An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can’t be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters. And it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker’s basic requests are modest ones–asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions’ abilities to negotiate work rules–and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time. When I covered local government in New York 30 years ago, the school janitors (then paid a robust $60,000 plus per year) had negotiated the “right” to mop the cafeteria floors only once a week. And we all know about the near-impossibility of getting criminal and morally questionable–to say nothing of less than competent–teachers fired. The negotiation of such contracts were acts of collusion rather than of mediation. Government officials were, in effect, bribing their most activist constituents.
But we’ve had far too many state legislatures, of both parties, that have been cowed by the political power of the unions and enacted contracts that force state and city governments to be run for the benefit of their employees, rather than for their citizens. This situation is most egregious in far too many school districts across the nation. The events in Wisconsin are a rebalancing of power that, after decades of flush times and lax negotiating, had become imbalanced. That is also something that, from time to time, happens in a democracy.
Say it aint’s so, Joe. Your liberal cohorts will have apoplexy if they read this. Rank apostasy! Public unions should act responsibly? You’ll be drummed out of the Peace Corps for that. They’ll take away your subscription to The Nation and The Daily Worker. They might even kick you out of the United Nations Association.
Then again, Klein’s brain might reject this transplant of common sense and tomorrow, he’ll be back to his old rabid, conservative-hating, hysterical self. Even with all of our advances, modern medicine is something of a mystery.