This Week: Budget Battles from Washington to Wisconsin

Monday, February 21, 2011

Copies of the administrations 2012 Budget proposal at the Senate Budget Committee on February14, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, chief political correspondent for Slate magazine, John Dickerson talks about the about budget battles in Washington, Wisconsin and around the country.

The battle over budgets is happening all over the country. Wisconsin has been in the spotlight this week over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget slashing bill, but many of his cuts are directed towards unions. Among them, he wants state employees to contribute more to their pensions and health care and to limit collective bargaining rights.

John Dickerson said it's a hard to make a case that this proposal is only about cutting costs.

Walker has been making his case, but the question is whether this is a shared sacrifice or using the crisis of the moment to really dismantle unions. To the extent that other Republican governors are on the hotline with Walker looking for guidance and lending moral support, it certainly supports the idea that this is more of an ideological crusade to dismantle unions, more than just asking union members to share their share of the load.

The Wisconsin governor isn't targeting all unions. There are exemptions for firemen and policemen — groups that also supported the governor during his campaign

Gov. Walker isn't the only one bruising the unions. Mayor Bloomberg in New York is pressing Albany for pension reform. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is seeking changes for teacher pensions and benefits too.

Here's how Dickerson laid out the argument on each side of the fence:

Union members would argue well, those benefits were hard won and those deals were made when wage increases were not to help people understand it, this is like actually cutting pay...What Walker and others would say is that the reason this has to do with budgeting is that gives governments more flexibility in doing the things they need to do to deal with their deficit problems and that they're hamstrung by collective bargaining. And without that flexibility, says Walker, you have to end up firing people instead of reshaping benefits, which makes them more draconian.

On Fox News on Sunday, Gov. Walker said just that: "What stood in the way time and time again was collective bargaining."

Beyond the ideological debate, there is also a real fiscal problem. Dickerson said each state will have to decide how much of the budget balancing is necessary trimming and how much of it is going overboard. One element of Gov. Walker's proposal is to end automatic union fee paychecks deductions. This, Dickerson said, doesn't seem like the element of a fiscal proposal.

If we're trying to find out where that line is, what's reasonable in terms of shared sacrifice and what's overreaching in order to pin back some group with whom you have ideological differences, this does seem to fall into that category. 

In the meantime, the Democratic state senators in Wisconsin are persona non grata. Dickerson said they've fled because without a quorum, the legislature can't vote on the governor's proposal. So, what's next?

The question is, whether the governor's line, which is that these Democratic lawmakers are shirking their duties, whether that starts to take on any purchase and whether they look like they're not being reasonable. Of course their argument is that the governor is not being reasonable. 

According to Dickerson, efforts have been made by unions and lawmakers to make this proposal work. Unions have said they'll give in on the health care and pension benefits if they can keep their collective bargaining, but the governor said no. Republicans suggested just a temporary two-year freezing of collective bargaining during the budget crisis. Gov. Walker said no to that too. Dickerson said the budget proposal is being put forth as an emergency fiscal measure and some of the provisions (like the automatic union fee paychecks deductions) are pretty distant from that. 

It isn't only about the shared sacrifice, it's also about who gave it the best shot.

The general argument is in tough times everybody has to sacrifice and sort of meet the other guy half way, who gets blamed for not acting in good faith. Lawmakers may get blamed for skipping town, but the governor may also get blamed for being completely inflexible when there have been some compromises put on the table.

Dickerson said as lawmakers in Washington deal with the nation's budget, they also want the message to be that they gave it a good shot, but this plan was slightly foiled with talk of a government shutdown. The last shutdown was in the mid-1990's under the Clinton administration and Republicans were blamed for it. Because the memory of how this tarred them, Dickerson thinks they'll make sure a shutdown doesn't happen again.

