Posts

How Can Local Officials Prepare for the Upcoming Janus vs AFSCME Ruling?

“A public employer shall provide all public employees an orientation and shall permit the exclusive representative, if applicable, to participate.”
– Excerpt from California State Assembly Bill AB 52, December 2016

In plain English, AB 52 requires every local government agency in California to bring union representatives into contact with every new hire, to “allow workers the opportunity to hear from their union about their contractual rights and benefits.” What’s this all about?

As explained by Adam Ashton, writing for the Sacramento Bee, “New California government workers will hear from union representatives almost as soon as they start their jobs under a state budget provision bolstering labor groups as they prepare for court decisions that may cut into their membership and revenue.”

Ashton is referring to the case set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court early next year, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. A ruling is expected by mid-year. It is possible, if not likely, that the ruling will change the rules governing public sector union membership. In pro-union states like California, public sector workers are required to pay “agency fees,” which constitute the vast majority of union revenue, even if they laboriously opt-out of paying that portion of union dues that are used explicitly for political campaigning and lobbying.

Needless to say, this law is designed to allow union representatives to get to newly hired public employees as soon as they walk in the door, in order to convince them to join the union and pay those dues. But can anyone argue against union membership?

The short answer is no. To deter such shenanigans, SB 285, thoughtfully introduced by Senator Atkins (D-San Diego), adds the following section to the Government Code: “A public employer shall not deter or discourage public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.” Governor Brown signed this legislation on October 9th. So much for equal time.

So what can local elected officials do, those among them who actually want to do their part to attenuate the torrent of taxpayer funded dues pouring into the coffers of public employee unions in California? Can they provide the contact information for public employees to outside groups who may be able to provide equal time?

Once again, the answer is no. To deter access even to the agency emails of public employees, a new law bans public agencies from releasing the personal email addresses of government workers, creating a new exemption in the California Public Records Act. Those email addresses could be used by union reformers to provide the facts to public employees. How this all became law provides another example of just how powerful public sector unions are in Sacramento.

In order to quickly get the primary provision of AB 52 enacted, which allows union representatives into new public employee orientations, along with a provision to deny public access to public employee emails, both were added at the last minute to the California Legislature’s 2017-2018 budget trailer bill, AB 119. The union access to new employee orientations is Article 1. The denial of email access is Article 2.

So how are the unions preparing for the Janus ruling? By (1) making sure the union operatives get to new employees as soon as they begin working, (2) by preventing agency employers from saying anything to deter new employees from joining the unions, and (3) by preventing anyone else from getting the official agency emails for new employees in order to inform them of their rights to not join a union. That’s a lot.

So what can you do, if union reformers control a majority on your agency board or city council, and you in a position to try to oppose these unions?

First, examine the legal opinions surrounding the wording of SB 285, “A public employer shall not deter or discourage public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.” The words “deter” and “discourage” do not in any way preclude providing facts. Consider this preliminary opinion posted on the website of the union-controlled Public Employee Relations Board:

“One major concern I have is that the terms “deter” and “discourage” are not defined. What if an employee comes to an employer with questions about what it means to be a member of the union, and the employer provides truthful responses. For example, assume that the employer confirms that being a member will mean paying dues. What if that has the effect of deterring or discouraging the employee from joining the union?”

It is possible for employers to present facts regarding union membership without violating the new law. Find out what disclosures remain permissible, and make sure new employees get the information.

Another step that can be taken, although probably not by local elected officials, is to challenge the new law that exempts public agency emails from public information act requests. And apart from accessing their work emails, there are other ways that outside groups can communicate with public employees to make sure they are aware of their rights.

California’s public employee unions collect and spend over $1.0 billion per year. If the Janus vs AFSCME ruling takes away the ability of government unions to compel payment of agency fees, and imposes annual opt-in requirements for both agency fees and political dues, these unions will collect less money. How much less will depend on courage and innovative thinking on the part of reformers who want to rescue California from unionized government.

REFERENCES

Get a state job and meet your labor rep: How state budget protects California unions, Sacramento Bee, June 21, 2017
http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article156146364.html

AB 52, Public employees: orientation and informational programs: exclusive representatives, California Legislature
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB52

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Supreme Court of the United States Blog
http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/janus-v-american-federation-state-county-municipal-employees-council-31/

SB 285, Atkins. Public employers: union organizing, California Legislature
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB285

2017-2018 budget trailer bill, AB 119, California Legislature
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB119

California Public Records Act, Office of the Attorney General
http://ag.ca.gov/publications/summary_public_records_act.pdf

Fact Sheet – AB 52 (Cooper) & SB 285 (Atkins), California Labor Federation
http://calaborfed.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2-AB-52-Cooper-and-SB-285-Atkinsweb.pdf

Legislative Bulletin – California School Employees Association
http://www.csea.com/web/portals/0/csea_pdf/leg_rpt.pdf

SB 285: Public Employers Cannot Discourage Union Membership, Public Employee Relations Board
http://www.caperb.com/2017/04/04/sb-285-public-employers-cannot-discourage-union-membership/

Public employee unions wield hefty Atkins stick [SB 285], San Diego Reader
https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2017/aug/28/ticker-public-employee-unions-wield-atkins-stick/#

Populist Candidates Still Ignore Government Unions

Nearly every objection that supporters of presidential candidates Trump and Sanders raise to the establishment are intimately associated with government unions. But neither the people’s voice, or that voice as it is reflected back to them by their populist heroes, articulates this fact.

(1) Do you want to reform Wall Street?

You’ll have to go through the government unions. Their union controlled pension funds are the biggest players on Wall Street. The union controlled cities that issue hundreds of billions in municipal bonds every year are a close second. Government unions benefit from the financialization of the American economy, even as it has wiped out the middle class. Low interest loans elevate prices for homes, which stimulates borrowing and consumer spending, which enriches corporations and the pension funds who invest in their stocks. High home prices raise property tax revenues. Low interest loans mean families can borrow more for college tuition – so unionized professors can continue to make six figure salaries for teaching a few hours a week, a few months a year.

(2) Do you want to restore reasonableness to America’s environmental regulations?

You’ll have to go through the government unions. In California, state and local jobs, from bus drivers to code inspectors, are being redefined to incorporate “global warming mitigation.” This is so they can share in the plunder associated with “carbon emission offset auction proceeds,” billions, soon to be tens of billions, in annual taxes by any other name, hidden in your utility bills and in the cost of manufactured goods – all ran quietly through a Delaware corporation. And why widen a freeway, when you can create thousands of government union jobs in mass transit?

(3) Do you want to reform campaign finance laws?

Forget about it. The government unions are by far the biggest single political spenders. Thanks to their legislated opacity – less disclosure is required for government unions than for private unions, believe it or not – we can only guess, but government unions collect and spend at least a billion dollars per year, just in California. Depending on how you define it, you can argue that ALL of that money is spent on politics. A billion per year – put to very effective use. And by the way, unions have benefit from the supposedly infamous “Citizens United” ruling just as much as corporations and wealthy individuals.

(4) Do you feel that big business exploits consumers?

Do you resent crony capitalists monopolizing entire industries and artificially raising the costs of goods in a market where they’ve used government rules to eliminate emerging competitors? In California, you can blame the government unions. Businesses doing business anywhere in California know that if they adhere to the union’s political agenda, they will get favorable legislation passed, and if they don’t, they will be targeted. Government unions are the brokers and enablers of corporate abuse.

(5) Do you support immigration reform?

Specifically, do you think it is reasonable to limit most immigration to skilled individuals, at a pace that will not challenge the ability of our society to culturally and economically assimilate the newcomers? Do you feel there should at least be a meaningful discussion on this issue? Forget about it. Because you’d have to go through the government unions, who want unlimited immigration; especially those most destitute and unlikely to assimilate. The more dependency there is in America, the more unionized government jobs are created. Police, prison guards, social workers – and an entire crony corporate infrastructure to support them. All paid for by the middle class.

(6) Do you want to rebuild America’s roads and bridges?

Are you even one of those heretics who believes, gasp, that we should develop our energy resources, build more power plants, store more storm runoff, and recycle 100% of our sewage, so that we can have energy and water abundance? Dream on. Government unions want scarcity, because with artificial scarcity there will be more government jobs enforcing what is effectively rationing. And never forget, if we were to spend tax revenue on infrastructure, there would be less money to cover pay and benefit packages for unionized government workers that average, in California, TWICE what the average private sector worker earns.

(7) Do you want to see the next generation properly educated?

Fat chance. Unionized public schools protect incompetent teachers instead of putting children first. And they promote curricula designed to alienate young people from American culture instead of encouraging them to feel proud and privileged to be American. If you want to have any chance to fix America’s public schools, you have to take down the teachers union.

(8) Do you fear America’s federal, state and local governments drifting towards authoritarianism?

You’d better, because not only is that the common thread underlying this entire litany of government dysfunction, but technology is making it easier than ever to enforce authoritarian laws. Where you drive. How far you drive. When you use electricity. How much water you consume. What products you buy. Who you know. And of course, every detail of your interactions with the internet or cable television. It’s all monitored. And who protects the corrupt enforcers, the bad apples? The unions. And who has an inherent interest in bigger, more intrusive government, no matter if it’s good or bad for the public at large? The unions.

If Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump had the courage and the vision to tell that truth, they might ignite a populist uprising that would be utterly bipartisan. But that revolution will have to wait for another day.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

RELATED POSTS

Government Unions and the Financialization of America, May 24, 2016

Public Safety Unions and the Financial Apocalypse, May 17, 2016

Unionize the Personal Assistants to the One-tenth-of-one-percenters, May 3, 2016

California’s Economically Illiterate Legislature, April 5, 2016

Practical Reforms to “Right-Size” Government Unions, March 29, 2016

The Challenges Facing Conservatives Who Support Public Safety, March 22, 2016

Public Unions ARE the Political “Establishment”, February 23, 2016

The Future of Unions in the Post-Scalia Era, February 16, 2016

In Search of a Legitimate Labor Movement, January 19, 2016

The Alliance Between Wall Street and Public Unions, December 1, 2015

How Government Unions Are Destroying America, September 22, 2015

When Will Unions Fight to Lower the Cost of Living?, October 27, 2015

Moral Values That Underlie Opposition to Government Unions, October 13, 2015

The Abundance Choice, December 23, 2014

An Economic Win-Win For California – Lower the Cost of Living, December 3, 2014

The Challenge Libertarians Face to Win American Hearts, October 14, 2014

Reinventing America’s Unions for the 21st Century, September 2, 2014

California’s Green Bantustans, May 21, 2014

A “Left-Right Alliance” Against Public Sector Unions?. May 20, 2014

The Unholy Trinity of Public Sector Unions, Environmentalists, and Wall Street, May 6, 2014

Construction Unions Should Fight for Infrastructure that Helps the Economy, April 1, 2014

Forming a Bipartisan Consensus for Public Sector Union Reform, January 28, 2014

A Policy Agenda for Union Reformers Stuck Inside Unions, November 5, 2013

Why the Democratic Party Cannot Embrace Public Sector Union Reform, October 15, 2013

Exponential Technological Advances and the Role of Unions, July 23, 2013

The Prosperity Agenda, April 2, 2013

Calling for Public Sector Union Reform is Not Anti-Union, January 29, 2013

The Ideology of Public Sector Unions vs. Private Sector Unions, February 20, 2012

America’s Atlas Generation – The Forgotten 33%, January 9, 2012

Lessons for Reformers from Governor Scott Walker

Certainly there are scores of Beltway conservative reformers (and movement conservatives disinterested in education policy) who are dismayed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s decision yesterday to halt his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. After all, the onetime state legislator and former Milwaukee County Executive-turned-governor has been highly-touted by them for his success in abolishing collective bargaining for NEA and AFT affiliates (along with other public-sector unions) in the Dairy State, as well as for surviving efforts by those outfits and progressive groups to oust him from office. So to see him leave the presidential campaign trail — and leave the stage to the likes of oft-unsuccessful real estate developer-turned-politician Donald Trump and famed surgeon Benjamin Carson (even with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former House Budget Committee Chairman-turned-Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the field)  — is distressing to them.

Yet there are at least two lessons that reformers of all stripes can learn from the collapse of Walker’s campaign. Not one of them is comforting.

20150924-UW-Biddle

Being president is different than being a governor — and voters know it: Back in 2007, a year before the presidential campaign that would come, then-American Spectator Assistant Managing Editor Jeremy Lott and I speculated that competence in managing government would be the top issue on the minds of voters. After all, the complaints about outgoing President George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the economic malaise that was just beginning to manifest were fresh on the minds of pundits and other commentators. Based on that thinking, your editor thought that either former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would ultimately face off against a Democrat, possibly former Indiana governor-turned-U.S. Senator Evan Bayh or Iowa’s Tom Vilsack, with substantial experience as a governor.

But both Lott and I were wrong. As it turned out, the presidential nominees for both parties,were two senators, Barack Obama and John McCain, with no experience running states or municipalities, while the experiences of Giuliani, Romney, Bayh, and Vilsack amounted to nothing. One of the lessons your editor learned: What voters turned out to be concerned about had nothing to do with competence in running government, as prognosticators see it. What they wanted was a president who understood that his key role has less to do with running a federal bureaucracy that is far larger than any state or municipal operations. This means setting a political agenda for the nation, selecting political appointees who also understand that their job is to set agendas within their own respective bureaucracies, serving as the ambassador for the world’s most-important superpower on the foreign policy front, being a constant charismatic-yet-even tempered campaigner for the agenda he is setting, interfacing with state governments over which the federal government has little real direction outside of subsidies, and exuding confidence and hope even during times when circumstances seem hopeless.

The best way to measure how well any presidential candidate can be president is not by looking at the gubernatorial record. This is because the role of governors — which can differ greatly from state to state — fundamentally different in substance (if not in form or style) from being Commander-in-Chief. It is hard to know how well the governor of a state in which the role is constitutionally weak like Texas or Indiana will compare to counterparts from New York or Florida, where the governors have strong control over every aspect of the executive branch. In general, there’s little about being governor that compares to being president. This is something voters, who have picked chosen governors to become president with mixed success for most of the past 40 years, have come to learn the hard way. The only way you can know how well a presidential candidate may govern is by actually watching them run for the top job. This is because running a billion-dollar campaign for the nation’s highest office is the closest approximate to actually being president.

