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UNIONS: Pensions and elections at stake

Letter by Elise DeGuiseppi, Puyallup on March 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm with 53 Comments »
March 14, 2011 1:22 pm

The heartening thing about recent events in Wisconsin is that people, union members and non-members alike, are turning out in support of collective bargaining and workers’ rights.

The Wisconsin Republicans who passed this recent legislation stripped public employees of their rights to collective bargaining and instituted rules requiring public employee union members to vote every year on union membership. The new law signed by Gov. Scott Walker also prohibits union dues from being deducted from members’ paychecks.

These are clear attempts to break unions. If this can happen in Wisconsin and Indiana, it can happen in Washington.

Let’s not be complacent about our rights as workers, because this is a national effort to undermine public unions’ ability to contribute to political campaigns in 2012. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. FEC, gave corporations and unions the go-ahead to contribute without limit to political campaigns.

If unions can be stymied, money flows from corporations to Republican campaigns. President Gingrich, anyone? How about President Palin? Vice President Scott Walker?

Most state pension systems are in good shape. They represent a very deep pool of money that Wall Street has little or no access to – yet. (Remember the Bush administration’s unsuccessful push to privatize Social Security?) If public employee unions can be broken, then public pensions will be the spoils.

The Republicans’ strategy pits public employee against private sector worker. They are counting on our disunity–it keeps us from identifying the real stakes in a genuine class war.

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Leave a comment Comments → 53
  1. BlaineCGarver says:

    In no way are Unions being broken. They are, it seems, being placed on a voluntary basis. If the unions are such a dang good deal, they will not have any problem retaining membership. Public Unions are not honest: They funnel money to elect Liberals who are then the ones who dicker about union wages and benefits….anyone besides me see the problem here?

  2. mattersnot1 says:

    Elise,
    Are you telling us that union members aren’t adult or responsible enough to pay their own dues? Are you also telling us that union members aren’t intelligent enough to select and contribute to candidates of their own choice?
    .

  3. Elise, what is so American about taking someone’s money who may not be a demokrat and giving it to a demokrat? As the other posters have said, if union members want to voluntarily contribute to the DNC that’s fine but don’t take money from a republican and give it to a demokrat. Common sense.

  4. “demokrat”
    Is this a subtle attempt to denigrate those who might not agree with you, or is the spelling as foolish as your argument?

  5. geeterpontiac says:

    “The biggest myth about labor unions is that unions are for the workers. Unions are for unions, just as corporations are for corporations and politicians are for politicians.”

    http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell0307811.php3

    I think Elise is well meaning but poorly informed.

    She must be relying on MSNBC, CNN, or the TNT (perish the thought) for the facts.

  6. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    Union membership and withholding for dues is voluntery for all federal workers in all 50 states. Why is it a requirement for state workers? Can someone justify this to me?

    I looked at the state’s Public Disclosure Commission website and state worker unions only donate to democrats. So my tax dollars are being used to fund democrat coffers? This is just wrong.

    Keep the unions and keep collective bargaining but don’t force workers to join and ask the state to withhold the dues. This needs to be addressed.

  7. frommike says:

    A republican in WA is trying to unfund union contracts: I view this as a breach of faith, an abandonment of obligation. The state is the voice of the people and when the people bargain in good faith, reach an agreement, and give their word, they should honor their word, their promise, and their contracts. To do otherwise is to dishonor each of us, and all of us. It is an abandonment of the principles of capitalism in favor of despotism, the loss of virtue in the name of expedience; it is unAmerican.
    Everyone should be ashamed–Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, union supportor, and independent worker, Christian, and atheist alike.

  8. JudasEscargot says:

    Let’s see…..the employer can take insurance premiums from the employees paycheck (try getting insurance without doing such), but not union dues?

    “taxedenoughintacoma says:
    March 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm
    Union membership and withholding for dues is voluntery for all federal workers in all 50 states. Why is it a requirement for state workers? Can someone justify this to me?”

    It’s not a requirement for some state workers. Try doing your homework first.

