The public strongly opposes laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions as a way to ease state financial troubles, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.
The poll found that 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to one being considered in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.
Ohio and several other states that have new Republican governors and legislative majorities are considering laws that would reduce the power of government employee unions to bargain over benefits and work rules.
Wisconsin is the first state to consider the limits, prompting protests that have closed schools and drawn tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol in Madison.
On the question of eliminating collective bargaining for public employees, over a third of Wisconsin Republicans disagree with Walker, 59% of Independents, and 78% of Democrats.
Tracking Voter Sentiment in Wisconsin: Majorities Oppose Governor Scott Walker’s Anti-Worker and Union Agenda
Voters in Wisconsin strongly agree with the working families at the state capitol and oppose Governor Scott Walker’s anti-worker agenda. Moreover, since the protests began, Governor Walker has seen real erosion in his standing, with a majority expressing disapproval of his job performance and disagreement with his agenda. Strong majorities disagree with eliminating collective bargaining for public employees and believe that if workers agree to concessions on pensions and healthcare benefits that the Governor should drop his plan to eliminate collective bargaining.
Walker’s Standing is Poor, while Most Agree with the Unions and Public Employees
Overall, a majority (51 percent) of Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker’s job performance and give him net negative favorability ratings (39 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable). In contrast, 62 percent of voters offer a favorable view of public employees (only 11 percent unfavorable) and 53 percent of voters rate labor unions favorably (31 percent unfavorable).
When asked if they agree or disagree with the position different groups and individuals are taking in the current situation, voters side with the public employees (67 percent agree), the protesters (62 percent agree), the unions (59 percent agree), and the Democrats in the state legislature (56 percent agree). In contrast, 53 percent disagree with Walker and 46 percent disagree with the Republicans in the legislature.
Rick Ungar at Forbes asks a good question: “You really have to wonder how long it will take for Tea Party devotees to realize just how badly they are being used.”
The Americans for Prosperity group, a Tea Party group that is a Koch Brothers front, has put up a website and petition called www.standwithwalker.com. The website attacks all collective bargaining – not just for public employees’ unions. Americans for Prosperity is also organizing a rally tomorrow in Wisconsin to support Gov. Walker.
Why are the Koch Brothers so interested in Wisconsin? They are a major business player in the state.
According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker’s gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign’s second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch’s PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used politicial maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.
The Kochs also assisted Walker’s current GOP allies in the fight against the public-sector unions. Last year, Republicans took control of the both houses of the Wisconsin state legislature, which has made Walker’s assault on these unions possible. And according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Koch Industries PAC spent $6,500 in support of 16 Wisconsin Republican state legislative candidates, who each won his or her election.
Walker’s plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers’ playbook. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited (PDF) Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado; Mix said in a recent interview that he supports Governor Walker’s collective-bargaining bill. In Wisconsin, this conservative, anti-union view is being placed into action by lawmakers in sync with the deep-pocketed donors who helped them obtain power. (Walker also opposes the state’s Clean Energy Job Act, which would compel the state to increase its use of alternative energy.) At this moment—even with the Wisconsin uprising unresolved—the Koch brothers’ investment in Walker appears to be paying off.
The average worker in a right-to-work state earns $5,333 less than his or her counterpart in a pro-worker state. Twenty-one percent more people lack health insurance. Late last year, immigration advocates anticipated Arizona-like measures in twenty-two states, eleven of which are controlled by Republicans. Of those, seven are right-to-work states. Not surprisingly, three that are not—Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana—are where the attack on government workers’ unions is the strongest.
If Walker were sincere about this — he’s not, but if he were — the governor should gladly embrace an offer like this one.
The head of the largest state workers union said Friday that his group is willing to give in to Gov. Scott Walker’s demand for concessions on their benefits if the governor gives up his bid to repeal nearly all bargaining rights for public worker unions.
Marty Beil, head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, which represents some 23,000 blue-collar state workers, said his group would agree to pay more of their pension contributions and health insurance benefits.
“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.
As Jamelle Bouie noted, “If Walker were acting in good faith, then this would be a win-win situation: Workers keep their right to collectively bargain, and the governor can close the budget shortfall.”
But as is painfully clear, Walker’s goals go well beyond improving the budget shortfall that he created, and acting in good faith is the furthest thing from his mind. The conservative governor could strike a deal immediately and get all the cuts he wants from state employees. The problem of course, is that he’s also demanding superfluous union-busting measure, not to improve the budget, but just because he feels like it. Taking away workers’ collective bargaining rights won’t save Wisconsin money, but it will crush labor, which is the point of the endeavor.
Wisconsin’s new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker’s collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.
The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures — service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money — rolling back worker’s bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker’s doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.
Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state’s fiscal bureau — the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office — concluded that Wisconsin isn’t even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.
“Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control,” says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future — a public interest think tank. “He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts… so he could rush through these other changes.”
Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who has raised his national profile by repeatedly criticizing the Obama administration’s response to the Great Recession, found out earlier this month that his state’s deficit for the 2012-2013 fiscal years is twice what he had thought. (Texas, unlike the federal government and many states, has a two-year budget cycle.) After months of criticizing the fiscal policies of the Obama administration and touting “the hard work that Texas and states like ours have done to make prudent fiscal decisions,” Perry wound up facing a budget fiasco on par with that in California.
Perry’s previous budget would also have been in significantly worse shape were it not for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e. the stimulus), which the Texas legislature used to balance its budget, even as Perry scored tons of political points grandstanding against a small portion of the funds. And as it turns out, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Texas relied more heavily on stimulus funding to fill its budget hole than any other state:
Turns out Texas was the state that depended the most on those very stimulus funds to plug nearly 97% of its shortfall for fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas, which crafts a budget every two years, was facing a $6.6 billion shortfall for its 2010-2011 fiscal years. It plugged nearly all of that deficit with $6.4 billion in Recovery Act money, allowing it to leave its $9.1 billion rainy day fund untouched.
When he made a show of rejecting some Recovery Act money, Perry said “this was pretty simple for us…We can take care of ourselves.” As The Wonk Room explained, in addition to filling nearly his entire budget gap with Recovery Act funds, Perry also used the Build America Bonds program — created as part of the Recovery Act — to fund billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. He also grandstanded against — and then promptly accepted — federal funding meant to prevent teacher layoffs.
Perry is hardly alone amongst GOP governors in bashing the stimulus and then turning around and taking advantage of the important funding it provided. Govs. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) and Chris Christie (R-NJ) have done much the same thing. But Perry was the only one threatening secession as a response to government spending, even as his state took advantage of that spending more than any other.