It will be a tough balancing act for John Boehner and the other Republican leaders in the House to both say to their conservative members, look we have to be prudent here. We all have the same goals cutting government, but let's not do something that obscures our goal by making people think we're being reckless and overreaching. That's a very difficult conversation he's going to have to John Boehner manages the difference between those two numbers will be his key task over, pretty much the next two years.


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Comments [51]

mc from Brooklyn

Just looked at the Fertig link. I'm touched that you thought of me. :-)

Feb. 21 2011 05:09 PM
mc from Brooklyn

Oops, typo. I meant to say I reduced YOU to a name-calling etc., etc.

Feb. 21 2011 05:00 PM
mc from Brooklyn

@Mr Bad: oh yes I am indeed the one who reduced to name-calling blithering when I refused to allow you to dictate the terms of the argument. It was a lot of fun. You do not know what I do or do not understand, this is only bluster on your part.

@scljinx: keep fighting the good fight.

Feb. 21 2011 04:57 PM
RJ from Prospect Hts

I don't believe most (if not all) WNYC reporters know very much about the labor movement or unions (indeed, Greg David, formerly the editor of the business magazine Crain's, is a regular commentator, but there is no regular from labor). Charlie Herman just compared the concessions made by UAW members at GM last year to what is being fought over by state workers in Wis. There is a **massive** difference between negotiating benefits and/or work rules changes (GM) and eliminating collective bargaining altogether.(Wis.). It's an apples/orange comparison, and misinforms listeners who similarly have little or no knowledge of unions.

Feb. 21 2011 04:40 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ mc from Brooklyn

You are a troll, you don't even understand the Taylor Law, nor Due Process, weren't you the one who argued with me endlessly and pointlessly re: due process weeks ago? Here you go: Beth Fertig (the WNYC education reporter) describes teacher tenure as an ADDITIONAL set of due process protections. Just stop contributing if you can’t even get basic facts write, I’m not going to respond to your comments other than to write that.

@ scljinx

And finally we have the last, woeful retreat to the guilt trip… I’ve been commenting on this topic for some time and it always goes “there’ when all else fails. If you’re one of the good teachers (very, very rare) than I’m sad to hear you’re being let go, really, good teachers are so few that whenever one leaves or is fired it is a genuine loss to the community – but that is, let me reiterate, very rare. I don’t know why you think that cutting back on “optional standardized testing, cutting classroom supplies” and finally, you, is preferable to letting the market set your fellow teacher’s salary (setting prices is ONE thing a free market (in this case labor) is good). I’d bet that if you all took a 20% haircut and gave up on the contractually guaranteed salary increases you’re union is seeking (the main reason school district budgets never stop growing) you could continue to work at your school well into retirement but then …greed, geed is compelling, no?

I know that the Taylor Law prevents bargaining over pensions, there is no such law in Wisconsin or any other state I know of, since you weren’t specific about where you worked I have to make generalizations. If you worked in NYC at least you could take comfort in the fact that while the union hems and haws and tries to “wait out” this whole “recession” the last contract that expired in 2009 is still in force, along with all of its unaffordable “boom era” contract provisions that are bankrupting the state and by implication maybe even your school district as well, right?

Finally, thanks for correcting my punctuation, It’s exactly the sort of comment I would expect from a professional pedant, might also take a look at my grammar and spelling mistakes, my posts are rife with good examples You’ve got the time now.

Feb. 21 2011 04:26 PM

I hope you will get the last word in, and that you will find my final post here as hilarious as my previous one, but I'll just respond to a couple of your points. I'm glad to be so amusing.

- My state is New York. I teach in New York.
- As a member of a negotating team, I am aware that we do not make or change laws at the table.
- The people who care how we divvy the money up amongst ourselves after we receive our share of state and federal aide are the taxpayers of the community I teach in. They care quite a bit - those local, human families with children in my classrooms.
- You are crystal-balling how balancing local school budgets will work in a time without collective bargaining. Thank you for your vision. But many of the items we bargain collectively for are not monetary. They may involve issues of time or working conditions, or whether a teacher can teach a certain number of classes outside their area of certification. These issues impact children and the quality of their education. And we are prohibited from bargaining pension or retirement benefits clauses, at least in New York State.
- Districts are already in the red, or making cuts to avoid being so, as you mentioned is true for NYC. My district is reponding to shrinking state funding and increasing demands of tax certioraris by eliminating optional standardized testing, cutting classroom supplies, and cutting positions, mine included. Clap clap clap. I've had a good run; time to bow out.
- Apostrophe s does not make a singular noun plural.

