Scott Walker: A Fiscally Responsible Governor or a Politician Who Is Playing Favorites?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

There’s been a lot going on in Wisconsin in the past week. I hope most Americans are aware of the reason why so many Wisconsinites have converged on the state capital to hold demonstrations.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, claims that the state is in financial trouble. He’s asking teachers, plow drivers, janitors, nurses, garbage collectors, and other public sector workers to contribute more to their pensions and to pay a larger amount of their health premiums. It appears many of those workers are willing to negotiate with the governor and to consider having more money taken out of their paychecks for their pensions and health insurance. What those employees are not willing to do is relinquish their right to collective bargaining.

I can understand why Governor Walker is asking public employees to have more deductions taken from their paychecks during these fiscally difficult times. What I question is his budget-repair bill that would strip public employees of their right to collective bargaining. If the governor believes that taking away that right will help with the state budget shortfall, why isn’t he demanding that police, firefighters, and state troopers give up their right to collective bargaining too? Could it be political payback? Does that sound like a possibility to you?

Here is an excerpt from an article that Todd Richmond wrote for Bloomberg:

Walker has introduced a bill that would strip public employees across the board — from teachers to snowplow drivers — of their right to collectively bargain for sick leave, vacation, even the hours they work. But absolutely nothing would change for local police, fire departments and the State Patrol.

The bill smacks of political favoritism for public safety unions that supported Walker’s election bid last year and sets up new haves and have-nots in Wisconsin government, said Paul Secunda, a Marquette University professor who specializes in labor law.

“That’s called ‘thank you, I got your back,'” Secunda said. “There’s no surprise there. This is the worst type of favoritism there could be.”

 Well, Wisconsin firefighters are showing their solidarity with their fellow public employees. There’s a post at Mother Jones about an interview that Uptake’s Oliver Dykstra had with Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin. (Mother Jones also posted a video of the interview.)

Here are some of the highlights of that interview—which I’ve taken from Mother Jones:

  • “The reason that we are here is because it’s important that labor sticks together. There was a message from the governor’s office to conquer and divide…collective bargaining is not just for us, police and fire, it’s good for all involved. It’s a middle-class upbringing.”
  • “When firefighters see an emergency, one thing we do is respond. And we see an emergency in the house of labor, so that’s why we’re here.”
  • “Every day, if you notice, we lead the AFSCME employees, the SEIU employees, all the public sector employees into the building, because we are here to fight with them.”
  • “Collective bargaining is not about union rights; it’s about rights of workers…We ask Gov. Walker to come back and negotiate with the people, negotiatie with the state workers’ unions, and get things worked out, as opposed to just putting out this bill and we don’t hear from him again.”
  • “Us as firefighters, we have been exempted from this bill…There’s a 5.8 percent pay into the pension, there’s a 12.4 percent pay into the health care premium benefits…For the betterment of the government, for the betterment of the state, we don’t mind helping to pay for that. We don’t want to price ourselves out of a job. Ever. What we want to do is have a fair and equitable treatment among our members.”

I have great respect for the Wisconsin firefighters who are supporting their fellow public employees—even though they have nothing to gain politically or financially by doing so.

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” ~Benjamin Franklin


Mother Jones


595 thoughts on “Scott Walker: A Fiscally Responsible Governor or a Politician Who Is Playing Favorites?”

  1. NJEA president at rally accuses Gov. Christie of trying to start a ‘middle-class civil war’

    TRENTON — In front of a crowd of thousands of protestors, the president of the state’s largest teachers union accused Gov. Chris Christie of trying to foment a civil war within the middle-class.

    “All of New Jersey’s middle-class is hurting, but this governor and his right-wing supporters are trying to start a middle-class civil war,” said New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian.

    As she spoke, thousands of public workers filled the street in front of the Statehouse, wearing ponchos and holding umbrellas to keep as dry as possible in the pouring rain. State Police estimated the crowd at 3,100.

  2. From Mother Jones
    Gov. Walker Played Political Chicken With Public Jobs
    — By Andy Kroll| Fri Feb. 25, 2011

    For the past week, Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker has wielded the threat of statewide layoffs if his controversial “budget repair bill” isn’t passed immediately. He’s said that as many as 1,500 state workers—teachers, nurses, janitors, bureaucrats, and more—could lose their jobs by July if the 14 Senate Democrats in hiding didn’t return so the Senate could vote on the bill. But while Walker casts the current layoffs as a purely fiscal issue, he’s used the threat of job losses before as political leverage, playing chicken with the livelihoods of public workers.

    In the fall of 2009, Milwaukee County’s budget was in bad shape. Facing a $3 million deficit, Walker, then the county executive, went looking for places to cut. In late October, he announced plans to axe 180 county workers by Thanksgiving as a way to balance the budget. With the year drawing to a close, Walker argued, the only way to solve Milwaukee County’s financial headache was layoffs.

    Not long after, though, county department chiefs returned to Walker with promises to save up to a million dollars through non-employee cuts of their own. Just as soon as he’d announced that pink slips were going out, Walker backed off. No one was getting laid off, he announced.

    But here’s the kicker: In an interview a few days after backing down, Walker told a Madison radio station that the layoff threat was merely a ploy. “I needed to get their attention to show how serious we were about having a balanced budget,” Walker said on the “Sly in the Morning” show on WTDY radio.

    Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said Walker has played political games like this for “his entire career.”

  3. Mrs M.

    “Why is the middle class demonized when Wall Street is the problem?”

    That commentator I mentioned he was right on the mark.

    “If the Republican approach were part of a homicide investigation, it would be as if the detectives had removed the smoking guns from the perpetrators’ hands and arrested the corpses.”


  4. eniobob,

    From The Boston Globe (2/23/2011)
    Scapegoats in Wisconsin
    Why is the middle class demonized when Wall Street is the problem?

    WE ARE in the third winter of the recession; 26 million Americans are out of work, cannot find full-time work, or have given up looking for work, and $11 trillion in household wealth has vanished.

    As winter turns to spring, there is an evolving perspective on the crisis, shifting from an attempt to identify the causes to blaming the victims.

    Congress is aggressively looking to eliminate regulatory excesses that are presumably hindering economic recovery only weeks after the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, appointed by Congress in 2009, issued a report concluding that the crash was caused by 30 years of deregulation, the stripping of key safeguards, and an overly optimistic reliance on self-regulation by large financial institutions. If the Republican approach were part of a homicide investigation, it would be as if the detectives had removed the smoking guns from the perpetrators’ hands and arrested the corpses.

    Wisconsin is only the most dramatic site of a broader strategy of absolving Wall Street and scapegoating public employees and their unions. While there are legitimate and critical public policy issues about education reform, spiraling health costs, and pension liabilities at a time of state and municipal budget deficits, why is the fault laid at the feet of teachers, police, and firefighters? Today’s pension obligations are the product of massive investment losses, not excessively generous public pensions that, in fact, average about $19,000 a year. For that matter, a 2010 Economic Policy Institute study showed that, controlled for educational achievement, public sector workers actually earn less than their private sector counterparts.

  5. rafflaw,

    I think they’re pushing the envelope–trying to get away with whatever they can at this point. That’s why it’s so important, IMO, to stand up to all these rightwingers and corporate shills who are attempting to take workers’ rights away…and to bust unions.

  6. I heard one commentator put it right on the money he said”Instead of being mad at wall street and the obscene bonuses which averaged about $48,000 per,you are now blaming all the financial woes on your neighbor who is a teacher ,teaching your kids and the guy down the street who picks up your garbage or the person who accepts the payment on your water bill”

    Whats up is down and whats down is up.

  7. Elaine,
    I was referring to tbhe Kansas article. How can Kansas limit the unions free speech by limiting how the members can donate to the union for political purposes? Wouldn’t it have to limit all corporations the same way under the Citizens United decision?

  8. Elaine M.
    1, February 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm
    Otteray & Buddha,

    Walker suffers from nuclear neuron con-fusion. His brain cells have all melted and melded into one big gray blob.


    I picture his brain as one big pretzel, hard as a rock and twisted.

  9. Elaine M.,

    Refusing to look at it for what good it can do the people….. They won’t have a power plant to keep up…. see it is now costing then money….. I wonder if he shouldn’t just give it to them and take a tax deduction… You know the state could build and sell one every 5 years under the accelerated depreciation rule….. see how much money that would save the state?

    The about was meant in satire only….

  10. rafflaw,

    Welcome to the “new” America–a country of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation–brought to you by the Supreme Court of the United States.

  11. Elaine,
    Ii thought the Citizens United case made all corporations “people” so how can Kansas limit one corporate entity’s free speech rights?

  12. Gyges,

    Thanks for that link!



    I thought Governor Gumby was already hooked up to a “power” grid–one owned by the Koch Brothers.

  13. Elaine, in that case can we hook him up to the power grid and use him for renewable energy? I don’t think you can get much power out of two molecules, especially when one of them is not in use.

  14. Commentary: Koch brothers and the union-busting Kansas House
    Mike Hendricks
    The Kansas City Star

    The Republican union-busting campaign spread to Kansas this week like a disease, with state lawmakers approving a bill that would gut the free-speech rights of union members.

    Now that may not be the most even-handed way of explaining what happened in the Kansas House. However, it is the truth. The kind of truth that you only hear when, say, the governor of Wisconsin thinks he’s talking privately to one of his fat-cat donors.

    But as there’s no shortage of analysis on Gov. Scott Walker’s frank admissions over the phone to a blogger pretending to be billionaire David Koch, let’s focus, instead, on what political allies of the real Koch brothers have been up to in their home state.

    Kansas House Bill 2130 got final approval in that chamber Thursday and now goes to the Senate. It is a transparent attempt to strip already weakened unions of what little political power they have left.

    The bill’s supporters — among them the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity — pretend that the legislation is aimed at protecting workers’ rights.

    That’s baloney. Kansas is a right to work state. Not only is it illegal to make union membership a condition of employment, union members cannot be forced to provide financial support to political causes and candidates.

    No, what HB 2130 does is attempt to limit the political influence of unions, which tend to support Democrats. It denies union members the right to make voluntary payroll deductions to union political action committees.

    Oh, sure, union members would be free, like anyone else, to write a check to their union PAC. But a far less painful payroll deduction for average folks, that wouldn’t be allowed.

    And this from the same gang that claims any attempt to limit corporate campaign contributions is trampling on free speech rights – of the wealthy, anyway.

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