Scott Walker told a big donor that his strategy on unions would be to ‘divide and conquer’

A piece of video has surfaced in the Wisconsin recall race in which Gov. Scott Walker says that his strategy against unions will be “divide and conquer.”

Taken in 2011, the clip shows Walker greeting a billionaire (who would subsequently give $500,000 to his current campaign to stay in office) asking him whether he believes there is “any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work?”

“Oh, yeah,” Walker interjects. When the woman — Diane Hendricks of Beloit, Wisc. — asks what she can do to help, Walker gives a slightly incoherent description of his strategy for dividing and conquering unions.

“We’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill,” Walker said. “The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”

The film was taken shortly before Walker shocked Wisconsin by doing exactly what he told Hendricks, using budgetary arguments to push through a bill that greatly reduced the collective bargaining powers of public employees unions. That led through a series of events to the effort to recall Walker, which will come to a final vote June 5. A short clip of the video is being used by the Tom Barrett campaign. Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, is the Dem nominee to replace Walker in the recall.

Reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have seen the video in fuller context and published a transcript of the whole conversation. It doesn’t really get any more coherent than the little bit cited above.

It’s hard to say that it sheds any great new light on Walker’s plan, other than the fact that he uses the cynical phrase “divide and conquer” to a woman who has just asked him about turning Winconsin into a right-to-work state and to highlight Walker’s relationship with the billionaire who subsequently, through a quirk in Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, was able to give him slightly more than a half a million dollars.

There is one more quote on the longer version of the video that the Journal Sentinel reviewed in which Walker expands on what he means by “divide and conquer.” It goes like this:

“So for us, the base we get for that is the fact that we’ve got – budgetarily we can’t afford not to. If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there’s no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out. . . . That opens the door once we do that. That’s your bigger problem right there.”

That’s pretty incoherent, but my understanding is that Walker is saying that using a budgetary justification, the state will greatly weaken the public employee unions and that will “open the door” for private employers to extract similar concessions from private sector unions.

The Journal Sentinel piece is here.

The video clip that’s being used by the Barrett campaign is below:

Comments (37)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/11/2012 - 11:34 am.

    Total nonsense

    ” … Walker is saying that using a budgetary justification, the state will greatly weaken the public employee unions and that will “open the door” for private employers to extract similar concessions from private sector unions.”

    This has NOTHING to do with private sector unions. This has to do with giving cities greater flexibility to manage their budgets by giving them better control over labor costs. This is all about the state and local governments being able to live within their means with regards to the costs of public unions.

    Frankly, the view that public unions are a conflict of interest and should be eliminated altogether is growing in strength. The unions “negotiate” with the politicians who get elected with union help. Not a good model if you’re a taxpayer.

    But it has nothing to do with private sector trade unions who negotiate with private sector employers.

    • Submitted by jack burke on 05/11/2012 - 03:02 pm.

      total nonsense

      The problem with your theory is that, for most cities and counties in Wisconsin, the biggest portion of their personnel budget goes to police and fire services–two groups that are NOT covered by Walker’s changes. An unkind person might say that Walker is only protection the unions that support him and punishing those who don’t.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/11/2012 - 12:19 pm.

    The Rest of the Story

    Governor Walker has a history of denying that he wants to make Wisconsin a “Right to Work” state (as recently as last month), even though he introduced RTW legislation when he was in the Assembly in 1993. The question is, is he lying to the voters of Wisconsin, or to his billionaire donor?

    Any guesses?

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/11/2012 - 12:37 pm.

    A couple of questions

    When reading this, a couple of questions occur to me fairly quickly.

    First, what’s the point of Mr. Walker’s (and his donor’s) crusade? Since there’s ample evidence that “right to work” states pay lower wages than the few remaining states with substantial union membership, is his goal to the standard of living for the remaining workforce in Wisconsin? The same question could be asked of Minnesota Republicans agitating for “right to work” legislation. Since union members make up less than 20 percent of the workforce, why the push to drop their wages to those of non-union workers? How does the state – by which I mean ALL the citizens – benefit from this?

    Second, what’s the source of Ms. Hendricks’ income, that she can afford to donate half a million dollars to a political campaign? For the moment, I’ll not pursue the question of whether her donation makes a travesty of “one man, one vote.” What’s her source of income?

    My relatives in Beloit will not be happy to discover that this woman apparently hails from there.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/11/2012 - 03:00 pm.

      Diane Hendricks owns Hendricks Holding Company, which includes an extensive and diverse portfolio of domestic and international companies. Diane is also chairperson of ABC Supply Co., Inc., the company she co-founded with her late husband, Ken Hendricks. Beloit, Wisconsin-based ABC Supply is the largest wholesale distributor of roofing in the United States and one of the nation’s largest distributors of siding, windows, and other select exterior building products. The company was founded in 1982 and has been the recipient of the Gallup Great Workplace Award the last five consecutive years, which honors the most engaged and productive workforces in the world.

