February 25th, 2011 | No Comments

Recently elected Republican Governor Walker of Wisconsin has been doing all he can to make good on his campaign promise of closing his State’s $3.6 billion deficit. Part of his plan is to pass legislation mandating that the Public Service Unions of teachers and state employees, (other than Firefighters and Policemen), give up some of their very lucrative pension, medical benefits and other ‘perks’ as compared to private sector workers. The unions have indicated that they can live with that. However, the Governor is also seeking to limit the union’s bargaining rights with respect to certain critical matters that he says are essential to enabling the state and its towns and municipalities to handle their financial responsibilities and improve education. Those rights include the union right to tenure for employees, pay based on seniority not merit, and work rules that make it impossible for the state to implement necessary savings by modernizing and consolidating departments. Those rights also include the obligation of all state workers to join a union and pay dues to that union which are conveniently withheld at source by the state.
Walker and the Republicans control the State house and Senate, but their numbers are insufficient for a Senate quorum. Knowing that they will lose the vote on these critical issues, all 14 Democratic State Senators have taken the extraordinary step of removing themselves from the State of Wisconsin, in order to deny the Senate a quorum, and thereby make it impossible to pass any legislation.
Walker’s ‘subjective reality’ is that he is only doing what he promised he would and was elected to do. The Unions’ ‘subjective reality’ is that since the unions have already agreed to his financial requests on making state employees pay more in line with the private sector, what Walker is now seeking is clearly intended to ‘bust the union’. That will be done by stripping the union of its ability to force all workers to join unions and collect dues through the state withholding system. The union’s have organized repeated massive demonstrations in which the teachers claim the law will hurt the children by hurting them, and that all action taken by everybody on their side, including the refusal of the 14 Senators to come to work, constitutes ‘standing up for the American worker’.
Each side is doing all it can to demonize the other and in the process trying to make the other side ‘feel bad about itself’. Each side is presenting a case in which it shows it is doing all it can to help the people of the State, thereby making it ‘feel good about itself’.
In the light of the principles in Relationship Power, this is what I would suggest to Governor Walker. Do not demonize the unions. Grant that what they received in the past was done in a legal and appropriate manner, even though the results appear excessive today. Emphasize the critical generally known problems of the failure of public education in Wisconsin and the rest of the country to achieve acceptable quality. Emphasize the need for major change in the union contracts in order to allow good teachers to be better paid and bad ones to be let go, as well as to enable municipalities to better manage their finances so they can do more for the children, who are the future of this land. Ask the unions to ‘do the right thing’ for the children even if it means sacrificing some advantages for themselves. Allow the unions to ‘save face’ and ‘feel good about themselves’ by making them partners in the welfare of the children.

Ronald Bibace – February 25, 2011

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