Unions Looking For Puppet

When it comes to the recall attempt of Governor Scott Walker, unions are looking for a candidate to be their puppet.  And they appear to have found one.

Union leaders are asking Democratic candidates for governor to veto the next state budget if it doesn’t restore collective bargaining for public workers and one leading candidate – Kathleen Falk – has agreed, participants in the private meetings say.

The plan, which could lead to shortages or even layoffs in government if it doesn’t succeed, is a key strategy that union leaders are considering for undoing Gov. Scott Walker’s repeal last year of most collective bargaining for public employees. Falk, the former Dane County executive, has committed to restoring collective bargaining in the next state budget and vetoing the budget if those provisions come out, while at least three other candidates including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said they wouldn’t commit to any one strategy to accomplish that.

“The governor’s job is to veto budget items that don’t reflect citizens’ values. That’s why a million people signed recall petitions – because Scott Walker’s budgets didn’t reflect citizens’ values,” Falk spokesman Scot Ross said. “All the support she’ll receive is because she the best candidate to take on Gov. Walker’s divisive, extreme, national tea party agenda and bring Wisconsin back together.”

Unions helped launch the recall effort against Walker in November in response to Walker’s labor legislation, and the state teachers union on Wednesday endorsed Falk in that looming contest. All the potential Democratic challengers to Walker support restoring collective bargaining, but they don’t all agree on how to make that happen.

Smells like pay-to-play.

The union request and Falk’s commitment brought withering criticism from Republicans, who said the move would be bad for the state and wouldn’t succeed with the GOP-controlled Legislature.

“This backroom deal reeks of pay-to-play,” state Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks said.

What’s amazing is that a candidate would publicly commit to such a request.  It’s one that other Democrats said no to.

In an interview Wednesday, Barrett said that when he spoke with unions he told them that he would call a special session to seek the restoration of collective bargaining. If that didn’t work, Barrett said he would look at other means of accomplishing that goal but he stopped short of committing to veto the state budget over collective bargaining.

“My position has always been legislatively that I don’t rule anything out and I don’t rule anything in,” Barrett said.

“I said I could not make that promise and I did not think any serious candidate for governor could or should make that commitment,” Cullen said of a veto of the state budget. “It’s a $60 billion document.”

Vinehout said that she would seek to sell the state public on the importance of restoring collective bargaining rather than attempt to force it through the Legislature in a budget standoff.

“The answer to that was that was I would do my very best to avoid a situation where we have brinkmanship,” Vinehout said.

Unfortunately public sector unions like WEAC and WSEU don’t care what happens to Wisconsin as long as like spoiled children they get what they want.

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Unions Vetting Gubernatorial Candidates

Looks like the unions are hard at work trying to find someone to do their bidding.

The hunt for a union-friendly, Democratic candidate committed to restoring collective bargaining rights to pre-Gov. Scott Walker status is under way, with the state’s largest unions — reportedly to a much greater extent than ever before — working together on plans to throw their collective weight behind one candidate.

“Right now, there is communication occurring between unions to coalesce around one candidate, much more so than has ever been done in the past,” says Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin and a lieutenant with the Madison Fire Department. “In the past, unions have independently talked to their members and then made endorsements. But this time, the unions will endorse who they think is the best … a candidate that will restore collective bargaining rights.”

While Mitchell’s name was floated for some time as a possible candidate for governor, he said Monday he is more inclined to run for lieutenant governor. Along with Walker, organizers also gathered signatures to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch as well as a number of Republican state senators.

Marty Beil, executive director of the state’s largest public employees union, says the unions are “looking for someone who will champion the fight … and the fight is to restore dignity and respect to Wisconsin’s workers and to return Wisconsin to the people. We need someone with a spine, a backbone, who will take the lead in championing the rights of workers in this state and the interests of the middle class.”

So once again the unions are trying to define the interests of the middle class, while claiming that collective bargaining is a right.  Funny considering collective bargaining is a privilege and many non-union members of the middle class would disagree with the unions definition of their interests. Perhaps more surprising though is that apparently the Democrats are willing to campaign on the real issue behind the recall attempt.

