First, let’s understand what we’re talking about here. Wisconsin is running a budget deficit because of the fiscal crisis and Republicans are looking to public sector employees to make up the difference.

From WSJ:

Mr. Walker’s bill would close a projected $3.6 billion shortfall by forcing public employees to pay 5.8% of their salary toward their pensions and 12.6% of healthcare premiums, up from 6% on average. Mr. Walker said it is necessary to cut many of the collective bargaining rights from union members to prevent massive layoffs.

So what’s the compromise? The bargaining rights would be reinstated in 2013.

I’m sure you can understand why Democrats aren’t going for this. Because it’s only a compromise if you think Republicans will keep their promise and let the legislation they’re proposing expire. Also, what are they willing to do to raise revenue from other sources in the interim?

Also, the unions have already agreed to help close the fiscal gap…

Several senators also said a compromise on the bill that would sunset the collective bargaining provisions in 2013 would not be acceptable to Democrats. One reason is that Republicans will likely still be in control of both the state senate and assembly and simply extend the provisions. But a bigger reason, according to several senators, is that unions have already agreed to fix the fiscal issues.

Republicans are just looking for a way to take away workers’ rights. That’s all there is to it. The unions and Democrats have already compromised. And to have these collective bargaining rights snatched away so soon after they won them has to sting. See, these folks have been fighting for the better part of 40 years. They won these rights back in 2009. Think you would be out in full force if you fought for 40 years and 2 years later they were trying to be taking away from you?

Meanwhile, the head of the teacher’s union is calling for them to go back to work…

Mary Bell is president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. She said on Sunday that it’s time for her members to return to work. For districts that do not recognize Monday as the President’s Day holiday, she said teachers should go to work. Others should report as scheduled on Tuesday.

By the way, I know I said I’m on vacation, but I’m in airports most of the day so I’ll probably be posting more.

  • The WI unions did two very smart things this weekend that exposed the Governor’s real intention to break the union.

    1st they conceded to all the fiscal demands. It needs to be remembered that before the Governor introduced this legislation – he had not asked for any reductions in salary or increased contributions to benefits.

    2nd the unions told people to go back to work.

    We must ask ourselves why the Governor is pushing forward for an end to collective bargaining – that is a shot at the Democratic party.

  • gerryf

    From GMA this morning:

    Walker said:

    “If the state senators would come back we’d gladly talk to them. The reality is they are hiding out in a different state, now they think somehow a handful of the minority can hold people hostage and the reality is if you want to participate in democracy you’ve got to come to where it’s at and that is in the arena and the arena is in Madison Wisconsin not in Rockford or Chicago or anywhere else outside the state of Wisconsin.”

    Pretty funnny coming from a guy whose party made so much use of the fillibuster and the silent hold during President Obama’s first twoyears. Isn’t the minority holding the majority hostage straight out of the GOP playbook?

    The only difference is in Wisconsin, there is no fillibuster so the minority’s only play is to not show up to prevent a quorum.

  • Bonnie

    What really bugs me about this whole thing is the unions have agreed to the increase in paying for pensions and health care premiums. But they will not give up their collective bargaining rights. So what do the conservative talking heads say? They ignore that, they harp on and on about these greedy public employees that want to break the state’s funds with their cushy pensions and health care deals. It just makes me sick they way the message is being spun.

  • Dale

    Gerryf, so true, so true. In fact, that’s part of what is so dismaying about this whole circumstance. We (human beings with an ounce of respect and care for the well being of our neighbor) have to learn the the GOP is not really interested in the truth, policy, fighting fair, or even a balanced budget.

    The following is one of the best descriptions of the core desires of the ultra (evangelical) conservative, having been one myself:

  • gerryf

    As usual with the GOP (and where does the headline, moderate Wisconsin Republican come from–Walker is far from moderate) this is not about budget deficits.

    This is about power, plain and simple. Unions are one of the few things left that can stand up to the corporation and ultra-wealthy. Unions are typically supportive of Democrats.

    Kill the unions, kill the opposition.