      With a strong personal commitment to civic and philanthropic projects, Diane is also actively involved in a wide range of community organizations in her native Wisconsin. She is one of the major underwriters of Wisconsin Eye Public Affairs Network, the first privately funded state public affairs network. She is co-chair of Rock County 5.0, a public/private economic development organization that is focused on retaining and creating jobs in her native Rock County. She has served on the boards of the Stateline Boys & Girls Club and Beloit Memorial Hospital, and is currently serving on the boards of the Beloit Foundation, Forward Janesville, Kandu Industries, Blackhawk Bank, and the Hendricks Family Foundation. In addition, Diane was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of Beloit College. All of Diane’s pursuits are guided by her strong patriotic and conservative values. The Hendricks family includes seven children – Kendra, Kim, Kathy, Kevin, Brent, Kara and Konya, and 17 grandchildren

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/11/2012 - 01:52 pm.

    Fully recognizing that a unionist wouldn’t understand …

    “How does the state – by which I mean ALL the citizens – benefit from this?”

    They become free men who own their own labor and can negotitate their own deal as they see fit.

    The benefits of being a free man don’t have to be explained to most people.

    • Submitted by Sarah Magnuson on 05/11/2012 - 04:13 pm.

      Dennis, you equate union with bondage and non-union with “freedom”. Non-union has the freedom to be fired for becoming too expensive. One personal example from this past week: a friend who has worked in North Dakota the past year, taking advantage of the job available. He got a job driving men to and from the man-camps to where they work and any other chauffering his employers would choose to have him do. He and another driver were fired on Monday and replaced with two other drivers at a lower wage. There was no “just cause”. This is a good deal for the oil company–instead of giving a cost of living increase, they can fire an employee and replace them with impunity…because they can. There is the distant possibility of being taken to court, but this is very minute because of the prohibitive cost factor. The “bondage” of being a union member and working hard with the confidence that you will only be fired when there is “just cause” or the job I am doing is no longer relevant or needed is…well, I’ll take those chains of bondage.

      Speaking specifically to the Wisconsin issue, you may be surprised to realize that 30% of union members voted for Scott Walker in November, 2010. Being a member of a union does not automatically quantify as Democrat. The majority of union workers are reasonable people, who sit down at the bargaining table in good faith. The company is making money? Well, how about a raise. The company is struggling? We will agree to a wage freeze. There are certainly outliers that you could point to as examples of demanding what appears to be unreasonable compensation, but those are just that, outliers. You need to understand in the Scott Walker scenario his “divide and conquer” strategy plays perfectly into your union ideology and perception of outlier union situations.

      Up until last year I was a self-proclaimed, die-hard Republican who has a husband who is a union member, a teacher. There was much made about how the benefits of teachers and public workers had far outpaced the private sectors benefits. In my husband’s case, they negotiated higher benefits over the past 12 years for lower wages. His take home pay is actually less than it was 10 years ago. They negotiated this in return for the benefits to remain the same. Every school district is different and the negotiations were made based on the money available. The teachers realized that there was only so much money, so they chose to take it in benefits and not salary. All this within the parameters of the most they could get in benefit and salary increase was 3.8% (per a Wisconsin law enacted in 1998 called the QEO, Qualified Economic Offer which pertained only to teachers). My husband has been on the negotiating committee and found it to be a slow, somewhat tedious, but fair process. The parameters were always pre-set as 1. The most that could be negotiated for was 3.8%, that included any increases in salary AND benefits combined i.e. if the cost of insurance went up 3% and teachers wanted to keep the same insurance without more out of pocket, they could negotiate a 3% increase with no increase in salary and have it be labeled a 3% increase in pay. 2. How much money was really available, which was always lower than 3.8% (i.e. the maximum increase could be 3.8%, but there wasn’t that much available so the negotiations were typically limited to 1-2%). With the increasing transportation/energy costs and squeezing of education funds that amount shrunk.

      The benefits of being part of a union that negotiates reasonable working conditions and fair wages doesn’t have to be explained to most people.

  5. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/11/2012 - 02:57 pm.

    The Budget

    Wisconsin’s budget is in much better shape now isn’t it? From the quote above it seems to me that Walker is saying that collective bargaining agreements mean outsized public union pay and benefits, making budgeting difficult or impossible. Sure enough when we found out what public school teachers, for example, were promised (especially in benefits) they were so embarrassed that they quickly offered to scale them back. The union situation in Wisconsin had frankly gotten so powerful that it needed someone to bust them up some, otherwise they would sink the budget.
    And before someone goes on about how awful Walker is, you should understand that some other Dem (and left leaning) governors in blue states like NY, RI and CA are pursuing some of these same reforms.
    Eric, I don’t understand this: “That’s pretty incoherent, but my understanding is that Walker is saying that using a budgetary justification, the state will greatly weaken the public employee unions and that will “open the door” for private employers to extract similar concessions from private sector unions.” I don’t see anything about private employers extracting concessions. Can you expand on that?

