Solidarity Fever’s Fatal Effects, or the Hazards of Trusting Your Union Rep

Since my last post here at POWIP, Wisconsin has continued to convulse in the violent throes of Solidarity Fever. Living only six blocks from the State Capitol in Madison, the very epicenter of this social contagion, I’ve had ample opportunity to observe its etiology, spread, and ugly effects. Up until now, most rank-and-file union members have viewed Solidarity Fever as a boon, not a danger. But my post today may well change some minds.

In fact, a pernicious lie catalyzes the transmission of this mass malady among union members. Ultimately, that lie robs those infected of crucial awareness and reality testing that could save their bacon.

The lie is that government employee unions actually care about, protect, and work honestly and diligently on behalf of their members.

They don’t.

Not one iota.

And I now have solid proof to back up my assertion.

On March 15th, the Sauk County Board of Supervisors had its monthly meeting in Baraboo, WI. At that session, supervisors discussed ratification of proposed 33-month contracts for five separate bargaining units:

  • AFSCME Local 3148 – Sauk County Health Care Center
  • AFSCME Local 252 – Sauk County Sheriff’s Department (non-sworn employees)
  • AFSCME Local 360 – Sauk County Highway Employees
  • SEIU- Healthcare Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) – Clerical Unit

I recently obtained and listened to a digital recording of this meeting in its entirety. I here share with you sound files pulled directly from it. Anyone wishing to verify the content of these files can contact Sauk County directly to request a copy of the recording. The audio makes it clear that, far from looking out for the best interests of their members, the unions are instead using them quite shamelessly.

Let’s listen first to Sauk County Corporation Counsel Todd Liebman as he tells the board how representatives from AFSCME and SEIU, knowing they were up against Governor Walker’s Budget Adjustment Bill, approached him and gave him carte blanche to write contracts pertaining to the employees they respectively represented. While Liebman doesn’t discuss it here, the WPPA must similarly have sold out its clerical members.

Next, Mr. Liebman walks the board through changes he subsequently made to all five contracts in question—changes that, with the full assent of the union reps, swung all fiscally related employment matters out of the purview of collective bargaining and squarely into the control of the county.

So, according to each of the revised contract drafts (a representative sample of which you can find here), the county would have the power through 2013 to:

  • Implement a 0% pay increase each year
  • Hire and fire at will in the face of economic difficulty
  • Change or even abolish pay classifications
  • Deetermine type and level of healthcare coverage offered
  • Increase healthcare contribution levels over time
  • Set the level of pension contributions

Not exactly a super “bargain” for the members of these bargaining units, huh?  If I were in their shoes, I would certainly be asking myself how exactly I benefited from this arrangement.

While I won’t bother to share the audio, Mr. Liebman subsequently relays the spin communicated to him by the union reps: These measures would give the county what it needed to deal with upcoming budget cuts while simultaneously providing rank-and-file members with some “certainty” of employment in very uncertain times. Well…yes… With the savings the contracts permit, Sauk County would not likely have to lay anyone off in the face of major state budget cuts coming in June. But employees were almost guaranteed to get a better shake from the county under the Budget Adjustment Bill. Instead, the contracts “bargained” by union reps are nothing short of, ummm…draconian.

For their part, the Sauk County Board of Supervisors ended up ratifying all five revised contracts. Hard to say no to such a good deal. Members of four of the five bargaining units also subsequently chose to ratify the respective contracts on their end. But it turns out that union leadership didn’t exactly go out of its way to explain the terms to which their members were agreeing. Employees are now whispering amongst themselves about the raw deals with which these four units ended up.

The only unit of the five not to ratify, as I understand it, was the non-sworn Sheriff’s Department employees. Catching wind of what was happening to others, that unit opted to let their current contract extension run out and take their chances under the Budget Adjustment Bill. That seemed like a less risky bet.

Gee, could there be a reason that the union reps were less than forthcoming with their members?

Why yes, I think there could.

For the last of the sound files, here’s one of the Sauk County Board supervisors making a fascinating observation in the form of a question to Mr. Liebman. Without realizing it, she points us to the truth.

Can’t you just hear the gears turning in this woman’s head?  “Wait… Hold on… Something’s off here…”  Yes indeed, my dear supervisor!  AFSCME, SEIU, and the WPPA all willingly threw their own members right under the bus in order to make sure they REMAINED members and paid FORCED UNION DUES for another 33 months. It wasn’t about providing certainty to union members at all. Rather, it was about providing certainty to union BOSSES, who couldn’t afford to lose access to automatic extraction of dues from all of those lovely, lovely government employee paychecks.

So, now members of four of the above-mentioned bargaining units are bound by 33-month contracts that amount to sugar-sprinkled crapola. What do they get for a substantial net loss in pay, benefits, and security…? The privilege of continuing to pay union dues, whether they like it or not. And if you think those dues will now be decreased “in solidarity” with the plight of Wisconsin workers…?  Hey, I’ve got some land in Florida I can sell you real cheap, right on the water.