On that test, Walker failed miserably. From Walker’s poor performance in two Republican presidential debates, to his failure to pick campaign managers and other staffers who could properly set agendas, to his own inability to cast a profile that measured up to the men who had (and currently) occupy the Oval Office, Walker showed that he wasn’t presidential material. This was especially problematic for the governor because, as New York Timescolumnist Ross Douthat points out, his greatest success — abolishing collective bargaining rules that wreak havoc on state governments, municipalities, and traditional school districts — is rather meaningless at the federal level, where public-sector union influence is limited largely to lobbying Congress and agencies. Unable to prove the relevance of his work as a state chief executive to the presidency, and incapable of demonstrating his fitness for the job through an effective national campaign, Walker had little choice but to stop running.

For reformers, Walker’s failures on both fronts may serve as harbinger of what will happen over the next few months. If Jeb Bush doesn’t improve his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, his success in overhauling public education in the Sunshine State won’t matter at all. Same is true for the remaining governors in the field, as well as for Hillary Clinton, whose second run for the presidency is faring just slightly better than the last one. This could mean that federal education policy could be a secondary (though important) issue on Election Day next year. Which, in turn, may lead to an ally of traditionalists setting the direction of federal education policy to the detriment of systemic reform.

Flip-Flopping on Common Core has done little to help Walker or his counterparts gain traction:
One of Walker’s key talking points during his campaign was the fact that he had pushed to halt implementation of Common Core reading and math standards after having supported their implementation five years ago. From ordering the state education department to stop rolling out the standards two years ago, to promising to stop the implementation during his successful re-election bid for governor last year, to trying to cut funding for the use of Common Core-aligned tests provided by the Smarter Balanced coalition, Walker worked overtime to prove that he shared cause with movement conservatives unconcerned with education who wrongly view the standards as a federal takeover of public education.

But as it turns out, Walker’s backtracking on Common Core implementation won him no supporters. Movement conservatives (including a branch of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum) and hard-core progressive traditionalists (the latter of which never would have voted for Walker or any Republican) issued a letter last July demanding the governor to take a clear stand against Common Core implementation and standardized testing in general. As Walker’s now-former colleague on the presidential campaign trail, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal found out the hard way, movement conservatives opposed to the standards, who know that the Wisconsin governor has flip-flopped on the issue, see him as just another cheap-suit politician. For them, Walker is hardly presidential material. As for moderate Republicans concerned about education policy who are divided on the standards? His performance on the campaign trail, along with the flip-flopping on Common Core, simply make him a less-compelling candidate.

That’s when Republicans, along with Democrats, are giving any thought at all to education policy. For most Republicans, reversing the Obama Administration’s legacy (along with that of George W. Bush) on almost every front, and tackling immigration policy, are far more-pressing issues than education. As a result, Common Core implementation hasn’t been a subject of conversation outside of the pages of education policy journals and political punditry. For all the energy Walker and his peers in the Republican presidential field exercised on reversing themselves on rolling out the standards, they would have been better off standing by their support for the efforts while focusing more time on building strong campaign operations.

For reformers, Walker’s failure to capitalize on what Common Core foes claim to be widespread opposition to the standards is another reminder that transforming American public education is not an exercise in winning popularity contests. As civil rights activists and other social reformers learned long ago, rarely has any change that benefits children and people ever been popular. Just as importantly, the fact that federal education policy discussions hasn’t been a defining issue during this election should be humbling.

About the Author:  RiShawn Biddle is Editor and Publisher of Dropout Nation — the leading commentary Web site on education reform — a columnist for Rare and The American Spectator, award-winning editorialist, speechwriter, communications consultant and education policy advisor. More importantly, he is a tireless advocate for improving the quality of K-12 education for every child. The co-author of A Byte at the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era, Biddle combines journalism, research and advocacy to bring insight on the nation’s education crisis and rally families and others to reform American public education. This article originally appeared in Dropout Nation and is republished here with permission from the author.

Scott Walker vs. the Unions (Part 2 of 2)

Summary: In part one we examined the early stages of the struggle between unions and Wisconsin’s combative governor, Scott Walker—his reform efforts, the initial protests, efforts to recall Walker and his allies, and the “John Doe” raids targeting supporters of reform. In part two, we look at his reelection campaign and the biggest twist of all: Wisconsin, birthplace of so-called Progressivism, becomes a Right to Work state.

As the 2014 election neared, and the unions had their third chance to stop Walker, the Governor appeared to be in danger of losing. In mid-October, the RealClearPolitics average of polls had Walker ahead by only 47.7 to 47.3. Given that challengers usually receive the lion’s share of undecided voters, any incumbent polling under 50 percent with a challenger close behind is in serious trouble.

Walker’s opponent was formidable: Mary Burke, who had served as the state’s Secretary of Commerce under former Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker’s predecessor. Burke won the Democratic primary 83-1 7 over state Rep. Brett Hulsey. Hulsey was considered a gadfly. A liberal, he had reportedly tried to make a deal to join the GOP caucus in the Assembly, then, supposedly to satirize Republicans’ racism, dressed as a Confederate major to greet Republicans attending their state convention.

Burke was rich, the daughter of the founder of Trek Bicycle Corporation, and her wealth was spotlighted during the campaign. Democrats cheered her ability to “self-finance” her campaign. That’s an important quality in a candidate today, given that campaign finance laws make it difficult for people of modest means to raise money for a major campaign. Burke eventually spent a reported $5 million of her own money in the governor’s race.

Republicans questioned Burke’s ability to understand the problems of working-class people and small-business-class people, particularly in light of her attacks on the Tea Party movement. It turned out that, to win her only elective office, a local school board seat in Madison, she had spent $128,000 of her own money. Particularly damaging to Burke was the revelation that she had taken off from work for two years to “find herself” and go snowboarding in Colorado and Argentina. (Details of the trip are murky because Burke refused to clarify what happened.) “Yes, she’s a wealthy business owner who took time off to snowboard,” wrote Joan Walsh of the left-wing online publication Salon, but “She’s also a philanthropist who gave her time and money to Madison’s Boys and Girls Club” and other nonprofits.

Walsh wrote that, “In the crowd of mostly retirees [at a Burke campaign event], there’s a fondness for Burke, an odd gratitude that this affluent woman, a comparative newcomer to politics, has graced their party, and their state, with such a high-minded campaign. If this is noblesse oblige, bring it on.”

Like many Democratic candidates in 2014, Burke sought women’s votes by accusing her opponent of conducting a war on women. Walsh noted in the article, written about a month before the election, that, while Walker had consolidated his rural, suburban, and male base, Burke had not been so effective with her own base, but “campaigns by Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood are designed to turn that around.” (Emily’s List is a group that raises money for female pro-abortion candidates, and Planned Parenthood is a pro-abortion group funded by taxpayers.)

Walsh’s criticism of Walker was typical: “Walker is both the product of the grim racial politics that have polarized Wisconsin, and its leading modern purveyor. He’s cut funding for mass transit and welfare programs, slashed the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to 140,000 working poor families, and now he wants to drug test welfare recipients—after a top staffer was caught laughing at a joke comparing them to dogs.” (That’s a reference to a satirical e-mail, cited approvingly by a Walker aide when Walker was county executive, featuring a joke about dogs who were said to be suited for welfare because they were “lazy,” “can’t speak English,” and so on.)

In the same article, Walsh attacked Walker for “his far-right political posturing, his union busting and”—comparing his supporters to dogs—“his dog-whistle politics.”

20150716-UW-Walker-p2-2
Walker’s opponent compared him to Pinocchio

Burke’s campaign highlighted her support for Common Core and Obamacare healthcare rationing and her opposition to voter ID laws. Despite her claim to care about the plight of poor people, she opposed school choice and supported raising the so-called minimum wage, which bars unskilled workers from most jobs.

Too close to call?

The race seemed close. Amanda Turkel in the left-wing Huffington Post reported that “Democrats were holding out hope that they would be able to knock off a potential 2016 presidential contender” and that Burke was “running neck and neck with Walker up until the end” and “Walker seemed worried about his re-election chances up until the end.”

The Republican national chairman, Reince Priebus, who is from Wisconsin, told Slate that Walker’s race was such a high priority that it would not be a “good night” if Republicans took back the Senate but Walker lost. “Walker represents not just the future of Wisconsin, but the future of our party and the future of people that make promises and keep promises, and whether they can be rewarded for doing those things.”

Betsy Woodruff of Slate covered Walker’s victory celebration:

“First off, I want to thank God.” Gov. Scott Walker had just come on stage at the State Fair Exposition Center to give his third victory speech in four years, and the supporters mashed up in front of the stage were totally losing it. “I want to thank God for his abundant grace and mercy,” Walker continued. “Win or lose, it is more than sufficient for each and every one of us.” The crowd exploded.

It’s nice of Walker to throw in that “win or lose” line, but he didn’t really need it. Walker doesn’t lose. The governor first got elected in 2010 by 5.8 points, won an acrimonious recall election in 2012 by 6.8 points, and looks set to win his first real re-election bid by about 6 points.

Walker’s supporters at the victory party were elated but not surprised. They argued his win was in the cards from jump street, that Democratic nominee Mary Burke’s dependence on out-of-state support backfired, and that Walker’s superhuman ability to stay on message made re-election way easier than it looked to many (including me!). The governor had a straightforward strategy, and he stuck to it.

Woodruff listed among the key reasons for Walker’s win:

► A strong grassroots organization, with 23 offices around the state. “I’ve been doing state races for 25 years,” said state Representative John Nygren. “This is the most door-to-door intensive race I’ve seen in the 25 years I’ve been around.”

►A “total non-interest in appearing with outside surrogates,” instead touring with Republican leaders in their home districts. Woodruff noted that “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also visited the state to campaign for Walker, but that’s because he invited himself.”

►Related to the above item, Walker’s ability to tap into anti-Washington sentiment.

[About a month before the election,] with Burke’s supporters outspending Walker’s, negative ads swamped the airwaves. Burke drew significant support from Emily’s List, an organization that backs pro-choice female Democratic candidates, and she also won backing from labor organizations and the president himself, who visited to hold a rally for her. Walker loyalists said that as money from outside groups and unions poured into the state for Burke and as her campaign came to be associated with its out-of-state surrogates (first lady Michelle Obama stumped for her twice), voters got recall flashbacks. . . . “I used to tell the Democrats they helped us with the recall,” [said state GOP First Vice Chairman Brian Schimming,] “because they spent so much time trying to go after him that they really turned off a lot of people.” . . .

While Walker was repeating the same simple pitch throughout the state, national labor organizations were running ads targeting the governor and Burke was hobnobbing with the president and first lady in the state’s two most liberal cities, Madison and Milwaukee. If Burke bet on this being an anti-incumbent election cycle, Walker bet on its being anti-Washington. And he bet right.

Meanwhile, as Walker won re-election, Republicans picked up seats in the state legislature.

As reported by the website Ballotpedia, Democrats had been optimistic about taking over the state Senate. “The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee listed the Wisconsin Senate as one of eight chambers [in the country] of which the Democrats could take control. In a debate with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R), Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D) said Gov. Scott Walker’s [low] poll numbers were a sign his party will win. Fitzgerald argued that President Barack Obama’s drop in popularity would instead help the Republicans. The Wisconsin State Senate was one of 20 state legislative chambers noted by Ballotpedia staff as being a battleground chamber.” Yet, with only half the Senate seats on the ballot in 2014, Republicans improved their margin from 17-15 (with one vacancy) to 19-14.

20150716-UW-Walker-p2-1The attempt to recall Gov. Walker was the beginning of a reform backlash

In addition, two outgoing Republican Senators described as “moderates” had been replaced by more conservative lawmakers.

In the other house, the Assembly, where all seats were up for election, the Republican margin went from 60-38 (with one independent) to 63-34 (two independents). It was the GOP’s best showing in that chamber since the 1956 election.

Regarding the Right to Work issue, Betsy Woodruff wrote on the night of the 2014 election that “It’s hard to believe that Walker would have the appetite for another round of union battles. But it was also hard to believe he would win three elections in four years, and that he would win this last one, against an opponent whose backers outspent his by a cushy margin. So here’s some analysis: When it’s Scott Walker, the unlikely is never that far-fetched.”

Backlash: Right to Work

There’s an old expression in politics, “If you shoot at a king, don’t miss.” In the matter of the unions vs. Scott Walker, unions paid the price for their failed attempts to stop Walker and his reforms. Amazingly, Wisconsin became a Right to Work state.

What happened in Wisconsin is similar to what happened in Michigan, the other state most closely associated with the union movement. That state had a longstanding truce between unions and businesses regarding Right to Work laws—that is, laws that protect workers from being forced to join a union or pay the equivalent of union dues as a condition of employment. Then, in 2012, the unions attempted to pass an amendment to the state constitution, Proposal 2, that would have given union contracts priority over state laws; would have affected some 170 existing statutes; and would have effectively given the unions control of state government on labor-related issues. Prop. 2 would have barred the legislature from ever passing a Right to Work law. Despite a $28 million union campaign for the amendment, it was voted down by 58-42 percent. That occurred even as President Obama was winning the state by nine points and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) was winning by 21 points.

Right to Work supporters pointed out that the unions had broken the truce, and they moved quickly to take advantage of the backlash against the union’s power grab. “Quickly” is an understatement: Final passage of the state’s RTW law came a mere five weeks after the rejection of Proposal 2.

Before the 2014 election, Walker and his legislative allies hadn’t expressed much interest in passing a Right to Work law that would protect workers in the private sector. As a member of the State Assembly in 1993, Walker had co-sponsored a Right to Work bill, but that was back when the idea of Wisconsin becoming a Right to Work state seemed like an impossible dream.

At the end of November, Walker’s spokesman, Laurel Patrick, was still claiming that, “As he has said previously, Governor Walker’s focus is on growing Wisconsin’s economy and creating jobs. Anything that distracts from that is not a priority for him.”

However, supporters of workers’ rights realized that they had the opportunity of a lifetime. On December 1, conservative activist Lorri Pickens announced the formation of a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting RTW in Wisconsin. She had served from 2005 to 2007 as state director for the free-market group Americans for Prosperity. She had also been a lobbyist for the pro-life group Wisconsin Family Action and campaign manager for a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

Walker continued to downplay the Right to Work idea, noting on December 3 that, “As I said before the election and have said repeatedly over the last few years, I just think right-to-work legislation right now . . . would be a distraction from the work that we’re trying to do.”

On December 4, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald signaled that the issue was suddenly on his front-burner: “It’s my opinion it has to come up early . . . I don’t know how we get through the session without having this debate.”