    • Submitted by Sarah Magnuson on 05/11/2012 - 04:33 pm.

      The other states that you are referring to are making changes because the pension systems are literally broken. They are either on their way to going defunct or are quite possibly there. The WRS (Wisconsin Retirement System) is funded at 99% according to a recent Pew study. Anything over 80% is actually considered fully funded by the US Government Accountability Office. It is the 9th largest pension in the United States, and the 30th largest in the world. Very, very few other states, today, can say that they have a pension system that is fully funded, pension system that supports itself, that pays its own costs of administration, that doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything, and yet provides a decent pension for retirees and allows them to live out their elderly years with some dignity. It is an interesting hybrid of a defined benefit and defined contribution plan.

      Peder, I realize this is an opinion, but can you reference facts for how the “union situation in Wisconsin has gotten so powerful that it needed someone to bust them up”?

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/13/2012 - 01:59 pm.

        Pension Problems

        Sarah, pensions aren’t the only problem, though the underfunded problem is a huge one. Over inflated wages also cause budget problems. Teachers in Milwaukee IIRC, were getting upwards of a 80k in teaching salary and benefits. This is more than is really affordable. Median wage in Wisconsin is something like 38k. It would be one thing, of course, if Milwaukee was showing stellar results from this but that wasn’t the case either.
        I’m frankly surprised that the teachers pensions were fully funded. Just two years ago there were reports that teachers pension was short some $11b. http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/90768644.html Is that being made up by other workers in Wisconsin? Or is the difference smaller now that teachers are paying in? I’ll admit that I’m working from news reports here so if I’m missing something, please help me out.

        • Submitted by Sarah Magnuson on 05/13/2012 - 10:03 pm.

          Pew Report says no Pension Problems in Wisconsin

          Peder, I’ll reference two reports which you can read, both reference the reputed Pew Report http://www.jsonline.com/business/120745424.html. Here is another report http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/22/wisconsin-pension-fund-among-healthiest-us_n_826709.html
          Wisconsin’s pension fund has a long history of being well-managed and the lowest point in the past 30 years was in 2008, when it was at 87% in the stock market dip.

          The “paying in” is really a red herring that Scott Walker used in his “divide and conquer” strategy. There is no difference, except that teachers now have 5.8% less in salary compensation. The same amount is being paid into the pension fund, just not by the school districts. It is a non-issue regarding pension funding.

          In reference to Milwaukee teachers, you must take into consideration that it is Milwaukee. They have their own issues (as does any large urban city, including St. Paul and Minneapolis) which do not pertain to the outlying suburbs and out-state school districts. Part of the free market system that actually pertains to inner-city schools is the reality of attracting teachers into a difficult teaching environment. I know very few teachers who want to teach in an inner-city school at all, and definitely not for any length of time. Those who do stay are reimbursed at a higher rate than in other parts of the state. I do not envy them and certainly don’t begrudge them their higher than average salaries and benefits. The average salary for the district where my husband teaches is $45,000. New teachers come in at $31,000. The most a teacher can make in the same district is $59,000 after 20 years of teaching and having a Masters Degree plus 30 additional masters credits. This varies by district, but generally you make more the closer you are to large suburban areas, less in smaller communities. When you reference median wages, you do realize this includes ALL wages in Wisconsin? 60% of the jobs in Wisconsin require post-high school education, so a better comparison would be the median wage of that portion of the work force, excluding the 40% who start out at minimum wage and do not require an Associates or Bachelors Degree.

          • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/14/2012 - 02:27 pm.

            Managed Benefits

            Sarah, I appreciate the links you provided. If I’m understanding the process correctly, teachers would have even larger salaries but instead, some of that money is put aside into the pension fund. Is that right? I will note both sides of that money (up front pay and the set aside) come from tax payer money. I’ll be interested to see what the funding looks like once the five year smoothing is past the worst of the recession. I hope that the fund managers were smart about that.
            I’ll have to disagree that the best comparison for teachers is only those with certain levels of college. No one is poor that is being paid twice the median wage of the state. Even if you’re comparing Milwaukee to some smaller place up north. Btw, my wife teaches in Mpls, and has taught at some of the worst of the inner city schools. I have great sympathy with the idea of paying larger wages there. That doesn’t mean that we should just blithely agree to pay out a big pension when they hit the age of 57 though.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/11/2012 - 07:09 pm.

