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Wisconsin teacher unions offer concessions

Mmmm, concessions ... on this nearly 80 degree February Oklahoma Saturday, I was thinking a deluxe nachos and a giant strawberry Icee sounded pretty good myself.  But first, there is  breaking news from Wisconsin:

Top leaders of two of Wisconsin's largest public employee unions announced they are willing to accept the financial concessions called for in [Governor] Walker's plan, but will not accept the loss of collective bargaining rights.

Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, and Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME Council 24, said in a conference call with reporters that workers will do their fair share to narrow Wisconsin's budget gap.

Walker's plan calls for nearly all state, local and school employees to pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care premiums. That would save $30 million by June 30 and $300 million over the next two years, the governor has said.

The measure also would prohibit most unionized public employees, except local police and fire fighters and the State Patrol, from bargaining on issues besides wages. Wage hikes could be negotiated only if they don't exceed the consumer price index.

"We want to say loud and clear -- it is not about those concessions," Bell said. "For my members, it's about retaining a voice in their professions."

Fantastic!  Yes, I'm really happy about this.  Governor Walker should accept this offer and declare victory, because that's what this is.  In offering these concessions, the teachers unions have just admitted that without a bought-and-paid-for Democrat governor or Democrat-controlled state legislature, their days of writing their own ticket at the state capitol are through.

If you have been paying attention to the coverage of the union protests, then you already know that the teachers unions have offered no public defense of their demands.  They can't, because 5% annual compensation increases and free retirement and health insurance benefits are completely unrealistic.  The money for these compensation and benefits packages comes from taxes paid by a general public staggering under the burden of a painful and lingering recession.

Instead, they have been personally targeting Governor Walker, comparing him to Hitler and accusing him of "union busting" because of Republican efforts to end collective bargaining for Wisconsin public employees unions in all matters, except wages.  If Governor Walker were to accept the concessions on teacher compensation but leave the collective bargaining issue for a future debate, he would puncture the "union busting" claim, which would leave the unions little in the way of ammunition to continue using against the Governor.

It would also set an important precedent for the way that state governments should be doing business - bullying, intimidation, and personal attacks by union leaders will not scare Republican governors or legislatures into accepting gold-plated public sector union contracts.  

As far as I can see, this deal would be a strong win for Governor Walker, while allowing the teachers unions to save face and keep their collective bargaining rights, at least for the near future.  If those unions get out of hand again, then another bill ending their collective bargaining rights can be re-introduced in the state legislature.  That's the kind of responsible check-and-balance system on union power that we have desperately needed in this country for decades.

Now, about those nachos ...  Wisconsin cheese, of course.

UPDATE: Governor Walker has said "no" to the concession offer.  We'll see how this plays out; obviously there are a lot of inside details here that we do not know, since the over-the-top grandstanding is always what makes the news.   My thanks to commenter "rain of lead." 

Just to be clear, I believe the governor and the legislature should always be ready to end collective bargaining rights if public employee unions get out of control or order their members to do something (for example, a strike) that would endanger public safety or be counterproductive to the public good.  The fact that state employee unions were pretty much guaranteed to have no challenges from Democrats allowed their power to grow unchecked, which is absolutely a bad thing.  I just don't believe in playing all your cards at once, which is what the Wisconsin Republicans seem to be doing.  Then again, maybe the threat of collective bargaining loss is the only thing keeping the unions at the negotiating table.


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Comments (46)

"Fantastic! Yes, I'm reall... (Below threshold)

"Fantastic! Yes, I'm really happy about this. Governor Walker should accept this offer and declare victory, because that's what this is. In offering these concessions, the teachers unions have just admitted that without a bought-and-paid-for Democrat governor or Democrat-controlled state legislature, their days of writing their own ticket at the state capitol are through."

Seriously? Just let them continue to pay into an anti-conservative slush fund for electing proregressives? Collective bargaining for public employees is immoral and should be ended, permanently and with absolute prejudice.

