Thinking About the Politics of Wisconsin and Public Sector Unions

Recent events in Wiscosin seem to undercut the hypothesis that public sector unions have undue political influence.

Before proceeding to the main point of this post, let me lay down a couple of predicates:

1.  I do not have a strong, doctrinaire position on public sector unions.  My basic instinct is to be in favor, as it would seem to me that the right to organize and attempt to represent interests is pretty fundamental.  However, I am at least amenable to considering the problem of the fact that public sector unions give money to the politicians who have control over their careers (of course, so do corporations who often have a lot to gain from government as well—my current position is that all of this is probably just the messiness that is democratic governance, but also recognize a variety of issues in this realm that are worthy of continued discussion).

2.  Yes. I understand that unions often demand policies that are problematic (such as overly easy tenure rules for public school teachers or difficulties in firing bad teachers).  Of course, there is a difference between saying certain policies ought to be changed and saying that all unions do is produce negative outcomes.  Moreover, I am fairly sure that many of these policies exist in state with less powerful unions (e.g., Texas).

3. One of the things that makes me uneasy about the whole Wisconsin situation is that I find processes directed towards the taking of rights from a group to be questionable on their face.   In other words, it is a different argument to seek to give collective bargaining rights in a situation where they had not been present versus taking away rights that have been in place for decades.  For rights to be taken, it seems to me that strong, concrete, and compelling reasons are needed.  However, in the the Wisconsin case it seems to me that the motivations have been either a) motivated solely by ideological/political considerations about unions in general and public sector unions in specifics or, b) very vague assertions that ending collective bargaining rights will save money.  I have yet to hear/read (and I have actively looked) a specific, empirically-based argument that “b” is necessarily going to be the case.

4.  I am part of what seems to be a small slice of the population that is neither outraged by the quorum-busting nor of what the Wisconsin GOP did earlier this week.  I have criticisms of both, to be sure, and preferences as to how I think that things should have played out, but have not had cause for outrage.  Of course, my position from pretty much the beginning was that compromise would have been the best outcome.

Having said all of that, the following occurred to me yesterday:  if the fundamental argument against public sector unions is that they have undue and intractable power over their elected bosses, how is it that we have arrived at the current situation in Wisconsin?  At a minimum, the vast power that public sector unions allegedly have is hardly on display at the moment.

To wit:

A)  Prior to the blossoming of the situation into a full-blown political kerfuffle of grand dramatic dimensions, the unions had acquiesced to increasing the contribution of their members to both health insurance and retirement which would result in a nontrivial decrease in take-home pay.

B)  There was a willingness on the part of the unions to put a moratorium on collective bargaining for a multi-year period.

C)  The endgame here has been that the state government has moved to impose both the changes to the benefits packages of unionized labor, but it also has now revoked its collective bargaining rights save on issues of wages and that area of negotiation is limited, for all practical purposed, to increases at or below the inflation rate.

Ok, having noted all of that, I find myself questioning the hypothesis that public sector unions have undo power over the political process.

Now, some may read that statement as a simplistic statement, but I really do not think that it is.  The ideological argument about public sectors unions has been to assert that public sectors unions have such inordinate advantages that they can essentially dictate the terms of negotiations.  Indeed, I have heard/read defenders of Walker (as well as Wisconsin politicians) essentially assert that public sector unions are so powerful that they essentially set policy (i.e., that negotiations are not negotiations at all, but rather opportunities for the unions to tell the state how things will be).

Of course, if such a situation were true, it would seem to me that we would not have seen the end game that we have seen in Wisconsin, yes?

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    The politics are that Democratic Party is captured by the public unions. In a state like Wisconsin where statewide elections trend Republican, it’s just a normal partisan issue. Public unions lose out when their party loses out.

    In states like Illinois where Democrats dominate statewide, the problem of public employee compensation is a Democratic problem. That means public compensation reform in Illinois requires the bills to be introduced without advance warning and passed before the public unions can mount meaningful opposition.

    So, basically in Wisconsin, the Republicans felt no political pressure from a reliable Democratic constituent. In Illinois, Democrats have to pass the legislation in less than twelve hours to avoid the influence of a reliable Democratic constituent.