  9. JudasEscargot says:

    geeter – so a conservative op ed writer is an expert in labor law?

    Yeah. And I’m a brain surgeon.

  10. geeterpontiac says:

    Ah, trouble dealing with reality?

    “Leave it to a prof at the University of Arkansas — specifically, an economist in its Department of Education Reform — to go to the heart (and guts) of what all the fuss is about in Wisconsin.”

    “His name is Bob Costrell, and he’s put his finger and calculator on the essence of that state’s problem.”

    “It’s not the salaries that teachers get in the Badger State that are busting its budget, as Professor Costrell’s article makes clear. It’s the Cadillac fringe benefits — make that the Rolls-Royce fringe benefits — the taxpayers provide.”

    “Workers in the private sector collect an average of 24.3 cents in various benefits for every dollar they make in wages, but those in Milwaukee’s public school district collect 74.2 cents in benefits — or about three times as much.”

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/greenberg030311.php3

  11. JudasEscargot says:

    geeter – how much of a cut in benefits, salary and pension did Wisconsin state employees agree to, since you are so much into “reality”?

  12. truthbusterguy says:

    here is the truth on unions

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umXIFPIU25s

  13. JudasEscargot says:

    I guess Costrell can’t find that key on the calculator with his finger.

    “Workers in the private sector collect an average of 24.3 cents in various benefits for every dollar they make in wages, but those in Milwaukee’s public school district collect 74.2 cents in benefits — or about three times as much.”

    Since this is all public information, why doesn’t Costrell identify the source of his allegation?

  14. JudasEscargot says:

    Truthbuster – when did Karl Rove care about the truth? Your Youtube is funded by the same man that wiretapped his own office and reported it to authorities, as if it were done by someone else.

  15. the3rdpigshouse says:

    The incestuous relationship between public unions and the socialist democrat party is an established reality!! That being known does not make it ethical or right!! Think of it like a private company union forcing its members to belong to the union that negotiates with their company management for wages and benefits however, the monies to pay for the wages and benefits negotiated will come from another private employer employees down the street. How long do you think that would last??! That is the cozy relationship currently existing between public employees and the WI State government, with the exception that all WI taxpayers are paying for the negotiated wages and benefits, not just the public union employees!!

  16. truthbusterguy says:

    Yes some state workers are not in the union. But the great majority of state and city workers are forced to join the union and forced to pay dues.

    This is wrong no matter how you paint it. If employees want to join they can, like fedral workers. If they want to pay dues they can, if they are federal workers. Most state workers don’t have a vote and can even be fired if they don’t pay the unions. This is still WRONG.

    Why are unions and democracts afraid of fairness. Why not allow state union members to opt out? Why are you afraid?

  17. JudasEscargot says:

    I believe that workers should have the right to not join the union and should forfeit the right to enjoy the wages and benefits negotiated by union members.

    Wanna see how well THAT one works?

    A Conservative’s idea of “fairness” is “I want what YOU worked for”.

  18. SSounder says:

    Public employers have a right to demand of unions that they bargain in good faith. In Wisconsin it appears that happened over decades. You have to wonder what the union gave up in a give and take negotiations to get the rights they had accumulated.

    I guess the government, on behalf of the people, isn’t to reciprocate by bargaining in good faith with organized labor, in instances where they have the votes to to simply take back those rights.

    This is exactly the kind of behavior that makes unions attractive to workers.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  19. nokoolaide says:

    Judas, are you implying than non com’s are stupid?

  20. The truth is the anti-union cretins are nothing better than namby-pamby something-for-nothing parasites.

    And when they are all working 60-hour weeks for minimum wages with no benefits and no paid vacation they may just remember how good we all had in back when there were unions that would stand up for workers

  21. This could only happen in Washington if we had good, strong politicians. If we can get rid of Gregoire, and turn our legislature over, maybe we too could get our fiscal house in order, without ratcheting up taxes so high that we cannot keep or attract businesses. We can certainly work toward getting good politicians elected that would be willing to make these changes for the common good of all taxpayers.