      From another MinnPost column

      “Entirely coincidentally, Walker’s office released figures showing that … next year … Wisconsin will be rolling in surplus money. Jason Stein and Patrick Marley at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report:
      “Gov. Scott Walker’s administration released improved budget projections Thursday that would leave the state with a $154.5 million surplus a year from now. Coming less than four weeks before Walker’s June 5 recall election, the projections take the state from a previously estimated $143 million budget deficit in its main account through June 2013 to the surplus. A large chunk of the surplus is realized by delaying payments that will ultimately cost taxpayers more in interest. The budget numbers released Thursday do not account for a sizable shortfall in the state’s health programs for the poor that Walker’s administration says it will deal with through increased efficiencies and spending cuts. … The projected surplus includes $78 million that was acquired by restructuring debt. A small amount of that comes from getting lower interest rates, but most of it comes from pushing off payments and allowing long-term interest costs to rise, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Also Thursday, a new poll by Rasmussen Reports showed Walker leading Barrett 50% to 45%.” ”

      In other words, smoke and mirrors.

  6. Submitted by Simon DeRuyter on 05/11/2012 - 03:12 pm.

    Education is broken in this country. It’s time for real reform. No reform will happen as long as the teacher unions are there. We need changes to benefit our children like longer school days, shorter summer vacations, fewer pupils per classroom, and making sure we are giving our children the best teachers available. These goals cannot be realized because the union is in the way. We’ve tried throwing money at the problem, with increased education spending in 32 of the last 35 years, with no positive results. The teachers unions are protecting the worst of the teachers in the system, and the number of bad teachers is staggering. To affect the changes we need, we need to get the unions out of the way. Most taxpayers wouldn’t mind the extra costs of higher quality public education if indeed the money was spent on better teachers and more of them. The districts would have an easier time raising taxes to pay for teachers who can show positive results. Why aren’t we demanding better for our children? I want the best for mine, and if that means paying $125,000/yr plus benefits for the best teachers, then raise my taxes. But I don’t want them raised anymore for the current union system, in which all teachers are equal regardless of competence. I applaud Scott Walker’s first step of reform, and would certainly vote to keep him in office if I lived in WI, even though I am a Democrat! (Gasp)

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/11/2012 - 05:10 pm.

      Data

      The European and Asian countries which demonstrably do a better job of educating their children typically have strong union traditions, including public employees.
      What they do is to set high standards for entry into the teaching profession, which are made possible by high teaching salaries. Of course, these countries do have higher effective tax rates than we do.
      They also — and this is critical — have centralized educational systems with curricula and teaching standards determined at a national level, not by local school boards.
      They do NOT typically have smaller classes or longer school days or years, although they DO spend much less time on athletics.
      Let’s do what works!

      On another front, the phrase “right-to-work” is a patented slogan of union busters.
      The phrase should be used in scare quotes (as Neal did) since what it really means is
      “right to work for less”.

      I’ll let the Wisconsinites deal with Scott Walker (which they’re doing through the recall mechanism and the ballot), since he’s not my problem unless Wisconsin decides to invade ;-).

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/11/2012 - 09:47 pm.

      No it’s not.

      Education in this country is not “broken”. It is a complete lie that the right has brainwashed many citizens with to turn the people against underpaid and overworked teachers and to attack unions which have been a great source of strength in our country. It is simply not true that: “The teachers unions are protecting the worst of the teachers in the system, and the number of bad teachers is staggering.” For most of the people, education is working just fine. It does no service to people who have dedicated their lives to impress young people with ideals and knowledge by making slanderous and uninformed accusations against them.

      • Submitted by Simon DeRuyter on 05/12/2012 - 09:18 am.

        “It is simply not true” and “For most people, education is working just fine.” Wow, very compelling arguments. Until the late 1960s, the U.S. had the best educated students in the world, as measured by the OECD and PISA Governing bodies, which measure student achievement and attainment internationally. Since that time, we have quickly fallen through the ranks, where we now sit at 27th out of the 32 countries considered to be modern, industrialized, prosperous nations in testing involving reading, sciences, and mathematics. Get your head out of the sand. I know teachers work hard and are underpaid, but nothing can be solved with the teacher unions in the way.

        • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/13/2012 - 12:30 am.

          Head in the sand?

          Until the late 1960’s, the US also had one of the more unionized work forces in the world and had one of the more advanced standards of living in the world. Let’s put this comparison of “student achievement and attainment” in context, shall we, and look how the US has fallen in every category, except the percentage and number of people in prisons and military spending. The Republican right wing has been in charge of this country in one branch of government or another since about, , well, the late 1960’s. I think you can just about track the decline of US living standards in every category, including educational achievement with the rise of Republican, right wing power and the decline of unions.