  2. wr says:

    I’m a little confused, PD. It seems that you’re saying the Illiinois legislature has to pass bills in a few hours before the public finds out what’s in them so that they won’t object. I thought the legislature was supposed to do the will of the people. Is that only true when the people are republicans?

  3. cian says:

    if the fundamental argument against public sector unions is that they have undo and intractable power over their elected bosses, how is it that we have arrived at the current situation in Wisconsin?

    Steven,

    The point is well made, but its important to remember that Walker kept his plans for the unions close to his chest knowing that had he campaigned on ending their bargaining rights he would not have been elected.

    My sense too is that the unions’power is about to grow. Walker has exposed himself as someone willing to lead for the few and ignore the many, and to do so using tactics that to the ordinary Joe on the street stink of dishonesty.

    He has won this battle but in doing so has thought a majority of Wisconsinites to never trust the republican party again, and not just for the remainder of his term, but for generations.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    wr, my comment is about the nature of special interests, they can play a particularly dominating role at the state level where the public isn’t really paying much attention unless a special interest can make them pay attention. Republicans have their special interes too of course.

  5. Drew says:

    “However, I am at least amenable to considering the problem of the fact that public sector unions give money to the politicians who have control over their careers…………….my current position is that all of this is probably just the messiness that is democratic governance……”

    I guess that can be construed as an evenhanded approach, but I disagree. In finance we have a notion of fiduciary duty that precludes such obvious self interest. (At the risk of tort) In law we have recusal. So in my opinion its a bit convenient and light to just slough it off as just messiness. If that’s what you really believe then you take an absolute hands off approach and let election cycles do what they do. (And lest I be misinterpreted – that applies to corporations as well.) But the direct correlation between Labor contributions and politician giveaways is the worst held secret in America.

    “One of the things that makes me uneasy about the whole Wisconsin situation is that I find processes directed towards the taking of rights from a group to be questionable on their face. In other words, it is a different argument to seek to give collective bargaining rights in a situation where they had not been present versus taking away rights that have been in place for decades.”

    What? That’s an argument for denying infection points in civil rights policy, abortion policy, etc etc. We operate within the established law, and let the electoral process vis a vis legislation and judiaial appointment go from there.

    “However, in the the Wisconsin case it seems to me that the motivations have been either a) motivated solely by ideological/political considerations about unions in general and public sector unions in specifics or, b) very vague assertions that ending collective bargaining rights will save money.”

    So what? Elections have consequences. I think ObamaCare will be a disaster, but its the law of the land right now. If I don’t like it I work through the legislative process.

    “..if the fundamental argument against public sector unions is that they have undo and intractable power over their elected bosses, how is it that we have arrived at the current situation in Wisconsin?”

    Nice straw man – “intractable.” Unions have had their way for years through legitimate legislative processes, whether you or I like it or not. Financial reality has now come home to roost, and a legitimate legislative process has changed the tide. That’s not evidence that prior union power did not exist, just a shift in power.

    “Of course, if such a situation were true, it would seem to me that we would not have seen the end game that we have seen in Wisconsin, yes?”

    No. See above.

  6. john personna says:

    The thing about the double representation is that if public employees lost union membership, they could still continue to appeal to voters and politicians for greater benefits.

    I mean, why would “we need higher teacher pay” not continue to be a campaign issue?

  7. wr says:

    PD — Special interests or no, I think it’s safe to say that if a bill has to be rammed through in a couple of hours with no public debate, then it’s being passed to circumvent the will of the majority of the people.

  8. john personna says:

    BTW, a couple commenters here have gone around the bend, telling me that this is about pushing the middle class into poverty.

    If public employees are living in poverty, that makes good TV, and a good campaign issue. Go for it.

  9. ponce says:

    “Ok, having noted all of that, I find myself questioning the hypothesis that public sector unions have undo power over the political process.”

    81% of Americans favor increasing taxes on the rich.

    The Democrats and Republicans gave them a tax cut.

    That is “undo power over the political process.”

  10. wr says:

    “Financial reality has come to roost.” Yes, the realization here being that if you steal money from teachers, you can give it to corporate billionaires through huge tax breaks.

  11. john personna says:

    Appealing to the voters, wr?

  12. Drew says:

    “Yes, the realization here being that if you steal money from teachers, you can give it to corporate billionaires through huge tax breaks.”