No, no, no and NO! Sure th... (Below threshold)

No, no, no and NO! Sure the unions have offered "concessions" but the collective bargining is not the main issue. To break the unions you have to get the "right to work" rules as well as the union having to collect dues outside just having the employer peel them out of the paycheck, and the unions will claim that they get to keep that if they also keep the collective bargining. They are offering nothing at the moment. Sure they take a small financial hit, but only until the millions in union dollars allow them to stack the school boards and negotiate new sweetheart contracts.

So far the republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature seem to realize this and if anything are becoming less willing to negotiate as the union displays its arrogance. Hopefully they will eventually get at least one democrap to show up long enough to vote and end this.

Of course, if Gov. Walker was smart he'd announce that the Democraps have 3 days to show up or he starts the layoffs. Put the onus on them to appear or the unions start seeing positions cut.

The "union busting" claim, ... (Below threshold)

The "union busting" claim, though false, is not only what worries these thugs most, it is the most important thing for Walker to stand pat on. Striking workers could probably be summarily dismissed in future, which would be a positive BOON for taxpayers.

End collective bargaining, ... (Below threshold)
Don L:

End collective bargaining, but you can't arbitrarily turn the clock back to the days when they had to beg for wages less than store clerks. Some kind of fair formula can be found to avoid the annual hassles.

These (at least not all) are not ogres, but public employees, who were forced into joining unions because of society's past abusive negligence. And now the monster we created is out of hand and killing us - we brought it on ourselves, thinking back then a buck saved on teachers salaries is a good swap - we'll give them benefits in luie of raises. So they organized. Welcome to the stupid bubble we made for ourselves.

Compromise is going to be necessary, but it is essential to make them sever their relationship - quid pro quo games - with big government politicians who should be working for the good of America -not union votes.

Oh yeah, Any who illgally called in sick -fire them, and investigate those false medical excuses and arrest some folks to cool their clever heals behind bars.

just an fyithe gov h... (Below threshold)
rain of lead:

just an fyi
the gov has already flat out said no deal
no concessions

Absolutely no compromise. ... (Below threshold)

Absolutely no compromise. There should be no unions, period.

88% of US workforce functions quite productively without union representation, these leeches can join the real world.

Have you seen the product these pampered bastards deliver?

The unions have blinked bec... (Below threshold)

The unions have blinked because they are losing this fight. Politifact has a story out today that the Left is lying in their argument that this was a made up budget fight by Gov. Walker. Guess what there really is a budget shortfall, and Walker's tax cut has nothing to do with it.

The unions and the teachers look foolish and are losing the war of public opinion. The Democrat Senators did them no favors by cutting and running. Even Joe Klein thinks this protest is not democratic. "I mean, Isn't it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote? "

Governor Walker is winning the fight. Giving in now would just be foolish.

No.... (Below threshold)


No half-measures, no concessions, implementation of the ENTIRE legislation. If you leave them a nose under the tent flap, you'll refight this issue.

If the Governor's proposals are enacted, then in WI the unions will revert to their original charter and cease to be a political weapon.

Which is as it needs be.

The one thing the unions de... (Below threshold)
jim m:

The one thing the unions desperately do not want is to eliminate he automatic deduction of union dues. They could see 60% of their income evaporate overnight as members refuse to pay out. That's what happened elsewhere and once they lose their funding they lose the ability to buy politicians.

The union doesn't care about pay for its members it cares about its own pocket book. The offering of concessions shows everyone exactly where the union is coming from.

Well it looks like the Wizb... (Below threshold)
gnossoss papadopoulis:

Well it looks like the Wizbang crew has finally figured it out: This is all about busting the unions and nothing about the budget crisis the Governor created. Since the conservative mind is ruled by submission to authority I can see why they are against unions, they like to submit to the boss...be good little droids.

But it's really stupid to ignore the fact that prevailing wages are tied to union strength. Remember the good old days when Dad earned enough to support a family and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. Union membership was around 35%. Since Reagan began the war on the middle class that number has dropped to around 7%. People are working their asses off to barely stay afloat and the top 2% controls 78% of the wealth......hey wait a minute wasn't that supposed to "trickle down"?

