We received an incredible amount of response to the editorial featured in our last issue. A sampling:To the Editor:
Class warfare continues in the pages of the Quad. For the last 40 years, government and big business have been attacking the middle class workers, especially but not limited to those who have banded together to form unions. Union membership has been severely reduced by eliminating the manufacturing jobs that were union and moving them overseas. It has been attacked by lock-outs and the refusal of the NLRB to enforce current labor laws, especially in the area of recognizing new union representation. The first major attack was when President Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers during his first term.
Union jobs had been the better paying jobs because people were able to band together to confront corporation management and make their case known. What power does a lone individual have when facing the corporation? If you have ever been to a performance appraisal you know: not very much. Decisions have been made before the Appraisal. It is definitely an unequal meeting of corporate power (which has the money and controls the job itself) against the individual. The corporation believes that individual is a commodity and gives what it must and the employee should be happy for whatever is given.
Now, on to Wisconsin. The proposed course of action was not presented to the electorate before the election. Nor was the tax cut for corporations. We have a representative government, which means that we rely on those elected to act in our best interest. There was no voter referendum to find out what the voters prefer to these new issues. I believe that a referendum would support their strategy, because I’ve lived in Wisconsin and I know that the majority of the people don’t support this legislation. I think that the legislators in Wisconsin are acting in good faith by refusing to “play the game” the way the Governor wants. The original op-ed was filled with highly loaded words. Words such as union overlords, union thugs, liberal circus, lavish pensions and cycle of corruption meant to sway the reader’s opinion. But I would like to keep to the issues.
The op-ed author seems to be walking on both sides of the street. He states that the “immediate deficit doesn’t seem particularly huge (by state government spending standards), but the state has a bi-annual deficit of $3.6 billion.” Then he states, “There are claims that Walker has created the deficit problem by cutting corporate taxes which is not true since the new tax breaks would have no effect on this year’s deficit.” It doesn’t seem like rocket science that if the budget deficit is not particularly huge this year, but it will be next year (because that is what bi-annual means, two years), and next year is when the corporate tax cuts go into effect, there may be a link. Duh!
Do unions have too much power? Since private unions are only ¬ the size they were 40 years ago, I can’t see how that can be. And if you consider the money that unions poured into this election, compared to the money that big business did, it is definitely lop-sided from business. Unions brought us the 40 hour work week and the elimination of child labor and would like to bring everyone paid vacations and health benefits. Is that bad?
Are teachers and other government workers being paid too much? How can we possibly judge that? The education of the young is critically important. If you didn’t believe in education, you wouldn’t be at this university. The country’s future depends upon education. And the government workers, except for those political appointments, are part of a meritocracy. In other words, the workers had to pass tests for the jobs. They tend to be dedicated workers and salaries tend to be lower than those for comparable jobs in the private sector. The benefits and pensions, rather than being extreme, are those that everyone should enjoy, in my opinion. The question that I would ask is “are the CEOs and high paid executives compensated too much?” And due to the recent newspaper articles, we have a much better feeling of how much they receive; consider also the method of payment used to avoid immediate tax, such as stock options.
Should the political process allow these kinds of tactics to be implemented by representatives? Is it not the prerogative of the organization to set the rules? And certainly you cannot disagree with the requirement for a quorum to do business? It seems to me that the representatives are playing by the rules to stop the implementation of something against the will of the citizens. We are experiencing class warfare against the lower and middle classes. We need to recognize that warfare in all its guises, and the elimination of unions is one of them.
-Barry Eichhorn, retired citizen taking courses at WCU since 2007
To the Editor:
As an observer of Wisconsin politics I am frustrated with the standoff between Republican Governor Scott Walker and the State Senate’s Minority Democrats. My mother’s family was raised in Chicago during the 1940’s and 1950’s and my grandfather decided to purchase land in southern Wisconsin to provide his family with a quiet, summer, countryside retreat. I mention this because I have inherited a bit of Wisconsin love in my blood. I will continue to build and carry forth my family’s investment in the state with my children, but until then I believe as an outsider that this anti-union bill is damaging the rich foundation of Wisconsin politics. Wisconsin has been at the forefront of Union building since 1865 when it established the first modern trade union, the Molder Union Local 125. For State Senator Michael Ellis, co- chair of both the Joint Committee of Employment Relations and the Joint Committee of Legislative Organization, I argue that the responsibility of maintaining workable relations with the states unions is an essential priority. Marty Biel, the executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, which represents about 22,000 state employees, has already approved state decreases of overtime raises and employee furloughs.
Governor Walker, however, believes the new collective bargaining will generate $300 million in state money over the next 2 years and reduce the $3.6 billion state deficit. Cutting the state budget seems to the motivating focus behind these measures, yet how can the governor rationalize the cuts of state workers when allowing ongoing tax breaks to corporations in Wisconsin? While the tax breaks are to encourage state profits, they actually generate a net loss of over $100 million in state taxes. Furthermore, the Tavern league of Wisconsin, which lobbies for opposition to increases in the alcohol tax, hasn’t seen a tax increase in over 40 years, money that that also could be used to slash budget deficits. A one or two percent increase in alcohol tax in a state known for its beer and brats would not deter its residents from indulging in such pleasures. The consequence of this bill passing could result in the largest reduction of power in the public sector in decades. Why do education and municipal employees face these cuts yet the firefighters, police officers and state troopers do not?
According to the Pew Center on the States, the recession has caused Wisconsin to lose 1/8 of its manufacturing workforce and over 140,000 jobs. In July 2010, the State Supreme ruled that Wisconsin had to pay back over $200 million in medical malpractice suits which previously were not reported in the state’s fiscal budget for 2011. As the New York Times described, Wisconsin’s 7.5% unemployment rate is less then the national average and its pension fund is one of the best in the nation. Additionally, the union representation in Wisconsin is one of the strongest in the nation. In Wisconsin, where the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, A.F.S.C.M.E, was originated, t
he effects of this bill could be a devastating precursor for other Republican controlled States. Unfortunately, this Republican support for Governor Walker has taken up arms in Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee where Republican leaders are looking to modify and shave stipulations from these same collective bargaining agreements.
In Pennsylvania, this union busting technique has yet to be addressed, but as Philadelphians we must be vigilantes of deceitful efforts by Harrisburg to cut the benefits of our state’s public officials. These decisions by Wisconsin affect us all. We must use our voices to demonstrate the power of a working democracy.
-Stan Kuklick, University of Pennsylvania student