That week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos—who had stated during the summer that he did not intend to pursue the matter—released a statement saying he was now willing to discuss it. And State Rep. Chris Kapenga said in an interview with the MacIver Institute that he would introduce RTW legislation because, “To me, it is the single most important thing we can do to help move this economy forward.”

The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) organization polled its members and found that Right to Work was their second-highest priority after tax reductions. The poll, sent to 1,200 executives of whom 261 responded, asked what the state government could do to improve the business climate. From the eight choices provided, “reduce taxes” came in first with 35 percent, while “become a right to work state” was second with 15 percent. Asked in a January survey if they supported Right to Work, 81 percent of respondents answered yes. Over the next three months, WMC’s 501(c)(4) organization would play a key role in promoting the Right to Work idea.

They didn’t see it coming

Right to Work opponents couldn’t really believe it was happening. Used to dealing with Republicans and self-described conservatives who shy away from controversy, they kept asking: Did Walker and the Republicans really want a repeat of what happened in 2011, when tens of thousands of protesters disrupted the Capitol?

The Assembly’s Minority Leader, Peter Barca, said people would be “extremely alarmed” if an RTW measure were to pass. People would protest it like they did Act 10. The polarization would “create a schism that would take decades to overcome,” Barca told the Capital Times.

Scot Ross of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now theorized that Walker would avoid the conflict. As a potential candidate for president, Ross said, Walker would want to pass a budget as quickly and quietly as possible. “He doesn’t want the country to think every time he does something . . . Wisconsin erupts.” In fact, Ross suggested, bringing up Right to Work was a bluff and a bargaining chip; Assembly Speaker Robin Vos would use it to get what he wanted from Governor Walker.

At the end of January, the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm, released a poll indicating that Right to Work was far from the divisive issue that opponents claimed it was. The firm reported that 69 percent of voters supported allowing workers to decide whether or not to join a union. That included 51 percent of union households and 48 percent of Democrats.

At that point, it was beginning to become clear that Walker would do nothing to stop the Right to Work train. The spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald told reporters that Fitzgerald “has not been asked by the Governor not to pursue the issue at this time.”

By February 20, when Walker said he would sign the legislation that legislative leaders were preparing to fast-track, state officials were “bracing for potential protests at the state Capitol,” reported the Wisconsin State Journal. Fitzgerald said he gave the Governor’s office notice about the fast-tracking in order, as a news report paraphrased him, “to give officials time to plan for the possible onslaught.”

Despite the chance of riotous protests, it was time to take action. “My experience as leader is when you have the votes, you go to the floor,” said Fitzgerald.

Not all the opposition came from unions—at least, not directly from unions. The Wisconsin Contractor’s Coalition, made up of more than 300 construction-related companies (and backed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18), came out against Right to Work. The stated reason was that Right to Work laws interfere in private contracts between employers and employees. Critics said that the unstated reason, the real reason, was crony capitalism in the form of prevailing-wage laws. Members of the coalition support such laws, which require the payment of union-level wages on government projects. Prevailing-wage laws rip off the taxpayers—and help unionized companies—by preventing non-union companies from underbidding the unionized companies. The laws add about 20 percent to the cost of building schools, roads, and other government-funded construction. (Later, the legislators who pushed Wisconsin Right to Work would begin an effort to repeal the state’s prevailing-wage law.)

By the way, the WCC was caught in a false statement about the survey by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, claiming that “WMC’s own 2014 survey revealed that just 15 percent of business executive respondents were in favor of Right-To-Work legislation.” The Journal-Sentinel’s PolitiFact, after noting the actual results of the survey (see above), labeled that statement False. The false statement was actually part of a pattern: Anti-RTW forces kept telling themselves that Right to Work wasn’t very popular, that business people and other RTW supporters weren’t very enthusiastic about it, and that there would be an explosion of opposition to RTW legislation.

You’ve lost that protestin’ feelin’

By the time the legislature voted on Right to Work, much of the fire seemed gone from the union movement in Wisconsin. During a 24-hour debate on RTW, there was shouting from the gallery. Police removed the shouters. The gallery remained empty. About 300 protesters showed up. Two of them were arrested for screaming obscenities. By 10 p.m., most of them were gone.

News reports described the unions as resigned to the inevitability of Right to Work. The New York Times quoted a 62-year-old protester who said, “You’ve got to fight back,” but “it’s a generational process. It’s going to take 25 to 40 years to correct problems Scott Walker’s done in four-and-a-half years.”

Unions managed to bus some 3,000 workers to Madison on February 28, where, in the words of the magazine The Economist, “they rallied in frigid temperatures ringing cow bells, waving American flags and holding up signs such as ‘Stop the war on workers.’”

In the left-wing Cap Times Dennis Boyer, a retired AFSCME staff member, lamented:

How did Wisconsin go from a vibrant pro-union state to a hotbed of reactionary politics? How did we get from the Wisconsin of Bob La Follette and Gaylord Nelson to the Wisconsin of Scott Walker and his buddies the Koch brothers? . . .
I have been asked many times since the dropping of the Act 10 bomb on public employees what might have been done differently. Many thousands of union members and supporters ringed the Capitol and raised their voices. I spent many hours there and it felt hopeful. Then it was over. We didn’t raise the political costs to the level sufficient to give our enemies pause (yes, in a war there are enemies). As I left the last Wisconsin Uprising rally, I wondered, why did electric power continue to state buildings during that time (same with the steam heat) and why did school sessions continue and buses roll? It seemed like a major battle had raged and our side had held back.

It seems to me, when faced with an existential crisis, that the full array of tactics and bold measures must be considered, and, after due consideration, be deployed incrementally or simultaneously as resources and circumstances dictate. . . . There was room to organize all manner of slow-downs, sit-downs, and gumming up of the public sector. Even after the passage of Act 10, there could have been an ongoing campaign of guerrilla labor action behind management’s lines. This is the era of asymmetrical warfare, of hacking, of fragile networks of communication. Business as usual can be disrupted.

Similar and different

Unions and their supporters expressed outrage over the fact that the law seemed taken from model legislation prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of conservative/mainstream state legislators that is despised by the Left. They suggested that this was somehow sinister, although the use of model legislation is very common in state legislatures—to avoid drafting mistakes, unintended consequences, and legal challenges, and to foster consistency between states with similar approaches—and the use of an ALEC model by conservative or pro-growth legislators would hardly be surprising.

Myranda Tanck, spokesman for Senator Fitzgerald, said the Wisconsin bill was modeled closely on Indiana’s Right to Work law because Indiana’s version had already survived multiple challenges in court. Using Indiana’s law as a model would ensure that the Wisconsin version was on stable legal ground.

The Wisconsin bill did have one difference. In a clever move, the Wisconsin legislation was written to take effect immediately once it became law. Recently adopted Right to Work laws in other states had a waiting period. Under the prevailing legal view, Right to Work laws affect new contracts, but do not (or might not) affect existing ones, which means that any delay gives unions the chance to renegotiate current, non-RTW contracts, and extend periods in which those contracts remain in effect, often for years. The Wisconsin legislation would slam the door on that practice. Democrats in the legislature failed in their attempt to delay the effective date by three months.

For a time, as the legislature worked on the Right to Work measure, there was speculation that Republicans might carve out an exemption for operating engineers, pipe fitters, and certain other unions that provide training for their members. After all, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, whose members run the heavy equipment on infrastructure projects, had sometimes supported Republican candidates. For example, it gave almost $58,000 to Walker’s campaigns for governor, including some $43,000 just before the 2014 election.

There was precedent: Police and firefighters had been exempted from provisions of Act 10, and that exemption had been important to the political success of the reforms.

In the end, though, the law had no exemptions. It was decided that an exemption in the Right to Work law would make it easier to challenge in court as a violation of the Constitutional requirement for equal protection under the law.

Right to Work state #25

After eight hours of debate in the Senate, the bill passed 17-15 on February 25, 2015. Except for one Republican who voted with Democrats, it was a party-line vote.

Over that weekend, unions mobilized a protest at the Capitol led by Wisconsin AFL-CIO. The protests were pitiful affairs compared to the screaming hordes that had shaken Madison during the incendiary Act 10 debates. The roar had become a whimper.

Why? Some insiders speculate that the protests had a low turnout this time either because the unions had been exhausted physically and financially by Act 10, or because there is a relatively low unionization rate for Wisconsin’s private sector compared to its government employees. Too, events unfolded so swiftly that even if the money and anger had been there, the unions might nevertheless have been outmaneuvered by Right to Work advocates.

Approval by the Assembly, with its huge GOP majority, was a foregone conclusion. The measure passed on Friday, March 6, and was signed by Governor Walker on Monday, March 9.

Signing it was “the right thing to do for job creators and employees alike. But you know how it is: It threatens the power the Big Government Labor Bosses crave and they are going to come after him with everything they’ve got,” read an e-mail from Friends of Scott Walker.

President Obama said in a statement, “there’s been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government. So I’m deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen workers in the new economy.” He accused Walker of “claim[ing] victory over working Americans” by signing the Right to Work law.

“One thing is certain now,” wrote state Rep. Leon D. Young. “Scott Walker is running for president, and the state of Wisconsin is the next casualty of his blind, ruthless ambition.”

“For the scabs that choose to quit paying dues,” read an e-mail sent by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to some 1,300 members, “their names will be published and posted so members will know who the scabs are who do not pay dues.”

Ned Resnikoff of Al Jazeera wrote of RTW’s passage:

Ten years ago, the notion that traditionally union-friendly Wisconsin could become a right-to-work state would have been almost unthinkable. By last week it was inevitable. . . . That legislation . . . was a major victory for Walker, despite his earlier insistence that he was not interested in pushing right-to-work legislation. Although he never said he would oppose such a law on the merits, he repeatedly indicated that he did not want to get involved in the sort of political battle it would likely provoke.

Now that the battle is over, the Republicans in the statehouse have passed the legislation and Walker has given it his signature, he is more than happy to claim ownership. Last week he for the first time said that right-to-work legislation was something “we” proposed in early 2015—“we” meaning Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature, not just the latter. Whatever Walker’s role in shepherding this particular bill to passage, he is right to claim some of the credit for making Wisconsin a right-to-work state. The legislation he signed into law Monday was made possible by his earlier triumphs over the state’s labor movement.

His victories offer a lesson to policymakers in other states: If you intend to hobble the labor movement as a whole, go after the public sector unions first. . . . The GOP was able to push through right-to-work legislation with relative ease because the local labor movement had already been dealt a body blow. As a result, Wisconsin’s experience seems to have served as an object lesson for other governors who favor right-to-work policies. For example, Bruce Rauner, the recently elected governor of Illinois, has tried to impose right-to-work on the public sector by way of executive order.

Not the typical Republican

It should be noted that Walker had help in shifting the ideological direction of Wisconsin politics. For example, there’s the Bradley Foundation, a CRC supporter that helped fund such state institutions as the MacIver Institute for Public Policy, the watchdog group Media Trackers, and the Wisconsin Reporter, a news website backed by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Again, Slate’s Betsy Woodruff:

Pretend you’re Scott Walker and you’ve just gotten inaugurated on a cold January day in 2011. You’re governing a state that birthed the modern labor movement and that’s been a stronghold for the blue-collar Democrats for most of the modern era. You’re in power, but your situation is—to put it lightly—precarious. How do you govern? If you were a typical governor in a typical version of that scenario, you would govern very, very cautiously. You would tiptoe. You would hedge. You would compromise. You would be Mitt Romney.

But Scott Walker is not Mitt Romney. And a large part of the reason he implemented such a proactively conservative agenda—defunding Planned Parenthood, dramatically curtailing public-sector unions’ power, passing Right to Work legislation—is because of the conservative infrastructure that simultaneously pushed him in that direction and made that direction an easy way to go.

It was the combination of a strong conservative infrastructure with Walker’s combative personality that made the Wisconsin revolution possible.

The end of the beginning?

Walker won gubernatorial races with 52.2 percent in 2010, 53.1 percent in 2012, and 52.3 percent in 2014, in a state that hasn’t voted Republican for president since Reagan—which means, one observer noted, “He compromised just far enough to win, and not one inch more. Grassroots Republicans are fed up with party leaders who wilt in the face of opposition, and they see Walker as someone who is willing to fight.” Walker’s negatives include his lack of experience in foreign affairs and the fact that elitists will make fun of him for not graduating from college. But Dick Morris, former political consultant for Bill Clinton, called Walker “ambidextrous” for his appeal to both establishment and grassroots Republicans, and said he is “the [Chris] Christie who succeeded.”

In January, Walker spoke at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, a gathering sponsored by Citizens United and by U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), a Tea Party leader. Michael Barone, the dean of Washington political analysts, likened the Walker speech to one given in the same city by another candidate.

Can a single speech at an Iowa political event change the course of a presidential nomination race? Maybe. It actually has happened. Barack Obama’s November 2007 speech at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines is generally credited with giving him a lift toward winning the caucuses there two months later and putting him on the path to the presidency.

Perhaps it happened again, ten months earlier in the 2016 cycle, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke January 24 at the Freedom Summit . . . Walker’s speech—one of more than a dozen—got rave reviews from the crowd and reporters present. More prominently and notably, it seems to have gotten rave reviews from a much wider swath of Iowa Republican voters. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, conducted by Ann Selzer’s firm January 26-29, showed Walker leading the field of potential Republican candidates with 15 percent of the vote.

Reporters in Des Moines were expecting a boring Midwestern guy. Walker proved to be an exciting Midwestern guy—raised in Iowa for seven years, he pointed out, until his pastor father moved to next-door Wisconsin. Many activists in the crowd, but by no means all Iowa Republicans, knew that he had battled the public employee unions in Wisconsin—and that the left, which prides itself on compassion and civility—responded with riots and death threats and a June 2012 recall election. Walker won that contest as he had in 2010 and did again in 2014: three elections in four years in a state that has voted Democratic for president since 1988. . . .

[Walker] was elected County Executive three times in Milwaukee County (67 percent Obama 2012). In the 2010 primary for governor, against a candidate who had won a statewide nomination before, Walker won an amazing 76 percent in the four-county Milwaukee metro area, and he carried that metro area against Democrats in 2010, 2012 and 2014. He continues to live in the close-in suburb of Wauwatosa, which voted 50 percent Obama, 49 percent Romney: much like America.

As a likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Walker actually led the RealClearPolitics average of national polls in March before falling slightly behind two Floridians, former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio. In early May, he scored a three-point lead (over Bush) in the first and most important primary state, New Hampshire.

