Buyer’s Remorse: Police Unions and Walker

(Further evidence, if any were needed, that Scott Brown's talk does not match his reality. - promoted by Bob Neer)

JohnD and I have been discussing the exemption of state public safety workers from Governor Scott Walker’s bill to strip 175,000 public employees from collective bargaining rights. The move is so extreme even a police union that endorsed Walker is expressing regrets.

JohnD can, and I expect, will speak for himself, but the question of the politics behind the exemption of the public safety workers is worth addressing. While there could have been some quid pro quo for the support of four of five public unions that made endorsements in the gubernatorial election, it’s more likely that Walker’s strategy was one of divide and conquer. Their support neutralizes their criticism and, exempt from the loss of collective bargaining rights, Walker has lessened his organized opposition.

Politifact agrees.He admitted as much on NPR.


In any case, Walker’s exclusion of fire and police unions was political; it wasn’t a matter of something for something.

How can you tell Walker excluded police and firefighters for political rather than political reasons? Well, it’s safe to say his reasoing has has been not only evolving, but contradictory. On NPR, he worried about police and fire striking, but here he says,

“Currently, we’ve had a long tradition and when it comes to fire and police service in the state of Wisconsin. Statutes are very different when it comes to whole series of rights and responsibilities,” Walker said.

. That’s the political equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and saying Nah, nah, nah, I can’t hear you!”

And in response to the endorsement question, Walker misleads with the following:

There are 314 fire and police unions in the state. Four of them endorsed me. All the rest endorsed my opponent.

There may be 314 fire and police unions locals in Wisconsin, but there aren’t 314 police and fire unions.

So did Walker exempt some unions for their support? It’s doubtful. Had he included the state police, he would have had to deal with a broadening of his opposition. Walker might have had to face the possibility of police picketing, a complexity that would have been hard to navigate politically, especially since police and fire fighters are well-liked and have even enjoyed some sanctification since 9/11.

Liberal commentators (that includes my personal hero Paul Krugman) are correct in pointing out that the exempting state police and fire personnel from the abolition of collective bargaining was politically motivated, but the inferernce that it was some sort of deal is not supported by the evidence.

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2 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Another dishonest governor

    can't explain how eliminating collective bargaining reduces deficits:

    REHM: Help me to understand how taking away the rights of collective bargaining would fix or help to fix the budget shortfall.

    DANIELS: Well, the most powerful special interest in America today are the government unions. They're the leading financial contributors. They have the biggest PAC's. They have muscle. A lot of times their contracts provide for time off to go politic and lobby. And over the course of the last few decades, if there were ever injustices or shortfalls in how we took care of government employees, it has been fixed and over-fixed. And so I think that the - you know, he's trying - what he's trying to do is, in the public interest, interrupt this fortuitous process in which taxpayer dollars pay for very solid salaries for government employees. [...]

    REHM: I still am totally in the dark as to how bargaining and the bargaining power of unions and taking that away is going to affect the budget process.

    DANIELS: Well, if my newspaper is correct, he is not talking about that. He's talking about narrowing the scope down to wages and, you know, that...

    REHM: But they've already conceded wages.

    DANIELS: Well, you know, this is - I think he's trying to fix a structural problem, which I've demonstrated or discussed to you already, Diane. The problem comes from the, you know, forced expropriation, whether they like it or not, of money from - that started with the taxpayers, from the salaries of government workers, circulated back into a political machine that is the most powerful out there.

    It's about politics, not budgets.

  2. Indiana Democrats now

    caucusing in Illinois to prevent voting on anti-union legislation. Governor Mitch Daniels not so keen on the legislation:

    Gov. Mitch Daniels had warned his party late last year against pursuing so-called "right to work" legislation. While he agreed with it philosophically, he said it was a big issue that needed a state-wide debate and noted no Republican had run on this in the November election.

    But now that his party is pursuing it, Daniels has not spoken against it. He has so far issued no statement, has held no news conference and has not been interviewed by any Indiana reporters in the Statehouse. Daniels did do a radio interview Monday with National Public Radio in which he discussed the labor fight which has caused a government stalemate in Wisconsin - where Senate Democrats have fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on a bill that limits collective bargaining --a now, apparently, his state.

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Thu 18 Sep 11:44 PM