After reading gnossoss papa... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

After reading gnossoss papadopouli's comments for a number of weeks I have to admit to being baffled. For the life of me, I can't figure out if he/she/it is phototropic or photophobic.

Gnossos gets 6 out of 10 fo... (Below threshold)
Jeff Medcalf:

Gnossos gets 6 out of 10 for trolling. Lost points for getting the numbers wrong, missing some major talking points, and attempting (though not very successfully) to logically link the different trolling lines.

It would be interesting to ... (Below threshold)

It would be interesting to see EXACTLY what they are actually willing to give up.

Can see them giving in on the retirement and medical cost issues.

Seriously doubt that having the state collect their union dues for them is one of them.

So Walker is right in telling them to pound sand. OR Walker can tell their union that the state is going to charge the union $130 million a year to collect/process/forward those dues.

If it was about union busti... (Below threshold)
jim m:

If it was about union busting why not include the police and firefighters? Oh yeah, they actually have a legitimate personal safety interest in work rules where teachers and desk jockeys do not.

And why is it union busting if you say the union has to collect their own dues? If the union is serving a real purpose wouldn't the members be more than willing to pay those dues? Why is the state saying that they won't be the collection agency for the union, union busting? Is this an admission that unions can only exist through coercion? If so then are the unions legitimate?

And why is a vote to continue the union considered union busting. Just as above, if the union is serving a real purpose they should not fear a vote to continue serving the workers. But if the case is that they serve the union bosses then why should they continue? Why is making the union accountable to the people it represents considered union busting?

I suppose to the left being accountable to the people that you represent is considered undemocratic. The left must really hate the workers to not want to give them a voice in the union that supposedly represents them.

from Politifact, "There is,... (Below threshold)

from Politifact, "There is, indeed, a projected deficit that required attention, and Walker and GOP lawmakers did not create it."

In short Gnossos is either lying or repeating other people's lies.

At issue is legislation put... (Below threshold)

At issue is legislation put forth by the Republican Wisconsin Governor and Legislature members.

Negotiations over that legislation should be between the Republican Wisconsin Governor and Legislature members and the Democrat Wisconsin Legislature members, not with outside the legislative process special interest union leaders.

If and when the teachers an... (Below threshold)

If and when the teachers and other go on strike, FIRE THEM ALL!!!!!! immediately if not sooner. Just as Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Maker sure that the legislators passes a law making public sector unions illegal in the future. This way there would be no more crap from the state workers.

Gee...maybe a few hundred t... (Below threshold)

Gee...maybe a few hundred thousand adult citizens of WI should descend upon Madison and spank the livin shit out of the children protesting.....

Gov Walker says no. We wil... (Below threshold)

Gov Walker says no. We will not negotiate with terrorists. LMAO

ggggnnnnoooooosssssssooooss... (Below threshold)

ggggnnnnoooooosssssssoooossssssss papadopoulis wrote:

This is all about busting the unions

Getting rid of public employee unions is about the best thing I can think of here. Gov. Daniels got rid of them in Indiana, and Indiana is financially stable. Unlike Wisconsin. Unlike Illinois, California, NY, etc., etc., etc.

It's not about union bustin... (Below threshold)
a. moral:

It's not about union busting. Besides, it would be "trust busting" in the case of the monopoly that public sector workers enjoy. The concessions requested still put them in much better shape than their private worker counterparts (unionized or not). When you are left of FDR, that speaks volumes.


I'd rather it were a... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

I'd rather it were about busting the unions.

They're on the run. Push harder. No closed shops, no collection of dues for them, no dues from non-members, make the union be recertified by a majority of members every year, and if possible, decertify the unions entirely.

It is fundamentally immoral to have a union of public sector employees. They are, in essence, voting for who their bosses will be, and therefore who will negotiate with them. By contributing to political campaigns they are, in essence, bribing those bosses.

Public sector unions - all of them - have to go.

"Governor Walker should acc... (Below threshold)

"Governor Walker should accept this offer and declare victory, because that's what this is."