No one should think for even a moment that this was an isolated incident. If AFSCME, SEIU, and the WPPA pulled this maneuver in Sauk County, you can bet your bottom dollar that union reps around the state were racing to make similar raw deals that benefited not their members but instead union coffers and leadership.

Well played, union bosses, well played! [Insert thunderous applause here.] Absolutely gorgeous how you’ve suckered those who trusted you. Brilliantly diabolical how, without their even knowing it, you held a gun to the your members’ heads when you thought you might no longer be able to hold it to taxpayers’. So breathtakingly obvious are your self-interested motives at this point that it almost carries me away with awe. Though, it’s entirely possible that awareness of this little triumph will fail to evoke further ecstatic, fist-raised shouts of “SOLIDARITY!” from the rank-and-file you’ve shafted…or from those who suspect you may shaft them next.

Oh, and for those union members who plan dutifully to listen to their union reps and vote for Joanne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court tomorrow? You may want to rethink your trust in that advice, as well. You see, Kloppenburg’s made it not-so-subtly clear that she’ll vote the way the unions want her to. She’s in the union bosses’ camp, lock, stock, and barrel. But as we’ve seen, that doesn’t necessarily pan out in your favor now, does it…?  And she’ll be on the bench for 10 long years once you vote her in. Justice Prosser, a judicial conservative, may not give you the short-term gains you’re looking for, but he’s not likely to bite you in the ass on your union’s behalf. He actually believes in the law—and in ruling on it—which the unions clearly don’t, one more evidence of which can be found here (h/t Dan Collins).

Time to realize that that “benign” case of Solidarity Fever you picked up from your union rep can be a real killer…

UPDATE: Huge thank you to Instapundit for the extremely kind Instalanche on this post.

UPDATE 2: Many, many thanks also to Professor William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection for likewise drawing attention to this article and what it exposes.

UPDATE 3: Also much obliged to Coalition of the Swilling for their marvelous mention. I loves me a sense of humor…

UPDATE 4: A heartfelt thanks now to Dad29 and No Runny Eggs. So grateful to see this report making the rounds.  Much obliged!

Update 5: And the amazing Ace of Spades is now in the house… Thanks, Ace!

Update 6: ***THIS JUST IN*** My source in Sauk County tells me that BEAC, the branch of WEAC that represents teachers in the Baraboo School District, sold their members out as well, though the deal was only for a year. Sounds like the City of Baraboo is not playing ball with the unions, so those employees may have caught a big break, whether they yet realize it or not.

13 Comments on Solidarity Fever’s Fatal Effects, or the Hazards of Trusting Your Union Rep

  1. Rob Crawford // 04/04/2011 at 2:38 pm // Reply

    That’s the whole business of the modern union, isn’t it? Waving one hand and chattering about the “evil oppressive corporations” while the other hand, unwatched, rifles the members’ pockets.

    I don’t understand why unions need paid staff members. Shouldn’t the rank-and-file be capable of doing the union’s business in their spare time?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Congratulations on the instalanche! Is this POWIP’s first one?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Thanks, TSI. No, Glenn’s linked me up a couple of times before, including saving my bacon last month when I was out of money entirely and had a bleg.

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  3. bigfingo // 04/04/2011 at 2:59 pm // Reply

    Hey, who’s the Rube now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Army of Davids // 04/04/2011 at 3:15 pm // Reply

    Waiting for Superman

    Teacher’s unions and how they hurt the quality of K-12 education.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Did the union bosses happen to negotiate a dues decrease? Didn’t think so.

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    • by decrease do you mean decrease in employment? a decrease in their paycheck by way of higher health care and pension contributions? a decrease by way of health coverage? well i guess it depends on what your definition of what is is……..

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  6. Once the union members find out that they got zero for their union dues, perhaps less than zero as they may have been better off under the Budget Adjustment bill, then there will be a reckoning in the form of decertification!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. jefferson101 // 04/04/2011 at 8:13 pm // Reply

    As long as the Serfs are supporting their Lords, it’s all good, right?

    Welcome to the new Feudal System, Wisconsin Union members. I wish you all the joy of your voluntary servitude.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Bob Reed // 04/04/2011 at 9:38 pm // Reply

    This most excellent instance of pulling back the curtain on union negotiations exposes the dirty little truth; that unions will trade any of the workers “rights” away for a closed shop clause…

    And when that pertains to public employees, that’s a virtual guarantee that tax dollars, in the form of enforced membership and mandatory collection of member’s dues, will ultimately flow exclusively into the coffers of Democrats; who in turn will protect the union’s franchise…

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  9. gjbuilder // 04/04/2011 at 9:50 pm // Reply

    If there are any union members reading these comments and thinking they would like a refund of their union dues, may I suggest you check out the website

    It seems (according to the site) a fed law was passed in the late 1990’s, or a court decision – check the site, stating members are due a refund of all dues not used to actually represent the membership!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Well, I guess they’re hoping their hash is saved by Democrats by the time the contract runs out.

    Good luck with that.

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