Wisconsin Standoff-Poster Child for State’s Survival

Governor Scott Walker–Hold your ground or every State will go down with you!

The Wisconsin standoff with the teacher’s and other public sector unions will set the stage as to whether States will be able to undo 40 years of tyranny by public sector unions.  Let’s be clear, the public officials who gave into union demands share half of the responsibility.  As a former mayor who presided over de-certifying AFSCME in a California City in the 1970s, I understand the difficulty and fortitude required to take back the sovereignty of a City, a County, a School Board, or a State.  California did not become a public union state until the 1970s when the Rodda Act was passed in 1975 and then Governor Brown backed public sector unionization of all state and local public employees.  Since then, AFSCME, the California Teachers Association and other public sector unions have seized control over the political process through their expert channeling of employee dues into political campaigns. 

Where we are today:

Fact:  Federal Public Sector Employees make twice as much as their private sector counterparts

Fact:  Milwaukee Teachers earn a salary of $56,000 per year plus an additional 43,505 in Benefits for a total of $100,005 per year.

Bankrupt!  That is the harsh reality of State and local government budgets.  Since many of the social welfare and education programs are mandated by the Federal Government, State and local governments can only control the labor portion of their budgets.  The unions, however, have maneuvered the entities into a position where the unfunded liabilities for these governmental units exceeds any ability they have now or in the future to meet this obligations.  Some cities today, in order to pay retired police and fire employees, are having to cut deployed police and fire personnel.   

Public Employee Pension Plans:

In the private sector, we are all used to 401K type of programs where the employee pays into their own retirement account and some matching is done by the employer.  These are Defined CONTRIBUTION PROGRAMS.  In the public sector jobs, the employee is guaranteed a percentage of their salary when they retire.  Most do not pay into their own account, the liability is paid by the government agency AT THE TIME THE EMPLOYEE RETIRES.  These are called Defined BENEFIT PROGRAMS.  In the private sector model, the employee is the risk taker and the manager of their own retirement.  In the public sector model, the taxpayer is the risk taker and the agency is the manager of the employee’s retirement fund.  The first problem with the public sector model is that governments do not “save” funds to cover the retirement liabilities so have to pay them out of current budgets.  As more and more employees retire, more and more budget dollars go to retirees.  The second problem is that the eventual payout of the retirement is a moving target.  Why, as the public sector employee receives wage increases, those increases increase their eventual retirement payout and the liability to the agency. 

Solution:  Public Sector Pension Plans have to be converted to defined contribution plans where contributions are shared between the employing agency and the employee.  Current employees and retirees better start dealing with the possibility of receiving less than you planned on.  Fair?  No, but that is reality.

Public Sector Health Benefits:

Most public sector employees pay nothing or significantly less for their own and their family’s healthcare.  The unions have negotiated excellent health insurance plans to the extent that Obama granted them special exemptions for their “Cadillac” plans.  In the private sector, employees typically cover a fixed dollar amount for each employee’s health care plan.  In the public sector, either all premiums are paid by the agency or a significant portion.

Solution:  Public sector employers can only pay a fixed amount of the employee’s healthcare premiums.  Don’t fall for the percentage game the unions play as they will keep upping the coverage while you are stuck with a percentage increase due to the extra coverage.  This cost becomes uncontrollable.

Right to Work:

All states should adopt a right to work law that allows the employee to decide as to whether they join a union or not when they accept a job.  Many public sector employees do not agree with the union’s political practices but are stuck.  Obama has even gone so far as to attach a rider to his “stimulus” funds that State’s get so anyone working on the project has to pay union dues even if they are not a union member.  Why should employees be forced to join an organization just to get the job? 

Limited Collective Bargaining:

Governor Walker is correct in attempting to limit the extent of the union’s ability to represent employees in every aspect of their employment.  The Governor wants to limit the scope of the collective bargaining to strictly wages.  Benefits and other working conditions would not be subject to collective bargaining.  Most of the real costs fall into this group of benefits and conditions.  Some examples are how many prep hours teachers get per class hour; how many TAs are made available to teachers; what are the classroom or office environmentals such as room temperature, room sizes, etc..  (Not kidding!)  Pretty soon, everything the employees do are controlled by their contract and the employer has no right to change even room temperatures without going back to the union to renegotiate.  When you do, they pick your pocket some more! 

Don’t kid yourself, the very survival of State and Local Governments is at stake.  The survival of the Federal Government is also at risk but Obama will not do anything to reduce the roles of unions at the federal level.  SEIU, AFSCME, NEA and others are his lifeblood for campaign funds and free election workers.  Local States, school boards, counties, and cities have to regain fiscal control or they will not survive. 

This means that taxpayers will either have to pay more taxes just to keep the union pensions and benefits going or step up and support their local officials. 

I had dead fish in my lawn as well as toilet paper in my trees when I decertified the union.  Today, the level of civility is much worse than it was in the 70’s so we should also keep our elected officials in our prayers for their safety and the safety of their families and staffs.

Support Governors, City Councilmen, County Supervisors, and school board members who are trying to get a grasp on their budgets and are taking on the unions.  It is your fight they are fighting, it is your tax dollar they are spending…

RD Pierini





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