My comments section is happily overflowing with debate over Scott Walker and the Wisconsin union protests. I've noticed people seem to be most irked by the fact that public sector workers contribute so little to the cost of their health insurance compared to private sector workers.
So I just want to point out that Wisconsin's unions have already agreed to $30 million in pay cuts and to increase their members' pension and insurance contributions. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Earlier Friday, Marty Beil, head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, said his members would agree to pay more of their pension contributions and health insurance benefits as Walker is demanding. But Beil said his union would never agree to give up decades-old bargaining rights.
Beil's union is part of AFSCME, the largest state and local employee union in Wisconsin, which represents 68,000 workers for the state, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and other municipalities. An AFSCME spokesman said Beil was speaking for all the group's union locals in the state.
"We are prepared to implement the financial concessions proposed to help bring our state's budget into balance, but we will not be denied our God-given right to join a real union . . . we will not – I repeat we will not – be denied our rights to collectively bargain," Beil said in a statement.
Mary Bell, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union, said her group also would make the financial concessions to keep its bargaining rights.
"This is not about money," Bell said in a phone conference. "We understand the need to sacrifice."
This battle is not about the specific conditions of union contracts in Wisconsin; it is an all-out attack on American workers' hard-earned right to collectively bargain not only for wages, but for benefits and working conditions, too. As Tim Fernholz reports:
The state’s entire budget shortfall for this year — the reason that Walker has said he must push through immediate cuts — would be covered by the governor's relatively uncontroversial proposal to restructure the state’s debt.
By contrast, the proposals that have kicked up a firestorm, especially his call to curtail the collective-bargaining rights of the state's public-employees, wouldn't save any money this year.
In other labor news this morning, check out this New York Observer piece about the absolute mess at Harper's magazine, where the staff unionized in the wake of unexpected firings and a continued reluctance on the part of management to fully engage the magazine on the web.