What you do not understand is that MANY union workers want to be FREED from the unions grasp. The unions want it to end quickly so they do not look as bad and can hold onto their power. If they shut down cities across the nation, it will cause an anti-union uproar that could end the Dems/unions strangle hold on the working class.

What do we need a federal d... (Below threshold)

What do we need a federal department of Labor if unions are so great? How about we get rid of one or the other? Or both? I go for both? ww

Hopefully, a govt union Wat... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Hopefully, a govt union Waterloo.

Long overdue sea change coming. Won't be pretty.

Walker is smarter and tough... (Below threshold)

Walker is smarter and tougher than I previously gave him credit for.

You hold the cards Governor. Play the hand out. Go all in.

Hey. Why waste a good crisis?

As far as I can see, this d... (Below threshold)

As far as I can see, this deal would be a strong win for Governor Walker, while allowing the teachers unions to save face and keep their collective bargaining rights, at least for the near future. If those unions get out of hand again, then another bill ending their collective bargaining rights can be re-introduced in the state legislature. That's the kind of responsible check-and-balance system on union power that we have desperately needed in this country for decades.


NOPE. That's just really kicking the can down the road.

If it can't be done now. it may never be done. Why are you so keen that this chance to break the public unions be thrown away?

Time for public workers to ... (Below threshold)

Time for public workers to get a taste of Barry's Hope & Change Shit Sandwich!

How's it taste union thugs?

It does not matter how much Sriracha sauce you put on an unemployment check, it still tastes like Barry's Hope & Change. Welcome to the real people's world folks.

Public Unions are simply co... (Below threshold)

Public Unions are simply corruption. Government officials paying union members to pay union bosses to spend money on government officials and their elections. End public unions now, for all employees. I can hardly believe that they allow the firefighters and the police to keep union representation.

Public employee Unions? Wh... (Below threshold)

Public employee Unions? Why doesn't the military unionize? I would love to talk about how much I am paid, overtime, dangerous working conditions, etc.

Please note the sarcasm. :)

The simple fact is that for... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

The simple fact is that for most of the last century, public service was a trade-off for employees: they accepted lower wages than they might command in the private sector in exchange for greater job security and good benefits.

Unionizing public workers had the effect of increasing wages beyond the comparable private sector scales while constantly increasing benefits. The government officials negotiating had no stake in the fight, so tended to cave to union demands.

When wages could no longer be raised because they have to be paid out of current tax receipts, the benefits - especially pension promises - were raised instead, in effect kicking the can down the road so someone else would have to deal with paying the bill.

So, here we are. Taxpayers are no longer willing to pay the bill.

A relevant quote;<... (Below threshold)
Geoffrey Britain:

A relevant quote;

"The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.

A strike of public employees, manifests nothing less, than an intent on their part, to obstruct the operations of government, until their demands are satisfied.

Such action, looking toward the paralysis of government, by those who have sworn to support it... is unthinkable and intolerable." President Franklin Roosevelt, 1937"

Looks like popadopolis vote... (Below threshold)

Looks like popadopolis vote tally is suffering from trickle down trollonomics !!

No concessions!The... (Below threshold)

No concessions!

The forced union-dues collections to elect more progressives needs to stop!

Someone in another blog sai... (Below threshold)

Someone in another blog said "REally, this is an unfair war on democratic fundraising'. . .

well. . . points for honesty, I suppose. . but shouldn't a union be representing its workers not democratic legislators?

For being master of wordsmi... (Below threshold)
Don L:

For being master of wordsmithing, the left has totally failed in this "jump the sharlk" moment

Even their hurled phrase of "union Busting" is archaic and falls upon ears and eyes who see no starving workers demanding food at the capitalist gates. It's a mantra of days gone by, as is their tactics. Jesse the race pimp just showed up to cement the "old cult movie" aspect of all this. Popcorn anyone?

"I just don't believe in pl... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

"I just don't believe in playing all your cards at once, which is what the Wisconsin Republicans seem to be doing."

You also don't seem to pay close attention. WI was the first state to offer collective bargaining, the home of AFSME.