Walker supporters see his stand against the unions as an indication of what he would do as President. They note, as Walker does, that when President Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981, his action set the tone for his entire administration in both domestic and foreign policy. It sent a message to adversaries, including the Soviets, that Reagan was not a man to be trifled with. (A 2011 headline in the New York Times called the air traffic controllers’ strike “The Strike That Busted Unions,” leading to the precipitous decline of unions in America.)

In February, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual gathering of conservatives, Walker, his sleeves rolled up, declared that, in the face of threats like ISIS, the country needs a “leader” with “confidence.” He added: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” That comment was characterized by the Left as Walker comparing his union opponents (and their families, of course) to ISIS terrorists; Democrats in the state legislature demanded an apology, and he was denounced in the media by the likes of Chris Matthews of MSNBC.

Each time he was denounced, the denunciation reminded future Republican primary voters of Walker’s stand against those 100,000 protesters.

Today, Republicans seem to be looking for a candidate with political courage—someone who won’t give in when the Left comes after him or her with all the weapons in its arsenal, including domination of almost all the communications media, domination of academia, and the astonishing wealth of “crony capitalists” who benefit from Big Government spending and from special treatment for well-heeled special interests. GOP voters, it appears, are sick of Republican officeholders who act as if they are in a minority on issues even when the public agrees with them. They are tired of seeing their own leaders practice the art of pre-emptive surrender. They want a fighter.

In 1980, when the economy was broken and the world was falling into the hands of America’s enemies, Americans turned to a governor who had proven his mettle by standing his ground against vicious enemies and beating them.

Will history repeat itself?

About the Author:  Dr. Steven J. Allen covers labor union organizing and the environmental movement for Capitol Research Center. He previously served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton, as editor of Tea Party Review magazine, and as senior researcher for Newt Gingrich 2012. He has a master’s degree in political science from Jacksonville State University, a law degree from Cumberland Law School, and a PhD in Biodefense from the College of Science at George Mason University.. This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of “Labor Watch” and appears here with permission.

Scott Walker vs. the Unions (Part 1 of 2)

Summary: In politics, it’s said, you’re known by the enemies you make. Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) is best known nationally for his battles with unions—from his reforms that brought 100,000 protesters to the state capitol, to the efforts by the unions to throw him out of office, to the passage of a Right to Work law. Now Walker is expected to run for president. This is part 1 of his story:

The invitation-only ceremony was held March 9 at Badger Meter, a manufacturing company near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As he prepared to sign landmark Right to Work legislation, Governor Scott Walker (R) sat with rolled-up sleeves at a table with a “Freedom to Work” sign emblazoned across the front. In front of a group that included Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Walker said the legislation he was about to sign would send “a powerful message across the country and around the world.”

Only months earlier, Walker had seemed cool on Right to Work, calling it a “distraction.” Now, with the stroke of Walker’s pen, Wisconsin became the nation’s 25th Right to Work state—the 25th state to give workers the freedom not to join a union or pay union dues.

20150710-UW-Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

During the event, Rich Meeusen, chief executive and chairman of Badger Meter, said that even before this legislation was signed into law, it had had an effect: It had swayed Badger Meter management to expand in Wisconsin instead of Mexico, immediately creating 12 jobs, leading to 30 to 50 new jobs later on. (Mike Brown of the left-wing group One Wisconsin Now described Meeusen’s remarks as those of “a millionaire campaign contributor who threatened to send the jobs of hardworking skilled Wisconsin workers to another country unless the system was tilted further in his favor.”)

The signing of Right to Work was the latest blow delivered by Walker to labor unions in his state. It was Walker’s latest victory in a battle with unions that has run throughout his governorship, that made him, in the words of the publication Politico, “Public Enemy No. 1 for organized labor nationwide.” In this protracted struggle, unions have attempted to paint the governor as a rabid union-hating right-winger, and in the process they have helped catapult Walker to the top tier of candidates, declared and undeclared, for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

The road to the governorship

Scott Kevin Walker was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on November 2, 1967. He spent his early childhood in Plainfield, Iowa, where his father, Llewellyn Scott Walker, was pastor of a local Baptist church. In 1977, Llew Walker’s ministry moved the family to Delavan, Wisconsin, where Scott became active in sports, band, and Eagle Scouts.

Walker says his interest in government began when he was in high school, where he attended the American Legion’s Badger Boys State Program. He was chosen to serve as a representative to Boys Nation in Washington, D.C., in which, according to the American Legion, “the young leaders receive an education on the structure and function of federal government.”

Walker started college at Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1986, leaving during his fourth year. (For years, Democrats claimed falsely that, as the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s website put it as late as 2013, he was kicked out “after masterminding a scheme that destroyed newspapers critical of him.” After the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s PolitiFact debunked the Democrats’ accusation, they removed it from the website.)
He worked as a financial developer for the American Red Cross and won his first political office in 1993, when he was elected to Wisconsin’s State Assembly. After four terms in the Assembly, Walker was elected in 2002 to serve as County Executive of Milwaukee. In that job, Walker says, he cut the county’s workforce by upwards of 25 percent, reduced debt by 30 percent, and authored nine consecutive budgets that did not increase property tax levies.

In 2006, he ran for the Republican nomination for governor, but dropped out before the primary. The nominee, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, lost to incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle by 45 percent to 53 percent.

When Walker ran again in 2010, he defeated former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann 59 to 39 percent for the GOP nomination. In the general election, he was up against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was considered a favorite of President Obama. Walker won by 52 percent to Barrett’s 46.5.
When Walker was inaugurated as Governor on January 3, 2011, the state faced an immediate deficit of $136 million and a projected two-year shortfall of $3.6 billion. Wisconsin had upwards of $800 million in unpaid bills. The state’s economy was weak, losing almost 134,000 jobs in the previous four years.

Walker looked at the books and saw immediately the main culprit behind Wisconsin’s flood of red ink: the unions.

Founded in Wisconsin

In the early days of the political party system in the U.S., most government employment was based on the principle, “To the victors go the spoils”—hence, the “spoils system.” Jobs went to supporters of the winners.

In 1881, President James A. Garfield was killed by a mentally disturbed man who believed he had been unfairly denied a government job. That led to reforms such as 1883’s Pendleton Act, which set up a civil service system in which government employees were selected in competitive examinations. New York became the first state to enact such a system at the state level in 1884, followed by Massachusetts in 1885. The idea soon spread across the country.

The advantage of the spoils system was that government could be held accountable. A state’s governor or a city’s mayor could be held responsible for the successful operation of the government, with no excuse that the bureaucracy was working against him. But under that system, jobs didn’t always attract the best people, in part because government workers could be fired for partisan political reasons. The civil service system was intended to put the best-qualified people in government jobs and protect them from unfair labor practices. Over time, though, government employees came to see the advantage of combining civil service protections with unionization: Then they couldn’t be fired except under extreme circumstances, and their political clout (including money from forced union dues) made it possible for them to, in effect, hire their own bosses.

In 1932, a small group of Wisconsin state workers organized in depression-stricken Madison to “promote, defend and enhance the civil service system,” and to spread the gospel of civil service throughout the country. Their creation, the Wisconsin State Employees Union/Council 24, was soon rechristened the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and in 1936 it received a charter from the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Public-sector unionism was born.

Not only was AFSCME born there in the 1930s, but in 1959 Wisconsin became the first state to grant all its public-sector unions full collective bargaining powers. This was one of the seminal accomplishments in the history of the labor union movement. After 1959, the door opened for other state-employee unions across the nation to bargain with the very officials they helped elect, officials who were all too happy to reward union supporters with fat pensions and health plans. Unfunded and underfunded obligations piled up as pliant politicians paid off union officials with generous benefits and even more generous promises of future benefits, some of them in the far future. The political expression for what they did is “kicking the can down the road,” leaving a mess for future taxpayers and future governors to clean up. Five decades later—after the politicians and union bosses who negotiated the sweetheart deals were dead or long-retired—states and municipalities across the country faced financial ruin.

Acting against unions

Taking office as governor in 2011, Walker faced a big challenge: that $3.6 billion shortfall projected for the next two years, and the long-term unsustainability of state government. For example, the cost of public-employee healthcare plans had gone up 90 percent in the previous nine years, according to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

Walker moved quickly. On February 11, less than six weeks after he took office, he put forth a reform plan, Act 10, that would make dramatic changes involving state employees. Act 10 required public sector union members to increase their health plan contributions to 12.6 percent, almost doubling their share but still below the national average. That reform alone was projected to save Wisconsin local governments about $724 million per year. The measure also called for public employees to contribute 5.8 percent toward their pension plans, roughly the national average.

But the biggest reforms involved the collective bargaining system. A press release from the Governor’s office explained that “the budget repair bill gives state and local governments the tools to manage spending reductions through changing some provisions of the state’s collective bargaining laws.” The state’s civil service system, among the strongest in the country, would not be changed, and state and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay. But they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures.

Other reforms included an end to the collection of union dues by state and local governments; the option for each employee to opt out of paying union dues; a one-year limit on contracts; and a requirement for annual certification of union representation by secret ballot. Under the Walker plan, wage increases would not exceed a cap based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) unless the voters agreed through a referendum. In exchange for these reforms, Walker promised not to lay off any of the state’s 170,000 employees.

Act 10 exempted local police, firefighters, and the state patrol from the changes. That proved to be a smart move politically. First Responders—those who risk their lives to keep the rest of us safe—have strong political support, especially among Republicans, who otherwise are prone to resisting the demands of unionized public employees. In other states, reform measures have sometimes failed due to opposition from police and firefighters. Their exclusion from the Walker plan ultimately helped it succeed.

Over the next two years, it was projected, Act 10 would save the state $330 million.

The fight begins

Reaction was swift and furious. Public employee unions saw the Walker plan as a threat to their existence. On February 17, 2011, more than 20,000 pro-union protesters descended on the state Capitol to voice their opposition to Walker and his plans. “This is disgusting,” said union ironworker Sean Collins of Waunakee, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times. “Everybody in Wisconsin should be scared, because if the unions go down, everybody else’s standards will go down.”

Protesters’ signs compared Walker to Hitler, and the occupiers chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.” Some protesters carried Egyptian flags, likening themselves to protesters who had overthrown the Egyptian government earlier that month. (That revolution would lead to the takeover of Egypt by the Islamofascist-backed Muslim Brotherhood in June 2012; the Muslim Brotherhood would be overthrown in turn in July 2013.)

On February 18, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka addressed the protesters, describing Act 10 as part of a grand scheme by Republicans to bring down the unions. By February 19, the crowd had grown to some 90,000, although that figure apparently included Tea Party counter-protesters. The siege, sometimes featuring thousands of angry protesters occupying the Capitol and the surrounding area, continued for three weeks.

The national labor union apparatus moved quickly to provide logistical and public relations support for the protesters. Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, proclaimed: “All across the country, Republican governors and legislators have almost immediately [following their election victory in 2010] moved to strip working families of their rights and eliminate their unions as political payback to their Wall Street and corporate CEO donors.” Vale was referring to governors like Walker, Chris Christie (R-N.J.), and John Kasich (R-Ohio), all of whom proposed reforms related to public-sector employees.

President Barack Obama came to the defense of Wisconsin’s beleaguered unions—no wonder, since Big Labor spent a combined $400 million to help elect him in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions,” Obama said in an interview with a Wisconsin TV station. “And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends.” (In response, Walker said, “We are focused on balancing our budget. It would be wise for the government and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budgets, which they are a long way off from doing.”)

Teachers walk off, legislators vanish

At the time, the average salary of a Milwaukee public school teacher was $56,500, on paper. But factoring in teachers’ huge benefits packages, including health care and pensions, the annual average compensation was actually more than $100,000. With per-pupil spending higher than in any other Midwestern state, two-thirds of Wisconsin 8th graders in 2009 could not read at a “basic” level.

Wisconsin teachers walked off their jobs en masse in protest of Walker’s proposals, and flocked by the thousands to the capitol in Madison. Their actions forced schools across the state to close, although they still collected their salaries.

The MacIver Institute reported: “In Madison, the school district was closed for three days after hundreds of teachers engaged in a mass sick-out so they could attend protest rallies at the State Capitol. That could cost the district $2.7 million . . . . If all the teachers in Milwaukee and Madison are paid for the days missed, the protest related salaries for just the state’s two largest districts would exceed $6.6 million dollars.”

During the protests, doctors wrote fake sick notes to enable teachers to attend the protest without having their pay docked. At least 84 teachers were caught using the fake sick notes. Conservative activists caught on tape some of the activity, including the handing out of fake notes to teachers, and the video was posted online.

The state Medical Examining Board disciplined some of the doctors, handing out reprimands, fines, and compulsory re-training. Marie Stanton, who represented at least seven of the doctors, said, “We’re disappointed that the board chose to impose that level of discipline, a reprimand, for a very technical violation.” Patricia Epstein, attorney for two other doctors, said her clients saw their visits as “community health outreach” and did not anticipate a rash of negative publicity over the matter.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported:

The state medical school disciplined 20 doctors, including fining 11 faculty members up to $4,000, for handing out sick notes to demonstrators at last year’s labor protests . . .

In several cases, doctors in more senior positions within the school also had to step away from those roles for a period of four months over one year. All the doctors were warned that further actions could result in them being fired.

Singled out for the largest fine was Louis Sanner, a physician who headed the Badger Doctors that set up a medical station to assist protesters. . . . “Sanner’s decision to openly practice medicine at the State Capitol, while intentionally avoiding the creation of a medical record, shows that his understanding and judgment are lacking,” Provost Paul DeLuca wrote . . .

“The discipline records also show that Sanner and the other physicians disciplined insisted they had acted correctly even when accepting the discipline, saying they believed they were helping public employees under stress rather than writing fake sick notes to allow demonstrators to skip work and keep protesting.

Fleeing to Illinois

Teachers weren’t the only ones to walk off the job. Not one of the state Senate’s 14 Democrats was present February 17, as the body prepared to vote on Walker’s measure. The Senate lacked a quorum of 20 members, which delayed the vote. The Governor’s Office was prepared to send out state troopers to round up the Democrats, but many legislators anticipated that move and crossed the border into neighboring Illinois.

At first, before they were tracked down by conservative activists, the Senators holed up at the Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, described by Eric Owen of the Daily Caller as featuring 245 rooms “including three exciting whirlpool suites, nine tennis courts, two basketball courts and Totally You Hair Salon. When hunger strikes, Clock Tower Resort guests can visit the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery,” where waitresses “flaunt their cleavage and traipse around in short, plaid, Scottish-looking skirts.”

