Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Wisconsin Is Really About

All of the sturm und drang over Wisconsin is much in the news of late (see the frontpage of Drudge for numerous articles).  The newly-elected GOP Governor makes proposal to limit monopoly bargaining "rights" held by government employee unions, and require --- for the first time --- contributions to health and pension benefits to address both short-term budget issues and long-term structural issues.  Unionized government employees respond by taking to the streets on work days; government schools shut down because of teacher "sickouts" (apparently, with self-identified "medical personnel" out in the streets offering fraudulent medical excuses to avoid disciplinary action for illegal absences); Democrat state senators flee state to deny a quorum to vote on the issue.

And remember all those claims on the far Left about how those nasty Conservatives were calling them "un-American" because they opposed some or all of the policies put into place by President George W. Bush in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center?  Never actually saw such an accusation, and no links were ever provided to such slanders, but there was such an accusation leveled today against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

To be sure, there's a lot of talk about "justice" being thrown about.  You'll find post all over the Internet --- locally, from those in Wisconsin; and right here in Virginia's moonbatosphere --- denying the fiscal realities, and claiming that this is some kind of "rights" are at issue.  One of my favorites is the suggestion is that what is at issue is "the brave people in Wisconsin [who] refuse to give up their rights to organize and to bargain as a group."  Even some purportedly on "the Right" have leveled the accusation that what is going on in Wisconsin is about "rights."

Of course, no such thing is at issue in Wisconsin.  The notion that "rights" are at issue is simply silly.  The Supreme Court has plainly held that there is no Federal constitutional "right" to monopoly bargaining (unions use the euphemism "collective bargaining," but "collective" bargaining does not require the monopoly enjoyed by most private- and public-sector unions in the United States).  Smith v. Arkansas State Highway Emp., Local 1315, 441 U.S. 463, 465 & n.2 (1979) ("the First Amendment does not impose any affirmative obligation on the government to listen, to respond or, in this context, to recognize the association and bargain with it") (per curiam).  Precedent in the Seventh Circuit to the same effect was relied upon and cited with approval in SmithHanover Township Federation of Teachers v. Hanover Community School Corp., 457 F.2d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1972), quoting Indianapolis Education Assn. v. Lewallen, 72 LRRM 2071, 2072 (7th Cir. 1969) (“‘there is no constitutional duty to bargain collectively with an exclusive bargaining agent’”).

And nothing in Governor Scott Walker's proposal would limit the right --- the real one enshrined in the First Amendment, not an illusory one --- of Wisconsin government employees to voluntarily form associations together and lobby and petition government.

What is at issue in Wisconsin is the power of Wisconsin government employee unions to exercise a monopoly on representation.  Government-employee unions in Wisconsin (and in states which grant such powers, by statute) extinguish the individual right to bargain over terms and conditions of employment with a majority vote of workers in bargaining units.  What is also at issue is the statutorily-imposed obligation of the state and local governments to bargain with government-employee unions, an obligation which is not imposed for, say, taxpayer groups.

The fact that this is about the power of government union bosses was demonstrated yesterday.  It was reported yesterday that "Top leaders of two of Wisconsin's largest public employee unions announced they are willing to accept the financial concessions called for in Walker's plan, but will not accept the loss of collective bargaining rights."

Any further claims that this controversy is about "rights," and not the power of labor union bosses, is simply dishonest.

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