As events have continued to unfold in Wisconsin this week surrounding legislation that would do away with collective bargaining between government entities and public employees in determining benefits, I have surveyed some of the news coverage.
Among the more fascinating reports I watched or read included a woman holding a sign that said, "I'd rather be teaching." I later learned that the Madison Superintendent of Schools had stated he was going to be requiring a doctor's note or some other verification of absence from the many teachers who had called in sick to work.
On that same day a reporter asked a teenager what he was doing down at the Capitol, and he reported that he didn't really know, he'd come with his teacher, he was protesting, "I guess".
I can't quite sort out what was the most fascinating video of the week. Perhaps it was another high school student who was interviewed regarding why he was protesting. He had organized a number of his fellow students to go to the Capitol and support the teachers. When asked how to solve the state's budget problems, he replied, "Tax the rich".
But probably my "favorite" was footage from MNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell's show when he was interviewing another MSBNC host, Ed Schulz. I had never seen either of these fellows before. (My husband is more patient about watching things that make one's head explode.) In addition to wondering when Ed Schulz was going to cry out, "Workers of the world, unite!", I was particularly intrigued by O'Donnell's accusation of "old-fashioned" union busting.
Union busting? Call it whatever you want, but it wouldn't be constitutional to deny people the right of free association by prohibiting people from joining a union.
The question in Wisconsin is whether or not to prohibit collective bargaining for public employees with regard to benefits. The legislation that has caused teachers to go AWOL from their jobs and Democrats running across the state line doesn't even end collective bargaining totally.
The rhetoric being used is absurd. Wisconsin has a $3 billion budget shortfall and people are screaming about having their rights taken away. What rights? To get far better benefits than workers in the private sector on the backs of the taxpayer?
I would like some evidence about how poorly treated public employees have ever been, historically, which thereby necessitates "protection". The outrage expressed regarding the fact that public employees would have to accept whatever their employers were offering or just quit their job is inexplicable.
Newsflash to public employees: Go talk to some workers in the private sector. That's how it works in the real world. You accept the terms of employment or you go elsewhere.
It's past the time to restore common sense - the comments and conduct of protesters and their supporters (including teachers walking out on their jobs) should illustrate for us all just how out of control the situation has become and how entitled to special treatment too many public employees seem to feel.
The State of Nebraska is in the same boat as Wisconsin; Nebraska's budget shortfall is somewhere near $1 billion with a population of 1.8 million, while that $3 billion shortfall in Wisconsin is proportional considering its 5.6 million population. Like Madison, Wisconsin, Nebraska's two largest cities have mounting debt.
Nebraska has nine pieces of legislation before the Unicameral concerning public employee collective bargaining. Senator John Nelson's LB664 and LR29CA would prohibit government entities in Nebraska from collectively bargaining with public employees and would prohibit work stoppages.
Because personnel costs constitute the number one administrative expense of government, bringing those costs down is one of the many things we must do to begin putting our fiscal houses in order.