    The usual clowns appear………

  13. John Burgess says:

    I find no ‘right’ to organize public sector unions. They’ve been an exercise in political expediency from start to finish: recruit more voters for parties and candidates. They corrupt governments and bankrupt cities, counties, states, and nations.

  14. 1. Wasn’t the civil service supposed to eliminate the corruption of the patrnage and spoils system? Why can’t it also address the “interests” of the civil servants? Honestly, I think this is a red herring. Yes, there are some that are actively hostile to unions qua unions. At the same time there are many who don’t particularly care about unions per se, but question closed shops, mandatory dues taken by the state on the behalf of unions, and related issues. You seem to be falling into the trap of applying the worst to all those opposed to the status quo.

    2. See #1, and yet another false dichotomy. Many people supporting Gov. Walker’s actions are not saying that unions only produce bad outcomes or that the failures of eductaion in this country are only due to the teachers, but there sure as hell are a lot of people on the other side saying the teachers, more correctly the teachers’ unions, bear no responsibility for the significant eductaional failures in this country.

    3. Frankly these aren’t rights but privileges, which is the stock and trade of governments, especially when it comes to some of the more egregious monopoly like privileges granted to the public employee unions. Is the public really the great, evil bad guy, the way the mine owners or factory owners were?

    Is there a political compnent of this meant to hurt Democrats by deporiving them of funding, necessarily by hurting the unions? You bet. But are we going to pretend that this is just politics, but somehow Republicans doing it is bad but Democrats doing it is, you know, for the people or for the children or something. Don’t elections have consequences? I seem to remember having heard that somewhere. A lot of people who haven’t been challenged the way, say, a small businessman has been challenged the last few years, are getting a taste of the medicine the government can dish out. That sound you hear is the world’s tiniest violin.

    4. As to the undue influence, well the game’s not over yet. Not by a long shot. I think there is ample evidence of undue influence already, but no need to hash it all out again here. And do you really think the unions (note, unions not teachers) wouldn’t be willing to risk everything the way there apparently are if they didn’t feel they were losing something like perhaps undue influence? After all, the teachers can still belong to the unions and can contribute just as much to the unions and man the phone banks in campaigns, etc., but now without the state doing the heavy lifting for them.

    FWIW, yes corporations also exert undue influence and are firmly attached to the pubic teats. Anyone honest will note that I and other complain about that just as loudly as we do about the abuse by public unions. To revisit an old point, the best way to reduce the undue influence and corruption is to reduce the size and scope of government.

  15. wr says:

    Drew — Look at Florida. Rick Scott demands $170 million cut from the schools — and orders a $160 million corporate tax cut. In Wisconsin the financial “crisis” bloomed when corporate taxes were cut, leading the Republicans to demand huge cuts in teachers’ pay and in the schools. You can call me a clown, or you can look at the facts.

    Or maybe you can’t, since you’re so blinded by partisan ideology.

  16. steve says:

    “At a minimum, the vast power that public sector unions allegedly have is hardly on display at the moment.”

    Longer than that. After a lot of reading, it is unclear that the public sector unions benefit very much from their unions, at least for teachers. There are many papers written trying to show that public sector workers make more, less or the same as private sector workers. There is no clear conclusion. If it is that difficult to prove there is a difference, if one exists it must be rather small.

    “Unions have had their way for years through legitimate legislative processes, whether you or I like it or not”

    At least for teachers, this is not so clear. Teachers in union bargaining states do not necessarily make a lot more than in states where that does not hold. As Steve noted you still get tenure in Texas. Their teachers get salaries higher than the state average.

    http://certificationmap.com/states/texas-teacher-certification/

    Steve

  17. wr says:

    Charles — Thank you so much for highlighting the central big lie of this campaign. “Unions not teachers.” The unions ARE the teachers. I know the right wing likes to pretend that unions and their membership and separated, with all the members secretly yearning to join the Tea Party but restrained by jackbooted union thugs, but this is nothing but a fantasy.

  18. john personna says:

    I’m actually with you wr, that the tax cuts and schools funding issues is real and pressing.

    I don’t see public employee unions as necessary (or frankly, helping) in that. It’s hard to make an “it’s for the kids!” argument in favor of seniority-based job security, etc.

  19. john personna says:

    “The unions ARE the teachers.”

    FWIW, in my dad’s day, and my dad’s city, teachers could decline union membership.