          Teachers and their unions have become what some psychologists and sociologists call the “identified patient”: the problem onto whom everyone projects their own dysfunction.
          After having foisted on the American public for thirty years every lame and moronic idea or solution, the people who are the victims of same are “standing in the way” of solutions, This from a person who deplores the influence of money in politics. Take another look at the video in this post by Mr. Black, sir and get your head out the sand about what has been happening and who has been bamboozled.

  7. Submitted by Simon DeRuyter on 05/11/2012 - 04:30 pm.

    Concerning my last post, I understand that politically this union busting greatly undermines the wealth of the Democratic Party. This kind of legislation needs to be tempered with real campaign finance reform. Politicians, need to get off the payrolls of both big union and big business. Campaign spending needs to be capped, and perhaps publically funded equally so our politicians are serving the best interests of the public rather than serving the interests who financed them into office. Any politician accepting money from a special interest group is in itself a conflict of interest as far as the taxpayer is concerned, and should be dealt with severely. Under these conditions, we can make government work for the people, as was intended. Balanced budgets, lower tax rates, and more efficient government programs that we want for everyone would become a simpler tasks to achieve if we get the special interest money out of our politics.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/12/2012 - 09:43 am.

      You make good points.

      However, under current legal interpretations of the first amendment this is not possible.
      The Citizens United precedent (thank you Justice Roberts) places anonymous funding of negative third party ads beyond the reach of legislation.
      A necessary condition for your proposals would be a change in the Supreme Court, as well as action by Congressperson’s who current benefit from the status quo.
      Goals are easy to specify — it’s achieving them that’s the rub.

  8. Submitted by william laney on 05/12/2012 - 09:08 am.

    Walker agenda

    The ALEC crowd, who Walker speaks for, would like to see a system where workers would get $10/hr-or less- if the “market” sees fit, with minimal benefits and no retirement plan. Getting rid of pesky unions is an important part of this agenda, as is “right to work”. But you have to ask: In a consumer economy that depends on spending, who will have the means to purchase anything in such a society; or pay for health care; or ever retire?

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/12/2012 - 09:15 am.

    Unions haven’t damaged education, the budget, or the economy

    It’s funny to see so many writers take such passionate stands against their own self interests and provide so many bogus arguments for doing so.

    Unions created the middle class in this country as well as the work environment Americans now enjoy. The wages increases won by unions in the 40s and 50s gave Americans the buying power that generated the longest and deepest economic expansion in US history. The limits on hours, and work weeks combined with overtime and paid vacation and sick time gave Americans time to spend with their family, and spend on vacations and recreation. Americans saw their greatest growth in wages and disposable incomes when Union membership was at its highest in the US and the government budgets, while huge, were not strained by pensions.

    Over the last 40 years as Union membership has collapsed all of the gains of 40s, 50s, and 60s, and slipped away for American workers. American workers have lost ground on Job security, wages, and benefits. The erosion of Union membership and collective bargaining has wrung in a new Gilded Age of “at-will” employment that has decimated the middle class and the economy along with it.

    Unions were also part of the greatest public education system in the world in the 50s and 60s. Unions created the job security, education requirements, and pay that attracted and retained high quality teachers. Unions did not “ruin” our public education system, Republican ruined our Public education system. Since the 1820s conservatives have opposed public education and in their contemporary drive to erase the 20th the destruction of public education has been a priority. For 40 years they’ve been defunding eduction either by direct cuts, or diverting funds into the private sector. This current drive began in the 70s with conservative complaints about too much experimentation and “freedom” in the public schools. Many people seem to have forgotten that the current epoch began with conservative demands that we get “back to basics”. Regimentation and strict standards replaced innovation not because of unions, but because Republicans demanded it. School systems were “disciplined” with budget cuts and restricted curriculum’s that focused on “basics” i.e. what conservatives thought kids should learn. As test scores collapsed conservatives blamed bug government and unions and decided that only the private sector could provide the innovation needed to improve education so the Charter movement got a big boost and billions of dollars have now been diverted into failed charter schools. None of this was supported or suggested by Unions.

    The attempt to blame unions for broken government budgets is likewise conservative fantasy pretending to be economic theory. Government budgets have been broken by tax cuts, not union pension plans. The Republican agenda has nothing to do with balanced budgets and hasn’t for 50 years. The agenda is simply to dismantle government. Republican create one budget crises after another with tax cuts and blame it on spending. In the last 40 years over $20 TRILLION worth of wealth have been transferred from the bottom 9 deciles into the top decile who have seen a 70% cut in their tax rates. The US has a $14 trillion a year economy yet Republicans claim we cannot afford the same government services that Finland provides with half our GDP per capita. And what about the pensions and other “entitlements”? In the private sector companies created a pension crises because they illegally stopped making required contributions in the 90s and relied wholly on investment gains. Cities and municipalities likewise invested trillions of dollars worth of pensions funds. Then the deregulated financial sector crashed and THAT combined with reduced government revenue (i.e. tax cuts) created the pension crises. Who’s idea was it to deregulate the financial markets? Not the Unions.

