We’re All Cheeseheads Now

Go Packers!

Why should those who don’t live in Wisconsin care what’s going on there? I’m not talking about the fact that it’s home of the most winning NFL team in America but because if Governor Scott Walker’s union busting plan succeeds here, it will probably happen in your state next if you have a Republican Governor with a majority control over your Congress.

Rachel Maddow and her excellent team of researchers laid out the strategy on her show. Since the Citizens United Ruling by the supreme court, the amount of contributions from corporations to Republican political campaigns has skyrocketed. The top contributors to Democrats? You guessed it: Unions. What better way to ensure a political win in the next election than by eliminating your competition’s ability to compete?

Ed in Madison

I watched the Ed show tonight as well (I usually don’t but he sort of broke this story). It was heartwarming to see all those Wisconsinites standing in solidarity in the freezing cold. And it was even more inspiring watching the interview with ‘The Fourteen’, as the Democrats who left the state to prevent a quorum have become known. The Fourteen are probably going to get a ticker tape parade when this is over.

Tomorrow, the Tea Party is bussing in an anti-protest rally. Appearing on The Ed Show, Reverend Jesse Jackson complimented everyone for keeping the protest peaceful so hopefully that message will carry over when the Teapers arrive. Frankly; whichever way this ruling turns out, I think the battle has already been won and the Tea Party response will be…well, weak tea. And especially after Governor Walker’s admonishment of the protestors for not being at work combined with conservative media’s painting them as losers and deadbeats, I predict there will be negative consequences for Republicans at the ballot box in 2012. Walker has already painted himself in a corner and I predict the longer it goes on without conceding to the unions in Wisconsin, the more voters Democrats will win over in 2012.

Wisconsinites are doing the rest of us a favour by taking on this protest. Because if this can go down in the state where fairness and equity were forged on the anvil of Democracy, it can happen everywhere. To paraphrase Senator Russ Feingold, you can’t poke a badger in the eye and not expect a reaction. Thank you Wisconsin!

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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70 Responses to We’re All Cheeseheads Now

  1. Monotreme says:

    Copied from the earlier thread on this subject.

    From Nate Silver’s Twitter feed
    FWIW: Conservative robopollster We Ask America has a majority of WI disapproving of Gov. Walker’s budget plan. http://bit.ly/hmmUfk

  2. shortchain says:

    Now that Walker has turned down the offer from the union to accept the proposals on pension and health insurance benefits, the mask has slipped completely. This is all about union-busting and has little or nothing to do with a budget crunch.

  3. dcpetterson says:

    I’ve been trying to formulate something to write about Wisconsin. It’s very difficult, because whatever I write comes out as foaming-at-the-mouth madness. I’m well aware I’m not rational on this issue (Yeah, I can hear some of you: “just this issue??”).

    Republicans swept into power in many states, and in the House of Representatives. They are pushing, hard and fast, to enact a far-right social agenda. By the way, completely disregarding their promise to create more jobs, which is what got them elected. And now that the Republicans control so many state legislatures and Governorships, they’re also going to be controlling redistricting.

    I’m surprised that anyone is surprised at this. This is what Republicans do when they get in power. They move their agenda, with brutal speed and efficiency. Anyone who honestly believed this wave of Republicans was concerned primarily about economic issues simply wasn’t paying attention.

    On the Wisconsin state level, we’ve seen the new crowd is about tax breaks for the wealthy, and destroying union rights for the working class. On the national level, they’re about the social agenda as well — eliminating NPR and Sesame Street and Planned Parenthood, defunding PPACA, not making any serious attempt to reduce the deficit, but just gutting the tiny programs they disapprove of. And not one finger raised to create jobs.

    I honestly don’t know if the people who voted for Republicans wanted this sudden and enormous lurch to the right. They certainly claimed otherwise during the campaign, saying the election was about economic issues, not social issues. The Republicans may be looking at a massive backlash in 2012 (but what effect will Citizens United and redistricting have on future elections?) Even so, an enormous amount of damage will already be done.

    Is this what Republican voters wanted? It’s what they should have expected. This is what Republicans do when they’re in power. And the latest crop has been ratcheting up the crazy for the past three or four years, ever since it was decided that the way to recover from the debacle of Bush is to claim that the problem with Bush — perhaps the most radically right president we’ve had in a century — was that he wasn’t actually conservative enough.

    Remember that cliff that President Obama pulled us back from? Well say hello to it again.

  4. GROG says:

    Sour grapes.

    Whether you like it or not, the people of Wisconsin voted in a Republican governor and legislature. It’s the first time both houses of the state legislature and governorship have flipped to the same party since 1938. It was a massive Republican mandate in the badger state. What did you think was going to happen?

    We’re going to see if democracy will prevail in Wisconsin or if union thugocracy will prevail. The Democratic legislators who ran away and hid in the woods to avoid a quorum says everything we need to know about Democrats being controlled by Big Union, particularly the public employee unions.

    The “loud, screaming, mob protesters” (sound familiar?) in Madison are complaining about having to pay 12.6% of their health insurance (the private sector
    average is 20%) and 5.8% of their pensions (private sector average is 7.5%). They want us private sector working stiffs to subsidize them? Cry me a river and join the rest of us here in the real world.

    The same thing is happening in Ohio and other states where voters said they wanted Republicans to run their states and expect them to keep their campaign promises. So get used to it.

