Monday, February 21, 2011

The Union Protests

Wisconsin is getting the biggest protests and most of the coverage but the same issues are being fought out in Ohio. The issue is complex but very little of the complexity is making the news.

The excuse for the bills reducing union rights is budget problems. This is a real issue. Wages, medical coverage, and pensions for unions are big expenses. There is also a measure of pay-back. Unions in general and public service unions in particular have been increasingly important in elections. In Ohio, attack ads against Kasich and paid for by public service unions started running in early Summer last year. The unions spent a lot of money and said some pretty nasty things about Kasich including that he only wanted to be governor so that he could outsource jobs. There is no love lost between the two.

One issue being addressed in Wisconsin is the withholding of union dues. Since millions in union dues have been spent on political campaigns, that means that the states are paying for ads for Democrats.

Former Governor Strickland has been making statements and getting a lot of coverage but no one is pointing out his conflicts of interest. While he was governor the unions had free reign. The Governor put a hold on new (non-unionized) charter schools. Non-union construction jobs were re-bid and Strickland had someone working full-time twisting arms to force local officials to use union workers. As I mentioned, unions spent millions trying to get Strickland reelected.

So, Strickland's statements on behalf of unions is a colossal conflict of interest. Despite having been vote out of office and this conflict, he is still being given face time on the news.

Listening to the protesters, you would think that working without a union was alien. In fact, only a small percentage of regular people are union members and they manage just fine.

Teachers may find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion as the schools are closed day after day. Also, the public perception of teachers as being underpaid is decades out of date. Teacher salaries being made public and, when combined with benefits, put teacher pay well above the median.

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