|Demonstrators inside the rotunda |
of the state Capitol in Madison, WI
Police officers have been sent out to find all of the Democrat state Senators who decided not to show up for work today. No one seems to know where the missing Senators are located. It is rumored that they boarded a bus and left the state entirely. Republicans do hold a majority but at least one Democrat Senator must be present for a vote.
This controversial legislation would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state government employees (this includes public school teachers), require public employees to pay for half of the costs of their pension plans, and pay for 12.6% of their heath care coverage. It would save the state $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years. The state currently has a $3.6 billion budget deficit. Under this plan state worker's would see a hike of 8% to their health care and pension costs. Unions could still represent workers but they couldn't force employees to pay dues or bargain for pay increases above the Consumer Price Index unless it was approved by a public vote.
This has resulted in 3 days of protests and hundreds of teachers calling in sick, forcing school districts to cancel classes. Students across the state have abandoned their classrooms and are protesting the proposed legislation. However, the Democratic National Committee has admitted that they have activated their phone banks and are busing protestors into Madison.
Personally, I think that public employees have a sweet deal given their Cadillac pension plans, high quality health care plans, and seemingly universal prescription drug coverage. Please don't even get me started on health care coverage and how unfair it is. I am self-employed and paying nearly 100% of my health care and prescription costs for myself and my family. I really don't want to hear about how "unfair" it is to make public employees pay for a meager 13% of their own health care. As for pensions, again I'm paying for my own pension out of my own pocket. I took a huge hit like everyone else when the stock market bottomed out.
My limited experience with unions at the state and national level has convinced me that in the 21st Century unions are obsolete and should be phased out. I know a lot of conservative teachers out there in the public schools who are hiding their own personal views because they are afraid of retaliation against them by the teacher's union. I have liberal teacher friends who also wouldn't mind seeing the teacher's union phased out.
I hope that this post evokes a reaction because it should. States like Wisconsin and my own state of Minnesota are broke. Broke! I believe that this will eventually hit everyone and like it or not, we will all have to help reduce the deficits one way or another. State government certainly cannot rely on the federal government to bail them out. What is the alternative? Bankruptcy? Help from foreign governments? Can't you just see the headlines: "Bank of China Bails Out Wisconsin. Teacher's Unions Saved."