  5. Todd Dugdale says:

    I’ll try filling in for BDP.

    Corporations are “people” – but only in terms of “free speech rights”.
    You can’t jail or conscript a corporation, though. That would be silly.
    Corporations are only “people” when it is convenient and beneficial to the corporation. That is obvious.

    Unions aren’t “people”, however. The only reason someone would join a union is because they are coerced; it’s not because of the protection a union offers. Thus, any “speech” from a union is inherently “un-free”, and only a communist would support it.
    This, also, is apparently obvious.

    Some people may not be up-to-date on the current things that are “obvious”, as well as the current definitions of words (that have always meant such-and such, but we need to remind you of its meaning). To this end, I’ll helpfully ‘remind’ all “real Americans” that when Bachmann, Palin, or Boehner side with the Governor of Wisconsin, that is considered to be “free speech”. The Constitution guarantees free speech for elected officials. When Obama criticises the Governor of Wisconsin, you probably can guess that this is a completely different matter altogether. Currently, you should behave in a shocked and outraged manner when such a thing happens. You should imply that this behaviour completely prevents you from voting for Obama ever again, even though you never did or would.

    Governor Walker was elected by the Will of the People to carry out an agenda, which is completely different than being elected President and carrying out an agenda. It’s really this simple: “real Americans” support free speech, so anyone who opposes us hates free speech, and they should really just shut up. It may be necessary to “persuade” some people to shut up, because not everyone has the ability to see what is obvious like you do. You’re special, so don’t let unapproved thoughts cloud your judgement.

    Cutting taxes on corporations increases revenue for the State, which means that we can’t afford unions anymore. These tax cuts will also create jobs (because they all do), and more jobs means more taxes paid. So, with all of this extra money flowing in, we can’t afford to pay public employees what they are currently making already. It just stands to reason. This is a crisis, but it’s only a crisis until the magic kicks in and we’re all living large. The only thing that could possibly prevent this is the expression of dissent, which renders the magic “null and void” and lacking credibility.

    To support my assertions, I offer this dead link and a poll that proves the opposite of what I contend. Be aware that critical examination of a conservative is obviously elitist, and should be dismissed out of hand by a “real American”.

  6. GROG says:

    From wikipedia:

    “As part of his campaign platform, Walker proposed cutting state employee wages and benefits and rolling back 2009 state tax increases on small businesses, capital gains, and income for top earners.”

    “As a candidate, Walker indicated he would refuse an $800 million dollar award from the federal Department of Transportation to build a high speed railroad line from Madison to Milwaukee because he believed it would cost the state $7.5 million per year to operate and would not be profitable.”

    “Social issues played a part in the campaign; Walker opposes abortion[27] in all circumstances, including in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.[27][28] He supports sexual abstinence education in the public schools, and opposes state supported clinical services that provide birth control to teens under the age of 18 without parental consent.[27] He also supports the right of pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives on the religious or moral grounds.[27][29][30] He opposes stem cell research using human embryos.[11] As the election drew near, Barrett attempted to portray Walker as an extremist on social issues, with one political ad exaggerating Walker’s views, while another was accurate.”

    So he’s doing what he said he was going to do.

  7. Armchair Warlord says:

    If I may make an observation,

    An awful lot of voters don’t pay attention to what candidates actually promise to do in office. They pay attention to their style. Hence why a lot of left-liberals are outraged with Obama for governing as a moderate rather than as a communist – they didn’t pay attention to anything he said. I’d imagine the same thing is happening in Wisconsin, where a lot of moderate and independent voters got it into their heads that the Republicans were -really- going to solve all their problems and didn’t pay attention to what they were saying for the entire election.

    I wonder what Wisconsin laws are on recall elections?

  8. Monotreme says:


    No recall until December 2011, although the idea is already being bandied about and Russ Feingold’s name has been mooted as a candidate.

  9. Monotreme says:

    From @plcorbett Patrick L. Corbett (on Twitter).
    5 states don’t have bargaining rights for teachers and they rank 44, 47, 48, 49 & 50 in ACT/SAT scores. Wis ranked 2nd.

  10. Monotreme says:


    So you’re just fine with PPACA? Because it looks an awful lot like what Candidate Obama ran on in 2008.

  11. GROG says:


    That might be interesting until one realizes the five states, Texas, GA, SC, NC, and Virginia all are southern states, have high minority populations and/or have high poverty levels. I doubt the ACT/SAT scores have much to do with wheter or not they allow collective bargaining.

  12. shortchain says:


    Yeah, it couldn’t possibly be that they just suck, education-wise, could it?

  13. mclever says:


    “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.”

    If that’s the case, then pushing for the bill becomes just a matter of union busting, because the unions have already agreed to all of the financial concessions (increased contributions for health and pensions and pay freezes/reductions).

  14. Todd Dugdale says:

    shortchain wrote:
    Yeah, it couldn’t possibly be that they just suck, education-wise, could it?

    Without collective bargaining, the “bad” teachers get fired – or so the Right’s story goes – so these states should all have super-teachers getting paid a competitive wage, and getting higher wages as their performance improves. This is what we are told is the ideal educational environment, and ideal free-market path to excellent education.

    Instead, the results are dismal. What to do when your educational narrative falls flat on its face in the real world? Blame the students.

    GROG wrote:
    Texas, GA, SC, NC, and Virginia all are southern states, have high minority populations and/or have high poverty levels

    High poverty levels? These are states that turned themselves into utopias for business. Prosperity should be everywhere.