Feb. 21 2011 03:49 PM
mc from Brooklyn

A restraint that already exists in NY: the Taylor law.

Feb. 21 2011 02:57 PM
Mr, Bad from NYC

From Time Magazine:

We keep hearing how there isn't any difference between collective bargaining for steelworkers or autoworkers and bargaining for public-sector workers like teachers. Not exactly. While steelworkers can't pick the boards of directors for steel companies, teachers' unions have enormous influence in elections for school board members and state legislators. And while car and steel factories can go bankrupt — providing a real check on what kinds of demands labor can make — there is not the same constraint in the public sector, because while states can go broke, they can't go out of business. Given this, are any restraints on public-sector collective bargaining appropriate?,8599,2052705,00.html

Feb. 21 2011 02:50 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ scljinx

That was hilarious. I don't know where to begin. First of all many state's elect Superintendent's, yours may not, in that case he/she is appointed, but whatever. The school board may control the budget but the state has a huge say (witness NY) in the millions in state aid that goes to each district (cuomo is cutting it), as do the feds with their aid, and that's common knowledge. It is also the reason there is so much trouble here in NYC about laying off 5000 teachers, the 60 Billion PAID straight to school districts for teacher salaries by the 2009 ARRA bill is gone now, and there is no more $ to pay the teachers that were "saved" by this huge handout to the dem union base.

You may "negotiate" with locals but much of the $ comes from state and federal politicians and the pension mess is also a state supervised mess. Once the budget is established who cares how you divvy up the money amongst yourselves? The state also makes the LAWS, as we see in Wisonsin, and so they can (and will) eliminate your right to bargain collectively if they wish. Are you saying that that is negotiated with your school board?

This is how it works: Collective bargaining is banned by state law, State and Federal aid will dry up, school budgets are all of the sudden in the red big time, school boards cuts teacher salaries. How did your school board negotiations figure into that scenario? Raise property taxes and watch the fur fly ... LOL. The truth is that big government handouts are the only thing that will support out of control teacher salaries in hard times when local taxes will not be able to be raised, ala NJ.

2.) Your second question is ridiculous, AZ and NZ are the LOCUS of the real estate bust - my advice is that they knock down all the empty condos and homes. Almost all states are running deficits due to recession (44) , the only difference is that NC will be able keep from raising taxes on everyone to pay for ansmall % of overpaid teachers.

Feb. 21 2011 01:17 PM

Hello Mr. Bad in NYC,

1. I can help you fill the gaps in your background knowledge regarding negotiations in a local school district. The team of teachers negotiates with a district team, in our case consisting of our district's lawyer, a member of the school board, and upper level administrators - superintendent, assistant superintendent, and occasionally our business superintendent. The only elected person on the team is the school board member, who is elected by the community. The other members of the district team are hired employees, each with their own individual contracts. These district team members work for the school board. The school board represents the community of taxpayers, not the teachers.

2. Considering your convictions that eliminating collective bargaining rights of unions will assist in future budget deficits, what advice do you have for Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina, states which already have no collective bargaining and are suffering worse deficits than some states with strong unions?

Feb. 21 2011 12:26 PM
mc from Brooklyn

Robert from NJ: I appreciate your consistency.

Feb. 21 2011 12:16 PM
Robert from New Jersey

Mr. Bad from NYC: you keep hitting the nail right on the head.

Feb. 21 2011 12:14 PM
Robert from New Jersey

mc from brooklyn: absolutely.

