Free Markets, Free People

Dale Schultz


WI Republicans – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

Why is it that in almost every scenario imaginable, where a stiff spine, adherence to principle and with public support behind them ensures political victory, there always seems to emerge a group willing to compromise (unnecessarily) before the fight is over?

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker maintaining a hard line on his budget bill and Democratic senators refusing to return to Madison to vote, attention is turning to a group of moderate Republican senators to negotiate a compromise to the stalemate that has drawn thousands of protesters to the state capital for a sixth straight day.

The proposal, written by Sen. Dale Schultz and first floated in the Republican caucus early last week, calls for most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions to be eliminated – per Mr. Walker’s bill – but then reinstated in 2013, said Mr. Schultzs’s chief of staff Todd Allbaugh.

"Dale is committed to find a way to preserve collective bargaining in the future," said Mr. Allbaugh in a telephone interview.

Really? Why?  Because one of the major reasons the state is having to rescind the sweetheart deals made to state workers is the result of the so-called “collective bargaining” done in the past.

Consider this – in the private sector, corporations compete against other corporations for market share.  The demands of competitiveness help keep union demands in check as both sides in a negotiation understand that going to far will cripple the corporation in terms of its competition and may cost everyone their job.   So  private sector union members have been paying a higher portion of their wages toward their own pension and health care than public union members.

There’s also an healthy adversarial relationship between labor and management that lends to checking the benefits allowed.

There is no competitive atmosphere within the public sector nor is there much of any adversarial relationship present.   In short, there are none of the checks on those unions that a competitive atmosphere puts on private sector unions. 

Secondly, the public sector unions have become huge players in state and national politics.   What happens is the guy they help elect is the guy with whom they often end up sitting across the negotiations table.  What do you think the union extracts as promises from politicians they support for election?  Well of course, sweetheart deals like those enjoyed by the unions members in Wisconsin where the taxpayer is dunned for their pension and health care benefits instead of the union member.

The bill in question is an important one.  It would also remove the requirement that state employees must join the union to hold a job in state government.  That, of course, scares the living daylights out of the union leadership.  Why?

Because it breaks their monopoly control on government employees, it removes their ability to use the state to require and collect union dues for them and it threatens their ability to fund political activities and further extend their power. 

And then there’s the accountability “problem” they’ll suddenly face.  The Wisconsin bill would require the union to hold a yearly recertification vote by secret ballot.  Until now, with mandated membership and the state collecting dues for the union (via payroll deduction), the union has had no need or requirement to be accountable to its members.  Members have had no choice but to join the union regardless of whether they wanted to or agreed with the union’s direction.    With the passage of this bill the union would suddenly have an accountability requirement.  As you might imagine, they want nothing to do with that.

With all of the liberty enhancing aspects of this bill as they pertain to the Wisconsin public service unions, why in the world are some “moderate” Republicans getting wobbly in the knees (thankfully Gov. Walker is standing his ground)?  They have a strong case, they have a voter mandate, they have public opinion on their side, union members are acting like spoiled children and their political opponents have shut down state government.

But with Democratic senators indicating they are willing to remain away from the capital indefinitely, state government remains shut down with no end in sight.

That’s bad on them.   So why is Dale Schultz trying to entice them back to the table with an absurdity like suspending collective bargaining rights for only 2 years?  It shouldn’t be their side that is showing signs of giving in, it should be the Democrats who’ve run off to another state to avoid doing their job.  Let public pressure work on them.

It is to the advantage of the state GOP to let the Democrats carry out this travesty for as long as they wish.  Let the so-called public servants stay off the job and throw their selfish tantrums in the capitol.  It doesn’t reflect well on them and the public will finally tire of it. 

But if the GOP there capitulates and compromises it will most likely turn the public opinion tables on them and encourage the unions and Democrats there and elsewhere to duplicate the tactics that forced the compromise.

For once, I’d like to see the GOP stand its ground – firmly – and invite the opposition to give it their best shot.  I think Democrats have badly misread this situation and are in the middle of hurting themselves.  What’s the old political axiom: when your opponent is in the middle of self-destruction, get out of their way and let the process continue – or something like that.   WI “moderate” Republicans need to grow a pair and stand their ground.  What they’re proposing is in the best interest of the state and its citizens, and that is what they were elected to concern themselves with.

~McQ