    Instead, the results are dismal. What to do when your economic narrative falls flat on its face in the real world? Blame the citizens.

    “High poverty levels” don’t just happen spontaneously, apropos of nothing. And these are States where you certainly can’t blame taxes or “socialism” for anything.

    So, in order for the Republican educational plans to work, we just have to get rid of all of the poor, minorities, and the bad students. This is kind of like saying, “I have a plan to make every American a millionaire: every citizen making less than a million dollars a year has to leave the country”.

  15. parksie555 says:

    Walker needs to stand his ground. The union leaders have already shown weakness by making the offer to negotiate.

    Admit it lefties – if a group of Republican legislators acted as disgracefully as these Wisconsin Democrats you would be beside yourselves. “Thwarting the will of the people!” “Cowards!” “Elections have consequences!” I can hear the bleating now.

    And if tea-party protestors had filled a state capital and tried to intimidate a sitting governor by going to his house cries of Fascism would fill the air.

    I worked in a union plant for 15 years. The unions protect the lazy and stupid by stealing the wages of the smart and motivated. Then the smart and motivated ones leave because they realize their efforts will not net them any more than the bums that sit around and talk union politics all day instead of thinking about how to do their jobs better.

    It is still possible to run a competitive manufacturing company in the US – look at all the automobile manufacturing plants in the South – Toyota, BMW, Honda. The UAW has tried for years to get into these plants. The smart and motivated people that work at these plants want no part of the cancer that ruined Detroit as a manufacturing center.

    Christie/Walker ’16 – Be afraid libs… Be very afraid.

  16. dcpetterson says:

    Parksie, GROG, I’m well aware that a thugocracy of right-wing radical nutballs was duly elected across the country last November. I fully support their right to destroy the country however they see fit, having won their positions fair and square through dishonest advertising, years of outright vicious lies, and underhanded fear tactics the likes of which the world has seldom seen. That is, after all, the American Way of running elections. And indeed yes, their policies will be enacted, for even the blithering idiots who voted for them have every right to get the worst government money can buy.

    I simply fear for the health of my country. And it will give me no satisfaction whatever in a couple of years to say, “I told you so.”

  17. dcpetterson says:

    Oh, I need to add — having acknowledged that elections have consequences, I also fully intend to exercise my rights as an American to oppose those bastards in every way I can. It was the Teapers who have been bleating about the “will of the people” (even while actually opposing what We the People chose to do in 2008). I have always maintained that We the People speak with more than one voice, and that the Constitution exists to insure we avoid a tyranny of the majority.

    And GROG, parksie, don’t try to draw a parallel between the peaceful protesters in Madison who are fighting for their livelihood, and the insane hired thugs at the 2009 town hall meetings who were fighting for FOX News and the Koch brothers. It won’t fly, and it makes you look absurd.

  18. Parksie,

    Admit it lefties – if a group of Republican legislators acted as disgracefully as these Wisconsin Democrats you would be beside yourselves. “Thwarting the will of the people!” “Cowards!” “Elections have consequences!” I can hear the bleating now.

    Of course I would. Elections do have consequences, and I hope the residents of Wisconsin are getting exactly what they wished for, because they’re getting exactly what they voted for.

    And if tea-party protestors had filled a state capital and tried to intimidate a sitting governor by going to his house cries of Fascism would fill the air.

    Really? I mean, sure, if they came in with weapons or threats of violence, I’d have an objection. I don’t care if Tea Partiers go out and protest every single day in every public square in the country. It’s not facism; it’s a part of democracy at work. I don’t recall having read a single comment in the roughly half-year of this blog’s existence that suggested that Tea Party public demonstrations are bad.

    Now, going into, say, the gallery of the legislature in session and disrupting the proceedings would be bad. But the bad thing there isn’t the message. It’s the method.

    The unions protect the lazy and stupid by stealing the wages of the smart and motivated.

    That is often the upshot, though not the intent. Agreements tend toward simplicity in design and implementation, which results in one-size-fits-all solutions. When that happens, the success or failure of the individual tends to get subsumed. And this is one of the downsides to unionization.

    The lack of unions in companies brings its own set of issues, though.

  19. parksie555 says:

    M. Weiss – Thank you for the thoughtful response, although I think you are being a bit obtuse when you claim that you don’t recall “a single comment in the roughly half-year of this blog’s existence that suggested that Tea Party public demonstrations are bad.”

    But never mind that. I think we are pretty similar in our outlook on unions, surprisingly enough.

    Certainly at the dawn of the industrial age unions were absolutely necessary and we all owe the courageous organizers of that era a debt. And unions clearly played a vital role in the growth of the middle class and the emergence of the US as an economic powerhouse in the postwar era.

    But now? I think that many factors have combined to make unions increasingly irrelevant and unnnecessary. The biggest issue may well be the very success of unions in making workers aware of their rights, in forcing employers to pay appropriate wages and benefits, and in making employers provide a safe workplace.

    In essence they have already harvested most of the low hanging fruit and may have made themselves obsolete. They have “worked themselves out of a job”, if you will. And the rapid pace of industrial automation along with the general decline of manufacturing in the US has also removed what is traditionally the most fertile ground for organization.

