Wisconsin Union Battle Pits Worker Against Worker

Saturday over 100,000 people protested in Wisconsin over the slip in the night move by Governor Walker and State Republicans to strip public unions of their collective bargaining rights.

 

 

Why would this be a controversy at all? Why would so many Americans demand public workers be stripped of their ability to negotiate a middle class living instead of refocusing their anger on the multinational corporations, banks bleeding the country dry?

We've seen over and over a battle of Worker vs. Worker instead of Worker vs. Wall Street. Why would the country be split on unions? Why the vitriol towards organized labor?

Literally the battle in Wisconsin is pulling families apart:

The fifth round of the fight Kathy and Stephen Scaffidi have been having for weeks started Tuesday evening in this Milwaukee suburb when Chris Larson's name came up.

Mr. Larson isn't an old boyfriend or a drinking buddy, but the couple's state senator. Three weeks ago, he and 13 other Democratic senators fled to Illinois in an effort to prevent Republicans from passing a bill pushed by Gov. Scott Walker to curtail collective-bargaining rights for public union employees.

Ms. Scaffidi, a schoolteacher, considers Mr. Larson a hero. Her husband, a manager at a media-rating company, thinks the senator is a coward.

Mr. Goetsch-Arnold said she recently de-friended about 30 Facebook friends because of their views of the Wisconsin situation.

In the newsroom of Third Coast Digest, a Milwaukee website about local arts, culture and politics, arguments between liberals and conservatives have grown so heated that the advertising director sent the publisher an email saying he didn't think he could come to work because he was so angry.

Why the hatred against your neighbor, your teachers, cops, firefighters, your fellow workers? Below are some possibilities.

Unions support illegal workers

There is no doubt the insanity of supporting unlimited migration and encouraging more illegal workers by unions has come home to roost. Illegal immigration represses wages and there are some occupational sectors which have been harmed, such as dock workers, agriculture, retail food service, construction, landscaping and even electrical contractors. This is why IBEW is against illegal immigration and yes this is a union. That said, some of the positions of some unions, most notably the SEIU have enraged many an American worker, who view unions working against American labor, not for it, as a result.

Jealousy

Since the U.S. middle class has been decimated, most people have no retirement at all beyond social security which is under attack. Most people only have $190 a month to retire on. So, is this a situation to drag down all workers to be in the same boat?

There is plenty of evidence to support this view of since I am broke, you should be too mentality.

Why the rage at one's fellow workers is odd, it should be outrage at offshore outsourcing, globalization and robbing the private sector employee blind by multinationals looking to increase their quarterly profit balance sheets.

Educational System as a Bureaucracy

Many are disgusted with the K-12 educational system and continually blame the workers. Yet it is politics and administrators, not the teachers and school principals who can make the large 6 figures. Add to that a host of rules, redistricting, certifications and brew ha ha, plus no vouchers for choice, it's understandable why the rage. Yet teachers are really the cog in the wheel on why the public educational system is so dysfunctional and not teaching the kids. Case in point, did you know teachers are being displaced by foreign guest workers?

Misinformation Campaign

Economist Dean Baker has been busy correcting some of the fiction being cast on public pensions:

It's so fashionable these days to beat up on public sector pensions that the rules of arithmetic no longer appear to pose a binding constraint. The New York Times concluded an article complaining about the cost of state pension with a quote from Sylvestor Scheiber, one of the pension analysts advocating cuts in public pensions:

"By the time the typical private-sector worker has retired, the teachers, the highway patrolmen and these folks have already gotten $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 in pensions.”

The comment refers to the fact that many state workers can receive full pension benefits while still in their 50s. The immediate point of reference is Wisconsin, where it tell us that police and firefighters can retire at age 53 if they have 25 years of service, while other workers can retire at age 57 if they have 30 years of service.

