Politics smell of Limberger cheese

By David Farside

March 7th, 2011

The current political storm in Wisconsin is creating a divide between public workers, organized labor unions and government hiring policies. Wisconsin’s leading cheese head, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, has erased the proverbial line of compromise in his effort to eliminate labor unions.

Wisconsin’s public employees and their labor unions have made all the fiscal concessions demanded by Gov. Walker. Although they accepted a substantial reduction in pay to help balance the state’s budget as requested by the governor, Walker wanted another concession that went beyond the state’s ability to balance the budget: He demanded the exclusion of unionized collective bargaining rights for all public employees except police and firefighters.

Being in the minority and rather than being outvoted in the Republican-controlled state Senate, the state’s 14 Democratic senators left town and headed for parts unknown somewhere in Illinois. Without enough members for a quorum, the Republicans placed a $100 a day fine on their head until their return. The Tea Party quickly organized its bounty hunters, but as of Sunday morning they haven’t had too much success. Not to worry. Once Sarah Palin gets them in her cross hairs, the Land of Lincoln will never be the same.

Speaking of Lincoln: A new book is being released shedding some unfiltered light on our great Republican emancipator. Lincoln didn’t necessarily believe white and black people should coexist in the United States. Addressing an all-black audience in 1862, he said, “For the sake of your race, you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people.” He recommended the free blacks migrate and colonize Central America because the similar climate of their native land would be “more suited to your physical condition.”  He accused any black person of believing in a permanent life in America of being “selfish.” Sounds like a typical modern-day radical Republican Tea Party leader to me. Maybe he thought black slaves were illegal immigrants.

Over the years I’ve taken a lot of criticism from liberal Democrats for saying Lincoln’s emancipation had nothing to do with equal rights. Freeing the black slaves was a political scheme by Republicans and big business to provide cheap labor for the great industrial revolution in the North. Now, Wisconsin Republicans are involved in another political scheme: taking the lead in emancipating government and big business from organized labor and collective bargaining agreements.

Gov. Walker is arguing that public employees are earning more than workers in the private sector. Their state, city and school district employees average $50,744 annually, which is $2,000 more than workers in the private sector. However, those numbers are skewed.

There are very few firefighters and police officers hired in the private sector to compare pay compensations. And according to teachers unions, if you compare teachers’ salaries to the private sector, they actually earn less, not more, than they would in the private sector.

Teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree before they are state certified. In most states, workers in the private sector with the same bachelor’s degrees earn more, not less, than teachers. Although, I would bet that school district administrators earn more than they would working outside of government.

The largest difference in public employee pay compared to the private sector is in Nevada. The Silver State’s public employees earn almost $69,000 annually, which is about $18,000 more than workers in the state’s private sector. The 35 percent gap is attributed to our dependency on tourism and low wages paid in the service industry.

It’s really not fair to compare public employees’ wages to the private sector because the same jobs do not exist in both markets.  After all, where in Nevada is a football coach going to find a job in the private sector for a half-million a year? Or who would hire a union fireman making $100,000 or more a year who refuses to give more than a two-hour notice before he takes his well-deserved vacation day?

That being said, unions provide a conduit between labor and management that has raised the American standard of living for many years. Wisconsin and other Republican-controlled states should not eliminate them because of what they agreed to at the bargaining table. Instead, the states should outlaw the co-opting of politicians.

If politicians would stop pandering unions for public endorsements and quit worrying about the next election, public employees would not be the highest paid workers in Wisconsin or any other state.

Ironically, a local city councilman was found ethically guilty by a state commission of making a decision in favor of a company that employed his political adviser. However, there is nothing that precludes him or any other councilman from making a decision on a contract for union employees who have publicly endorsed him and individually contributed to his campaign. It all smells like Limburger cheese to me.

To comment, please contact David Farside directly at Farsidian2001@yahoo.com.

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