    It is unfortunate that in many cases the role of unions has become to protect the lazy and incompetent. They still can have some positive effects on the workplace. During my time in a unionized manufacturing plant I remember some very productive discussions with national members of the Steelworkers over industrial safety and sharing know-how about how to reduce accident rates. And I also praised our union leadership refusing to defend a worker who was fired for leaving a vessel entry unattended – for those who have not worked in an industrial setting it should be known that vessel entry is one of the most dangerous operations in a plant.

    But I also recall the same union leadership fighting tooth and nail to defend a worker who was caught sleeping on the job multiple times. And I remember the very real anger expressed at the union by some of the more skilled and motivated workers, bitter because everybody in the union would get the same raise regardless of his/her performance on the job.

    Certainly this situation in Wisconsin is a crossroads for the union movement. The presence of national Democratic strategists and Obama’s remarks is a telling sign of the importance of unions to their party. We may well be witnessing an event that will reverberate for decades, like Reagan’s firing of the striking air-control workers.

  20. Number Seven says:

    The devil with both of you Parksie and GROG! Why do you support a race to the bottom? Why do you hate the few middle class workers who still can earn a somewhat decent wage through the power of unions?

  21. shortchain says:

    Question for Parksie:

    How does one have protections for employee rights that only protect the deserving, hard-working employees and not the lazy and incompetent ones?


    How does one take away the protections for the lazy and incompetent without taking away the protections of the rest of us?

  22. parksie555 says:

    Number Seven – it is the unions that support a race to the bottom by protecting the lazy and incompetent. I prefer a work environment where individuals are rewarded for the quality of their work.

    I’ll try to one-up your hyperbole:

    Why do you hate those that seek to be rewarded for their efforts and would like to discourage sloth and stupidity in the workplace?

    Why do you hate those that think it is unrealistic for workers not to be expected to make some contribution to their retirement and to their healthcare?

    Why do you hate those that think taxpayers should have some say in how public employees should be compensated?

  23. parksie555 says:

    Chain – I don’t have a good answer. It’s a tough problem.

    However I do think that union leaders can be made more responsible to the wishes of the union members by having an annual vote among the membership for or against union representation, as Walker proposes.

    I also think that forcing union dues to payed out of worker’s pockets rather than as a payroll deduction would help, again in forcing the leadership to be more responsive to the rank and file.

    One of the problems I have with public sector unions is that there is no competition for these workers. There is no incentive for the union to look out for anything other than the workers, to get as much for them as they can. The government won’t go out of business if it pays the workers too much or forces too many incompetents to stay on the payroll. At least the UAW and Steelworkers and the trade unions have started to recognize that they have to make some allowances for competition between companies or it all goes out the window for them.

    Therefore as far as public sector unions go I tend to agree with one of the great liberal Democrats, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in that they are not appropriate.

  24. Parksie,
    There were plenty who said that they disagreed with what Tea Partiers said, but I don’t recall anyone saying that they shouldn’t be allowed to say it.

  25. Parksie,
    The question of employee contributions to pensions and health insurance is really a distraction. Increasing those contributions, all else equal, is a de facto pay cut.

    Now, there are reasons why one may wish to support a pay cut for various people. But if you do, you should at least be honest about it.

  26. shortchain says:


    I’m a little dubious about trashing the system we have, and that has worked, if only poorly, to produce the 40-hour week, paid vacations, some safety practices, plus quite a few other employment practices that I suspect the vast majority of working people enjoy.

    Of course, we can always rely on the protections encoded into federal or state law, as implemented by the regulatory apparatus (assuming that our duly-elected GOP-dominated House of Representatives manage to fund the regulatory agencies) and, of course, assuming that a future GOP Congress doesn’t gut the regulations, as they are eager to do.

    If the Congress does make this a paradise for the owners and operators of the corporations, I’m sure their enlightened self-interest will make this country a paradise for employees. We’ve seen the dramatic success of trickle-down economics in the last thirty years.

  27. Mr. Universe says:

    Walker manufactured a crisis in order to exploit it with a lame excuse to bust the unions. This would give them a political advantage in 2012 and beyond. This isn’t a new Republican strategy.

    Walker never asked the unions to negotiate for concessions to meet the public debt. Instead he tried to sneak a union busting bill through the legislature.

    Unions even said they’d be willing to accept some concessions. Walker refused.

    2/3 of corporations in Wisconsin don’t pay taxes.

    Walker gave out $117 million in tax cuts the moment he came into office.

    He then turned around and tried to rob the workers for those tax cuts.

    Wisconsin called BS. Walker is a thug in a suit.

    It astounds me how much conservatives defend this. It’s almost as if you are political gambling addicts. The denial is so deep. You’re only hurting yourselves and taking the rest of us with you.

    I call intervention.

    The Ballot Box Backlash is coming. It is not liberal Democrats who need to be afraid.

  28. Max aka Birdpilot says:


    What Mr. U said. Plus

    You have gone on, in some cases fairly, concerning some over the top union actions.

    Let’s look at the other end of the scale:
    What do you do about the good-old-boy system of interlocking Boards of Directors, golden parachutes, excessive pay for corporate executives even without their having added value to the company, CEO’s, with the complicity of the Board, who drove DOWN the value of the OWNERS, the shareholders of the company, and walked away with all the abovementioned and more???

    And old union organizer told me YEARS ago: “Without the stupidity of many in top management, I’d be out of a job.”

    As true today as it was back then.

