Depending on what papers you read and which newscasts you listen to very different reports emerge. Half-truths, innuendoes and outright smears are coming to us, not just from the combatants, via the news media. Has objective reporting given way to emotional promotion of specific points-of-views?
In November, Wisconsin moved from Democrat control to the Republicans, a clean sweep in the Assembly, the Senate and the Governors office. The governor and others campaigned on cutting spending, not increasing taxes and making the state a friendly place for businesses to locate. All of these promises where designed to keep the citizens working and put the unemployed back to work.
One of the first moves by the state’s new administration was to offer incentives to business. The problem of costs surrounding a failed education system was next on the agenda. Health care and pension benefits contributions by teachers were seriously out of line with other labor unions, including public unions. At the same time, the future of the state’s fiscal wellbeing was addressed with a bill to eliminate collective bargaining with the teacher’s union, except for wages and salaries. That’s when bedlam broke out.
Calls of union busting and worse came from the left, and then 14 Democrat senators left town rather than face a vote they were sure to lose. Teachers faked illness to protest at the capital building, schools had no choice but to close, students and others toting hand-made signs joined the marchers. Within days out-of-state factions went to Madison. Soon printed T-shirts and professionally prepared signs were seen everywhere.
Teachers realized early on that they had to give in on the modest increases to be paid into their benefit package. But collective bargaining was out of the question. The governor fired back that he would not comprise and that in order to control future spending local governments would be responsible for all issues other than salaries. He claimed, and rightfully so, that teachers and other civil servants are protected by state laws.
In other words, the teachers will have to deal with school boards on things such as tenure, probation, promotion, reclassification and reduction, evaluation, grievances, student discipline and more. These topics could be dealt with at the local level and worked out over time. However, this would weaken the power of unions and their ability to control the education process while keeping dues-paying teachers on the membership roles.
If the governor prevails in Wisconsin, many believe this will lead to lower costs while improving the education system. Reduced union importance could spread to other public employee unions in states across the country. This could result in wages, benefits and pensions getting in line with the private sector. If the states’ finances become healthier, you could pay less in taxes and get more services for the taxes you pay. We’ll see.