    Walker and his buddies have enacted and are proposing even more tax cuts, all the while pushing the bizarro mantra that tax cuts leads to increased revenue.

    And before someone pops in with the tax cuts didn’t create this budget problem, I am not saying they did–I am saying they will make matters worse–unless of course you balance those tax cuts by taking money away from the state workers, and cutting programs that benefit the poor and middle class.

  • kranky kritter

    Great subject for a post. I’m looking forward to seeing what other people have to say, and especially what other relevant facts and insights they can bring. Because the news coverage so far strikes me as somewhat superficial.

    I’m not in favor of a unilateral suspension of collective bargaining rights. However if unions are largely uncooperative in finding a way towards expedited negotiations that bring costs in line with available resources, my opinion is subject to change.

    Obviously it can be argued that unions deserve whatever they contracted for. And I am sure they have offered some concessions, although I have no idea whether they are sufficient. I want to keep collecting info about what’s going on before developing a hard opinion. But I do know that when push comes to shove, deserve usually ends up having little to do with it.

    One thing about public opinion. So long as public employee unions enjoy substantially better benefits and job security along with good wages, they are going to be on the losing side of public opinion. Their opponents are right now making good ground by citing data that really makes public employee union deals seem far more generous than what many other middle class and blue collar workers get. They do this usually by citing numbers which do not reflect average compensation. Like for example saying a WI teacher gets $89,000. Is that average, or top compensation? Big difference.

    The only way the unions can combat that is with real data which truthfully shows what average rank-and-file workers generally get. If THOSE numbers still reflect a much better deal than what the majority of onlookers has been getting, the public will want those numbers reconciled. And they’ll likely get their way in large part.

    No one who comes from a middle class family with 2 job holders is going to accept paying taxes at a rate which gives public employees similar or much better wages along with much better health and retirement benefits. In other words, no 2-4 person household getting by on say 75k per year with no pension and substantial healthcare costs will have any sympathy for public workers making 55-75k per year with minimal healthcare costs and a promise of 80% wages until death.

  • bubbaquimby

    Gerry, the compromise was put worth by Moderate Republicans, not Walker. Walker is still wants to take away bargaining rights for everything but salary.

    I was a member of AFSCME in Wisconsin when I worked for DOT there, but I totally agree with the increase benefit costs. When I worked there in early 00s, they were just starting to have to pay anything for health insurance. Right now the pay less than 1% and 0% on retirement. I have also worked for MoDOT, where I did have to pay almost 15% health,. I forgot how much I would have paid for retirement since I didn’t get vested 5 years (now it will be 10) while Wisconsin you automatically get vested.

    So those parts Walker is just making Wisconsin more like other public employees.

    The big difference is the bargaining. At first I thought he added that just to break the union so they would cave on pay. But seems he wanted to strip bargaining all along that or he feels he ends to save face.

    As for whether I agree or disagree with Walker. I think political strategy wise he is going to far. I am undecided morally and philosophically. FDR was uneasy about public unions being able to strike and organize. And that’s because it’s an uneasy relationship one very different than the private sector. I never liked being forced to be a union member, having dues taken out and being part of a group that would lobby to get officials I didn’t want elected.

    Also Justin, only the University had the rights taken away. State employees and K-12 teachers have had those rights for a long time.

  • mw

    As it turns out, this compromise was a non-starter. It was unilaterally rejected by the union.

  • Idi Amin Dada

    Unions are the last thing standing between the serf/lord economy the Republicans would like to bring back and the America we’ve gotten comfortable with since FDR.

    Republicans generally see themselves sittin’ on their verandas, sippin’ mint juleps and watching their field-hand serfs work their fields down below.

  • Jim S

    But the fact is that the unions have agreed to the full amount of financial concessions asked of them. They just don’t agree to the elimination of virtually all of their rights to negotiate.

  • mw

    It was also unilaterally rejected by the Governor.

    So I guess that makes it a bilateral rejection.

  • Beverly

    “Republicans are just looking for a way to take away workers’ rights. That’s all there is to it.” Same old story as always. Working man has to pay. Fortunately they can let their voice hear through the Unions.