Although there was at times surprisingly little talk about Act 10 (the bill that repealed most public employee bargaining rights) and unions in the recall campaigns against some state senators this past summer, potential Democratic candidates against Walker say it will be central in a gubernatorial recall election this year. Barca says he “would be astounded if anyone would run and not make it a cornerstone of their campaign.”

But collective bargaining isn’t the only issue on the minds of Walker foes.

Jim Palmer, head of the 8,000-member Wisconsin Professional Police Association, says: “We need a candidate that can beat Scott Walker. But having said that, that candidate’s platform can’t just be about restoring collective bargaining rights. Restoring collective bargaining rights should be the cornerstone of the candidate’s campaign, but their platform must be broader.”

It’s a message Erpenbach says he has been stressing in his meetings with union leaders. He says that while collective bargaining is by far the “most important issue,” as it’s a move he sees as a dangerous step toward privatizing state government, there are numerous other problems with Walker’s first year in office.

Among those are efforts to kick thousands of families off BadgerCare, changes in state law to put more power in the executive office, cuts in state aid to public schools and the passage of the voter ID law.

Unfortunately for the unions, the people of Wisconsin have had the chance to see that the reforms implemented in the last year are working.  So no matter who the unions choose to be their puppet (notice its not people who are Democrats choosing), the people of Wisconsin will see through the “straw man” arguments put forth in the coming months by their candidate.

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Local Teachers’ Union Forces Out President

The President of the West De Pere Education Association resigned this week in the face of a “no confidence” vote.  In forcing this one has to wonder if it was the Executive Committee of the Association acting alone or on behalf of the majority of teachers in the district.  Here’s a copy of the letter he sent to union members.

March 15, 2011

Dear Fellow WDPEA Members,

I wanted to write to each of you personally and as soon as possible to let you know that I am no longer the President of the WDPEA. I also wanted you to explain how this came to be.

Late in the school day yesterday, I was approached by a member of the executive committee to tell me that the WDPEA Executive Committee was exploring a move toward a vote of “No Confidence” in my ability to lead our association as President. With the parliamentary procedures set in place by association bylaws I proffered my resignation. I know that there are some teachers in our district that are highly emotional, irrational, and full of anger about all that is happening in our state regarding the Budget Repair Bill. I have worked hard to communicate everything that all of you have needed to know in order to decide for yourselves where you stand, to express yourselves if you wished to, and to know where to seek out more information. When I agreed to be your Union President, it was because I felt strongly about taking care of all of our teachers and being a professional, wise, and respected voice in negotiating, especially for the young teachers. In trying to remain as professional and objective as possible, I did not agree to or endorse local demonstrations or marching on the Capitol.

Those who know me well understand the principles I have stood for my entire life. I have dedicated my life (and risked it, many times) to secure the freedoms of the citizens of this country and I strongly believe in the democratic process. It is not my way to spout hateful rhetoric or make a foolish scene at our state capitol. If that is what you elected me for, you were mistaken. I do not wholeheartedly agree with the manner in which the legislative actions in Madison were choreographed and as a result I have written professional letters to our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Representatives to let them know of my concerns.

I have followed the events in Madison very closely and learned a great deal about WEAC when I discovered that two days into this, they capitulated on the notion of making us pay 12% for our benefits and 5.8% of our pensions without trying to negotiate lower percentages for us. WEAC stated that all they wanted was to retain “collective bargaining rights”. Educate yourselves about whose best interests are truly being served by continuing the current process of “collective bargaining.” WEAC wants to continue to make it mandatory that we pay our union dues – this has always been about the union’s money, not teacher’s “rights”. In order to negotiate salaries and benefits, we are going to be successful only if we are professional, committed to our profession, and reasonable about the conditions of our employment. Aside from those that are trying to sway you in an emotional and political direction, we are employed by the citizens of West DePere School District. We are paid to provide an excellent education to their children, and these citizens are hurting from the beleaguered economy, perhaps even more so than we have been until now. We need to keep this in mind, as we proceed.