    Republicans spend 40 years trying to cripple government and public education and then blame the Unions for the outcome? Nice try but the fact is this is EXACTLY what Republicans want. They have deliberately engineered a broken government, and a broken public education system for purely ideological reason. The question is: Who benefits?

    That’s what’s so weird about all this anti-union people. I bet you $5 that none of this guys is wealthy. I seriously that any of them make more than $200K a year, yet here they are fighting to transfer even more wealth and power out of their own hands and into the those of the wealthy. Class war? Dude, the wealthy have been throwing hand grenades into your home for decades. Look: all economies work on some level, the question is who do the work for? Collective bargaining forces economies to work for the lower and middle classes as well as the upper classes. If you want an economy that works for YOU, you should be joining labor unions not dismantling them.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/12/2012 - 09:13 pm.

      That’s the point.

      The anti union activities of the likes of the Koch boys and ALEC (and their paid flunkies such as Walker) are based on the premise that the less educated the public is, the less likely they are to see who is in fact supporting their real interests.

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 05/13/2012 - 06:18 am.

      well said

      Paul, you’ve explained it very well, but most people today get their information from fifteen second ads and are very poorly informed. People complain about the “liberal media,” but it actually is very conservative, since it is controlled by major corporations, both on a national and local level. It seems that the two major criteria for being a television news person are to be reasonably attractive and know how to read a teleprompter. On the local level over the past few years, I’ve heard newscasters mispronounce Nobel prize, Koran, Braham and Elysian, Minnesota, Hurricane Igor, and many others, words and terms that most high school student would handle correctly.

      I worked abroad for several years, including the time of 9/11. Most of us expats watched BBC instead of CNN International because the news was balanced and presented in a professional manner. Sadly, CNN International is even better than any of the coverage we receive here in the USA from news outlets. News in the USA, if one can call it that, is simply propaganda designed to instill fear that our nation will fail unless we return to economic policies of the 1920’s or some entertainment or fluff.

      One can go on and on about library closings, propaganda regarding socialized medicine, etc., but until Americans read, become informed about our nation’s ills, and demand better, we are doomed to slide back into a period much like the turn of the 20th century.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/13/2012 - 02:33 pm.

      50’s and 60’s

      Well, if the system worked out well back in the 50’s and 60’s, then it must still be a good deal today, right? After all, strong union leadership has only made the domestic car industry stronger. And who cares about the non-economic ways that unions are standing in the way of education, right?
      I’m not completely anti-union. I can easily recognize the work that unions did in the early 20th century to make workplace standards acceptable. I can credit them with some of the innovations that the non-union companies have adopted, like uniform standards for firing employees and uniform pay for categories of workers. Certainly I thank them for the 40 hour work week and the standard weekend.
      But the simple truth is that many unions have gotten powerful and then abused that power. Look at what a union is, they are a protected monopoly on labor. What do monopolies do? They stop focusing on delivering the best value for the best price. Instead they slack, because really, what is the consequence? When companies do this, they face competition from other hungrier companies. When union employees do this, the company has to face a huge fight to try and bring in competition. With Public Unions, they often have allies further up in the decision process who will support them no matter what.
      This isn’t to say that all (or even most) union employees are bad workers. The vast majority of the teachers I had back in school were very good. The problem was the three or four that had no business teaching anymore, mostly due to the burnout factor but at least one was plain incompetent. What happens to them? In the big union dominated cities like New York or Chicago, they are essentially unfireable. Here in Minneapolis, it’s better but not great. My wife works as a teacher in the Minneapolis Public schools so I have some insight here. Every year she tells me there are a handful of teachers that shouldn’t be teaching kids. The Principals figure this out and ease them off to a different school. This is much, much easier than getting them out of the teaching profession. And if you don’t think that removing bad teachers from classrooms is important than you really don’t think that teachers are important.
      Also, you’re really off if you think that wages only matter to the very rich. High union wages in the auto industry mean inflated prices for cars. Even cars bought by people that don’t make 200k per year. Higher teacher salaries (and yes, they are much higher than they were 40 years ago) mean higher taxes. They also mean fewer extra programs. Since 1980 we’ve about doubled public spending on education. At the same time we’ve lost tons of art and music programs. Where did the money go? Quite a bit of it went into higher wages and benefits. If you want to break this down into some kind of class conflict, then you’re only getting a very distorted view.