  20. wr, and the government is the people! Not representatives of the people charged with the trusteeship of the government, but the actual people!

    Just curious, do you have anything substantive to say in response or is it just projection and progressive talking point fantasies?

  21. Rick Almeida says:

    I find no ‘right’ to organize public sector unions.

    Why would the rights of assembly, petition, and speech not extend to a right to organize public sector unions?

  22. Dave J says:

    “if the fundamental argument against public sector unions is that they have undue and intractable power over their elected bosses, how is it that we have arrived at the current situation in Wisconsin? At a minimum, the vast power that public sector unions allegedly have is hardly on display at the moment.”
    Perhaps encouraging your representatives to leave the state and essentially remove your elected representation from the proper forum proves ” vast power” but was not the best course of action. Trying to bargain for bargaining privileges most frequently is successful when you are able to prove that you are able to produce desirable results from that for which you are bargaining.

  23. mannning says:

    http://teachersunionexposed.com

    Factual information nationwide about teacher’s unions, their incomes, and their political contributions, all drawn from state public resources, can be accessed at the above URL, as well as evaluations of the educational prograns in each state. It is quite a lot of information to cull through for a state, much more so for the entire nation!. The Virginia Education Association, for example has an income as of 2008 of $15.3 million from teacher dues. It contrubuted 73% of its actual contributions to Dems and 20 some odd % to Reps.

    There must be a summary across all states somewhere of the important stats. This kind of data would provide at least one factual basis for assessing the influence of teacher’s unions in the nation, and the resulting effectiveness of the various educational programs and the teaching staffs within the states, with or without unions.

  24. Wayne says:

    The fact that Wisconsin finally did something to check the public Unions does not prove those unions never and\or don’t have undue power. That is like saying Gaddafi never had power because of the current riots.

    The Unions went too far and now there is kickback. That is the nature of things. When the pendulum goes too far one way it tends to swing the other way and often very fast. If they never had much of a influence then how did teachers and bus drivers get salaries and benefits amounting to greater than $100,000?

  25. Fog says:

    “FWIW, yes corporations also exert undue influence and are firmly attached to the pubic teats. “Anyone honest will note that I and others complain about that just as loudly as we do about the abuse by public unions.”

    But evidently, that’s not a point that gets much traction among Republicans. But keep trying!

    “To revisit an old point, the best way to reduce the undue influence and corruption is to reduce the size and scope of government.”

    Yes, there’s no use in continuing the dishonest charade of appointing foxes to guard hen houses. Let’s just tear down the hen houses and let the chickens fend for themselves.

  26. mantis says:

    PD Shaw,

    No one in Illinois tried to strip unions of collective bargaining. Therein lies the difference.

  27. Fog, fortunately, I’m not a Repuiblican. And your analogy sucks. Classic case of a false dichotomy and trying to impugn something you don’t agree with by trying to imply it is something it isn’t. Where did I advocate anarchy as you infer?

  28. Axel Edgren says:

    If you care about unions having influence, you should also care about corporate influence.

    But, alas, none of the people supporting Walker criticize him for being no less beholden to corporations than they say democrats are to unions.

    So they are all power-hungry partisan hypocrites and they must all be crushed. They must be made to regret this victory very harshly.

  29. steve says:

    “If they never had much of a influence then how did teachers and bus drivers get salaries and benefits amounting to greater than $100,000?”

    I have not researched bus drivers. For teachers, it is nearly universal that teachers in large cities command large salaries. Even the AEI, reference available, called this combat pay. Cos tof living is also higher in cities. I am sure you are aware that teacher salaries outside of cities tend to be lower.

    Here then is a question. Why does the US pay teachers less than other OECD countries on a GDP per capita basis? It is only partially accounted for by our having income concentrated at the top.

    Steve

  30. Max Lybbert says:

    Looking at parts of your predicates

    My basic instinct is to be in favor [of public sector unions], as it would seem to me that the right to organize and attempt to represent interests is pretty fundamental.

    There is a valid argument for unions. I went to public, unionized schools, and got a decent education.

    public sector unions give money to the politicians who have control over their careers (of course, so do corporations who often have a lot to gain from government as well—my current position is that all of this is probably just the messiness that is democratic governance, but also recognize a variety of issues in this realm that are worthy of continued discussion).

