By Calvin Choi, ‘12
In the March 3rd, 2011 edition of The Scarlet, Gerald E. Buker discussed the Wisconsin bill in his article “What’s disgusting? Union busting!”As of March 18th, the recently passed law, which limits the collective bargaining abilities of certain public sector unions, was temporarily blocked by District Judge Maryann Sumi until it could be determined whether or not the legislature violated an open meeting law that requires a 24-hour notice before public meetings.
The law, unsurprisingly, has been quite a controversial issue, particularly for Clark students, who, as you may or may not know, tend to be quite left-leaning. When engaging in political discourse, however, we ought to rely more upon reasoned arguments and facts rather than upon our immediate visceral and emotional reactions.
In his article, Buker contends that the budget shortfall was one that “[was] created by the new governor himself” and that Walker had “inherited a balanced budget which was only thrown into debt by new tax cuts to business and the upper class.” The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that the tax cuts will not add a single penny to Wisconsin’s current deficit of $137 million. factcheck.org, a non-partisan organization that monitors the factual accuracy of political information, the tax breaks do not take effect until 2012, which means that they do not contribute to this year’s budget deficit.
Buker also makes the bold accusation that Walker will “only compromise under the self-admitted premise of trickery.” Contrary to popular opinion, however, Walker made several honest efforts at compromise. One such effort was made when Republican senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald told Scott Walker that he was done negotiating after a fruitless meeting with two Democratic Senators. Walker promptly sent two of his top aides to meet with the Democratic senators and authorized his staffers to seek compromise on a wide variety of issues.
What’s clear is that the bill does not entirely eliminate collective bargaining rights; it limits them for select unions. As Mr. Buker stated, most public safety employees at the state and county level, like police officers and firefighters, would be exempt from bargaining restrictions. All other public employees would still be allowed to engage in collective bargaining, but only with regards to the issue of wages. Furthermore, there is a cap on the wage increases that unions can bargain for; unless approved through a voter referendum, the increases cannot be larger than the chance in the consumer price index.
Politics may bring out the worst in us, but when considering the complex collective bargaining bill, let us keep one of Winnie the Pooh’s virtues in mind: patience to accept the truth.