I arranged to have the meeting on Monday after school with our superintendent, John Zegers, to try to make sure we at West DePere were able to achieve the best outcome for ourselves in the upcoming contract negotiations. We are not in the same financial situation as some of these other schools, and Mr. Zegers has been and continues to be very, very open about wanting to work with us. He has recognized over and over that we have excellent teachers in our district, and has no plans for sweeping changes in personnel. In contrast, the Green Bay and East DePere teachers gave up pay increases and other stipulations and made the decision to lose these points in order to preserve their mandate to the union which includes dues for the next two years. They did not take the time to analyze their situation and their options thoroughly. As a group of individuals who daily encourage our students to make sound decisions based on fact and reason, I urge you to proceed rationally. (How do you say no contract is a better than a bad contract—tactfully??)

As of today, Brenda May is your Union President. She is an intelligent person with great common sense, and will do a fine job for you if you let her. We have the ability to come through this much better than other teachers in our area if we retain our open minds (“Don’t leave your mind so open that your brain falls out”—William F. Bennett) and think for ourselves.

Thank you to those of you who have maintained a cool head, common sense, and professional composure throughout these past weeks.


Stu Betts

Forced out for not wanting to take the “radical” approach of demonstrations and protests?  While I disagree with Mr. Betts about how the budget repair bill was passed and quite possibly with what was included in it, I applaud him for wanting to take the “professional” approach in showing his opposition.

It’s very telling though when a “leader” in the teachers’ union points out what WEAC was most concerned about.  It wasn’t about the increase benefits contributions, nope it was about what most supporters of Governor Walker knew.  The collective bargaining privileges and the ability to force collection of union dues from members by having it deducted from paychecks.

In the end Mr. Betts understood what was more important was remembering who teachers are accountable to in the end, the residents of the West De Pere School District.  He also understood the sacrifices residents of the district are making in the current economic situation.  As a graduate of the West De Pere School District I would hope the majority of the teachers in the district feel the same way Mr. Betts does.  But one does have to wonder, considering he was forced to resign because of his approach to and/or position on the recently passed budget repair bill.

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Green Bay Teachers’ Contract Details

Tonight the school board approved the contract that was ratified Monday night by the Green Bay Education Association.  On the surface it looks as though the Green Bay School District should be commended, as should teachers in the district who voted what the union called an ultimatum.

“It was the lesser of two evils and if you look at the expression on the teachers that were here you can tell that this isn’t something that we’re happy with,” said Toni Lardinois, president, Green Bay Education Association.

In a letter to the community, Superintendent Maass points out this had to be done:

Leadership is not easy. During difficult times, a leader has to balance the welfare of staff with that of the organization or company. Under the current budget proposal, the district will face a $20 million shortfall. With the current political climate, the Board of Education met on Sunday for seven hours to create a Memorandum of Agreement, offering a two-year contract extension to our teacher’s union, the Green Bay Education Association (GBEA).

The Memorandum was passed last night by GBEA members. I know this was a difficult vote for our staff to make, but it will help the organization in its short- and long-term financial goals. These sacrifices are greatly appreciated, and we are still driven to make the district the choice workplace in the area.

So just what were some of the sacrifices made?

Similar to what Governor Walker has proposed, the union’s collective bargaining is eliminated except when it comes to wages.
But, salaries will remain frozen at the current rate except for step increases, based on length of service.

The district will no longer have to bargain with the union on setting the school calendar, allowing for cost savings when it comes to the operation of the schools.

The new contract allows the district to make staffing changes no longer based on seniority. Teachers can also be reassigned as needed and their schedules modified to meet the demands of a particular school, without previous workload restrictions and in some cases added compensation for teachers.

The changes also allows principals more flexibility in working with teachers outside the scheduled workday, for example supervising evening basketball games

The mandate on class size has also been suspended, meaning the district no longer needs union approval to add students beyond set levels. And if more students are added, additional compensation for teachers would no longer be required.

In addition full-time teachers would have to contribute 12% for heath insurance as well as dental insurance.  The contract also calls for employees to pay the full employee share of pension benefits.

So what about that “Emeritus” program?  It wasn’t totally eliminated, but did see changes.  Most notably it became a tiered program, teachers hired after June 30, 2011 are ineligible, 45 days of service must be met & could be required within the first year.

Kudos to the Green Bay School Board for be willing to take a stand and not back down despite having to get a contract done quickly all things considered.

Here is the contract extension memorandum and the original contract.