The article does not tell us what percent of state employees actually retire at these ages. It is likely that most state employees don't have 30 years of service by the time they reach age 57, so they would have to work longer to receive their full pension benefit. However, even if we do assume that an employee other than a police officer or a firefighter (i.e. the "teachers and these folks") retires at a relatively early age, they will not get the $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 in pension benefits that Mr. Scheiber touts.

According to the article, the average pension for public employees in Wisconsin is $26,000. (Many public employees do not get Social Security, so their pension is likely to be the vast majority of their retirement income.) Most workers start taking their Social Security benefits before they reach age 63, which creates a gap of less than 6 years between the lowest age at which most Wisconsin public employees can draw their benefits and the age at which most private sector workers have retired.

If we multiple 6 times the average annual pension of $26,000 we get $156,000, as the amount of benefits that public sector workers can receive before private sector workers typically retire. This is considerably less than the $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 numbers tossed out by Mr. Scheiber. And this would only apply to a worker who had 30 years of employment with the state by the time they reached age 57. A worker that first started working for the government at age 30 would have to wait until age 60 to retire with a full pension in Wisconsin, giving them less than three years of additional benefits.

David Kay Johnston also ran the numbers on pensions:

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply "contribute more" to Wisconsin' s retirement system (or as the argument goes, "pay their fair share" of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin' s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.

The labor agreements show that the pension plan money is part of the total negotiated compensation. The key phrase, in those agreements I read (emphasis added), is: "The Employer shall contribute on behalf of the employee." This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc.

Big Money Propaganda & Corruption

Finally there are large corporate interests with deep pockets out to attack all workers. Most recently it is the Koch Brothers:

Among the thousands of demonstrators who jammed the Wisconsin State Capitol grounds this weekend was a well-financed advocate from Washington who was there to voice praise for cutting state spending by slashing union benefits and bargaining rights.

The visitor, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told a large group of counterprotesters who had gathered Saturday at one edge of what otherwise was a mostly union crowd that the cuts were not only necessary, but they also represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits.

“We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation,” he said.

What Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch.

There are many organizations funded by groups like the Koch Brothers, cranking out white papers, buying paid Journalists, news outlets, your Congressional and State representatives, all pushing for the wholesale destruction of the U.S. middle class.

Your job is to separate truth from fiction, all with a critical eye questioning why the American worker is plain under attack in their own country.

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Comments

union power

i missed the part about unions being bed partners with democrats.i also missed the part about state union dues being tax dollars. i guess it was somewhere between charles koch and david koch.also missed the part about how much a worker "takes home" after all contributions compared to non union workers.

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you missed union dues are from their own pockets

wages. Just because this is a public service does not mean those dues are not from their own pockets.

As far as Democrats goes...and? Shall we list the corporate donors to the GOP? As far as unions getting any real bang for their buck here in terms of funding Democrats, hmmm, sure seems the payoff for corruption goes to the corporate lobbyists who seem to get any thing they write the check for and that corruption knows now political flavors.

We already did wages as have many others, they are paid the same or less.

Seriously, you typify the very reason for this post....public workers are not your problem it is the large corporate multinationals and their agenda.

For example, anyone aware the U.S. Chamber of Commerce loves illegal workers, unlimited migration, foreign guest workers, all for the purposes of cheap labor?

Their power trumps union influence.

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Mis-Information Leads the News

This article is the very best I have read at explaining this new GOP experiment. As noted above all my neighbors are republicans waiting for Social Security to retire.

I'm Union, my neighbors HATE Unions. Were paid too much. They don't have health care and believe Union members don't deserve it. Now because of all the political spin by the big guns (Carol Rove and Company) people somehow think that unions created this mess.

They are not even happy the car companies are coming back, I believe they would rather see them fail just to make OBama look bad. I watch 5 different news channels
and fox news-glen beck is the least reliable.