  29. GROG says:

    National support for labor unions is at an all time low. The Republican’s stance against Big Union and against the status quo will not cause a backlash. This is what they campaigned on…..and they won. It was no secret.

  30. shortchain says:

    “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone”

    Applies to the right to collective bargaining, the right to equal justice before the law, and even to the very concept of a working government, all of which are in play. Looks like the GOP is going to shut down the government, BTW.

    To which I say, as Michael and Parksie have pointed out — these are the duly elected representatives people voted into office. If they want, either the Democratic state senators from Wisconsin or the House GOP caucus, to refuse to participate in governing — then they have only the people and their consciences to answer to.

  31. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Using parliamentary tricks to postpone legislation. Seems we saw that the past four years in DC with the GOP using Senate rules to inhibit the passage of bill that the freely elected President of the United States attempted to get through Congress. Bills representing platform on which he had campaigned.

    Quorum is a parliamentary rule. (Pssst, it’s why it’s IN THE RULES!) Refusing to allow a quorum to prevent the passage of a bill, where other body rules fail, is NO MORE NOR NO LESS the use of ANY other parliamentary trick than is the threat of a filibuster.

    Politics is a blood sport. Quit whining.

  32. Max,
    There is a difference between refusing to show up, and leaving the jurisdiction to escape the long arm of the law.

  33. Parksie,
    Given that you agree that separating the wheat of employees from the chaff is a hard problem to solve, what is it that makes you convinced that non-union is better for the nation than union? I’m not looking for a laundry list of things that are wrong with unionization. Rather, I’m looking for what makes that list weigh more heavily than the list of things that are wrong with having non-union employment.

  34. shortchain says:


    I wonder if we’ll get anywhere on the subject of union versus non-union in general, because it’s so much a matter of opinion as to whether unions are, in general, a negative or a positive force in society.

    More apropos to the case in Wisconsin, I know that union employment in general generates mixed feelings even among the most reasonable and rational liberals. Little wonder, then, that union employment in certain fields and certain classes of employment — specifically public employment, produces even more of an ethical and political quandary.

  35. Mr. Universe says:

    All the things that people take for granted like 8 hour workdays, 40 hour work weeks, overtime pay, workman’s comp, vacations, weekends, and other benefits are because of organized, collective bargaining.

    Hell, we even have a holiday called Labour Day.

    Those of the misguided right seem to have been bamboozled into forgetting that.

    This country is under an assault from the right. They want to dismantle the Government itself.

  36. shortchain says:

    Speaking of lazy and incompetent employees, how about greedy and malevolent employers?

    How do we separate the ones who add value from the rest?

  37. Monotreme says:

    I think we’ve hit on something here that’s been bothering me. We (all of us) are attacking the other. One side says “Unions Bad”. The other side says “Management Bad”. Of course, neither is the full truth.

    Somehow, as humans, we have a constitutive inability to grasp complex systems and motivations.

    For my part, I agree unions have been responsible for much of what’s bad in today’s United States. But I also don’t think that Walker’s ham-handed approach is the way to “fix” the perceived problem.

    I also think that for all the whinging about the Congressional Democrats trying to ram health care down the throats of Congress (really? 18 months of debate?), when the Republicans are in power, they effect a truly spectacularly maladroit power grab. Couldn’t we have discussed this a bit more before trying to hold a vote on it? That, after all, is the basis for deliberative democracy.

  38. parksie555 says:

    MWeiss, I just don’t see employers in the US holding as many cards as they did during the union heyday. There is much more competition between businesses now and one of the ways to stay ahead is keep the good employees happy. Also the growth in Federal and state regulations concerning working conditions, working hours, and job safety means that the government now fulfills much of the role that unions did in protecting workers during that era. Finally employees are much more mobile now, and better educated. This also helps keep the employers honest.

    For these reasons I just don’t see unions as the necessity that they were 50 or 60 years ago. Because of this the negatives outweigh the positives, in my opinion.

    Max – I would support legislation from either side of the aisle to increase shareholder power, to reign in excessive executive compensation, and to add transparency to corporate governance. But to me this is a completely separate issue from public sector unions. I have little use for the financial industry, such as it is. I have no problem supporting Obama’s initiatives against this sector. I disagreed with the government bailout of the banks and AIG.

  39. Monotreme says:

    Exactly, Parksie.

    A lot of evil has been perpetrated on behalf of unions, and this has been going on for a long time.

    For example, my father-in-law tells the story of being a Teamster trucker in New York City before and after World War II. A “democratic” vote would be taken on an issue by a show of hands; if someone voted against the leadership, then that person’s arm would be broken so they couldn’t show their hand the wrong way again.

    I tend to agree that unions, in their 20th century form, have outlived their usefulness. So have the American Nazi Party and the Communist Party, but we don’t feel compelled to outlaw them by legislative action.

    What I object to here is the lack of a deliberative representative process.

  40. Monotreme says:

    Seeing Fox News frothing at the mouth about non-violent resistance makes me giggle.


  41. shortchain says:

    A correction for GROG: Nowhere in Walker’s pre-election campaign documents does it seem to say he intended to take away the collective bargaining rights of public employees. So, in point of fact, he’s not fulfilling a campaign promise. At least, not to the voting public.

  42. rgbact says:

    Sadly most unions have not changed with the times, which is why they are losing membership and can only survive in govt, which can’t go bankrupt. Maybe if they focused less on lefty politics and more on negotiating, it might be different.