Feb. 21 2011 12:07 PM
Robert from New Jersey

jawbone: The societal gap between rich and poor is obviously not relevant to this discussion. It was not CREATED by taxes. Here in this discussion, taxes are causing a transfer of wealth from the community as a whole to the unions.

Feb. 21 2011 12:05 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ scljinx

re: 1.)Whether you are "conscious" or not during negotiations is not something I could know, nor should anyone else take that for granted, we do not negotiate on the "honor system" when it comes to huge amounts of money and self interest. And with whom do you negotiate? Politicians who have no true self interest in the negotiations anyway, or who in the case of the dem establishment (like in NY) are partly ELECTED and FUNDED by the people they BARGAIN WITH. No conflict there, I'm sure a "quid pro quo" is furthest from everyone's mind and like Solomon each side works in the best interest of fairness, justice and fiscal probity ... etc.

re: 2.) Yes, eliminating collective bargaining for unions will NOT guarantee balanced budgets, as I've already stated. Eliminating collective bargaining WILL reduce proportionally the amount of new middle class taxes that will be passed on working families eventually. Collective bargaining has NOT caused budgets to explode, that is true, but it WILL in the future unless we stop it now. When tax receipts were high, growth was good and the economy was humming along it was easy to shrug off the structural deficit, it would be taken care of by "growth". That time is now gone forever. Even the most optimistic predictions don't have us returning to full employment for 5-10 years, if ever. Growth will also be very low, aid to states will be reduced and the Obama health care bill has essentially shifted giant segments of the population into Medicaid, which will burden the state budgets to an astronomical degree, because there are no cost controls in the great "Health Care Bill" Clap clap clap. Sorry, but it's the spoiled, entitled Public Unions or EVERYONE else. You've had a good run, time to bow out.

Feb. 21 2011 11:50 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I'm curious about something. I'm wondering if the people posting here who are supportive of what Walker is doing think he should propose the same for the law enforcement and firefighters' unions.
Just wondering.

Feb. 21 2011 11:49 AM

Robert from NJ -- No transfer of wealth from the middle class to the Uberwealthy? Really?

Then how come the very top percentiles have vastly increased their amount of the national wealth since...ta dah!...Reagan?

And the actual buying power of white males since 1970 has actually fallen?

And we now have the greatest disparity in wealth since before the Great Depression?

Feb. 21 2011 11:41 AM

Mr. Bad in NYC wrote: Public sector unions don't care about bargaining in good faith, they don't bargain with a company that they could bankrupt with their demands (like a private sector union) and put themselves out of a job - so they will always ask for the moon, and get it, because they are effectively taxing other workers to pay their salaries (double the average as comparable private sector jobs + pensions and perks

1. As a member of a negotiating team for a teacher's union who is currently working without a contract, our team has at no time asked for the moon, and have been very conscious of the fact that our salaries are payed for by taxpayer monies when we make proposals and sit at the table.

2. Removing collective bargaining rights from unions will not guarantee a balanced state budget. As is noted in Robert Reich's post from early January (see below),

"The final Republican canard is that bargaining rights for public employees have caused state deficits to explode. In fact there’s no relationship between states whose employees have bargaining rights and states with big deficits. Some states that deny their employees bargaining rights - Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, for example, are running giant deficits of over 30 percent of spending. Many that give employees bargaining rights — Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Montana — have small deficits of less than 10 percent."

Feb. 21 2011 11:32 AM

Article from that wild-eyed liberal rag, Forbes, on how the Koch brothers are working with Republican governors to kill public employees' right to collective bargaining.

"UPDATE: The Americans for Prosperity group, a Tea Party group that is a Koch Brothers front, has put up a website and petition called The website attacks all collective bargaining – not just for public employees’ unions. Americans for Prosperity is also organizing a rally tomorrow in Wisconsin to support Gov. Walker.

Why are the Koch Brothers so interested in Wisconsin? They are a major business player in the state."

