From the Chicago Tribune
Lost: The common good
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has demanded that state workers contribute roughly 5.8 percent of their wages toward their retirement. He wants them to pay for 12 percent of their health-care premiums. Those modest employee contributions would be the envy of many workers in the private sector.
No, he is not seeking to eliminate unions, though you might get that impression from the heated rhetoric of the employees and even from President Barack Obama, who called this an "assault on unions."
Public sentiment is changing. There is a growing sense that public-sector unions are not battling for better, safer workplaces. They're not battling unscrupulous employers. They're battling … the common good.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became an Internet sensation when he confronted a teacher in an argument caught on video. A recent
Private-sector union membership has declined over the years, while public-sector unions have thrived. One reason: In the private sector, unions and management may argue but they have a common cause. They understand that if their company cannot compete, it will fold and no one will have a job. Look what happened to the
Governments don't operate under the constraints of market forces. They operate under political forces. Public unions play an inordinate role in the selection of management — witness the heavy union support for Gov. Pat Quinn's election last year. In
It might surprise the protesters in
Something is happening. Something is changing. In
Norah O'Donnell Misses WI Governor's Motives for Budget Cuts
O'Donnell was sympathetic with the teachers without fully reporting on the opposing viewpoint – why their benefits were cut in the first place. She did ask Wisconsin State Journal reporter Clay Barbour about the budget cuts. "How much would that save the state?" she asked, without wondering if the cuts needed to be made whether they were small or not.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 18 at , is as follows:
NORAH O'DONNELL: ...at least 16 districts closed today due to lack of staff. This morning the
Clay Barbour is the state government reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal, and joins us now. Clay, good to see you, and I know that there are some that think this is a travesty for the schoolchildren of that state. But these teachers are talking about their pensions, and they're worried about having to pay more for their health care costs, right?
CLAY BARBOUR: Yes, yes. They're struggling with this issue right now. It really does come down to their right to collectively bargain, for most of these teachers. But –
O'DONNELL: And Clay, how much....given what the Republican governor wants to do, how much would that save the state? Is he saying that it's crucial in terms of the budget there in that state?
BARBOUR: It's unclear right now. I mean, the governor says he needs to save about $137 million just for this particular budget, not going forward. But the problem is, there's different ways to parse those numbers. The Democrats say that actually he's exaggerated the numbers.
O'DONNELL: Yeah, so what's your sense of that? You're the reporter out there. I know there's this Democratic state senator Jon Erpenbach who said today it's not about the money, that this is really about the unions' bargaining rights, and that this is just the Republican governor taking advantage of a budget situation and trying to break the unions with this. What is it about?
BARBOUR: Yeah, it's – I definitely think you could say that it's more about weakening the unions in this state. The governor has put several pieces of legislation into this budget repair bill to specifically weaken the unions. So – so I don't think there's any disagreement there. But as you can tell from the crowds and from the unions that are bringing – they're bringing people in from out of state to fight this. They sort of feel like this is the firewall, they've got to fight it here or they're going to be fighting it in Ohio and New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Michigan – so it really does come down to collective bargaining for most of these people.