I believe if the Unions are crushed, then the GOP will go after minimum wage, social Security, medicade all the social saftey nets. Then they will have to take our gun rights away . . .they will have to so they can weaken the lower case (X-middle class)

Yes I believe this is a well planned event. 2012 should be very interesting. Please keep publishing

These are some sad times in America . . . people are going hungry and also the unemployment rate went down because of all the 99ers falling off. Compare the new jobs and it's plan to see. That would be a good article " How the 99ers improved
the Jobs outlook"

CR

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Fine work

I agree with 'Anonymous Drive By" above on the quality of the post.

The good news is that the workers in Wisconsin win in public opinion polls nationwide despite all the attacks. The sad part is that it's a no brainer - no citizen, aside from the Wall Street/Big Bank crowd, should see any reason to support Walker and his creepy program.

Way back, in the 1660, black and white indentured farmers in Virginia staged Bacon's Rebellion. Under the leadership of Nathaniel Bacon, they revolted against the British Governor of Virginia, took and burned James town and threw the British out for almost two years. When the British returned, loaded for bear, they retook the fiefdom for Governor Berkeley. The British immediately set in motion policies to turn white farmers against blacks, fearing a unified effort in the future. As the nation grew, each new wave of immigrants was the object of prejudice from the previous wave, all part of the plan to keep workers separated. Today, we have the same thing, people willingly by The Party and it's minions.

One of the outcomes of this site is, hopefully, that people will realize that is is "them against us" in the ration of the top 1% versus the rest of us.

Ignorance is not bliss, it's slavery.

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Why take gun rights away?

You want a low, but non-zero, rate of losses in a successful counter-insurgency campaign; you don't want lots of your people getting killed, but you don't want none of them ever getting killed either, because you don't want them to forget they're playing for keeps and fuck up in ways that get lots of them killed.

And, hey, thinking of the domestic propaganda applications too (since it'd be all domestic anyway): how useful would a young, burgeoning fascist regime find the occasional incident of armed resistance which practically begs to be spun into Terrorism from which the Leader and the State must Defend the People? Pretty damn useful, that's how.

And speaking of domestic propaganda, canceling the Second Amendment would only really play with left-wing anti-gun types anyway, and since any modern fascist regime in the US is going to designate exactly those people among the main categories of Enemy, I'm not even sure how it would make sense in the first place.

It'd be like the Nazi regime doing something that only had a visible benefit to Jews: not likely in the first place because the Nazi regime hated Jews, and *really* not likely in the second place because Jew-hate was one of the things giving them power, and thus by vitiating it in any way they'd only be harming themselves.

Sheesh, you Second Amendment types, it's like you're so deeply invested in that one particular thing that that gradually lose the ability to see the world from any other perspective. Oh, wait...

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re Koch lobbyist Phillips

see the below post (on a business pub no less)

http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/03/08/koch-brothers-key-political...
Koch Brothers Key Political Employee Has Dark And Disturbing Past 3-8-11 By RICK UNGAR

It is often said that you can judge a person by the company they keep.

If this is true, it is small wonder that billionaire libertarians Charles and David Koch have become notorious in the eyes of many Americans.

TIM PHILLIPS, the man who heads up the Americans For Prosperity group that serves as a political front for the brothers Koch (David serves as Chairman of the organization), and is leading the effort to support Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to neuter the public employee unions in Wisconsin, is a key cog in the Koch political machine – earning in excess of $250,000 for his services in 2009 (latest tax filing data available.)

FOLLOWING MR. PHILLIPS’ CAREER IS LIKE TIPTOEING THROUGH SOME OF THE MOST NOTABLE POLITICAL DIRTY TRICKS AND LOBBYING SCANDALS IN MODERN HISTORY.

Here is a sampling of some of Phillips’ ‘greatest hits’.

In 1997, Phillips hooked up with Christian Coalition boss, Ralph Reed, to create Century Strategies, a political strategy and direct marketing group. The firm advertised themselves as being dedicated to mounting ‘grassroots lobbying campaigns’ and exploiting their ability to impact on legislation by using their strong connections to the leaders in the Christian community.
THE NEW BUSINESS GOT OFF TO A NICE START WHEN KARL ROVE REFERRED THEIR FIRST MAJOR CORPORATE CLIENT – ENRON. While Century Strategies efforts to pressure Congress to alter energy policy in ways that benefited their client paid off – both in legislative success for Enron and financial success for Phillips and Reed- there is little to suggest that anything they did was unethical.