More and links at the source link.

Feb. 21 2011 11:16 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Here are some things you can bet the house on:

1.) Taxes are going up BIGTIME for EVERYONE soon, withing the next 10 years.

2.) Public sector unions don't care about bargaining in good faith, they don't bargain with a company that they could bankrupt with their demands (like a private sector union) and put themselves out of a job - so they will always ask for the moon, and get it, because they are effectively taxing other workers to pay their salaries (double the average as comparable private sector jobs + pensions and perks).

3.) The choice is to take them on now, break them and give state budgets breathing room for the next ten years so that when the tax increases do hit the working class pays less, because I WILL BET THE HOUSE that somehow the wealthy will find a way to weasel out of paying their fair share, just look how easily they snared Cuomo, a NY democrat governor!

Feb. 21 2011 11:09 AM

I keep hearing that public sector employees are paid more than private sector employees, yet facts do not support that.

Here's a link to a post with a chart comparing private and public sector wages for the same (type) of work. Me, I'd like to think that engineers inspecting the bridges we travel over are well paid and will stay in their jobs, but, heck, I like the thought of a bridge not collapsing under me. Not every bridge collapse kills as few people as the Minneapolis bridge collapse* of a few years ago did....

*It also would have been helpful is Pawlenty had placed public safety above his desire to cut taxes and pospone repairs which had been reported to him....

Cheap infrastructure maintenance seems to go along with Republicans' desire for Cheap Labor.

Fighting Bob LaFollette told the public that you get what you pay for, that GOOD government was not cheap.

Feb. 21 2011 11:04 AM
Robert from New Jersey

jawbone: the only transfer of 'wealth' I see is from the community to the unions. You can't create the amount of money it will take to pay for wage increases and rich benefit packages for such a large group of workers by taxing only the 'rich'. You end up having to pull increasing levels of tax from a community that in general whose wages and benefits have been sliding backward over the past few years -- while our 'public servants' have not. And no reasonable person will accept the idea that not getting a raise is 'sliding backward'.

Feb. 21 2011 10:59 AM
Mr. bad from NYC

@ jawbone

Nice try.

If only that were the case ... The REAL issue is not the 140 million budget shortfall, it is the 4 billion structural deficit - and he is proposing structural changes to the public union relationship with the state to address it - it may hurt the dems, a big plus for him, but it is the fiscally responsible thing to do. Spending will exceed revenues for the foreseeable future in Wisconsin, nobody disagrees about that, and the state will be forced to limit aid to municipalities in the future - this revison to the public union labor law allows local town and cities to balance their budgets too, they have even fewer resources than the state. Add to the aforementioned problems the HUGE influx of Medicaid cases that will poor in after Obama's health care plan is fully implemented and you get a tsunami of costs not too far down the road...

Feb. 21 2011 10:58 AM

From email from friend who lives in WI-

"Walker has turned back $810 million for high speed rail, $700,000 to help folks find suitable and affordable health insurances and this week $23 million for upgrades for high speed Internet service for rural area schools, libraries and hospitals."

There does seem to be a plan among the Republican governors to try to make the economic situations worse in their states. Part of the 2012 election campaign?

Do not accept monies which help people, either for health care, job creations, or general assistance -- then claim it's all the Democrats' fault?

These moves by Christie, Walker, Kasich, and now Rick Scott of FL to refuse to build better train transportation facilities is 1) plain stupid in the face of global warming and 2) just dumb in terms of meeting the transportation needs of an aging population. Oh, and mean and spiteful for those who could use a good job....

Feb. 21 2011 10:54 AM
Robert from New Jersey

mc from Brooklyn: how does that make it different?

Feb. 21 2011 10:50 AM

Here's a link for the Cap Times editorial about Walker ginning up this "emergency" in order to go after unions. He is also including a power grab over Wisconsin's Medicaid programs, Senior Care and Badger Care.