Walker and his allies had a trick up their sleeves, though. They stripped the bill of its fiscal measures—which eliminated the need for a quorum. Senate passage was secured, and the legislation was signed by Walker on March 11, a month after he proposed it.

Hitler!

Throughout the protests, Big Labor and their allies on the Left played rough. On February 27, on NBC’s Meet the Press, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was asked if placards depicting Walker as Hitler were “inappropriate” or “wrong,” he refused to answer.

20150710-UW-Walker-2

On March 3, “police reported finding dozens of rounds of live ammunition outside the Capitol,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “Dane County deputies found 11 rounds near the State Street entrance . . . Twenty-nine rounds were found near the King Street entrance, and one round was found near the North Hamilton Street entrance” to the Capitol.

On March 9, Republican Senators received an e-mail that read, “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.”

On March 14, Investor’s Business Daily reported: “State Sens. Pam Galloway, Glenn Grothman and Joe Leibham were among more than a dozen Republicans sent e-mails with messages such as ‘Death threat!!!! Bomb!!!!’ A note shoved under Grothman’s door said, ‘The only good Republican is a dead Republican.’ He has stories of getting obscene phone calls in the middle of the night. Two Republicans, state Sen. Randy Hopper and state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, feel so threatened that they backed out of marching in Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city of Fond du Lac.”

The Daily Kos reported in June 2011 on the anti-Walker efforts that followed the passage of the Walker reforms:

For months, protesters have been dogging Gov. Scott Walker’s every move, protesting his every appearance. For this entire past week, there’s been an encampment set up along two sides of the Capitol Square, an around-the-clock presence with a topically-themed presence for every day of the week around which to organize marches and awareness-raising events.

In May, a blood drive in the Capitol rotunda had to be rescheduled when protesters’ loud singing made it impossible for the Red Cross workers to take people’s confidential health histories without shouting.

A few days later, more than 20 anti-Walker protesters, upset over the Walker budget including the labor reforms, disrupted an event celebrating Special Olympics athletes. As Walker stepped to the podium, the protesters, dressed as zombies, went to the front of the audience and turned their backs on Walker, blocking cameras and the view of the athletes who had come to meet the Governor and hear him praise their accomplishments. (At this writing, video of the event is on YouTube under the title “Wis. Union Protesters Disrupt Special Olympics Ceremony.”)

The shrillness of the protesters reflected the speed with which the reforms were weakening the public-sector unions, who could no longer force members to pay dues or even to remain on the union rolls. The Racine Journal-Times reported on December 10, 2011:

One area teachers union has lost all bargaining power and another has completely disbanded in relation to Gov. Scott Walker’s legislative changes to public union rules.”

The North Cape School District teachers union last week did not get a majority of members to vote for recertification, something now required annually because of Walker’s changes, which also limited collective bargaining for teachers unions to minimal wage increases. Without recertification, the union can continue to exist but is no longer able to collectively bargain with the district. Of North Cape’s 18 teachers union members, five voted for recertification Thursday while six voted against it, according to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. North Cape union officials did not return phone calls Friday.

The Yorkville School District teachers union did not hold a recertification vote, instead voting earlier this fall to simply disband.

By October 2014, FoxNews.com was reporting:

Given no choice but to join and pay dues to the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) for decades, teachers have for the last three years been able to opt out. And that is what tens of thousands have done as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, also known as Act 10. . . . The bill essentially requires the WEAC to mount a recertification drive every year to ensure that a majority wants its representation. The Act also prevents public sector employers from automatically collecting dues and passing them along to unions.
Since June 2011, teacher enrollment in the WEAC has dropped nearly a third from nearly 100,000 members, and the smaller union AFT-Wisconsin has fallen more than half from its peak membership of 16,000. “As soon as I was given the choice, I left,”

Amy Rosno, a teacher with the virtual class program at the Waukesha school system, told FoxNews.com. “I never really understood the union anyway.”

Walker’s reforms are credited with reducing public employee union membership in the state from 187,000 in 2011 to 138,000 in 2013.
Last February, Robert Samuels of the Washington Post looked at the effects of the reforms.

At the old union hall here on a recent afternoon, Terry Magnant sat at the head of a table surrounded by 18 empty chairs. A members meeting had been scheduled to start a half-hour earlier, but the small house, with its cracked walls and loose roof shingles, was lonely and desolate. “There used to be a lot more people coming,” said Magnant, a 51-year-old nursing assistant, sighing.

The anti-union law passed here four years ago, which made Gov. Scott Walker a national Republican star and a possible presidential candidate, has turned out to be even more transformative than many had predicted.

Walker had vowed that union power would shrink, workers would be judged on their merits, and local governments would save money. Unions had warned that workers would lose benefits and be forced to take on second jobs or find new careers. Many of those changes came to pass, but the once-thriving ­public-sector unions were not just shrunken—they were crippled. Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start.

Here in [the community of] King, Magnant and her fellow AFSCME members, workers at a local veterans home, have been knocking on doors on weekends to persuade former members to rejoin. Community college professors in Moraine Park, home to a technical college, are reducing dues from $59 to $36 each month. And those in Milwaukee are planning a campaign using videos and posters to highlight union principles. The theme: “Remember.”

The recall

It wasn’t always clear that Walker’s reforms would survive. Indeed, it wasn’t clear that Walker’s political career would survive.

In 2011, after union organizers failed to stop the reform package, they moved to Plan B: going after the governor and others who supported him.
The preliminary bout involved David Prosser, a former Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly who had been appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998 and was elected without opposition to his first full term on the Court in 2001. With his 10-year term expiring, he was up for re-election on April 5, 2011.

The election turned into a referendum on the Walker reforms, which would have to make their way through the state’s courts. An estimated $4.5 million, perhaps a million more, was spent in the race. A “Progressive” 501(c)(4) organization called the Greater Wisconsin Committee ran ads against Prosser that accused him of making “sexist slurs” against the court’s left-wing Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson (who was described as “one of America’s most respected judges”) and of failing more than 30 years earlier to prosecute a Catholic priest for child sexual abuse. The ads used old video that, as described by a journalist, had him “looking like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.”

At the first count of the votes on Election Day, it appeared that Prosser had lost to Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, but, two days after the election, the Warren County Clerk said that she had erroneously omitted 14,000 votes from her tally. That shift gave Prosser a 7,000-vote victory.

To reverse the Walker reforms, “Unions and their supporters immediately turned to the state Constitution to exact their revenge,” wrote Christian Schneider of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. “In 1926, voters approved a change to the Wisconsin Constitution that provided for the recall of state officials if a petitioner could gather 25 percent of the signatures cast in the previous gubernatorial election for the relevant district. In Wisconsin’s history, only two state elected officials had been successfully recalled,” one Senator after he reneged on a promise not to include Racine in the tax jurisdiction for financing a new baseball stadium, and another Senator after he went to prison.

Unions and their allies vowed to take Wisconsin’s state Senate in a special election August 10, 2011, by defeating six Republicans who voted for the reform measure. (The other GOP Senators hadn’t served long enough to be eligible for recall.) The anti-Walker forces poured a reported $28 million and countless hours of work into the effort. Schneider wrote:

Little of the pro-recall money was spent trying to convince the public of the righteousness of the unions’ collective bargaining position; instead, ads were run accusing the senators of cutting school funding, reducing health services funding, and giving tax breaks to big business. Someone wandering into Wisconsin from another state would have no idea what these senators did that warranted their recall from office.

Republicans held four of the six seats and kept their Senate majority. (Of the two Republicans who lost, one was in a heavily Democratic district and the other had been caught in an extramarital affair with a 25-year-old capitol staffer.)

Republicans also attempted to unseat three Democratic Senators in recall elections, but were unsuccessful.

As for Walker, unions promised to gather a million signatures demanding that Walker face Wisconsin voters again.

They didn’t reach the one-million goal, but they got enough signatures to force Walker back to the polls less than halfway through his term.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s 2010 opponent, leapt at his second chance against Walker. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, supported by such unions as AFSCME, SEIU, AFL-CIO, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, also sought the Democratic nomination. The unions ran a smear campaign against Barrett to help Falk win the primary.

A union-circulated video claimed that Barrett was a supporter of Walkers’ collective-bargaining reforms; it used out-of-context video of Barrett to back up that false claim. The uproar against the ad forced AFSCME to admit that it was “over the top”: “While we used poor judgment in directing our members’ attention to an Internet video that went over the top to make its point, we believe it is essential to bring attention to Barrett’s record on collective bargaining.”

Barrett didn’t support Walker’s reforms, but he certainly used them against unions in his city, Milwaukee. So, in the May 8, 2012 special primary, when Barrett won the Democratic nomination overwhelmingly—58 percent to 34 percent for the union candidate, Falk—it was clear that collective bargaining reforms did not much disturb Democratic voters. A spokesman for Wisconsin’s Democratic Party, Graeme Zielinski, told Mother Jones that “Collective bargaining is not moving people.”

The same day, Walker won the Republican primary with 97 percent, leaving Wisconsin voters just under a month to prepare for the same choice they faced in 2011, between Walker and Barrett.

The recall campaign received nationwide attention from the media and from contributors and activists. Mike McCabe from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a watchdog group, said both candidates were swamped with extraordinary levels of money. By late May, the unions had pumped upwards of $14 million into the campaign to bring down Walker, according to the MacIver Institute, a free-market thing tank in Wisconsin.

Leigh Ann Caldwell of CBS News reported on May 30 on the resources being poured into the state:

Walker’s policies have motivated Democratic-aligned unions—according to AFL-CIO spokesperson Amaya Tune, union head Richard Trumka likes to say that Walker should receive “the mobilizer of the year award.”

Democrats have sought to make the recall election a referendum on conservative economic policy, not just in Wisconsin but nationally. Last week, the DNC sent a fundraising appeal to its supporters, which says: “Of all the elections we are preparing for in 2012, one of the most important ones isn’t happening in November.”

Local and national teachers unions have joined with the public sector union, the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the AFL-CIO to defeat Walker, spending more than $5 million. National progressive groups are also involved, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee announcing Tuesday that it has spent another $100,000 on the recall efforts, bringing their total to more than a quarter million dollars.

“He is still very, very unpopular. He took on and attacked workers,” Trumka said during a recent interview on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program.

But Gov. Walker had been notably successful at raising money. The Associated Press reported at the time that, since January 2011 (17 months earlier), Walker had raised over $31 million. In the last five weeks before the special election, Walker outraised his Democratic Party opponent $5.9 million to $3.4 million.

Walker also showed that he knew how to attack effectively. Referring to Mayor Barrett’s use of the Walker reforms against unions in his own city, Walker labeled the mayor a hypocrite: “It’s not me saying it, it’s his own employees .  .  . over and over again calling him a hypocrite.”

Meanwhile, as the election approached and it became apparent that Walker would win, the Obama political machine dialed back from its expected level of involvement, not for lack of ideological commitment, but out of fear that Obama’s open involvement would backfire—and perhaps out of fear that a defeat would diminish the President.

Barrett took great pains to emphasize that the recall vote wasn’t about national issues: “I want to make sure that everybody understands this is about Wisconsin values. It’s not about Washington, D.C. It’s about right here, who is going to control the future of this state? Will it be tea party, the national right wing? Or is it going to be the state of Wisconsin, and I’m putting my money on the people of the state of Wisconsin.” CNN’s Candy Crowley reported:

Fueled by the power of organized labor, the passion of the Tea Party and millions in outside money, it is politics gone wild in Wisconsin.”

The recall race to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker has pretty much seen it all—except for President Barack Obama.

Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee who hopes to oust Walker, reads nothing into that: “No, because we understand that he’s got a lot going on,” [Barrett] told me on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

There is little else [going on] in the political world right now ,and some Republicans suggest the no-show president means the White House believes Barrett will lose. Walker is less direct:

“I don’t know what it says, but I think it’s interesting,” the governor told CNN affiliate WLUK-TV on Sunday. “Two years ago, the president came in for our opponent. He’s not here now. On Friday, he made three stops in the Twin Cities, to my understanding, three stops in Chicago so it’s kind of hard to argue you weren’t nearby.”

A top Obama adviser insists the president and company are committed in Wisconsin—after all, what better way to say “we’re with you” than a lot of money and dozens of lawyers.

“We poured upwards of a million dollars of resources into that race, our entire field operation is committed to it, we’ve got hundreds of lawyers up there for voter protection programs, so we’re invested in it and we’re very much in the corner of Mayor Barrett,” campaign strategist David Axelrod said.

Unsurprisingly Election Day, June 5, saw a significant union turnout. A survey published by the Washington Post found up to one third of all votes were from union households.

To the union bosses’ dismay, however, Walker won, and it wasn’t even close. His victory was clear within an hour after the polls closed, and he won by 53 percent to 46 percent, a larger margin than he enjoyed when he first became governor. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, also won, just a fraction of a point behind Walker. Scott Walker was the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election.

For those who hope to save state and local governments from the unfunded-liability death spiral, the Walker victory was a godsend. Writer and venture capitalist Bill Frezza wrote in Forbes:

Public sector unions have reached their high water mark. Let the cleanup begin as the red ink recedes.”

Despite a last-minute smear campaign accusing Scott Walker of fathering an illegitimate love child, the governor’s recall election victory sends a clear message that should resonate around the nation: The fiscal cancer devouring state budgets has a cure, and he has found it. The costly defeat for the entrenched union interests that tried to oust Walker in retribution for challenging their power was marked by President Obama’s refusal to lend his weight to the campaign for fear of being stained by defeat.

Meet John Doe

Whenever the Left can’t get what it wants through the democratic process, it turns to other means. Note, for example, the Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service scandal, targeting the President’s critics.

The IRS scandal has a counterpart in Wisconsin: the so-called “John Doe” raids by which corrupt officials sought to get revenge on supporters of the Walker reforms and to cripple their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Conservative, libertarians, and free-market groups were hit with subpoenas demanding “all memoranda, email . . . correspondence, and communication,” both within each organization and between the various organizations. The 29 targets included Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Republican Governors Association, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Friends of Scott Walker, and the Wisconsin branch of Americans for Prosperity. Also demanded were “all records of income received, including fundraising information and the identity of persons contributing” to the organizations.