    That said, I support the teachers right to whine about their bargaining rights. I suspect Walker is just using it as a scare tactic and will back off that demand.

  43. parksie555 says:

    Actually Treme and U, the more I think about it this may be a tactical error on Walker’s part. Progressive roots do run deep in Wisconsin and this legislation certainly has succeeded in energizing the fading labor coalition.

    I still think public opinion is on the Republican side on this issue overall but this may have been too much too fast. Possibly Walker was hoping to do this quickly so that memories and passion on the issue would fade somewhat by the next cycle.

    And the Democratic reaction may end up having a similar effect in inspiring the other side, the sight of legislators slinking out of state to avoid a tough vote is a pretty brutal image. Other statehouses are undoubtedly watching this one pretty closely. And of course a Jesse Jackson sighting gets the hard righties fired up, so who knows?

    Fascinating situation; it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  44. Mr. Universe says:


    If I were Walker, the best damage control he could hope for is to say, “I made an error regarding the dissolution of the unions. I will agree to their budget concessions and allow them to remain intact”

    It will be a pyhirric victory for unions that doesn’t really have any impact but it will allow Walker to save face.

  45. Monotreme says:

    @Mr. U,

    Agreed. That would be the best resolution now. He gets the budget cuts he wants, the unions get to continue to exist.

  46. shortchain says:

    Prediction: Walker won’t back down. I’ve looked him in the eye — and there’s nothing behind those eyes. No compassion, no empathy, just dead-headed ideology and political calculation. He thinks if he gives in he’ll look weak — and, as Parksie has made clear, the GOP base is looking for a “strongman” type. That’s obvious to Tiny Tim Pawlenty, too, which is why he’s been trying to act like an alpha male.

  47. Monotreme says:


    You may well be right. I once met his predecessor, Tommy Thompson (when he was HHS Secretary, between his governorship and his failed Presidential bid). I was absolutely gobsmacked that the man had neither brains nor political acumen. I’ve never met a suit quite so empty who played politics at the national level, and that’s saying something.

  48. dcpetterson says:

    This debate has to be framed correctly — though, of course, it won’t be, because Republicans are better at debate-framing.

    It’s about the right of Americans to have a 40-hour work week, paid overtime, workplace protections and safety regulations. It’s about the right of a woman to sue for rape when she is attacked by a co-worker. It’s about the existence of child labor laws, access to health care, paid holidays and vacations, maternity leave, dwindling pensions, and the right to sue for being fired on a whim. It’s about equal protections for women and minorities.

    It is about all the things that unions have won for us, which can and will be eliminated if workers no longer have the right of collective bargaining.

    Republicans will make it about those lazy public workers, and those evil unions, and particularly about those lazy and evil public worker unions.

    But it is really about freedom vs. a corporatocracy. It is about a return to a Dickensian state of company towns and 80-hour weeks with no minimum wage laws and no worker protections. It is about serfs and feudal lords vs the very existence of a middle class.

  49. parksie555 says:

    dc, your hyperbole is breathtaking. I can assure you that even if this legislation passes that minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and workplace safety laws will stay in effect.

    This legislation says nothing about any of those things.

    The legislation is about taxpayers wanting more of a say in how their money is spent. It is about an artificial negotiating environment where there is no competition to ensure that companies that give away too much in labor negotiations are driven out of business. It is about union leaders that have gone to the well one too many times. It is about union money having just as negative of an influence on politics as corporate money.

  50. mclever says:


    While I will agree that dcpetterson is being somewhat hyperbolic in his predictions of the dire situation workers will face if unions were eliminated, but I do worry what the equalizing power will be if the balance continues to shift in favor of corporations. I don’t trust the government to be a good broker of balance between worker rights and corporate profiteering. The marketplace isn’t a good balance either, because it’s been shown to favor corporations who drive down worker wages, push up hours, and use other “benefit cutting” measures just to save a few short-term bucks on the quarterly earnings report.

    What alternative to unions would you propose?

  51. parksie555 says:

    Lever – my alternative is smart companies like Toyota and Honda who know that a worker who is satisfied with his working conditions, feels he is well compensated, and has a say in how his workplace operates will take pride in his work, contribute instead of just showing up, and feel some loyalty to his employer.

    There is a reason why the UAW has had very little success in penetrating these companies.

    Combine that with management that hopefully looks at the next decade instead of the next quarter, takes advantage of technology in an appropriate way, genuinely cares about worker safety, and is not as greedy as the Wall Street pigs and maybe unions are.

    Certainly a utopian vision but I think a better long term solution than the regression to the lowest common denominator that most unions end up becoming.

  52. shortchain says:

    Of course, as everyone should know, Toyota and Honda have huge unions in Japan. With whom they have excellent relationships.

    Perhaps, Parksie, you could learn something by looking into your “utopian vision” a bit more carefully.

  53. rgbact says:


    I think unions are fine for trades. They definitely need to modernize and not appear to stand in the way of progress though. Getting rid of meatheads like Trumka and hiring “new school” leaders would help at least with appearances.

    I’m a consultant for union health funds and there seems little thought in unions on ways to do more with less. “Efficiency” is code for “give back” in union world…..so is always rejected.