  22. truthbusterguy says:

    Mr. BlaineCGarver says it best. Right on to his comment.

    It’s only fair to allow state unions workers to opt out if they want to. It will level the playing field for the taypayers. Union thugs think they are entitled to my tax dollars. This scam will someday end, even in this liberal state.

    I will watch in the next few weeks to see if the guv makes you crooks take a haircut. I will be surprised if she does. She is still feeling the pain from union threats in 2009.

  23. Just three comments regarding much of what JE writes. I am a former noncom,
    JE is an idiot, and the Unions are bankrupting the states. The conservatives
    whupped you Liberals in 2010 by draining half the swamp. In 2012, we
    will finish the job by draining the other half. “Go, conservatives, Go!”

  24. Fibonacci says:

    For all of you that want workers to opt out of the unions, to not have to pay dues. I would agree with you 100% if those opting out and not paying dues did not accept the raises bargained for by the unions. I have seen this time and time again, workers not wanting to pay union dues or being forced to belong to the union, but I have NEVER seen then turn down what was bargained for.

  25. Fibonacci says:

    uscha
    Did you say that the liberals “whooped” the conservatives in 2008? Conservatives believe it is an aberation when liberals win and things getting back on track, to the way they are “sposed to be” when conservatives win.

    It is a pendulum that goes back and forth. If things are crappy whichever party is in power is “gonna get whooped”. You got ‘whooped” in 2008 because of how bad your boy Georgie messed things up. Conservatives don’t really listen to the people, they just have an agenda to help the rich and get in there and do as much for the rich as they can before getting voted out againl.

  26. Hey Fibonacci. “You seem to be prould of the man in the Oval Office who is oblivious to what’s going on both here and abroad.” But, that’s typical of all liberals! “Believe in something when there is nothing to believe in.”

  27. redneckbuck says:

    I should be able to decide whether or not I want to join a union in this state.

  28. redneckbuck says:

    “Hey you, yes you! you get to pay for your retirement and mine.” This is what the unions in America are doing to us.

  29. Fibonacci says:

    uscha
    How did Obam get into this? You can’t argue anything I said so you change the subject–typical of nonthinking neocon cultists. To be honest I am not a big fan of Obama (but he will NEVER be as bad as Bush), I just wanted to know if you considered the big loss of the Republicansin 2008 a “‘whoopin” like you did the loss by the Democtrats in 2010. You can’t have it both ways man, if a big loss by one party is a “whoopin” then a big loss by the other should be a “whoopin” too, but I doubt you see it that way. Only when Democrats lose is it a “whoopin”–what do YOU call it when the Conservatives get voted out?

  30. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Thankfully there are still more taxpayers than dues payers.

  31. kawika51 says:

    Collective bargaining is not a right, it is a privilege. There are only 10 Rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution, and collective bargaining is not one of them.

  32. JudasEscargot says:

    “nokoolaide says:
    March 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm
    Judas, are you implying than non com’s are stupid?”

    Read your own statement.

    Roll_On – are you getting sensitive before or after you insult someone else? ::::::coughxringcough:::::::

    I have many friends that served during Vietnam, some that were enlisted, some non-coms and some officers. People like frosty are classic. They hero worship themselves because they served a hitch in the military. Usually, they did nothing but sit on their keester and play like Patton.

    One of my closest friends built airstrips with heavy equipment. The non-com genius that he had to answer to told them they were going to work at night under the lights, because it was too hot during the day. Sniper’s paradise.

    Let’s just say the enlisted had little respect for him. Someone made sure that he got a close up of a grenade – enough to remind him that war is Hell. No injuries, but the guy changed his mind about how he treated the guys working under him.

    Real brass has class.

    My friends that were drafted never speak ill of those that weren’t drafted. They were glad that others didn’t have to go. They saw enough death, iwthout losing more friends.

    I wonder why frosty has such a bone in his butt over the majority of males during the 60s and 70s?. Probably that stateside splinter.

    I hope that explanation clears up everything for you so you don’t have to whine to ……well…..you know…….you’ve done it before.