But many opportunities would lay ahead as THE FIRM ENTERED THE BIG TIME WHEN PHILLIPS AND REED JOINED UP WITH NOTORIOUS LOBBYIST AND FUTURE CONVICT, JACK ABRAMOFF.

It was the NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS, a small speck of land in the Atlantic that provided Phillips and Reed with the opportunity to show what they could really do.

The Marianas are a U.S. protectorate and, as a result of their status, manufacturing done on the island qualifies the goods they produce to be labeled “Made In The USA.”

Unfortunately, the working conditions on the island brought the meaning of ’sweat shop’ to unprecedented lows.
It wasn’t enough for the operators on the Marianas to PAY THEIR WORKERS MEAGER, UNLIVABLE WAGES. TO BOOST REVENUES, CHINESE WOMEN WERE FORCED BY THEIR EMPLOYERS INTO PROSTITUTION TO SATISFY THE NEEDS OF THE LOCAL SEX-TOURISM INDUSTRY AND, WHEN THEIR FORCED LABOR RESULTED IN PREGNANCIES, THEY WERE THEN ORDERED TO OBTAIN ABORTIONS.

In response to the nightmare taking place on the island, a bill was introduced into Congress that would have imposed U.S. federal wage and worker safety laws on employers and, most importantly, bring an end to the terrible things being done to defenseless women.

Jack Abramoff was hired to stop passage of the bill. He, in turn, hired Phillips and Reed to execute on a unique strategy.
(as an aside not in the blog - SEE CASINO JACK DOCUMENTARY - THE ISLAND WAS AN ABRAMOFF CLIENT TO START - back to the blog below)

Mr. Phillips set out on a direct mail campaign , sending out flyers stating, in part -

THE RADICAL LEFT, THE BIG LABOR UNION BOSSES, AND BILL CLINTON WANT TO PASS A LAW PREVENTING CHINESE FROM COMING TO WORK ON THE MARIANAS ISLANDS. THE CHINESE WORKERS ARE EXPOSED TO THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST” while on the islands, and many “are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.” claiming that the Chinese workers on the island “are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ” while on the islands, and many “are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand. “

The mailers then encouraged the recipients to contact lawmakers and ask them to oppose the Marianas labor reform legislation.

You would think that two bible thumpers like Phillips and Reed would have reached the peak of depravity by taking money to side with those who force women into prostitution and abortion– but they had only just begun.

During the 2000 GOP primary battle between then Governor George Bush and Senator John McCain, a false campaign was conducted in South Carolina against John McCain. Leaflets, telephone calls and emails were sent to South Carolina voters, stating that McCain’s adopted daughter from Bangladesh was actually an illegitimate child fathered by the Senator with a black woman. The disgusting ploy worked and the McCain campaign never recovered.

While many observers of that event state as fact that the campaign was the handiwork of Century Strategies and its principals, Tim Phillips and Ralph Reed, their involvement has never been proven. However, one would be hard pressed to find anyone ‘in the know’ who is not certain that it was them.

What is proven, however, is the 2000 campaign conduced by Tim Phillips against none other than candidate Eric Cantor of Virginia. When hired by Cantor’s opponent in the primary, Phillips set up the Faith and Family Alliance which proceeded to engage in an anti-Semitic smear campaign against the future House majority leader. Once again, the M.O. involved using pamphlets and robo-calls to tell voters that Eric Cantor did not represent “Virginia values” and that his opponent was the “only Christian in the race.” In other words, Cantor was a Jew so don’t vote for him.

And it gets better.

It turns out that convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, was using the Faith and Family Alliance, the organization founded by Tim Phillips, to launder gambling money in an effort to finance a campaign to stop Congress from banning internet gambling.

