Take a good hard look at the pictures above and below. Every one of them contains young children or adolescents wrongly recruited to carry the water of public employee unions here in the great state of Wisconsin. Looking at the above pre-printed signs, one might ask: “Stop the attack on Wisconsin families? How about stopping the attack on Wisconsin taxpayers?”
Anyone watching the national news already knows that an ugly fight has unfolded in my home state between the public employee unions and the Republican governor and legislators elected in surprising numbers last November. I will leave the details to other sources since they are readily available. The long and short of it is, Wisconsin is dead broke, and Governor Scott Walker is looking to put an end to the gross fiscal mismanagement that got us to this bad, bad place. One of the ways he aims to do that is to ask the state’s public employees to start chipping in toward their benefits. They currently pay not one thin dime toward their pensions (for which there is zero vesting period) and a teeny, tiny little contribution toward their healthcare coverage. This would be bumped up to a 5.8 percent pension contribution (in line with the national average) and a 12 percent healthcare contribution (half the average paid by a private sector worker).
If you think the unions are unhappy about that, you should hear them on the following provisions:
Collective bargaining – The bill would make various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. These changes take effect upon the expiration of existing contracts. Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.
Let’s be clear about what Governor Walker accomplishes via this bill, should it pass (and as of a couple of hours ago, the Joint Finance Committee had finally voted and moved the bill on to the full legislature):
- Cut Wisconsin’s $136.7 million deficit for FY 2010-2011
- Save state employee jobs in order to keep people off unemployment in a challenging job market
- Keep total employee contributions far below what anyone in the private sector would pay
- Aim toward Right to Work instead of outright decertification of unions
Considering the level of fiscal and economic challenge Wisconsin now faces, you’d think union members might feel a bit grateful not to have to make far greater sacrifices…or lose their jobs altogether. Instead, they’ve gone completely bat$#!%. And they’ve dragged children of every age into their extended temper tantrum as they try to bully Republican legislators into giving in to the status quo Wisconsin can no longer afford. The don’t seem to have any conception at all that Wisconsin swung from its typical purply-blue to a rosy shade of red last November.
I’ve made visits to the State Capitol Building for two days in a row now. On both days, hoards of children, from toddlers all the way up to high-schoolers, were present…many holding signs, others singing or chanting, some marching, a few running through the corridors shrieking…ALL unwittingly helping to propagate union lies about the bill and anger toward legislators standing for fiscal sanity and limited government. Like these girls for example who seemed so happy to be holding these signs:
Most of these kids were of school age. On a weekday, that’s exactly where they should have been. In school. Instead, they were being used by adults, many of them teachers who apparently have zero conscience but had the chutzpah to carry signs like the one below, saying, “Care about educators like they care about your child.” Respectfully, if pimping children out to be used as the pawns of the unions is how teachers in this state “take care” of them, I wouldn’t wish that sort of succor on anyone.
It hasn’t stopped there, either. Wednesday, there was a massive “sick out” so that teachers could show up at the Capitol, many of them bringing students with them who should have been learning how to do an algebraic equation or diagram a sentence or memorize the Pre-Amble to the Constitution (I know, I know, I’m dreaming on that Constitution one). Instead, they all took a field trip to learn firsthand what recently-unelected Governor Jim Doyle last year so egregiously added to the state’s public school curriculum: The History of Collective Bargaining, aka Traditional Methods of Bullying the Guy that Signs Your Checks.
And that is exactly what makes me so furious about the use of children to further union ends. Teachers, in particular, are grossly abusing a massive power differential and an inherent trust in their relationship with students to further their own ends. They are telling lies in order to get these students to sing and dance to their tune.
They’ve told kids that programs they love at school will be cut. (No school cuts are on the table in this bill).
They’ve told students that pension funds would be taken away from teachers who’d saved their whole lives. (There are zero retroactive cuts in the bill, particularly any that would violate the state’s fiduciary responsibilities).
They’ve screamed the message to children that collective bargaining rights are being taken away. (Unions will simply have to take a vote every year to re-certify and allow individuals to choose whether they want to be represented by the union or not.)
All of this falsehood being pumped to impressionable minds who have no reason to doubt the people they so easily look up to as role models. And for what? Because teachers, along with other public employee unions don’t want to contribute to fixing a massive fiscal problem that financing their benefits over the years has helped to create. There is no, “Kids, we’ve had it golden for a long time, but there comes a day when you have to take responsibility.” Now THAT is what I would call honorable teaching: Giving kids a view of how things work in the real world. Showing them how to accept difficulties in life and move forward in spite of them. Giving them a true sense of even the crappy, devalued dollar we now have.
Instead, they’re dragging kids as pawns into a labor protest, teaching them to feel entitled, showing them how to throw a massive and ugly public temper tantrum if you’re not getting what you want, and modeling how to intimidate people who won’t cede the road entire to you. Nice…
For the past two nights, students in Baraboo were up marching around the town square in protest of teachers losing pay and collective bargaining rights. Yesterday afternoon, there was a student/teacher walkout in that same town. As of this morning, a huge rash of school districts all over the state—Platteville, Racine, Madison, De Forest, Edgerton, Lodi, Waunakee, you name it—are closed as a result of high teacher absences and an inability to cover them with enough substitutes. You can bet, students will once again be a prominent percentage of the crowd again this morning, with the vote being taken around 11am.
I shudder to think that kids may have been in the mobs that showed up at the homes of Republican legislators who were being picketed over the past few days. I don’t know if there were children there or not, because I wasn’t there, but based on what I’m seeing everywhere else, and the ways children are being used to do the union’s heavy lifting, I frankly wouldn’t be at all surprised. Abysmal…
But it’s “all about the kids,” right…? That’s what the teachers keep disingenuously telling us, anyway.
Teachers and other public-employee union members and leaders ought to be heartily ashamed of themselves for way they are lying to and using these children, who are not getting an honest picture of this situation. Nor are they getting the education they deserve…the education that will serve them out in the real world. That bringing this fight first into the classroom, and then taking the classroom out into the street, is not at present a fireable offense…? Well, it damned well oughta be.
And that is all I have to say about that. Back to the Capitol I go for what ought to be another very dismal day in education in Wisconsin.