  33. lovethemountains says:

    The problems unions are now facing is of their own making. Unions and their leaders have become so greedy as to make them a dieing horse. Unions, at thier inception, were established to protect workers against totally unreasonable working conditions and the demands of their employers. They were good…then. Like many other entities they have grown to be a polically motivated monster.

    Modify your demands unions (and your members) and you may regain the respect and status you once enjoyed. In other words…….join the real world and its modern economy.

  34. tommy98466 says:

    Judas… you are so twisted. You just make this stuff up as you go along don’t you? Pathetic.

  35. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) explicitly grants employees the tight to collective bargain and join trade unions.

    http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/Collective_bargaining

    Frosty is a Warrant Officer Pilot which means he is a enlisted doggie that know how to fly a chopper.

  36. Great letter Elise!
    This link is to a letter to Gov Walker from a WI teacher, well worth the read if you haven’t already. I think it touches on many of the reasons we need public unions.

    http://positivelypersistentteach.tumblr.com/post/3512331803/a-letter-to-scott-walker-from-a-wisconsin-teacher

    I don’t believe this teacher received a reply from the Gov but then his name is not Koch.

  37. JudasEscargot says:

    “tommy98466 says:
    March 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm
    Judas… you are so twisted. You just make this stuff up as you go along don’t you? Pathetic.

    Tommy doesn’t think firefighters save people’s lives. Fascinating.

  38. JudasEscargot says:

    Or is it that Tommy doesn’t think firefighters pay taxes????

  39. The chick thing to do seems to be to blather on about how good unions were in the good old days, as a preface to the obvious anti union attack. That way the writer appears to be somehow unbiased.

    Elise nails it. This is all about politics. This is all about weakening the Democratic party by undermining their support.

    Hang onto your shorts. The GOP may not want us to have them either.

    Remember, we’re all in this together.

  40. “join the real world and its modern economy.”

    Brought to you by the ever benevolent, GOP.

  41. Isnt it brilliant for the gop to teach their stupids to hate unions?

  42. JudasEscargot says:

    “lovethemountains says:
    March 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm
    Modify your demands unions (and your members) and you may regain the respect and status you once enjoyed. In other words…….join the real world and its modern economy. “

    So taking pay cuts, paying more for benefits and getting less benefits for your premiums isn’t enough? Modern economy? You mean the one where the people with the most money pay the least percentage of taxes? The economy where oil companies that profit billions get billions more in subsidies? The one where State Senators from Wisconsin and Goofy Congressional reps from Minnesota get farm subsidies?

    Yeah, those union demands are really out of control, huh?

  43. It appears that the GOP’s plan is to use local budget issues as an excuse to outlaw democracy in Michigan, as well as in Wisconsin.

    http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9LV75N00.htm

    I hate it when democracy gets in the way of corporate profit.

  44. Of course the right wing has no problems with foreign and domestic corporations, churches, and the ultra rich funneling billions to republicans and tea bag candidates.

    Usaha: the country and states are being bankrupted because the corporations and the rich are not pulling the share of the problem, but are demanding and getting more tax cuts. Don’t waste my time with the fantasy that tax cuts are good for the country and for jobs.

    Red, to borrow a right wing rant. If you don’t like it go somewhere else.
    What public unions do and say is “I will work for a lower take home wage, in exchange for certain future benefits.”

    J_E in Nam the only people dumber and less prepared than the NCO’s were the officers. Before Nam it was not uncommon for it to take 10 or more years to become an NCO, by the second year of the war it was possible to make NCO in as little as 12-18 months. And in the Army it was down to 6 months. Soldiers and college students (usually those about to be drafted) who applied for Officer Candidate Courses were offered a scale down course that made the Sergeants in under 6 months.

    LTM: those greedy unions have repeatedly given up pay rises, and accepted freezes on pay, and increases in the amount they pay for heath, retirement, and other benefits. Show me an executive or elected official that has accepted similar cuts.