Here’s how it worked:

The money was laundered in three steps: cheques for the e-Lottery project were written out to the Americans for Tax Reform foundation; Americans for Tax Reform would then send a cheque to the Faith and Family Alliance; finally, the identical amount would be transferred from the Faith and Family Alliance to Century Strategies. Robin Vanderwall, the director of the Faith and Family Alliance has stated he “was operating a shell.”

THEN THERE WAS THE SUCCESSFUL SAXBY CHAMBLISS CAMPAIGN IN GEORGIA WHERE PHILLIPS PLAYED A PRIMARY ROLE IN ATTACKING SENATOR MAX CLELAND – A MAN WHO WON THE SILVER AND BRONZE STARS FOR VALOROUS ACTION IN COMBAT AND WHO GAVE UP TWO LEGS AND AN ARM AS A RESULT OF INJURIES SUSTAINED IN THE VIET NAM WAR- FOR BEING SOFT ON NATIONAL SECURITY. In that campaign, a TV commercial ran accusing Cleland of being weak on defense by airing photos of Osama Bin Laden over a voice recounting Cleland’s voting record.

These are but a few of the exploits of Mr. Tim Phillips – a man allegedly possessed of great family values and commitment to religion who lobbied to continue forced prostitution and abortion; a man who claims to honor America’s veterans while destroying a true war hero for being soft on defense; a man who has played some of the most unethical and devious political tricks in the modern era.

PEOPLE OF GOOD INTENT CAN DISAGREE AS TO THE TRUE POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS OF THE KOCH BROTHERS. Some would argue that the brothers are true Americans who are doing what they believe is necessary to save America from itself. Some would argue that they are greedy oil barons out to snatch the last dollar off the table at the expense of the working people of the nation.

But there is one thing you can’t argue.

When you lay down with dogs you will surely wake up with fleas.

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Funny

That Democrats get raving mad at Filibusters and the party of no but they hide out of state when the majority disagrees with them? What they aren't responsible to show up? Then the local school committees there show who they represent by rushing into negotiations for new contracts before it takes effect? Who do they represent? The schools?, the taxpayers? Nope - they are most likely all ex teachers and they represent themselves and their union brothers.

If a public worker has a pay and benefits package of say $70k and say pays $20k in taxes where did the other $50k come from?

Here is a story about a Fire Chief retiring at 47 with a $60k pension and a year later becomes chief in a nearby town where he'll work till he gets a second pension. After which he'll retire out of state taking his taxes with him. These are municipal funds run by the state but the state restrictions don't apply because in name only its the towns.

Pension Scam Continues Unabated

How about hiring retired teachers as consultants at $500 a day? Even the union is against this one because they aren't paying dues!

$500 a Day for Retired Teachers as Consultants

They retire at 50 and start working the sick day system ($250 a day for 5 hours work) and make a good deal plus their retirement but now they want even more? Never mind the 3% yearly cola for RI retirees regardless of the inflation rate. Now they can be $500 a day as consultants, Talk about greed. Like there aren't young kids waiting in the wings for these jobs?

30 states don't even allow collective bargaining for state employees so what's all the tears about? No body cares about them apparently.

The best yet? Government worker unemployment nationwide went from 5% in January to 4.2% in February. Demand must be deafening.

Look at Detroit that's a union stronghold isn't it? 25% loss of population and the public unions are kicking and screaming about layoffs? Its a nuclear winter there. Taxpayers have left the building but those that are left still wait on check day.

Sorry I can't quote any economics studies bought and paid for to show a result. I'm based in a dollars and cents reality.

I'll end with a quote from the Dallas Federal Reserve President but he must be an idiot.

“The U.S. debt situation is at a "tipping point," Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said on Tuesday, and urged the U.S. central bank to refrain from any further stimulus measures.

"If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent. The question is when," Fisher said in a speech at the University of Frankfurt.

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