  10. Submitted by Eric Black on 05/13/2012 - 08:16 pm.

    Thanks for a great thread

    I just wanted to reply to Peder and maybe some others who wondered about my interpretation of Walker’s incoherent comments and whether it applies to private sector unions. He was responding to a private sector employer who asked if the state could become a right to work state. Right to work law apply to private sector unions. He volunteered that the strategy was divide and conquer. I acknowledge that he wasn’t clear what he meant, but private sctor unions are certainly part of the conversation. My guess is that he was saying that once he had used the weight of the public budgetary argument to weaken the public sector unions, he would “divide” them from the private sector unions because the public sector union members might to not support private sector unions to get better contracts when their own contracts were getting worse. Then the employers — public and private — would conquer them all. It’s only a guess, but what else might he have meant by “divide and conquer?”

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/14/2012 - 09:01 am.

    50s and 60s

    Pedor writes: “Well, if the system worked out well back in the 50’s and 60’s, then it must still be a good deal today, right? After all, strong union leadership has only made the domestic car industry stronger. And who cares about the non-economic ways that unions are standing in the way of education, right?”

    The problem with current Republican ideology is that it runs counter to actual historical trends. Republicans would have you believe that the 20th century has been a decent into totalitarianism at the hands of liberals. when in fact we have seen the greatest expansion of civil rights and freedom in our history. The strongest force in opposition to those expanded rights has been the Republican party, not the government. It is not the government that has launched nation-wide efforts to restrict voting rights, re-segregate the schools, and enshrine discrimination in our state constitutions.

    Likewise with the unions the republican would have you believe that during a period when Union membership has dropped from 35% to 12% Unions got stronger, so strong in fact they’ve ruined everything. Reality must submit to Ideology so history is ignored. Since Republicans constantly tell us that the high paid executives are worth every penny of their multimillion salaries and cannot be taxed a penny more lest we ruin the economy, Unions must be blamed for everything. Hence, brilliant executives get all the credit for the phenomenal growth and domination of the US auto industry in the 50s and 60s (apparently despite the highest Union participation rates in US history) but the Unions take credit for the collapse. Of course this ignores the fact that Unions have taken concession after concession and seen wages and benefits in the auto sector drop for the last 30 years; while executive pay has risen by 300%. The people who actually run the company aren’t responsible for anything, despite the fact that their huge salaries are justified by the that fact that they’re “responsible” for the big decisions. When things go well the Executives are geniuses worth tens of millions of dollars. When they go bad it’s the Union’s fault. Of course this is nonsense. Unions made none of the decisions that put US car makers in bankruptcy, and while Unions have been accepting pay cuts for decades the US government literally had to impose pay cuts on auto executives as part of the bail-out package.

    Of course if we want to know how fantastic life is and how brilliant American executives are when their hands aren’t tied by a union work force, all we have to is look towards a sector of the economy that has 0% union membership- that would be the financial sector of course. Just imagine how bad things would be at J.P. Morgan if Unions were involved! Can you imagine much worse the real estate collapse would have been if realtors and bankers belonged to a union?

    Just a couple more things: First, burnout is not a Union worker phenomena, you see burnout in every profession, and you see burnt out people working for years in every profession regardless of unions participation. You want to deal with burnout, deal with burnout, you don’t have to bust unions to deal with burnout.

    As for high paid union workers driving up the price of cars, this is exactly the kind of class blindness that I introduced in my previous post. You realize the logic of this observation dictates a race to the bottom for American wages don’t you? Everything is cheaper if we all get paid less to produce goods and services, where are you going with that? Everything’s really cheap in Bangladesh… have you been to Bangladesh? Do you really want transform the US economy into the Bangladesh economy? The US economy didn’t get to be the largest and most powerful economy in history by having the lowest paid workers in the world.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/14/2012 - 03:03 pm.

      Strawmen Everywhere

      Paul, I’ll make a few comments on your far too general sweeps and then get to the actual specifics that are in answer to my post.
      1) If by ‘totalitarian’ you mean a system of government that touches on everything, then I think that part of the 20th century has been a history of liberals pushing the state out so that it touches everything. We’ve had much, much more regulation of business. Some of which, like pollution controls, that I generally agree with. Some of which, like mountains of paperwork that I don’t. Libs are currently pushing for more control on what people can eat, where they can smoke and what kind of car they can drive. Regulations on starting businesses are out of control. So are regs on building and improving your property.
      And if you’re going to hit Republicans on desegregation, even though the worst of it in the South was from Democrats, and that argument was at least two generations ago, I hope you don’t mind if I point out that Progressives of the early 20th century were big into eugenics. After all, if you’re going to hold current political parties account for the distant past, why paint the cut off lines only where it benefits you, right?
      2) Hey, just imagine how much better silicon valley would be if they were unionized! What, that doesn’t fit into your cherry picking?
      3) Unions in the auto industry have made it much harder for auto companies to modernize equipment. If your union threatens to strike if you upgrade a machine, well, pretty soon you stop even thinking about upgrading machines. And no, I don’t have to uphold the execs as geniuses to also fault the unions.
      4) Having said that, some unions work really, really well. The strongest and (IMHO) best airline is also the most unionized. There, the union has a great relationship with the company and has kept a steady eye on the very long term. Sadly, this doesn’t describe many unions.
      5) Burnout is hardly a union only problem. But it becomes a bigger problem with unions. If an employee suffers burnout after twenty years they are still treated as if they are as valuable as a twenty year asset. If a teacher burns out in their 50’s (and this happens), they hang on for years and under-service their students. If any attempt is made to ease them out, union procedures will keep them in place.
      This is easily the biggest problem that I have with the unionized public school teachers. If the unions would agree that this is an issue and take steps to correct this, it would go a long, long way to improving our schools. Instead they pile more ‘procedures’ in the way of easing these teachers out.
      6) In some areas, we will see US wages drop as international competition rises. We’ve seen that in electronics and frankly I’m not complaining about cheaper ipods and TVs. This is what happens. Industries rise and fall as time goes on. This is why New England isn’t the textile king anymore. If you want to talk about being on the wrong side of historical trends, you shouldn’t be happy being with the anti-globalization folks. Especially since setting up trade barriers and the like is by definition, restricting rights and freedoms.
      We’ve been through the scary talk before and so far the people who think that competition will destroy all US jobs have always been wrong. I see no evidence that they’re right now.