  45. Great letter Elise and I particularly like, “Let’s not be complacent about our rights as workers, because this is a national effort to undermine public unions’ ability to contribute to political campaigns in 2012. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. FEC, gave corporations and unions the go-ahead to contribute without limit to political campaigns.
    If unions can be stymied, money flows from corporations to Republican campaigns. President Gingrich, anyone? How about President Palin? Vice President Scott Walker.”
    It is about union busting because even in Washington our current unfunded state pension and health care liabilities are only in the $3000 per household range. And that is after a huge financial crisis that is slowly resolving itself. Wisconsin’s situation is more telling though. Their unfunded situation is less than $1000 per household yet Walker made it into a crisis. A crisis is where Alaska (formerly under the control of you know who) is at over $30,000 per household. Source for those interested is the Pew Research Center on the States.

  46. I think what bothers me more is that everyone is lumping all unions into one bundle. There are not all alike. State, county, and municipal workers do have the right to not be a member of the union. The choice is not taken away from them. I have seen employees who would have been fired for stupid reasons if they were not helped by their union. I have also seen unions uphold a firing. I have seen family benefits go to the wayside. Everyone seems to think that all public employees gets the same type of benefits. I wish! It would be nice to have family medical and dental. It would be nice to have a VEBA account or IRA. We do have state retirement but guess what happens. The state dips into to pay bills. Does that happen with your retirement? So don’t lump all of us together we are all not the same. Some of us don’t get the prime benefit packages. Just because one group gets one thing doesn’t mean the other does.

  47. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Xring- I will explain to you the whole debate for millionth time. Taxpayer money gets taken out of public union member’s paychecks and goes straight to democrats. We, the taxpayer, currently have no say in that process. It is an outright scam.

    Your beef with vs CU is separate debate.

    And your hatred towards military leadership is petty. In an expanding Army such as the Vietnam era leaders must get accelerated to fill key positions, simple math.

    JE, you state my friend, never I. Way to pass on some barracks rumor from 40 years ago.

  48. $10 million donate a Democratic candidate by 100,000 union members is bad.

    But $10 million donate to a Republican candidate by ONE person is good.

    Must have something to do with the golden rule” He who has the gold makes the rules.

    Concerned: and for the million-and-oneth time you are wrong.

    Once the tax money is given to a state worker, or disbursed in accordance with the workers instructions, THE MONEY CEASES TO BE TAX MONEY. Just like when a private employer pays a worker the money no longer belongs to the employer but to the employee.

    “beef with vs CU” who?

    ‘hatred of military leadership’ Here’s a little of my history:
    1964,Private USMC
    1966, Corporal USMC, arrived in RVN
    1967, Sergeant USMC
    1968, return to CONUS
    1972, Second Lieutenant USMC(R)
    1978, Captain USMC(R)

  49. concernedtacoma7 says:

    “in Nam the only people dumber and less prepared than the NCO’s were the officers….”

    While I appreciate your service in a conflict I can barely comprehend, that statement had/has me confused given your history. Not relavent to the current debate.

    CU= Citizens United

  50. concernedtacoma7 says:

    “$10 million donate a Democratic candidate by 100,000 union members is bad.

    But $10 million donate to a Republican candidate by ONE person is good.”

    I have not commented on anything along these lines so I assume you are stereotyping/polarizing. If union members donated that individually, using individual preferences for candidates, I would say that was good democracy being practiced.

  51. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    “Most state pension systems are in good shape. They represent a very deep pool of money that Wall Street has little or no access to – yet. “

    That’s funny Elise. Where do you think all that pension money goes after it is pulled from paychecks? Yup – it goes to wall street money managers who invest it and provide the returns that public workers receive today.

    “Money that Wall Street has little or no access to”. That’s hysterically inaccurate. As is your unfounded belief that most state pensions are in good financial shape.

    A little basic research would add credibility and intelligence to your future letters.

  52. Concerned:
    the golden rule post was not directed at you

    ‘can barely comprehend’ = never seen the elephant

    ‘good democracy in action – GOP style’ = ‘financial martial law’

    http://michiganmessenger.com/47203/emergency-managers-bill-sweeps-toward-final-approval

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20042299-503544.html

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