    Ahhh, rent seeking. Of course, as you know, rent seeking can be dealt with without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    One of the things that makes me uneasy about the whole Wisconsin situation is that I find processes directed towards the taking of rights from a group to be questionable on their face.

    The crux of my disagreement is that I don’t like calling collective bargaining a “right.” It’s a rhetorical device that has the effect of grouping it in with things like Free Speech, habeus corpus, etc. Wanting better working conditions and pay is entirely reasonable, but it’s not inherently virtuous (or evil). Besides, if it is a fundamental human right, then do people in right to work states have a lesser version of the right? Conversely, do people in state that allow union shops have a lesser version of the right of association, including the right to not associate with people or groups that you dislike?

    Of course, my position from pretty much the beginning was that compromise would have been the best outcome.

    I was thinking about this this morning. I’ve never been good at negotiating, so I once read up on what MIT has to say. The fundamental advice they have is that your power comes from your “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement,” i.e., your ability to walk away. In this case, Walker’s best alternative was more attractive to him than what the Democrats were asking for, so he took it. I don’t know what the Democrats’ best alternative was (never return to work?), but apparently they seriously misjudged Walker’s.

  31. Fog says:

    Jeez, Charles, I was actually trying to give you a compliment!
    And I never said you were a Republican, you inferred that all by yourself.
    I would have agreed with much of your comment if you hadn’t ended with the tired libertarian boilerplate.

  32. mantis says:

    In this case, Walker’s best alternative was more attractive to him than what the Democrats were asking for, so he took it.

    How was that Walker’s best alternative, exactly?

  33. @Max:

    The crux of my disagreement is that I don’t like calling collective bargaining a “right.” It’s a rhetorical device that has the effect of grouping it in with things like Free Speech, habeus corpus, etc

    Well, technically speaking, public sector unions had the legal right to collectively bargain until today when Walker signed the bill taking away said right. As such, I don’t think of the description as a rhetorical one.

    And in re: the following, I think that in the short term this is correct, although I do think that in the longer-term Walker/the state GOP would have been better off negotiating:

    In this case, Walker’s best alternative was more attractive to him than what the Democrats were asking for, so he took it.

    Time will tell if I my assessment is correct or not.

  34. @Max:

    And while I was not using the term “right” in my post to mean “fundamental human right” but rather a specific legal right (that is no more), I do think, actually, that the right to assemble with like-minded individuals as a means of pursuing shared interests is a fundamental human right. Whether is has to manifest as collective bargaining in a union setting is another issue, I suppose.

  35. TG Chicago says:

    In states like Illinois where Democrats dominate statewide…

    Not sure I buy this premise.

    The current Governor is a Democrat, as was the one before him. But before that was a Republican. Same for Lieutenant Governor.

    If you look at the Senate seat that Obama held, the people elected to that same seat both directly before and after him were both Republicans (including the current Senator).

    Current Secretary of State is a Democrat, but before him was a Republican. Same could be said about Attorney General

    Current Comptroller and Treasurer are both Republican.

    Democrats have the advantage in Illinois, but I don’t see “domination” here. Except for Secretary of State and Durbin’s Senate seat, all the statewide offices I mentioned have been held by Republicans at some point in the last 10 years.

  36. Fog, sorry, sometimes the sarcasm is hard to accurately interpret. That’s my problem.

  37. sam says:

    @Wayne

    “The Unions went too far and now there is kickback. That is the nature of things. When the pendulum goes too far one way it tends to swing the other way and often very fast.”

    Too true. Check back with us after the recalls.

  38. And what if more Democrats get recalled than Republicans? Will you finally accept those election results?

  39. I can’t get over the apparently ever growing desire on the progressive left to poison the well once they lose.

  40. wr says:

    Charles — Republicans lost pretty bad in 2008. I didn’t hear you complaining about them “poisoning the well” when they continued to fight for what they laughingly call their ideals.

  41. Max Lybbert says:

    In this case, Walker’s best alternative was more attractive to him than what the Democrats were asking for, so he took it.

    How was that Walker’s best alternative, exactly?

    The concept of the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” (or BATNA) is essentially “what happens if I walk away from the table?” BATNA *is not* the same thing as “best outcome.” It’s essentially a way to avoid negotiating a lose-lose outcome.

