Worker, student takes a stand against dictatorial governor
Jennifer Abplanalp, Opinions Editor
February 23, 2011
Filed under Opinions
Governor Scott Walker’s so called “Budget Repair Bill” is the harshest attack yet on worker’s rights and recognizable as that of a dictator. It calls for increased contributions toward pensions and health insurance by state employees as well as ending most bargaining rights held by the state’s public sector employees.
I am an employee of the state, an animal research technician at the University of Wisconsin Madison, a union member, a student at Madison Area Technical College, and a taxpayer. This approximate 7 percent cut in employee take-home pay, for me, means an approximate $2000 cut from my take-home pay and my $26,600 gross salary.
A reduction in my salary of that size could mean that I would have to choose between going to school and paying my bills. It’s also a fear that Alana Turnbull, 11, of Madison, has for her teachers, that they’ll be “getting less money and not being able to afford to teach.” Alana’s fears aren’t far off. For many people, especially in homes where both adults are teachers or state workers, those monthly reductions could amount to as much as a mortgage payment or more.
Additionally, a recent study has shown that Wisconsin public employees make approximately 8 percent less annually than their private sector equivalents, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit Washington DC think tank. If Walker wants to bring my benefits contribution closer in line with those of the private sector, then my salary also should be brought in line with the public sector.
Walker said the additional contributions are a necessary measure during this “fiscal crisis,” and a sacrifice that public employees must make to bring their benefits contribution closer in line with the private sector benefits contributions. However, a recent report released by Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau indicates that Wisconsin is not nearly in the bad shape that Walker claimed. Even if the state were in a dire financial situation, ask yourself why the governor passed legislation in the first few weeks of his term that amounted to $140 million of new spending.
Nevertheless, the Wisconsin State Employee Union and the Wisconsin Education Association Council have agreed to make concessions if provisions in the bill pertaining to bargaining are taken off the table. Despite tens of thousands of protestors and his fiscal “problems” being solved by the concessions, the governor has refused to make any compromises or revisions to the bill.
Do we need to look up the definition of dictatorial again?
Contrary to what FOX and conservative organizations are reporting, however, money is not the reason that many tens of thousands of protestors have descended on Wisconsin’s seat of power in multi-day protests. The reason for that lies in the provision ending almost all collective bargaining rights of state-worker’s unions and seeking to disallow the unions from requiring the payment of union dues.
The only remaining bargaining chip the bill preserves, is the ability of unions to negotiate base wages. Never mind one of the bill’s other provisions that limit all salary increases to no more than the rate of inflation (approximately 0.5 percent) barring the passage of a voter’s referendum giving permission otherwise. Public servants would be at the mercy of the state government for everything from how much paid leave is allotted, to the size of the contribution employees are required to pay for their health insurance.
That sounds eerily like the private sector and what 95 percent of the state’s private employees face. However, private sector jobs aren’t dependent on a taxpayer funded state budget and politicians acting as management.
By removing the power of the unions to bargain for fair compensation in the future and by squeezing off the vital source of funding, this bill will destroy the unions. There is no financial benefit from destroying the unions. There is no job creation from destroying the unions. The only benefit that can be gleaned from destroying the unions is political and the conservative’s overarching hatred and demonization of the unions and the (mainly) public service people they represent.
Democracy means listening to the people and then making the best decision for all people, not what is best for your campaign contributors and special interest groups. When the Legislative Finance Committee adjourned early in the morning on Wednesday, Feb. 14 and “Republicans walked out on democracy,” said Peter Rickman of the Teaching Assistances’ Association, the Assembly Democrats answered the call of protesters demanding to be heard.
As of Saturday night, the representatives have been listening to testimony of over 2,000 people, most having waited two or three hours to speak. Ritch Williams, a legal aid for State Representative David Cullen had been at the Capitol Thursday, Feb. 17 for 13 hours after starting at 6:30 a.m. and his day wasn’t over yet. He remarked that to the best of his knowledge, it had been only Democratic assemblymen voluntarily rotating through shifts of listening to the testimony and, as Rickman put it, “making sure people get heard.”
Walker may have won the election in November, but democracy doesn’t end with an election. Democracy does not mean that a person elected by the majority rules as dictator with no regard for those who opposed him for the duration of his term in office. A leader should be a unifier, not a divider, and Walker has done absolutely nothing but divide this state.