Thursday, December 16, 2010

Walker Vs. Labor: A Brief History

To understand the big news of the day, that being how the state Democrats failed to get the union contracts approved, one has to take a little look back at history to see what the real significance of this failure means.

Republicans around the state have been having a tingle going up and down their collective leg ever since the election, believing that Scott Walker, their Chosen One Because It Was His Turn, was going to show those evil union workers what's what and at the same time create a billion jobs, resolved the budget deficit, cure cancer and save a litter of kittens from a burning building.

What they were really doing was just buying into Walker's empty rhetoric.

A prime example would be this post from Owen Robinson (emphasis mine):
First, is Barca saying that if Walker brought this up after he was sworn in then he’d be OK with it? Of course not. Second, there was a lot of talk about the cost of state government during the campaign. What did Barca think that was about? Also, Walker’s interactions with the Milwaukee County unions were unambiguous (I think capper would agree). Did any thinking voter not understand Walker’s position regarding public employee unions?
Well, actually, most people that did vote for Walker probably didn't really know and/or care about Walker's history against the union.

In 2005, when Walker was in his first run for governor, he showed a lot of bravado against the unions, making all sorts of demands for various concessions. To further his campaign, Walker would almost daily give up some sound bite to make it sound like he wasn't going to let the unions get away with anything.

However, when Republican Party bosses forced Walker to bow out of the race, he couldn't get the contract signed fast enough, since he knew darn well that each day he continued to delay the contract was another day that money which could have been used otherwise, was being lost due to the unrealized savings from not having a new contract with the unions.

Walker was so desperate for the contracts to be done, that he accepted the help of Governor Jim Doyle and David Riemer, to get the contracts done. When it was said and done, the contract was nearly identical to the one originally proposed by the union. The biggest differences were that the raises came a little later in the year than the union had wanted and that Walker gave each union member a $250 signing bonus.

In late 2008, the contracts expired and the unions and the County sat down to try to work out a new one. Like four years earlier, Walker started his grandstanding and tough talk. He illegally built the County's budget around tens of millions of dollars in concessions from the unions.

But despite all his talking the talk, Walker couldn't or wouldn't walk the walk. Even though he built his budget around these concessions and offered up a sound bite almost every single day on how the unions needed to carry their fair share and then some, but never - not once - did he put these demands on the bargaining table.

He didn't do this because he knew that his demands wouldn't stand a snowball's chance of ever becoming reality. The unions had already reached a Tentative Agreement with the County, one that did call for concessions, including a pay freeze and higher health care payments. But when it came to vote on the contracts, things went haywire. Supervisor Johnny Thomas, who had voted for the contracts in committee, flipped when it came to the general vote and helped to reject the contracts.

Because of Walker's empty rhetoric, bad faith bargaining, and the bungling of at least one of the more liberal Supervisors, the unions are still working are without a new contract. For the past two years, the unions have been working under the old one, causing the County to miss out on millions of dollars in savings each year.

So in answer to Owen's comments, the fact is history shows that what Walker says regarding the unions and what he does are two entirely different things, and they should not be confused with each other. Another fact is that despite Walker's bravado and tough talk, this is yet another clear example of how Walker doesn't care whether he saves tax payers money, keeps the public safety intact or much of anything else unless it can directly help his political posturing and aspirations for higher office.

If Owen or anyone thinks otherwise, they are only deluding themselves.

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