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How the Left Sees the Union Crisis in Madison

Fred Siegel, our best commentator on the plight of the cities, explained how it all works to Wall Street Journal political reporter John Fund:

Labor historian Fred Siegel offers further reasons why unions are manning the barricades. [Gov. Scott] Walker would require that public-employee unions be recertified annually by a majority vote of all their members, not merely by a majority of those that choose to cast ballots. In addition, he would end the government's practice of automatically deducting union dues from employee paychecks. For Wisconsin teachers, union dues total between $700 and $1,000 a year.

"Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits," Mr. Siegel told me. After New York City's Transport Workers Union lost the right to automatic dues collection in 2007 following an illegal strike, its income fell by more than 35% as many members stopped ponying up. New York City ended the dues collection ban after 18 months.

When public workers strike, it is not the employer who pays them the benefits they gain in a contract, it is the other people in their own state, many of them workers themselves, and some of them even union workers. More and more, the public at large is fed up with public sector workers living much better than they do, especially when they realize the better situation is coming out of their own pockets, not that of a large corporation.

So what the Left argues is the continuing stale refrain that this is a “final offensive against America’s unions” by the right wing, as another Nation writer, Jane McAlevey, explains to her readers. In her lexicon, the ever more popular Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is “beating up on public school teachers.” She clearly thinks is a phony “drumbeat” about “states going broke because of government workers’ wages, pensions and benefits.”  And forget about educational reform. She warns that some states -- horrors -- want school districts to move “to charter schools or to voucher programs.” She does not ask why these are popular, and why so many of the urban underclass is desperate for real educational reform so that their children also have a chance to get the same kind of education enjoyed by the children of leftist and liberal elites, many of whom send their kids to private schools

Save us from those “right-wing think tanks,” she screams, never asking why the influence of leftist equivalents like The Center for American Progress and its proposals do not seem to gather support, although they are just as well funded as their conservative counterparts. She even quotes Tim Pawlenty’s accurate observation that “unionized public employees are making more money, receiving more generous benefits, and enjoying greater job security than the working families forced to pay for it with ever-higher taxes, deficits and debts.” I truly wonder if any of her readers paused to notice that Pawlenty makes sense, while her own arguments do not.

No wonder that the teacher union protestors in Madison resort to picket signs that depict their elected governor as Hitler, Mussolini or Mubarak. It is far easier to slander their opponent as a tyrant than come up with a serious discussion of how to solve the fiscal crisis facing the state they work in. Because if they did get serious, they would have to start by realizing that the concessions that Governor Walker is asking them to make are both fair and necessary. They can sign “Solidarity Forever” and “Which Side Are You On?” all they want, but it isn’t the 1930s anymore.

Sooner or later, even the Wisconsin teacher union members will come to understand the new reality.