    For instance, yesterday I read a story about a very short negotiation. One person was willing to buy an item, and one person was willing to sell for the right price. “The right price” could mean “enough money” or it could mean “the seller is able to get rid of headaches, hassles, and time sinks” or it could mean any number of other things. In the story from yesterday, the seller’s BATNA was to continue to deal with the headaches he had while getting the revenue stream he was getting. The potential buyer didn’t realize this, and ended up making an offer that was far too low (“So you say you want to transfer all exclusive rights of my software to you for basically nothing, and offer me a fifth of what I get now? Why should I do that?”). He took the headaches plus the revenue stream instead of the offer of no headaches and 20% of the revenue stream.

    In the Wisconsin case, Walker had spent three weeks negotiating. He had made offers because he wanted something (bipartisanship, improved messaging, etc.) that only the Democratic senators could give him. But his BATNA always had been “pass the law without the Democratic senators.” He could live with this, and ended up choosing to do exactly that. I can’t help but wonder if the senators would have offered more had they realized this (Walker claims that their counteroffer was “give us everything we want”).

  42. Stan says:

    “If they never had much of a influence then how did teachers and bus drivers get salaries and benefits amounting to greater than $100,000?”

    I used Google to find the starting salary for a teacher in my home town in Wisconsin. The current population is about 10,000, twice as many people as when I lived there, the location is the Milwaukee suburbs, and it’s always been pretty prosperous. The starting salary for teachers a year or so ago was $32,000 a year. I was surprised it was so high. When I went to high school in the early 50’s my music teacher worked near me in the local cannery doing minimum wage work during the summer, my math teacher delivered milk, and my football coach spent the summer selling hot dogs, hamburgers, and root beer at an A&W shack. Teaching is really a cushy occupation, isn’t it?

  43. @Max:

    In the Wisconsin case, Walker had spent three weeks negotiating. He had made offers because he wanted something (bipartisanship, improved messaging, etc.) that only the Democratic senators could give him. But his BATNA always had been “pass the law without the Democratic senators.” He could live with this, and ended up choosing to do exactly that. I can’t help but wonder if the senators would have offered more had they realized this (Walker claims that their counteroffer was “give us everything we want”).

    Except that that was not the offer from the Dems, as they had agreed to a number of Walker’s demands and he lost the other elements of his budget repair bill (i.e., the ones about the budget) because they had to be stripped out. He may yet get them, but he doesn’t have them right now.

  44. @Max:

    BTW, I take the BATNA point.

    My point, however, is that I am not sure that he was negotiating in good faith.

    Further, there is the problem for him as to whether or not, as I noted above, he actually made the best choice given his alleged goals (unless the goal was just getting rid of collective bargaining and the rest was a smokescreen).

  45. mantis says:

    In the Wisconsin case, Walker had spent three weeks negotiating

    You’re funny. Tell another one.

    (Walker claims that their counteroffer was “give us everything we want”).

    Actually, you have it backwards. The unions conceded everything but their collective bargaining rights, and Walker refused to negotiate.

    Why do wingnuts get everything backwards?

  46. Max Lybbert says:

    And while I was not using the term “right” in my post to mean “fundamental human right” but rather a specific legal right (that is no more)

    I realize that. I just hate the fact that it’s hard to distinguish between the two easily, and people seem to assume that “right” means “fundamental human right.”

    I do think, actually, that the right to assemble with like-minded individuals as a means of pursuing shared interests is a fundamental human right.

    Which is, of course, why I like right to work states. I hate the idea of getting a job offer that requires me to join a union, i.e., assemble with people I don’t necessarily want to assemble with. It’s also why I would oppose efforts to outright outlaw unions. Banding together to get better pay or work conditions, or (following Bainbridge’s explanation of unions that I linked to in an earlier comment) to get management to be more trustworthy, is a valid option. There’s nothing wrong about forming a union, but there’s nothing virtuous about it either.

    The Wisconsin law allows the unions to continue to exist but does change the rules about what unions can do (for one, they can no longer require people to pay union dues in order to accept a state job). I think the “no negotiating about pay” part is a bad policy (it prevents the state from using the Netflix model (slide 106) of high salary and few benefits, and makes things like silly tenure rules more likely to go haywire).

