Ask The Readers: Wisconsin Labor Laws

This morning on Facebook I created quite a stir with my friends when I made the following comment:

I think the new labor bills are a little extreme in Wisconsin, but I support them in principle. I have always had to pay my share for insurance and retirement. That is the reality today. Governments have to make cuts. Everyone has to make sacrifices and reducing your benefits to be like everyone in the private sector does not make my heart bleed for you.

What do you think? Are the Labor Unions right to fight this law? Should the government require cuts to pensions, increased employee health care participation, and limit collective bargaining rights? Please give your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Andrea says

    As a Wisconsin resident and public sector worker, I agree with you in part. I cannot speak for every public worker in Wisconsin, but most of those that I work with, myself included, fully understand the need to raise our insurance and retirement contributions (although, I can assure you, no one I know is getting rich as a public worker). However, completely removing collective bargaining rights, with almost no debate or public input, is extreme on the Governor's part. There is no reason to rush through a bill that is going to change the lives of thousands of workers so quickly. And when the economy is booming again, will we ever see these rights again? Doubtful! The painful part is seeing so many people in support of the bill who believe that the vast majority of public workers (and especially teachers) are just working the system, costing the taxpayers thousands and getting rich in the process, when public workers are some of the hardest and most dedicated people I know. And this is just the beginning!

    • Eric - Narrow Bridge says

      Thanks for that well thought out comment Andrea. I think we are on the same page. While I am far from a union fan, I do respect the history and reason for their existence. It seems, however, that the modern version of a union is very short sighted and focuses on small wins in pay and healthcare over the long term implications of their actions on both their employers and members.

  2. says

    Public pensions are the largest budget item in most states, promises that were made on the idea that the population would never age and real estate prices could only go up. That was the old reality.

    The simple fact of the matter is that public workers are draining state coffers, but it isn't their wages, it is their government guaranteed pensions. These pensions need to be privatized, immediately–and no, that doesn't mean the pensions buy state muni issues.

    Limiting their bargaining rights is the only way to create a proactive solution. Otherwise we'll see a slight "recovery" and they'll be wanting more and more.

    Also, I want to comment on the economics of working for the state. While no one is getting rich, I know very few state workers who have ever suffered a period of unemployment. While that is not an implicit benefit, contrast it to the private sector where employees (even skilled workers) may see several years of accumulated unemployment.
    My recent post Weekly Round Up – February 18- 2011

    • Economist Mike says

      The fact of the matter JT is that the vast majority of the state employees suffered a period of unemployment in the past couple years in the form of unpaid "furlough" days to go along with their wage freezes. They may have better than average health benefits, but the bargained for those by taking a lower than comparable wage. To freeze their wages and cut their benefits is unfair.
      To strip the employees of their rights to union representation and collective bargaining (Walker's real goal) is no only violation of the workers rights it is counterproductive.

    • Eric - Narrow Bridge says

      Instead of privatizing pensions, why not freeze all future pension benefits and replace them with a 401(k) (or comparable setup) plan where the state matches employee contributions to a self directed retirement plan. Take the cost today and eliminate the life long costs and benefits of pensions entirely.

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