The raids were conducted under the pretext of an investigation into campaign finance law violations. But the advocacy groups were involved in promoting their views on issues, not expressly promoting any political candidate’s election or defeat, so their activities were protected even under narrow interpretations of the First Amendment. The victims of the raids couldn’t have committed a crime because no crime was committed.

The raids were what lawyers call “a fishing expedition,” aimed at getting information—in this case, spying on the pro-Act 10 groups, obtaining intelligence on their strategies, tactics, and relationships and on the names of donors. In the American Spectator, Jon Cassidy compared the case to the scandal that brought down President Nixon and noted:

There never would have been any Cubans breaking into the Watergate to take a look at the files of the Democratic National Committee or plant bugs. [Nixon aides] G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt could have just written subpoenas for whatever they wanted without restriction. When there’s nobody to stop them, it turns out that what they want to look at is everything.

The prosecutor in the case, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, is married to a former shop steward for the teachers’ union. A former prosecutor in Chisholm’s office said that the office was decorated with the Blue Fist symbol of the Wisconsin union movement and said that Chisholm “felt it was his personal duty” to stop the Walker reforms.

The Left in recent years has increasingly made use of donors’ list to intimidate people with whom they disagree, getting people fired from their jobs, barring companies from doing business on certain college campuses and in entire cities, and turning regulators and prosecutors on businesses in hopes of ruining them.

As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, “The disclosure of conservative political donors has become a preoccupation of the political left across the country. In the heat of the fight over Governor Walker’s reforms, unions urged boycotts of Walker contributors and DemocraticUnderground.com published a list of Walker donors for boycotting.”

It’s become more frequent lately, but it’s not a new practice. At the height of the Civil Rights movement, officials sought to obtain donors’ lists in order to conduct intimidation campaigns. As noted in a legal brief by the Cato Institute:

In NAACP v. Alabama, the Alabama Attorney General’s office said it needed to gather information about the NAACP’s members in the course of its investigation into whether the nonprofit advocacy group should be registered as a foreign corporation under Alabama law. . . . Although the [Supreme] Court did not come right out and say so, it plainly saw the state’s “investigation” of the NAACP for what it was: a transparent effort at intimidation and retaliation for First Amendment activities. . . . In Dombrowski v. Pfister, civil rights activists sought injunctive relief to prevent a group of Louisiana officials from prosecuting or threatening to prosecute them under anti-Communist laws, which were being used as a pretext to retaliate against the activists for advocating for the constitutional rights of black citizens. The activists were arrested, their offices were raided and files seized, and the state authorities repeatedly announced that their organizations were subversive and under investigation. . . . As [in Wisconsin], these events had a substantial chilling effect on the groups’ protected activities: the investigation “frightened off potential members and contributors,” and the seizure of records “paralyzed operations and threatened exposure of the identity of adherents to a locally unpopular cause.”

The term “John Doe” refers to an unusual feature of Wisconsin law that makes the First Amendment violations particularly nasty: the victims aren’t even allowed to tell people what happened to them.

David French wrote in National Review Online about the abuses committed against supporters of Walker’s Act 10.

For dozens of conservatives, the years since Scott Walker’s first election as governor of Wisconsin transformed the state—known for pro-football championships, good cheese, and a population with a reputation for being unfailingly polite—into a place where conservatives have faced early-morning raids, multi-year secretive criminal investigations, slanderous and selective leaks to sympathetic media, and intrusive electronic snooping.

Yes, Wisconsin, the cradle of the progressive movement and home of the “Wisconsin idea”—the marriage of state governments and state universities to govern through technocratic reform—was giving birth to a new progressive idea, the use of law enforcement as a political instrument, as a weapon to attempt to undo election results, shame opponents, and ruin lives.

In this case, French reported:

Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10—also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions—was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house—the windows and walls—was shaking. She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.

She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door. “I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.

The police barged in on her domestic partner in the shower. When Cindy tried to get some coffee, she was told to sit down or be handcuffed. The officers made a mess of things; her dead mothers’ belongings were strewn across the basement. They left with a cellphone and a laptop.
Another woman told French of heavy pounding at the door, following by armed men pouring into her house, her family cornered, their computers and smartphones seized. A third woman recounted that she answered the door in her pajamas, and the police came in, and “the kids woke to an armed officer standing near their beds. . . . [T]he police carried off their personal possessions, including items that had nothing to do with the subject of the search warrant—even her daughter’s computer.”

The victims were told not to tell anyone about the raid. Under the “John Doe” rules, they could not defend themselves publicly from the assumption that they must be guilty of something.

Court filings described the effects of the raids—just the sort of thing the Supreme Court feared in cases like NAACP v. Alabama—from the perspective of Eric O’Keefe of the Wisconsin Club for Growth:

O’Keefe’s associates began cancelling meetings with him and declining to take his calls, reasonably fearful that merely associating with him could make them targets of the investigation. O’Keefe was forced to abandon fundraising for the Club because he could no longer guarantee to donors that their identities would remain confidential, could not (due to the Secrecy Order) explain to potential donors the nature of the investigation, could not assuage donors’ fears that they might become targets themselves, and could not assure donors that their money would go to fund advocacy rather than legal expenses. The Club was also paralyzed. Its officials could not associate with its key supporters, and its funds were depleted. It could not engage in issue advocacy for fear of criminal sanction.

Regarding the SWAT-style raids, O’Keefe said, “Every family I know of that endured a home raid has been shaken to its core, and the fate of marriages and families still hangs in the balance in some cases.”

In a political prosecution like this, there’s no need for a guilty verdict or even a trial. “The process is the punishment,” said O’Keefe.

Meanwhile, the raids had the effect of making Scott Walker look like he was up to no good. “Indeed,” columnist George Will wrote, “one probable purpose of [District Attorney] Chisholm’s antics was to generate content for anti-Walker ads” in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Next week in part two: Unintended consequences: The unions’ attacks on Scott Walker lead to Wisconsin becoming a Right to Work state, and may give Walker the chance to do at the national level what he did in Wisconsin.

About the Author:  Dr. Steven J. Allen covers labor union organizing and the environmental movement for Capitol Research Center. He previously served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton, as editor of Tea Party Review magazine, and as senior researcher for Newt Gingrich 2012. He has a master’s degree in political science from Jacksonville State University, a law degree from Cumberland Law School, and a PhD in Biodefense from the College of Science at George Mason University.. This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of “Labor Watch” and appears here with permission.

Pension Reformers are not "The Enemy" of Public Safety

“You will find that powerful financial and investment institutions are the ones promoting the attacks on your pensions. Firms like Berkshire-Hathaway and the Koch brothers are backing political candidates and causes all over the country in the hopes of making this issue relevant and in the mainstream media. Why? Because if they can crack your pension and turn it into a 401(k), they will make billions. Your pension is the golden egg that they are dying to get their hands upon. By the way, it was those same financial geniuses that brought about the Great Recession in the first place. After nearly collapsing the entire financial system of western civilization, they successfully managed to deflect the blame off of themselves and onto government employee pay/benefits.”
– Jim Foster, Vice President, Long Beach Police Officers Association, posted on PubSec Alliance website

These comments form the conclusion to a piece published by Foster entitled “What does “unfunded liability” mean?,” published on PubSecAlliance.com, an online “community of law enforcement associations and unions.” If you review the “supporters” page, you can see that the website’s “founding members,” “affiliated organizations,” and “other groups whose membership is pending” are all law enforcement unions.

In Foster’s discussion of what constitutes an unfunded pension liability, he compares the liability to a mortgage, correctly pointing out that like a mortgage, an unfunded pension liability can be paid down over many years. But Foster fails to take into account the fact that a mortgage can be negotiated at a fixed rate of interest, whereas a pension liability will grow whenever the rates earned by the pension system’s investments fall short of expectations. When the average taxpayer signs a 30 year fixed mortgage, they don’t expect to suddenly find out their payments have doubled, or tripled, or gone up by an order of magnitude. But that’s exactly what’s happened with pensions.

Apart from ignoring this crucial difference between mortgages and unfunded pension liabilities, Foster’s piece makes no mention of the other reason unfunded pension liabilities have grown to alarming levels, the retroactive enhancements to the pension benefit formula – enhancements gifted to public employees and imposed on taxpayers starting in 1999. These enhancements were made at precisely the same time as the market was delivering unsustainable gains engineered by, as Foster puts it, the “same financial geniuses that brought about the Great Recession in the first place,” and “nearly collapsing the entire financial system of western civilization.”

This is a huge failure of logic. Foster is suggesting that the Wall Street crowd is to blame for the unfunded liabilities of pensions, but ignoring the fact that these unfunded liabilities are caused by (1) accepting the impossible promises made by Wall Street investment firms during the stock market bubbles and using that to justify financially unsustainable (and retroactive) benefit formula enhancements, and (2) basing the entire funding analysis for pension systems on rates of return that can only be achieved by relying on stock market bubbles – i.e., doomed to crash.

You can’t blame “Wall Street” for the financial challenges facing pension funds, yet demand benefits based on financial assumptions that only those you taint as Wall Street charlatans are willing to promote.

Foster ignores the fact that the stock market bubbles (2000, 2008, and 2014) were inflated then reflated by lowering interest rates and accumulating debt to stimulate the economy. But interest rates cannot go any lower. When the market corrects, and pension funds start demanding even larger annual payments to fund pensions and OPEB that now average over $100,000 per year for California’s full-career public safety retirees, Foster and his ilk are going to have a lot of explaining to do.

There is a deeper, more ominous context to Foster’s remarks, however, which is the power that government unions, especially public safety unions, wield over politicians and over public perception. The navigation bar of the website that published his essay, PubSecAlliance, is but a mild reminder of the power police organizations now have over the political process. Items such as “Intel Report,” “Pay Wars,” “Tactics,” “Tales of Triumph,” and “The Enemy” are examples of resources on this website.

When reviewing PubSecAlliance’s reports on “enemies,” notwithstanding the frightening reality of police organizations keeping lists of political enemies, were any of the people and organizations listed selected despite the fact that they were staunch supporters of law enforcement? Because pension reformers and government union reformers are not “enemies” of law enforcement, or government employees, or government programs in general. There is no connection.

Here are a few points for Jim Foster to consider, along with his leadership colleagues at the Long Beach Police Officers Association, and police union members everywhere.

TEN POINTS FOR MEMBERS OF PUBLIC SAFETY UNIONS TO CONSIDER

(1)  Not all pension reformers want to abolish the defined benefit. Restoring the more sustainable pension benefit formulas in use prior to 1999, and adopting conservative rate-of-return assumptions would make the defined benefit financially sustainable and fair to taxpayers.

(2)  Over the long term, the real, inflation-adjusted return on investments cannot be realistically expected to exceed the rate of national and global economic growth. You are being sold a 7.0% (or more) annual rate of return because it is an excuse to keep your normal contribution artificially low, and mislead politicians into thinking pension systems are financially sound.

(3)  As noted, you can’t blame “Wall Street” for the financial challenges facing pension funds, yet demand benefits based on financial assumptions that only those you taint as Wall Street charlatans are willing to promote.

(4)  If public safety employers didn’t have to pay 50% or more of payroll into the pension funds – normal and unfunded contributions combined – there would be money to hire more public safety employees, improving their own safety and better protecting the public.

(5)  Public safety personnel are eyewitnesses every day to the destructive effects of failed social welfare programs that destroy families, ineffective public schools with unaccountable unionized teachers, and a flawed immigration policy that prioritizes the admission of millions of unskilled immigrants over those with valuable skills. They ought to stick their necks out on these political issues, instead of invariably fighting exclusively to increase their pay and benefits.

(6)  The solution to the financial challenges facing all workers, public and private, is to lower the cost of living through competitive development of land, energy, water and transportation assets. Just two examples: rolling back CEQA hindrances to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach, or construct indirect potable water reuse assets in San Jose. Where are the police and firefighters on these critical issues? Creating inexpensive abundance through competition and development helps all workers, instead of just the anointed unionized government elite.

(7)  If pension funds were calibrated to accept 5.0% annual returns, instead of 7.0% or more, they could be invested in revenue producing infrastructure such as dams, desalination plants, sewage distillation and reuse, bridges, and port expansion, to name a few – all of which have the potential yield 5.0% per year to investors, but usually not 7.0%.

(8)  Government unions are partners with Wall Street and other crony capitalist interests. The idea that they are opposed to each other is one of the biggest frauds in American history. Government unions control local politicians, who award contracts, regulate and inspect businesses, float bond issues, and preserve financially unsustainable pension benefits. This is a gold mine to financial special interests, and to large corporate interests who know that the small businesses lack the resources to comply with excessive regulations or afford lobbyists.

(9)  Government unions elect their bosses, they wield the coercive power of the state, they favor expanded government and expanded compensation for government employees which is an intrinsic conflict of interest, and they protect incompetent (or worse) government employees. They should be abolished. Voluntary associations without collective bargaining rights would still have plenty of political influence.

(10)  Expectations of security have risen, the value of life has risen, the complexity of law enforcement challenges has risen, and the premium law enforcement officers should receive as a result has also risen. But unaffordable pensions, along with the consequent excessive payments of overtime, have priced public safety compensation well beyond what qualified people are willing to accept. Saying this does not make us your “The Enemy.”

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

RELATED ARTICLES AND POSTS

Pension Reform is BAD for Wall Street, and GOOD for California, April 14, 2015

Desalination Plants vs. Bullet Trains and Pensions, April 7, 2015

The Glass Jaw of Pension Funds is Asset Bubbles, February 24, 2015

Police Unions in America, December 9, 2014

How Police Unions and Arbitrators Keep Abusive Cops on the StreetAtlantic Monthly, December 2014

More Taxes and Tuition Buy Time for the Pension Bubble, November 25, 2014

The Amazing, Obscure, Complicated and Gigantic Pension Loophole, November 18, 2014

Estimating America’s Total Unfunded State and Local Government Pension Liability, September 9, 2014

Two Tales of a City – How Detroit Transcended Ideology to Reform Pensions, July 22, 2014

Government Employee Unions – The Root Cause of California’s Challenges, June 3, 2014

California’s Green Bantustans, May 21, 2014

Conservative Politicians and Public Safety Unions, May 13, 2014

The Unholy Trinity of Public Sector Unions, Environmentalists, and Wall Street, May 6, 2014

Public Pension Solvency Requires Asset Bubbles, April 29, 2014

Add ALL Public Workers to Social Security, March 25, 2014

How Much Does Professionalism Cost?, March 11, 2014  (The Kelly Thomas Story)

Pension Funds and the “Asset” Economy, February 18, 2014

Middle Class Private Sector Workers Are NOT “Ripping Off the Next Generation”, December 17, 2013

Unions and Bankers Work Together to Protect Unsustainable Defined Benefits, November 26, 2013

A Member of the Unionized Government Elite Attacks the CPC, November 19, 2013

How Public Sector Unions Skew America’s Public Safety and National Security Agenda, June 18, 2013

Glazer vs. Bonilla 7th Senate District Battle Reflects New Political Split in California

California’s politics remain polarized, but not just via the traditional division of Republicans vs. Democrats. As reported here two months ago in the post “Issue of Government Unions Divide Candidates More Than Party Affiliation,” there were two California State Senate contests that remained unresolved after the November 2014 election. One of them, pitting Republican John Moorlach against Republican Don Wagner for the 37th Senate District, was settled on March 17th. Moorlach, who has fought to restore financial sustainability to public employee pension systems, was opposed by government unions. Wagner, also a conservative, but less outspoken than Moorlach on the issue of pension reform, was endorsed by government unions. Moorlach won.