  47. Don’t know if it is true but it has been reported that when a Fleebagger shirking her duties in Illinois requested an absentee ballot that was sort of the final straw that indicated waiting any longer in a vain hope that a compromise might be reached served no purpose, if you want to bring up bad faith.

  48. sam says:

    @Charles

    “And what if more Democrats get recalled than Republicans? Will you finally accept those election results?”

    Sure. Unlikely, though.

  49. Well, at least it’s nice to know the terms under which you will accept the results of elections.

  50. PD Shaw says:

    TG Chicago, do you really live in Illinois (or perhaps just moved here).

    Why was pension reform passed in approximately 10 1/2 hours?

  51. PD Shaw says:

    The answer to the question answers Professor Taylor’s doubts about “questioning the hypothesis that public sector unions have undo power over the political process.”

  52. PD Shaw says:

    mantis, I’m sure with your vast knowledge of Illinois politics, you are aware that the Democratic House leader is trying to strip unions of collective bargaining rights by putting the issue to a popular referendum.

  53. Robert Levine says:

    “I hate the idea of getting a job offer that requires me to join a union, i.e., assemble with people I don’t necessarily want to assemble with. It’s also why I would oppose efforts to outright outlaw unions. Banding together to get better pay or work conditions, or (following Bainbridge’s explanation of unions that I linked to in an earlier comment) to get management to be more trustworthy, is a valid option. There’s nothing wrong about forming a union, but there’s nothing virtuous about it either.”

    Much of what people say they don’t like about labor unions (“a job offer that requires me to join a union,” for example, although that’s not technically the case anywhere in the US) is an artifact ot US labor law requiring that unions be the sole and exclusive bargaining agent in a given workplace. From that flows the justification for requiring those covered by the resulting agreement to pay at least so-called “Beck” dues to the union (except in right-to-work states) as well as the doctrine of the duty of fair representation, which requires unions to represent the interests of non-members in the workplace, thus creating a massive free-rider problem for unions.

    Very little thought has been given to any alternatives, at least in the US. But there’s no reason in principle why a union should be required to represent anyone but those who choose to join it, even if that’s not every person in the workplace. A truly libertarian approach to labor rights would support such an concept, I think.

    For that matter, I’m always surprised to see people who think of themselves as libertarians so enthusiastic about the regulation of labor unions.

  54. Max Lybbert says:

    (Walker claims that their counteroffer was “give us everything we want”).

    Except that that was not the offer from the Dems, as they had agreed to a number of Walker’s demands and he lost the other elements of his budget repair bill (i.e., the ones about the budget) because they had to be stripped out. He may yet get them, but he doesn’t have them right now.

    That is what Walker claims. I believe his reasoning is that the unions had made most of the concessions before the Democrats left town, so the only point for negotiation was collective bargaining, which the Democrats wouldn’t budge on.

    In the Wisconsin case, Walker had spent three weeks negotiating

    You’re funny. Tell another one.

    I have to assume you’re familiar with the emails released Tuesday.

  55. PD Shaw says:

    Another example of too much power in the public sector union’s in today’s papers. Illinois could save money and produce education outcomes by forcing the merger of it’s smaller districts (and bring it’s district sizes up to national norms). Today, the report is that the money saved would have to go to pay raises for the teachers, though “Illinois could stop the salary increase by changing teachers’ collective bargaining rights.”

    So, we won’t save money, we won’t improve outcomes, we will fire more teachers.

  56. @PD:

    I must confess, your definition of “too much power” seems to be any result that you don’t like or that can be criticized.

  57. Also: I just read the piece.

    1. That pre-existing agreements can’t be broken at the whim of the governor hardly strikes me as problematic–even if doing so would save money.

    2. How about doing the hard work of negotiating a new fix?

    3. If I was a teacher transferred into a new district where my peers were paid more, I would expect to get a raise–especially if there was a change in workload and work conditions (such as more students). I suspect private sector workers would have a similar perspective.

  58. Barry says:

    Drew: “Nice straw man – “intractable.” Unions have had their way for years through legitimate legislative processes, whether you or I like it or not. Financial reality has now come home to roost, and a legitimate legislative process has changed the tide. That’s not evidence that prior union power did not exist, just a shift in power. ”

    Adding on to Ponce’s comment, if somebody’s going after interests with undue influence, it’d be Wall St first and second, with oil being third.