" just about every other state in the country, Wisconsin is managing in a weak economy. The difference is that Wisconsin is managing better -- or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.

In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the “crisis” would not exist.

The Fiscal Bureau memo -- which readers can access at -- makes it clear that Walker did not inherit a budget that required a repair bill."

There are alos embedded links at the link I provided.

Feb. 21 2011 10:45 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Here in the bluest of the blue states our new gov Cuomo cannot/will not attempt to continue the higher income tax rate for the rich - why? Because state budgets are screwed for the foreseeable future, all over the country. Tax receipts are low, more people need services because they're broke and out of work and the public sector unions are a huge burden on state budgets, especially in blue states where their political pull ensures favorable negotiating results. The smart thing is to break the public unions now, raise taxes on the wealthy later (it has to be done eventually anyway) and that is what is happening now. I

Feb. 21 2011 10:42 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

All workers must stand against Walker and his ilk in Indiana and Ohio. Contrary to what Dickerson said, it is not only about automatic dues checkoff, but to make unons irrelevant by taking away their bargaining power and then have annual decertification elections to remove them once they have no power. The AP reported these proposals clearly:

"The bill would require government workers to contribute more to their healthcare and pension costs and limit collective bargaining on pay increases to no more than the Consumer Price Index unless voters approve. Workers could not negotiate benefits and working conditions. Unions could not force their workers to pay dues and would face a vote every year to remain certified."

This is part of coordinated effort to weaken the rights of all workers: public and private sector.

Feb. 21 2011 10:40 AM

Robert from NJ -- Walker wants to limit any bargaining to only wage increases. No collective bargaining for work conditions, pensions, health insurance, vacation time, holidays, sick days --any and all benefits could not be issues for collective bargaining.

Solely for wages.

And all the other conditioins are meant to destroy the unions.

The middle class in this nation was built on the efforts of unions to improve working condition. Often, what unions gained through collective bargaining was then made part of the non-bargained for employees benefits and wage increases.

OK, so you're good with the Republicans' desire and efforts since the New Deal to get back to the good old days of Cheap Labor?

Me, I'd rather there wasn't this huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 2-3% of earners. But I guess you're down with that. The rest of us? Our standard of living is just down....

Feb. 21 2011 10:39 AM

WNYC Web Master:

Is there a reason that you have the comments in reverse chronological order (oldest at bottom, newest at top)? It makes following any discussion within the comments more difficult. It also means scrolling down to the bottom for the comment box, then scrolling increasingly longer space to get to a newer comment to make any replies.

Just wondering what the logic is. Thank you.

Feb. 21 2011 10:33 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Kathy from Nj

Yes, you're right about that, clearly the benefit to the republican party is depriving the dems of their union support. It doesn't change the fact their basically soaking the working class to pay for their union worker salaries.

Feb. 21 2011 10:30 AM

Does your guest have any citations or links for his assertion that the report by the state equivalent of the CBO has been "misread" or "misunderstood"?

The Madison Capital Times stated exactly what the caller said to Dickerson, that there was a relatively small deficit, which Walker wiped out with his tax cuts and giveaways to business and some of his big donors. Also, the report stated there was the strong possibility of a surplus by the end of the year.

So, what is Dickerson's source? On the internet, assertions without links or sources tend to be challenged. People have come to depend on a commenter supplying a link; if not, the assertion is open to question.

To bad radio hosts don't ask for sources.

Feb. 21 2011 10:29 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Public sector unions are transferring wealth from the public tax base (rich and poor) to their own members, this is ONLY about union members and their well paid union managers, nobody else. Public sector unions do nothing for anyone else in the labor force and care little for any social "progress" or anyone else's lifestyle. Let's be honest about this debate.

Feb. 21 2011 10:25 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Robert from NJ: the problem is that's not really bargaining. It's a predetermined contract that can only run for a year at a time. Plus they would not be able to bargain for any working conditions.

