Tag Archives: collective bargaining

What If… Wisconsin were Ohio?

Last year Ohio governor John Kasich passed a law restricting collective bargaining for state employees, much like the one we have here in Wisconsin — whether because Kasich is a defter political operator than Scott Walker or because Columbus and Madison are not very similar, he got SB 5 passed with substantially less hubbub than we had here in WI.

There’s another difference between Wisconsin and Ohio.  The Wisconsin constitution allows for recall of sitting elected officials; the Ohio constitution doesn’t.  But Ohio is one of 24 states were a popular referendum can overturn a statute passed by the state legislature.  Wisconsin is not.

Ohio voters go to the polls today to decide whether Kasich’s law stays on the books.  Polls suggest Kasich is headed for defeat, though polling on ballot referenda are generally considered less reliable than election surveys.  The Walker recall, meanwhile, is said to have a higher hill to climb, especially given Russ Feingold’s decision not to jump in.

What if Walker’s State Bill 11, instead of Walker himself, were facing recall by Wisconsin voters?  Would it be more or less likely to survive?

On one hand, I think there’s likely to be a substantial body of voters who oppose SB 11, and who will vote for a Democrat in the next regular election, but who think recalls should be reserved for criminal or at least plainly unethical conduct.  On the other hand, I think there are plenty of people who dislike Walker but also don’t care very much about collective bargaining, and might not show up for a referendum vote:  during the State Senate recall elections this spring, the dominant campaign theme for Democrats was not “restore collective bargaining” but “Scott Walker is a bad guy who wants to defund your school and fire station.”

(Speaking of the State Senate recalls — the GOP is now down to a one-vote majority in the chamber, and for all intents and purposes that vote belongs to centrist Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center.  Schultz crossed party lines last week to keep the new Republican-drawn district boundaries from going into effect a year early.  The measure was expected to help Republican incumbents defend against a new wave of legislative recall elections in 2012.)

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Four things people mostly aren’t saying about the Wisconsin collective bargaining protests

I try to keep politics out of the blog, mostly.  But the current protests are occupying a big share of our attention here, and  it would be weird to let it pass without comment.  A huge amount has already been written — my own political stance carries no special weight and has in any case been ably explained by others who share it.  So for the blog I’ll try to say a few things that I think are right, but which haven’t been tweeted and multiply retweeted.

  • Lots of people are asking “Why did the protests happen and why was everyone so taken by surprise?”  It’s not clear to me a better answer than “It’s not usually 50 degrees in February in Wisconsin” is needed.
  • Where is Tommy Thompson?  He is still, I think, the most popular Republican in the state.  As governor, he negotiated with state unions, and he’s generally thought of as a moderate; on the other hand, he was the keynote speaker at a Tea Party rally last spring.  If he supports the removal of collective bargaining for state employees, why isn’t he coming out and saying it?  Why hasn’t anyone asked him?
  • Underreported part of the story:  the right to collective bargaining is guaranteed, by federal law, to every non-governmental employee in the state.  The public employees are asking to play by the same rules as private employees, not special ones.
  • Underreported part of the story 2:  let’s suppose the Senate reaches a compromise:  taxpayers in the public employ get a bigger chunk of the paycheck taken by the state, to offset their pension and healthcare costs, but they retain the same collective bargaining rights that private employees have.  Unions claim victory for keeping bargaining, Senate R’s claim victory for trimming the budget.  The D’s return from Rockford, the Senate passes a bill.  But what about the Frankenveto?  Let me emphasize for those not from Wisconsin that what I’m about to say is actually true:  the Governor has the power to veto individual sentences and even words out of bills, thus enacting into law assertions entirely of the executive’s creation.  (Until 1990, the Governor could veto individual letters and digits!)   Scott Walker won’t hesitate to slice and dice what the legislature sends him until it says what he wants it to say — and it’s hard to imagine him paying much of a political price.  Crazy as this is, it’s a Wisconsin tradition.

Do I have any idea what the result of this fracas will be, for workers in Wisconsin or for Scott Walker’s political future?  I do not.

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