  12. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/14/2012 - 09:21 am.

    Eric

    I believe that he was also referring to a strategy of dividing the police and fire unions (which support him) from the teachers and government workers (who don’t).
    So he will appear to be attacking specific public employee unions; not public emplyee unions in general.

    Peder–
    Do you think that American workers should work for the same wages that Chinese and SE Asian workers do?
    ‘Productivity’ in the US has been going up while real wages have been going down (they peaked in the seventies). In other words, corporate executives and stockholders (yes, I know that many of us are small stakeholders through mutual retirement funds, but that’s a very small proportion of stock holdings) have been profiting at the expense of wage earners.
    In a totally free market (which has never existed, fortunately) jobs would go to localities where wages were the cheapest. Adam Smith realized this, and acknowledged the need for public (government) regulation to balance it. Read The Wealth of Nations!

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/14/2012 - 11:08 pm.

    Strawmen indeed

    Thanks for your response Peder,

    Again, you need us to reject history in order to accept your premise. In fact we’ve been living in a era of de-regulation since the late 70s. Living with fellow citizens expectations does not make you a victim of oppression, it makes you a member of a community.

    Unions do complicate strategic business decisions but the solution is to work within the the collective bargaining framework, not eliminate unions.

    Do I need to point out how many Silicon Valley companies have failed?

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 05/15/2012 - 10:26 am.

      Silicon Valley

      Hey Paul, who do you think has the better track record over the last thirty years, Silicon Valley or the auto industry? Yes, there have been many failures in the tech sector while auto companies are kept alive by sweetheart money from the gov’t. The one with failures is the more dynamic of the two and that’s not by accident.
      We’ve had some areas of deregulation since the late 70’s, I’ll grant you that. That’s when the airlines went through dereg and that’s been a boon to the consumer. Following your logic from previous posts, that means that money has cruelly been kept from airline employees, I guess.
      On the other side, we’ve had creeping regs from OSHA and the EPA. We’ve had increasing ‘licensing’ systems that serve to make it harder for new companies to start. We’ve had more and more land use regulation that makes it harder for companies to grow. That’s what I’m talking about.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/15/2012 - 12:18 pm.

    Tyranny?

    Yes Peder, the burden of additional environmental and safety regulations is clearly on display in the Deep Water Horizon explosion and all the coal mine explosions in the last five years. Just to name a few.

    To the extent that has been more regulation it’s a natural outcome of living in a democracy, not a symptom of of liberal oppression. We’re not all here on this planet to make someone else wealthy. These are shared resources, and corporate activity produces effects far beyond the shareholders accounts and corporate campus. To the extent that ones actions have an adverse effect on others one’s actions can be restricted. Your freedom ends where someone elses begins. Again, that doesn’t make you a victim of oppression, it makes you a member of a community.

    Yes, licensing requirements have grown dramatically in recent years. Why? Because tax cuts have reduced the revenue that used to fund a lot of these government services. Cities in particular are trying to scrape up as much cash as they can with permitting requirements etc. since LGA funds have been dramatically cut. When I put my egress window in the inspector wanted me to pull a permit for rerouting six feet of electrical wire, knocking down a non-supporting wall, and running 13 of copper tubing to reconnect my gas grille. St. Louis Park lost $1 million worth of LGA money and it’s no coincidence that they’ve gone permit crazy. On the other hand, with the explosion of homeowners doing stuff themselves, the need for inspections has increased as well since not everyone know how to do things safely, and you can’t rely on a guy with a blue or orange vest to give you the right direction all the time. But I digress.

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