point: A local progressive named Jeff Simpson likes to blog that school teachers, presumably including his own wife, “are incredibly underpaid.” Given that he sits on the Monona Grove School Board, I suggested he might be in a position to rectify the injustice. Ask the citizenry to blow the hinges off the state spending caps. Put it to a referendum! So far, no response from Mr. Simpson.
Government can’t give what it doesn’t have. Mark Bugher served Tommy Thompson for 13 years, as secretary of revenue and secretary for administration, where he oversaw negotiations with the state’s 19 (nineteen!) bargaining units. He told me, “I could never figure out the value of state employee unions to the membership because I don’t recall any important concessions that the unions ever won for their members. The wage rates were always the same across the board. Benefits were generous for everyone, but not because of bargaining. ... I remember when state auditors at the Department of Revenue organized. It was puzzling to me why — and what they ever got for organizing other than having to pay dues every year.”