  54. parksie555 says:

    Chain, Japanese labor unions are not analogous to organizations like the UAW. They are much more closely affiliated with the company than American unions. Japanese society is much less confrontational in general and the labor-management relationship there reflects that. Employers in Japan have made more of an effort in my opinion to act as I described above and this has also kept unions in check. I think there is much less tolerance for bums, slackers and screw ups in Japanese work culture – my guess is the unions don’t tolerate them either, unlike here in the US.

    It’s not a valid comparison.

  55. parksie,

    I can assure you that even if this legislation passes that minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and workplace safety laws will stay in effect.

    For the time being, sure. It does seem, though, as if a significant faction of the Republican Party wishes to move things in that direction. I don’t know (and neither do you) at which point it would be a bridge too far. But if you watch the behavior, it’s clear that this is the direction that business leaders wish to go.

  56. parksie,
    It’s interesting to me that you highlight Toyota as an example of a well-run company. One of the reasons for its success is that Japanese companies tend to look at the long term, while American companies tend to have much shorter time horizons. A good part of that is cultural (going back to my earlier points regarding the Chinese).

    Sadly, I don’t believe that a firmly established American company is capable of looking to that degree of a long term.

  57. shortchain says:


    Collective bargaining is what unions are. When you say Japanese unions are not analogous to American unions, are you trying to pretend that they don’t engage in collective bargaining?

    As for “I think there is much less tolerance for bums, slackers and screw ups in Japanese work culture – my guess is the unions don’t tolerate them either, unlike here in the US.”

    I call BS. You have absolutely no data to back up that claim. For my part, having spent time in Japan — and ridden to work in the morning on the commuter train, surrounded by the fumes of alcohol being given off by my fellow riders, I think you don’t have a clue.

  58. parksie555 says:

    My data to back up that claim? Look at a quarter century’s worth of quality ratings for Toyota, Honda, Subaru, et al compared to Chrysler, Ford, GM.

    High level modern manufacturing requires precise attention to detail, constant examination of every task to eliminate wasted steps and motion, and a willingness to look for better and smarter ways to do the most mundane jobs.

    These traits fit the Japanese character very well. It is what has propelled them from a country nearly completely destroyed by WWII into perhaps the strongest manufacturing culture in the world.

    Their unions do of course collectively bargain but they recognize that they have a stake in the success of the company in the marketplace and conduct their negotiations with this fact in the forefront.

  59. mclever says:


    Just saying that we wish businesses would be more forward thinking doesn’t make it happen.

    What mechanism or incentive would you use to promote such a business atmosphere in this country? What checks would you place on corporations who try to make a quick buck at the expense of their workforce, especially when the short-term marketplace rewards such behavior? How would you make those quarterly-driven execs start looking a year ahead, two years ahead, twenty years ahead? If they miss their quarterly targets by a penny, then the stock price will fall and investors will be angry, even though the company itself is actually doing better than if it had cut corners to make that quarterly number look pretty. Wall Street doesn’t have the patience for it.

    So, how do we create a fundamental shift in the corporate culture? In a way, collective bargaining was a “marketplace” solution to the problem of inequal power between employer and employee who needs that job to live. If we take that away, then wouldn’t we actually need to dramatically increase government intervention and regulation of business?

    And, I’ll even concede that unions can be part of the problem here, because they similarly aren’t looking ahead. If there is a situation with entrenched leadership, too often they are worried more about preserving their positions than working with the company to create an environment and pay structure that will be most beneficial for both employer and employee in the long run. (Of course, some of that is because there are ideological differences about what’s best for the employee, obviously.)

  60. shortchain says:


    I’m sure the unions had a hand in making the Ford Pinto and the Chevy Vega, among a whole slew of badly-designed vehicles, what they were. I just think it’s a bit one-sided to pretend that management had nothing to do with it.

    Seriously, quality control is a management concern. If you want to blame somebody for quality issues, that’s the place to look. Management can then look at unions and expect them to participate — but it’s management that has to manage the process, not the collective bargaining unit.

    Also, what mclever said.

  61. Gator says:



    This law only affects benefit negotiations for government employees. How in the hell did it become conflated with abolishing unions. As for the “support” in Wisconsin, here is a piece from those right wing bas*ta*ds at the NYT:

    Union Bonds in Wisconsin Begin to Fray
    Published: February 21, 2011

    ” JANESVILLE, Wis. — Rich Hahan worked at the General Motors plant here until it closed about two years ago. He moved to Detroit to take another G.M. job while his wife and children stayed here, but then the automaker cut more jobs. So Mr. Hahan, 50, found himself back in Janesville, collecting unemployment for a time, and watching as the city’s industrial base seemed to crumble away.
    Among the top five employers here are the county, the schools and the city. And that was enough to make Mr. Hahan, a union man from a union town, a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker’s sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin, a plan that has set off a firestorm of debate and protests at the state Capitol. He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations.

    read the rest here
    The bottom line in the article is that support for the unions is strong in Madison, a city full of students and public workers, but is much, much weaker outside of Madison. So apparently “We’re All Cheeseheads Now” doesn’t even hold true for ACTUAL Cheeseheads… you know, the people who actually live in and pay taxes in Wisconsin. The state is NOT strongly supportive of the unions in this. It is at best a toss up there. Looking at the comments and the tone of this piece you would think that the statehouse had been siezed and Walker was implementing martial law.

    BTW, if you think that it is acceptable for the Democratic legislators to leave the state to avoid a vote, thereby shutting down the state government, then you cannot dispute the right of the Republicans to shut down the Federal govt. It cannot be acceptable behaviour in Wisconsin and unacceptable in DC.

