March 1, 2011 — The world and national news are two things I try to listen to each evening or at least peruse on the Internet. I find what is happening in other countries and states fascinating, and then I like to form my own opinion. I have learned many times TV pundits have only a few seconds to tell the whole story of the news event, and yes, sometimes opinion skews the facts. Take the situation in Wisconsin with its governor and unions. Governor Walker says he wants to reform collective bargaining rights to fix the budget deficit, and the public-sector unions say the governor is union busting and trying to destroy collective bargaining.
What it comes down to is Wisconsin is paying out too much money for health care insurance premiums to its employees. It wants to attract new businesses by making it a right-to-work state and it wants employees, especially state workers, to make the choice if they want union representation or not, which is also part of the right-to-work provision.
Several years ago, when one of the local school districts was having problems negotiating with its teachers, a teacher who was part of the local teacher’s association and an elected officer told me that he (I am using the gender-neutral pronoun) didn’t agree with what the California Teacher’s Association advocated, but he didn’t have any choice but to have dues taken out of each paycheck. Because he worked as a teacher, he had to belong to the union. He didn’t like it, but he didn’t know if he could fight the system.
My older daughters are/were members of a union. Their place of employment garnished their wages for union dues regardless if they wanted to be in the union. One of them had an issue with the employer’s local store, but the union representative told her he couldn’t help her because it wasn’t a union issue. She called me asking why she had to pay dues if the union couldn’t help her. Good question.
Now before you think I am anti-union, let me tell you I am not. I come from a family of union people. My dad was in a union. My hometown is filled with blue-collar, union people. The men and women I know are rank-and-file union members who work hard for a fair wage and working conditions. Unfortunately, many union leaders use collective bargaining and union dues to support the Democrat Party without asking what the rank and file want. I wouldn’t support a union if it backed That is not the reason unions were started; they began so low-income, uneducated and minority workers would be treated fairly.
According to the Wisconsin governor’s Web site, collective bargaining would allow local governments to realize additional savings. For example, Walker states, many school districts participate in Wisconsin Education Association trust because its council collectively bargains to get as many school districts as possible across the state to participate in this union-run health insurance plan. Union leadership benefits from members participating in this plan. If school districts enrolled in the state employee health plan, it would save school districts up to $68 million per year.
In Milwaukee County alone, because the union collectively bargained for paid time off, 14 employees receive salary and benefits for doing union business. Of the 14, three are on full-time release for union business. Milwaukee County spent more than $170,000 in salary alone for these employees to only participate in union activities such as collective bargaining.
I have friends and relatives in Wisconsin, some are teachers, and most would like to have local discussions on wages, benefits, etc. Most would like to also be employed in a right-to-work state where by if the union is not doing its job, they can decide to not be a member. That comes down to accountability.
Many Mid-West and New England states along with California, Oregon and Washington are not right-to-work states. They are union-forced states, which doesn’t allow for a check and balance by workers. Unions say they can’t make it if people can choose to belong. I think people will join unions if those organizations really work for the people. Makes me wonder why the unions are worried. I know the local CSEA (California State Employees Association) has hardworking, honest people in place trying to make a difference for rural Lassen County employees. They could be poster children as to why people would want to willingly join a union. The same goes for the local teacher’s association though I have had my difference of opinion over the years with some of them.
The shame of it all is legislators hiding out in Illinois and physicians signing fake doctor’s notes for teachers who skipped school to join the fracas in Madison. I hope it never gets to that point in Lassen County and I really hope the teachers and doctors I have gotten to know in the last 10 years are as honorable and ethical as I think they are.
As I write this the Wisconsin Assembly has passed the bill, but there is still no word if the missing 14 senators have returned at press time.
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