East Coast, your 'leadership' is no longer required, if it ever was.

If you believe that Gov Wal... (Below threshold)

If you believe that Gov Walker should accept the offer, but let collective bargaining continue; then you must believe that collective bargaining rightt should be extended to the military.

Teachers, cops, firemen, and military personnel all have one thing in common. They are VOLUNTARY government employees. Therefore, they should all enjoy the same rights and privileges. Shouldn't they? (Or would you argue that some are more essential than others? Or is it less deserving?)

The arguments fall apart pretty quickly if followed through the twists and turns to the logical conclusion.

I hope they actually hold o... (Below threshold)

I hope they actually hold off and lay off those thousands of government workers instead. That way they are gone and not sucking on the public teat.

The teachers have a right t... (Below threshold)
Lora Vanoord:

The teachers have a right to their union. This is still the USA!!

If busting the Unions is th... (Below threshold)

If busting the Unions is the solution to the United States financial woes we should have a middle class rolling in the dough right now. Reagen has essentially done that. When Reagen took office 35% of American workforce was union and more moms stayed home to raise kids then work. Now the unions have been reduced to a mere 7% and moms and dads are working two three jobs without benefits. In the industrialized world the gap between the rich and the poor was the greatest in the United States in 2006 with the exceptions of few smaller countries. The average house hold income for middle class remains the same over the past 30 years(keep in mind both mom and dad now work for that money) and the rich have seen a 30% percent increase and CEO salaries have risen 300%. We now trade with COMMUNIST countries and Totalitarian nations because the rich can get way richer off of slave labors then they can off of American labors. And the average American is not smart enough to realize that we are making our enemies powerful and rich beyond imagination. And then we sit here and debate over Teachers Unions and a mere 300 million dollar savings over 10 years. I noticed he did not have the balls to go after the POLICE and FIREMEN as they are men well equipped to fight unlike the teachers. The Koch brothers are using political propaganda much like that of the Nazi party to confuse the Citizens of the United States into believing that the last little bit of Unions, Collective bargaining, and the collective voice of the PEOPLE be heard and not only that of the Rich. Many are acting like Teachers are an entitlement program and not workers, My teacher friends get up early, get their selves organized to go to work, arrive at work early, teach all day, stay after school to help troubled kids, go home grade papers, plan lessons, and create an interesting curriculum until bedtime, then start over the next day and often have lengthy school projects over the weekend, they have to continue their education and have several license and pay for all this out of pocket. Yes they get a good pension and decent medical care, then they get the summer off without PAY. Until I made personal friends with a couple of teachers I had no clue how much of the 7 or 8 months of their life that they give. And these teachers like many are willing to take the cuts but they just want to make sure that their voices are heard through collective bargaining. Like I said in the beginning if eliminating the Unions was the solution we should be well on the way to prosperity by now...They have all but been eliminated already. Be sure and vote your own conscious and make sure you try to make a teacher your friend!!

Hey, Terry, how about askin... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Hey, Terry, how about asking one of your teacher friends about that new invention called the "paragraph?"

"The teachers have a right ... (Below threshold)

"The teachers have a right to their union. This is still the USA!!"

And I have a right not to pay for their union! This is still the USA!!

Dear Teachers Unions,... (Below threshold)

Dear Teachers Unions,


No Concessions, just your unconditional banishment, never to surface in America again.

It does not matter how much... (Below threshold)

It does not matter how much the State cuts the state employees benefits. The State owns billions in annual payments to wall street and the state will crash even if it could lay off everybody and the STATE IS STILL going BROKE!

I am glad he did not give i... (Below threshold)

I am glad he did not give in.
1. Wages are still subject to the collective bargaining.
2. So Benefits are no longer subject to it. I am sorry if you get any where between 57%-85% of your pay when you retire what more do they need to bargain on getting 100% of their pay? Well states and cities cannot afford it.
3. Let it be like the federal system where Congress sets pay.
4. With police and fire those unions should be local to the departments and should concentrate on legal defense and safety measures.






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