  62. Bartbuster says:

    then you cannot dispute the right of the Republicans to shut down the Federal govt

    Who is disputing the right of the GOP to shut down the government? They have every right to do that. They’ll get crucified for it, but that has nothing to do with whether they have the right.

  63. parksie555 says:

    Chain – your attitude reflects the US union mindset exactly and that is a big part of the issue I have with unions.

    “Seriously, quality control is a management concern”

    WRONG. It should be the concern of every employee that takes any pride whatsoever in his work. This is exactly the attitude that nearly destroyed GM/Ford/Chrysler in the late 70s/early 80s. I saw it myself, repeatedly, at my plant.

    Lever, I don’t know a good way to force companies to focus beyond the next quarter. It has been a problem in the US for a while now. Maybe some clamping down on the “casino mentality” of Wall Street (reduce trading frequencies, maybe increase tax rates on “short term” trading somehow) might help. Possibly the tax structure could be adjusted so as to make it more attractive for companies to pay execs based on long-term performance or rewards those execs that stay longer with their current companies. Maybe something in the tax code that rewards execs based on growth of employment at their company and punishes those that reduce employment?

    It’s a tough problem.

  64. mclever says:


    A poorly designed vehicle can’t be made into “quality” no matter how much pride and effort the worker joe takes in what he does. Stating that “Quality control is a management concern” may be oversimplifying, because obviously the burden is shared among all parties to some extent, but primary concern for quality management does rest with…well…management.

    Regarding your suggestions for tax code manipulation to solve the issue of short-term corporate thinking, I agree that it’s a tough problem. I’m not sure that complicating the tax code is the solution, but I will agree that there may be some opportunities there. The thing is, you’re basically suggesting that we use every trick in the tax book to coerce corporations into being good stewards of their own finances and corporate health. Seems kind of like a heavy-handed mommy-state solution to me. Furthermore, I don’t think that any tax tricks will be sufficient to actually solve the problem, not to mention the difficulty with enforcing and reporting.

    Hey, at least we agree on the problem!


  65. shortchain says:


    I’m so impressed by your ability to knock down arguments I never made.

  66. parksie,

    Look at a quarter century’s worth of quality ratings for Toyota, Honda, Subaru, et al compared to Chrysler, Ford, GM.

    This has more to do with the time horizons of the Japanese versus those of the Americans, than it has to do with collective bargaining. You said as much yourself.

  67. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    To blame the worker entirely for poor quality is as inane and stupid a statement as can possibly be made! Sorry parksie, but if that shoe fits . . . it demonstrates your total lack of knowledge of good leadership and management.

    When my people failed, I, me, myself, stood up and took the hit from upper management! I am the one who provided the proper leadership, including training and motivation, so that my people would willingly follow me. When the team succeeded that caused me to get kudos, the VP or whoever delivered those compliments, were thanked ON BEHALF OF THE TEAM by me, and the entire team saw that I was NOT the one accepting the acclaim for MY actions, but that THEY were the ones being recognized.

    Such LEADERSHIP by a manager gets the best out of their people and motivates them to meet the standards set.

    Management, and leadership.

    No sir, the COMPANIES are the ones setting the standards. When labor sees the cornercutting to save a couple cents, when labor is not properly recognized, when labor is not properly motivated by GOOD LEADERSHIP, when labor is not given and then held to a standard, it is SOLELY the fault of management!

    Go peddle that smoke somewheres else. It won’t sell with me. I’ve been through the test of time on my methodology, sometimes bucking MY OWN MANAGEMENT, but by God, I delivered consistent quality teams that exceeded standards as well as quality assurance goals, because I provided the LEADERSHIP for teams. Had I not done so consistently over time, I would not as been successful enough to retire years ahead of time.

    The typical American company’s management DOES NOT provide that same leadership.

  68. parksie555 says:

    Max – I very clearly said quality is the responsibility of EVERY EMPLOYEE.

    Your other points are good though. Agree that recognition of employee efforts is crucial and that creating a top to bottom culture of quality workmanship and praising those that practice it is absolutely essential.

  69. parksie555 says:

    BTW libs it looks like Kasich and the OH legislature are not too worried about the political consequences of reducing the influence of public sector unions.


    Power to the People (the taxpaying people, that is… :))

  70. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    No, Parksie, EVERY goal and standard, quality included, is the responsibility of management. That’s why they are MANAGERS!

    Good management begets employees who buy in to those goals and standards willingly. They do so through LEADERSHIP.

    The vast majority of employees WANT to do a good job. But when they are NOT given good leadership, when they see empirically, management, through example of NOT living up to the goals and standards they preach, when they see empirically, management willing to shortchange the company and the company’s customers, most, but not all, employees WILL fall to the lowest common denominator. It’s basic human nature.

    60-70% of employees want to do a day’s work for a day’s pay, and go home.
    20% want to do the extra necessary for advancement.
    10-15% suck and will eventually drag down the rest or be managed out of the organization.

    A manager’s duty is to recognize who’s who. To motivate and lead that majority. To provide mentoring and opportunity for the 20%, and to identify and eliminate the others as quickly as possible.

    It’s not nearly as simple as saying “it’s everybody’s responsibility”. That, my friend, is a GOAL. Unless management provides the leadership framework AND the example, it ain’t happening.

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