The other race, originally pitting three Democrats against each other for the 7th Senate District, has narrowed to a contest between two candidates that will be settled on May 19th, Democrat Steve Glazer vs. Democrat Susan Bonilla.

It will be interesting to see how voters in a largely Democratic district respond in a race that is not between candidates from opposing parties. Glazer is a fiscal conservative who is progressive on virtually all of the issues important to Democrats. Bonilla offers up many similar positions, with one important exception: Glazer has stood up to government unions on critical issues, to the point where government unions do not consider him reliable. As a result, Bonilla is receiving cash and endorsements from the unions representing our public servants, all of it, of course, money that originated from taxpayers.

Here’s a list of some of Bonilla’s government union endorsements:

California Association of Highway Patrolmen
California Professional Firefighters
California State Sheriffs’ Association
California State Coalition of Probation Organizations
CALFIRE Local 2881
Peace Officers Research Association of California
Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County
Antioch Police Officer’s Association
Concord Police Officer’s Association
Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney’s Association
Brentwood Police Officers Association
Livermore-Pleasanton Firefighters, Local 1974
Livermore Police Officer’s Association
Pittsburg Police Officers Association
Pleasanton Police Officers Association
Probation Peace Officers Association of Contra Costa County
San Ramon Valley Firefighters Association, Local 3546
United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, Local 1230

One has to ask why so many public safety officials are endorsing Bonilla rather than Glazer, and it is fair to wonder if their endorsement has anything to do with the positions of these candidates on issues and policies relating to public safety. Take a look at this flyer from the Bonilla campaign:

20150417-UW_Bonilla

As can be seen, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson and Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, both apparently Republicans, are touting the pro public safety record of Susan Bonilla. But would they have made these statements if Susan Bonilla was challenging their unions on fiscal issues relating to pensions and compensation?

From that perspective, candidate Steven Glazer is a threat to government unions. For ten years starting in 2004, Glazer was a councilmember, then mayor, in Orinda, one of the most fiscally responsible cities in the state. In a California Policy Center study released late last year entitled “California’s Most Financially Stressed Cities and Counties,” every city and county in California was ranked in order of its risk of insolvency. Orinda was ranked 369 out of 491, putting it in the top 25% in terms of financial health. More significantly, in a subsequent California Policy Center study entitled “California City Pension Burdens,” every city in the state was ranked according to how much pension contributions strain their budgets. Orinda wasn’t even on this list, because they are among only nine cities in California who don’t have a defined benefit plan for their employees. They use a defined contribution plan instead.

Hopefully the reader will forgive this prurient dive into personal financial data, but when public employees endorse political candidates, how much they make is relevant. Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson made $322,180 in 2013, an amount that included $111,897 in employer paid benefits. Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern made $556,268 in 2013; an astonishing $266,130 of that in the form of employer paid benefits. The vast majority of these benefit payments were to cover the required employer pension contributions. These men would have to be saints to have an objective perspective on an election that could result in a fiscal conservative holding office who is conversant in pension finance and formerly presided over a town that offers defined contribution plans to their employees instead of defined benefit pensions.

To drive the point home, take a look at the salaries and benefits for Alameda County workers, the pensions for Alameda County retirees, the salaries for Contra Costa County workers, and the pensions for Contra Costa County retirees. No conflict of interest there.

In the race for California’s 7th Senate District, Government unions have already spent over $2.0 million to support Susan Bonilla and oppose Steve Glazer. Download this spreadsheet to view the latest contributions through 4-20-2015, or click on the following four links to follow the money pouring in to make sure a fiscal conservative Senator does not head to Sacramento on May 19th:

Bonilla for Senate 2015, Putting the East Bay First
Bonilla for Senate 2015
Bonilla for Senate 2016
Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015

California’s Republican leadership, to the extent they tepidly claim to support pension reform while taking money from public sector unions and doing nothing, should understand as clearly as the Democratic leadership who avoid the issue entirely: It doesn’t matter what else you believe, or what you stand for, or what’s in your platform. Government unions support candidates who fight to preserve and increase the pay and benefits of unionized government employees, at the same time as they fight to minimize the accountability of unionized government employees. Across California, their demands, almost invariably fulfilled by politicians they control, have taken money away from other services, including infrastructure investment, and nearly destroyed California’s system of public education.

This is having a polarizing impact in both parties, and rendering the distinction between Democrat and Republican less important than whether or not they are willing to stand up to government unions.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Conservatives, Police Unions, and the Future of Law Enforcement

Conservatives in America are at a crossroads. They face a choice between greater freedom or greater security. While striking this delicate balance has required ongoing policy choices throughout history, recent events involving law enforcement have brought these choices into sharp focus. Here’s how Patrik Johnson, writing last month in the Christian Science Monitor, described the choice:

“Police forces nationwide are being pulled between two opposite trends: more empathetic, community policing and an increasingly militarized response to crises.”

How conservatives, on balance, weigh in on this choice has far reaching consequences. On one hand, conservatives can support suggested reforms that embrace the value of empathy, minimize violence, alleviate tensions, and pave the way for 21st century policing appropriate to a free republic. Here is a key reform advocated by the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in reaction to the tensions in that city following a police shooting:

“A comprehensive review by the Department of Justice into systematic abuses by police departments and the development of specific use of force standards and accompanying recommendations for police training, community involvement and oversight strategies and standards for independent investigatory/disciplinary mechanisms when excessive force is used.”

Conservatives may scoff at some of the other demands – such as guaranteed “full employment for our people,” which, for starters, goes well beyond police reform. But conservatives better think twice before deciding there is no merit to any of the concerns of activist groups who have been animated, across the nation, by alleged excessive use of force by police.

Because there is a dark, shamefully pragmatic alternative course for conservatives. They can choose to fan the flames of racial animosity and fear, secure in believing that excessive force may never touch their communities. But excessive use of force by police is not primarily a racial issue. Ask the families of Kelly Thomas, or David Silva, or Kevin Hughey, or hundreds of others.

The issue, bigger than race, is this: Are we going to evolve into a nation where police are trained to use nonlethal force, trained to practice “empathic, community policing,” or not? And are we going to be a nation where police are held accountable if they cross the line, or not?

Which brings us to the fact that most law enforcement agencies in the United States today are unionized. These unions are politically active, and they tend to lean conservative in their political contributions. The practical choice conservatives face is stark: Do they want to take money from police unions not just in exchange for ignoring the serious financial challenges caused by their excessive pension benefits, but also in exchange for ignoring calls to better regulate use of excessive force?

Challenging the agenda of police unions will not only cost politicians their financial support. In some cases it can even earn their active retaliation. A troubling article by Lucy Caldwell, in a National Review article entitled “Police Unions Behaving Badly,” documents how a local politician in California was harassed after standing up to them in contract negotiations. And as Caldwell notes, “police unions are able to operate with absolutely no transparency because they are classified as private entities not subject to public-records laws.”

There are many reasons government unions, especially law enforcement unions, are problematic in a democracy. But when the teachers union in California went on record deploring the education reforms upheld in the Vergara decision – everyone, liberals and conservatives alike, saw them for who they are – a lobbying group that is more concerned about protecting bad teachers than they are about educating children.

Members of law enforcement themselves, perhaps even more than teachers, ought to be, and usually are, highly motivated to make a contribution to society. They have a strong sense of right and wrong, and justifiably feel there is a moral worth to the jobs they do and the profession they’ve chosen. So why are they letting their unions fight reforms that will weed out bad cops, and implement training and oversight programs that will result in fewer lives lost and lowered tensions in the communities they serve?

Conservatives can seize this opportunity to find the strength of their most enlightened convictions. They can join with liberals to reform and evolve law enforcement in the U.S. And in so doing they can help liberals to see how the agenda of government unions is in inherent conflict with the public interest – in law enforcement as well as in education. And they can start to work towards broader reforms as part of a powerful new coalition.

Alternatively, conservatives can revert to an ugly, divisive, racially tinged, belligerent message, endorsing security at any cost. They may reap short term political and financial gains from such a strategy. But they will further divide this nation, and in the long run, discredit themselves irrevocably.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

RELATED POSTS

Police Unions in America, December 9, 2014

How Police Unions and Arbitrators Keep Abusive Cops on the StreetAtlantic Monthly, December 2014

Government Employee Unions – The Root Cause of California’s Challenges, June 3, 2014

Conservative Politicians and Public Safety Unions, May 13, 2014

How Much Does Professionalism Cost?, March 11, 2014  (The Kelly Thomas Story)

How Public Sector Unions Skew America’s Public Safety and National Security Agenda, June 18, 2013

California's Emerging Good Government Coalition

The 2014 mid-term elections will be remembered for many things – pioneering use of information technology to comprehensively profile and micro-target voters, escalating use of polarizing rhetoric, historically low levels of voter turnout, and historic records in total spending. In California, in spite of all this money and technology – or perhaps because of it – the political landscape is probably not going to change very much this time around. But appearances can be deceiving. While Democrats will still control California’s state legislature and nearly all of California’s large cities and urban counties, new fault lines are forming within California’s electorate that defy conventional definitions of Republican and Democrat, or conservative and liberal.

Because as it is, California’s schools are failing, businesses and middle-income residents are fleeing, and the cost of living is the highest in America. Three powerful groups benefit from and perpetuate this arrangement with their money and their votes:  Wealthy individuals and crony capitalists, unionized public sector workers, and low-income residents who have become entirely dependent on government and are susceptible to their rhetoric. The terms of this alliance are financially unsustainable and even now, they harm low income residents more than they help them. It will crack as soon as a viable opposition coalesces. And that is happening.

Here are examples of how coalitions are forming that defy conventional definitions of Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal:

(1)  Financial sustainability is a bipartisan issue.

California’s cities and counties, despite revenues from an unsustainable asset bubble that has bought them time, are on a collision course with financial insolvency. This reality has already confronted every big city mayor in California. Some, including Democrats like San Jose’s courageous mayor Chuck Reed, are trying to enact reforms to save their cities. Over 80% of the non-federal government spending in California is at the local level, and sooner or later, liberals and conservatives are going to join together to demand realistic financial reforms to restore financial health to California’s public institutions.

(2)  Quality public schools is a bipartisan issue.

California’s public schools will not be improved by spending more money, they will be improved by making fundamental reforms to how schools and school districts are managed. The Vergara lawsuit, funded almost entirely by conscientious Democrats, proves how committed everyone is to restoring accountability to public education. The success of charter schools proves that superior educational outcomes can be had for less money than is currently made available to public schools.

(3)  The mission of public sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest.

Both of the examples just mentioned – quality education and financial health – are the priority of any civic minded private citizen, but are not the priority of the public sector unions who control California politics. The reason California’s schools are failing is because of union work rules that prevent innovation and accountability. The reason California’s government finances are perennially challenged is because for decades, public sector unions have pressured politicians to grant pay and benefit increases that have become unfair and unaffordable.

(4)  Private sector unions are fundamentally different from public sector unions.

The growing rift within Democrats, and the growing consensus among all California voters, is based on a fundamental fact: Criticizing, or even abolishing, public sector unions does NOT represent an attempt at a broader war on labor, working people, or private sector unions. There are serious issues relating to the role and optimal regulations for private sector unions, but they play a legitimate, vital part in American society. Public sector unions, on the other hand, should be abolished.

(5)  No party, platform, or person has all the answers.

This is not a new reality, but today in California it is being increasingly recognized by reformers across the political spectrum. And there is a new, unifying theme – the need for public sector union reform, fostered through education reform and fiscal reform. While politicians and citizens may disagree over the size of government and the role of government, they are agreeing, more than ever, that government unions have skewed this debate and taken options away. Can we improve and enhance government services, or invest in ambitious new infrastructure projects? No, because tax revenue must pay over-market compensation to government workers. Can we streamline and modernize a government agency or effectively manage a school? No, because of union work rules.

New coalitions are forming that will not accept failing schools, or cities and counties in a perpetual state of financial crisis. They will fight together for educational excellence and fiscal health. And because nothing matters more than our children and our ability to earn a living, they will recognize the unpleasant truth – to restore public education and public finance requires fighting public sector unions.

In California, the outcome of the 2014 election is sadly predictable. But change is coming.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

The Challenge Libertarians Face to Win American Hearts

In California, the root cause of government waste, failed programs, high taxes, debt and deficits, regulatory abuse, civil rights abuse, and even corporate cronyism is public sector unions. Their agenda is intrinsically in conflict with the public at large because any government program, any government regulation, any tax and any new debt, benefits them regardless of the cost or benefit to society.

In California, public sector unions collect and spend over $1.0 billion per year in dues. Their combined political spending and lobbying easily exceeds a half-billion per two-year election cycle. They are by far the most powerful special interest in California. Businesses embrace cronyism because they have no choice. The unions rule. Businesses either make a deal with the unions who run the state and local agencies, so they can get a subsidy or favorable regulation, or they can fight an irresistible machine.

If you accept this premise, powerful allies are hard to find.

When searching for help in the cause of public sector union reform, one staunch and rising group are those individuals and organizations who characterize themselves as “free market.” Nearly all of them embrace libertarian ideology. Libertarian and fiscal conservative political agendas align insofar as they both want government to operate in a financially sustainable mode that is efficient and accountable.

When a liberal examines the libertarian agenda, however, their support typically peaks on the issues of civil liberties and then falls off the cliff on the economic issues. Good government liberals know something is wrong. They know the economy is rigged by cronyism. They know the government is corrupted by government unions. They want answers. Libertarians have an opportunity to provide those answers, but it won’t be easy.