Feb. 21 2011 10:25 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I read that Wisconsin had a surplus and that Walker gave a tax cut to deplete it so he could do this to the unions. Does anyone know anything about that?

Feb. 21 2011 10:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Speaking of Washington, why is it legal under the National Labor Relations Act for a governor to suspend workers' collective bargaining rights?

Feb. 21 2011 10:24 AM
Katherine Jackson from LES

Don't forget that Walker's campaign was hugely backed by the Koch brothers!

Feb. 21 2011 10:24 AM
galit from Manhattan

I am a flight attendant and work at Delta and feel that nobody should be forced to pay union dues. Legally, once a work group has a union nobody in that work group can opt out of paying membership. Unions are a private business and are just money hungry! Delta flight attendants have voted a union down 3 times in 5 years and yet they still come chasing and trying to get in. Unions are just money making useless entities. When a company has no money, no union can force anything.

Feb. 21 2011 10:24 AM
Harris Saltzburg

Amazing that this is occurring in the state of Battlin' Bob LaFollette. How would he address this attempt by the governor of his state to turn back the clock on labor in America???

Feb. 21 2011 10:23 AM
ruthie from brooklyn

I work at a nonprofit organization in NYC and am a member of CWA. I had over $700 in union dues withdrawn over the course of 2010. It'd be great to have that money. But I am protected by a contract that assures that my salary doesn't fall below a certain level, that provides me annual cost of living increase, that assures me generous vacation and sick days, and that guarantees a good severance package. If I didn't pay those dues, I would not be protected by a contract.

Feb. 21 2011 10:23 AM
John Lobell from New York

We should be able to opt out. I have been a dues paying union member for 35 years. However, I believe it is important that I have the choice. It is the only way I can meaningfully "vote" on how I think the union is doing.

Feb. 21 2011 10:23 AM
sheldon from brooklyn

The fact that the Governor exempted the two unions that voted for him shows this is all politics

Feb. 21 2011 10:22 AM
Theresa Muir from Brooklyn

Remember the old feminist saw "Feminism is the radical concept that women are human beings"? Well, labor unions represent the radical concept that workers are human beings. Good to see that the workers themselves are remembering this.

Feb. 21 2011 10:22 AM

Are employees who give up union payment also willing to give up the negotiated benefits? How powerful will they be without collective rights?

Feb. 21 2011 10:22 AM
Robert from New Jersey

In Wisconsin the unions will still be able to negotiate. It's just that, if their negotiated contract boosts costs beyond overall increase in cost-of-living, the contract must then be specifically approved by the voters. How is that different from union members being able to reject contracts after their leadership finishes negotiating them?

Feb. 21 2011 10:21 AM
Kathy from Nj

This is union busting plain and simple. There before the grace of god go I. The republicans want to end funding from the left in election spending. It's disgusting what is happening in this country.

Feb. 21 2011 10:21 AM
David from Queens

Opting out is just another tool to destroy unions - the Republicans want to transfer wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. This is one of their golden oldies.

Feb. 21 2011 10:18 AM

I find it amazing that bonuses for Wall Street bankers in banks which contributed mightily to the economic meltdown and then were bailed out by taxpayers HAD to be paid because, well, contracts are sacred.

But when it comes to public employees contracts are far from sacred. Indeed, contract for other workers, if the company is sold, were found to be non-sacred.

Things seem to be skewed toward one level of our economic classes, eh?

Feb. 21 2011 10:18 AM
Sara from Bushwick

I read that Walker came into office with a budget surplus of 120 million dollars....that was only six weeks ago.

Feb. 21 2011 10:12 AM
mc from Brooklyn

It's ridiculous for a state governor to be afraid of collective bargaining. If you need to address budget problems, do it at the bargaining table.

Feb. 21 2011 10:12 AM
CH from NYC

It might be good to give a tip of the hat to the twitterati for outing the plot to impersonate protest supporters by members of the Tea Party. See:

Feb. 21 2011 10:04 AM

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