Google any relevant term, “free market,” or “libertarian ideology,” and you’ll find endless discussions of libertarian principles. But if you don’t already believe in these principles, you aren’t likely to be converted. Here is an attempt at posing some questions – small, then larger – that libertarians have to answer with more than high-minded academic platitudes, if they want their movement to gain a wider following:

(1)  People working for large retail operations are not paid enough to survive on part-time work. So they have to take on two or more part-time jobs to support themselves and their families. But it is common now for large employers to use automated scheduling optimization programs that vary a worker’s part-time schedule from week to week. This makes it impossible for them to hold more than one job. Should any policy solution attempt to address this?

(2)  Automation is making it possible to remove increasing numbers of people from the workforce. Within a few decades, retail clerks, professional drivers, farmworkers – and a host of other jobs and professions ranging all the way to local sports and routine financial reporting – will be fully automated. Is the current wave of technology, one that has the potential to literally replace 50% or more of current jobs with machines, any different from past disruptions?

(3)  For the first time in history, the “population pyramid” of humanity is shifting from a population of primarily young people to one where the elderly constitute the largest percentage of individuals. One would think that automation displacing jobs would be good, since so many people will want to be retired. But what sort of market mechanism will enable all these retirees to survive with dignity?

There are endless permutations of these questions. Libertarians and conservatives are getting better at pointing out the difference between crony capitalism and competitive capitalism, or between engaging in casino finance and providing genuine financial services. They’re right that private enterprise almost always does a better job than government to provide cost-effective services. They’ve been explaining that the conventional notions of extreme left and extreme right are actually both authoritarian nightmares, and people are starting to listen. They need to emphasize more fully the win-win that is realized when businesses are permitted to compete to develop resources of land, water and energy, in order to lower the cost of living for everyone. But they don’t have all the answers. At least not yet.

Thrashing into the weeds of reality may not appeal to orthodox libertarians any more than it appeals to die-hard leftists. But that is the challenge that beckons, in order to debunk and defeat the rhetoric of the ruling class – the government unions and their crony capitalist allies – and to nurture the hopes and assuage the anxieties of millions of part-time workers, displaced workers, and aging workers.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

The Best State Governors: Two Examples

Suppose you pick up your typical California newspaper and see headlines like, “State Unemployment Far Below the National Average” and “State Running Healthy Surplus; Gov. to Return Money to Taxpayers.” You just might find yourself paraphrasing Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “Sutter Brown, I’ve got a feeling were not in California anymore.” (For those not acquainted with Sutter Brown, he is California’s charming First Dog, who sometimes joins Governor Brown at press conferences.)

No, we certainly would not be in California where the unemployment rate is far above the national average and, although we are running a modest surplus, the only plans coming from Sacramento are for more government spending paid for by yet higher taxes.

Californians are telling pollsters they are not feeling either secure or confident. Two surveys taken late last year by the Hoover Golden State Poll found twice as many Californians reported being worse-off financially (33%) than better off (17%) over the last year; 2 out of 3 Californians predicted their state tax rates will increase this year, while 1% predicted a decrease; and only 1 in 7 Californians are “very confident” they can afford both higher taxes and other pocketbook expenses. And the fact that over a million Californians have voted with their feet — by moving to Texas, Nevada, Florida and other states not hostile to economic growth — is well documented.

Governor Jerry Brown has declared for reelection — his fourth term — promising more of the same, while his two declared Republican opponents are struggling to energize broad based voter enthusiasm. (In all fairness, neither is likely to generate the kind of financial support even close to that of Brown’s bankroll given his close ties to public sector unions).

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

But if California had a more level political playing field, what kind of gubernatorial leadership provides the best model? Interestingly, a governor who, not long ago, was viewed as very polarizing, is now garnering favorable attention for bringing fiscal sanity to his state. Even though its weather can’t match California, let’s consider Wisconsin and Governor Scott Walker.

A January Marquette Poll shows 54% of Wisconsin voters see their state headed in the right direction, while 40% disagree. While this may not seem like an overwhelming vote of confidence, it must be considered in light of the ongoing public employee union jihad against Walker, who significantly restricted collective bargaining for government workers. This war on Walker has included an unsuccessful recall election that received tens of millions of dollars in union support from across the nation.

Still, Wisconsin has the advantage over California where we have the highest paid government employees in all 50 states. Walker has shown willingness to stand up to government unions, and is committed to cutting taxes and creating jobs. Contrary to the liberal spin machine, Walker confronted the unions, not out of spite or meanness, but because he realized that the very survival of his beloved Wisconsin was no longer assured given the sure path to bankruptcy it was on.

What is truly “Oz” like in the comparison between California and Wisconsin is the knee-jerk assumption by pundits in the main stream media that the sort of Republican policies advanced by Governor Walker help only the “wealthy.” These policies, we are told, only increase the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.” But let’s look at where good, middle class jobs are being created. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t include California. Indeed, our hostile tax and regulatory climate has turned the central valley into a combination third world country and dust bowl.

No, real leadership would compel the governor of California — whoever that may be — to pursue those policies that eschew corporate cronyism (e.g., High Speed Fail) and are proven to grow an economy: reasonable taxation and a modest regulatory environment. Wisconsin has it. California doesn’t. And, by the way, we haven’t even talked about Texas yet.

Texas Governor Rick Perry:

To left-leaning politicians in Sacramento, Texas Governor Rick Perry – and the “Move Your Business to Texas” ads his administration sponsors – are about as welcome as Godzilla in Tokyo. The cause of this consternation is Perry’s pro-business record which exposes all the weaknesses of the California approach to governing. While Texas focuses on job creation, California lawmakers give their highest priority to reducing the calories in soft drinks. While Texas cut taxes last year, Sacramento is constantly searching for new ways to burden taxpayers.

For defenders of the California system, where the trivial is exalted and issues about which real people care are ignored, it gets even worse when Perry leaves. This is because so many California businesses are following him back to Texas. After comparing the two states and seeing that Texas’ taxes are lower, regulations are more reasonable and the legal system more fair, over 50 companies have relocated or expanded in Texas in the last year and a half. This business flight has shifted thousands of California jobs to the Lone Star State. And we are not just talking about small or insignificant businesses. Last month, oil giant Occidental Petroleum, a major presence in California for nearly a century, announced its relocation to Houston.

Ironically, apologists for California point to Texas’ unemployment rate of 6% — the national average is 6.7% — as a disadvantage to business. They suggest that California, with its 8.3 unemployment rate, is best for business because the pool of available workers is so much larger. This is like claiming that having only one hand is an advantage because you can make a pair of mittens last twice as long.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, the California business climate ranks 47th while Texas comes in at number 11. In every recent survey of CEOs, California rates at or near the bottom as a place to do business

Those who ridicule Perry for successfully poaching Golden State businesses might want to suggest to Jerry Brown that he make a similar effort in Texas. Let’s see, the governor could travel from city to city telling business leaders the advantage of relocating to California. His message: “We have Disneyland.”

Actually, in fairness to Brown, he is right that there is more venture capital in California and, indeed, one could argue that more ideas are incubated here. But for those ideas which take hold, they are more often than not realized in Texas. According to a TechAmerica Foundation report last month, Texas has now surpassed California in technology exports.

In the 19th century, those immigrating to Texas often painted “Gone to Texas” on their abandoned homes. If the California political class does not want to get a similar note from more businesses, they had better take their boot off the neck of our productive sector.

As we look forward to June and November elections, we should be asking those running for governor and the Legislature what they plan to do, not only to keep businesses and jobs in our state, but how they will work to attract new business investment that would improve the economy and put Californians back to work.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Bipartisan Solutions For California

When Governor Jerry Brown, back in the 1970′s, suggested that California should have its own aerospace program, he was dubbed “Governor Moonbeam,” and the moniker has stuck to this day. That’s too bad, because at the time Gov. Brown made that statement, California had the most robust aerospace infrastructure in the U.S. The nexus of companies in Los Angeles – Northrop, Hughes, Rockwell, TRW, plus the branches of dozens of others – the launch complex at Vandenberg, the vast resources of land in the Mojave including Edwards AFB – made California a natural location to further America’s space efforts.

Today half of the companies noted above have been driven out of California by over-regulation, and instead of talking about mining the asteroids for platinum, Jerry Brown is talking about bullet trains to nowhere. Before you laugh at the Gov. Moonbeam’s original idea, consider California-based entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX. This private aerospace company, which is already supplying launch vehicles to NASA, is now rolling out their “Falcon Heavy,” the largest launch vehicle since the Saturn V moon rocket.

The asteroids will be explored and mined by robotic spacecraft within a few decades. And much of the ingenuity and entrepreneurship, risk capital, and high technology will be coming from California. Imagine if California’s dawning recapture of the lead in aerospace technology, following her existing lead in biotech and info-tech, were encouraged by California’s laws and regulations instead of occurring in spite of them?

There are two steps towards putting California back on track. Both relate to public policy: One, reform California’s government and make it more business friendly, two, set a government project agenda that emphasizes infrastructure over pay and benefits for government workers. These steps will lower the cost of living for all California residents.

It would be an ironic blessing if California’s bloated, dysfunctional state and local governments were to financially implode sooner than anywhere else in the U.S., because it would mean Californians would be the first to come out recovered on the other side. It will be a painful transition, but manageable if investments into projects that lower the cost of living are made at the same time as austerity measures are imposed on government workers and recipients of government entitlements. Here are solutions for California:

(1) Balance State and Local Government Budgets:

(a) Lower the wages of all state and local government workers by 20% of whatever amount they make in excess of $50,000 per year. Lower the wages of all state and local government workers by 50% of whatever amount they make in excess of $100,000 per year. Include in “wages” ALL forms of compensation.

(b) Impose special tax assessments on state and local government pensions in the amount of 50% of all pension payments in excess of $60,000 per year and 75% of all pension payments in excess of $100,000 per year.

(c) Require 75% of all school employees to be teachers in a classroom. Raise average class size to 30 students per classroom by abandoning the failed policy of “mainstreaming” virtually all students, and by separating students into classes based on their academic performance.

(d) Faithfully implement the welfare and entitlement policies already adopted by most other states during the Clinton administration.

(2) Change the Rules in Sacramento:

(a) Implement fundamental curbs on the rights of public sector unions, including:  Grant all public sector workers the right to opt-out of union membership and payment of any union dues including agency fees. Prohibit government payroll departments from collecting union dues. Allow all public sector employees to negotiate their own wages and benefits and not be bound by collective bargaining terms if they wish. Prohibit public sector unions from negotiating over long term benefits, and require all current wage and benefit agreements to expire at the end of the term for the elected officials who approved the agreements. Prohibit public sector unions from engaging in political activity of any kind.

(b) Discontinue the planned “CO2 auctions,” which are nothing more than a way to redistribute money from middle class ratepayers to bankers, phony green entrepreneurs, and public sector payroll departments. Repeal AB32. Crucially, lift the crippling burden of land use regulations that keep the prices of homes and commercial property ridiculously high in California.

(c) Revisit all business-friendly recommendations made by business associations such as the bipartisan California Chamber of Commerce. This would not include compromise positions in support of public sector unions and crony capitalist environmental regulations. This would include banning mandatory project labor agreements or requiring union only contractors on government funded projects.

(3) Use government surpluses to engage in public works, and streamline permitting for private infrastructure investments, that LOWER the cost of living for everyone:

(a) Rebuild California’s aqueducts and develop additional aquifer and surface storage for runoff harvesting. Build desalination plants on the southern California coast. Upgrade existing dams and pumping stations. Permit farmers to contract with California’s urban water districts to sell their water allocations. Create water abundance and make water cheap.

(b) Build new power stations. Whether this is a joint project with Nevada to establish nuclear power stations in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain, or building new natural gas fired power plants, the immediate establishment of an additional 20%+ of generating capacity in California would allow a lowering of utility rates and make California a net exporter of electricity.

(c) Enable development of offshore oil and gas using slant drilling from land. It is no longer necessary to develop offshore drilling rigs to extract energy reserves. There are cost-effective ways to bring this energy onshore without the risk of an oil spill from an offshore platform.

(d) Enable development of natural gas reserves in California.

(e) Enable development of mines and quarries in California.

(f) Build additional pipeline capacity into California to import and export natural gas to and from elsewhere in North America.

(g) Permit development of a liquid natural gas terminal at least 10 miles off the California coast. Get California onto the global LNG grid to import and export natural gas and further diversify sources of energy and income. Create energy abundance and make energy cheap.

(h) Upgrade existing roads, bridges, and freeways. Begin working on “smart lanes” that will facilitate cars driving on autopilot.

(i) Instead of developing a bullet train – something that might be worth experimenting with once everything else on this list is done and Californians have money to burn – upgrade California’s existing freight and passenger rail infrastructure. When practical, integrate passenger and freight service on common rail corridors in large cities where high population densities make passenger rail economically viable. Complete a passenger rail link from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. Increase the speed of intercity passenger rail to 100+ MPH, which can be done on upgraded but already existing track.

Implementing policies designed to lower the cost of living is a perilous undertaking. Because it involves increasing the supply of all basic commodities and services including taxes, housing, energy, water and transportation, it lowers profits and can contribute to a deflationary economy. But by lowering the cost of living, despite the fewer dollars earned by our public sector workers, or by our private sector workers employed by corporations competing in the global economy, the overall standard of living may actually improve.

The solution for California is to develop infrastructure to lower the cost of living at the same time as deregulation is encouraging economic growth. Because California enjoys so many gifts – natural resources of staggering abundance and diversity, and an economy that is the technological leader in the world – the solutions described here, though painful, will ensure California survives and thrives during what are sure to be challenging years ahead.

During the 21st century there are two competing models of economic growth. The path we’re on involves artificially inflating the prices of all basic commodities. Staying on this path will reduce global competition, empower entrenched global elites, and consolidate the power of public sector unions, monopolistic corporations, and global bankers. Economic growth will be slow, and in terms of genuine productivity, it will be an anti-competitive age of control by the few over the many, and a sad utilization of the great technological advances we have seen in recent decades.

The alternative economic model for California is to adopt policies that dismantle monopolies, nurture competition, and encourage new development of land and resources. If costs for basic commodities are lowered instead of raised, capital is released to finance completely new industries, from space commercialization and development to life-extension and other fundamental advances in medicine. This will cause rapid and sustainable economic growth, unprecedented per-capita prosperity, even faster technological advancement, and a renewed golden age.