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The Battle of Wisconsin

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    Kaboom here....panic stricken and bizarre as usual....reporting live from the Edge of my seat.

    Let me say this to anyone participating in the protests in Madison: You are all I have of hope. Across the land, the Big Darkness is worse than predicted. Everywhere you look Republicons are f$%#ing s$%# up! Objectivity and restraint be damned...on the course we are on, we are headed for a complete f$%#ing collapse! And taking away the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions is not a healthy step in the right direction, but one gigantic step in the same direction we've all been going, backward to serfdom. Only SOLIDARITY can brake the advance of the nihilist/fascist right-wing menace that's coming for all of our pensions. We need a Victory. Go Packer Nation!
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    My frustration is with many middle class non-union workers who do not appreciate what unions mean to this country.  Ignorance and misinformation is there amongst my fellow liberals...and apathy. Yes some of it is the fault of the union movement themselves and the Democratic Party that has lost its way at times.  But the Wisconsin protests against Tea Party Governor Walker and his Republican henchmen should be understood for what the protesters are defending and how it affects every middle class worker in America...union and non-union.  The Madison capitol is the ultimate fight that could be the "Alamo" for middle class workers.

    Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones has addressed the history and importance of the union movement to America workers in this excellent article: Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin is Really About. It's a rather long article well worth everyone's time to read.  I'll just extract a few lines:

    "Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-'70s—far more in the US than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent."

    Drum Quotes Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels, "American politicians don't care much about voters with moderate incomes...they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else...Republicans don't respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that's not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don't respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all.

    Drum observes that "If politicians care almost exclusively about the concerns of the rich, it makes sense that over the past decades they've enacted policies that have ended up benefiting the rich. And if you're not rich yourself, this is a problem. First and foremost, it's an economic problem because it's siphoned vast sums of money from the pockets of most Americans into those of the ultrawealthy. At the same time, relentless concentration of wealth and power among the rich is deeply corrosive in a democracy, and this makes it a profoundly political problem as well."

    Drum concludes that "organized labor has become a shell of its former self, and the working class doesn't have any institutional muscle in Washington. As a result, the Democratic Party no longer has much real connection to moderate-income voters. And that's hurt nearly everyone."

    So Wisconsin could be the final battle for middle class workers. It could be their Alamo where upon the rich oligrarchs have finally reached their goal of turning everyone else into their serfs...or it could be a reawakening of the middle class and a recognition of what unions have historically meant for America.  For that reason I stand with every union worker in America. Every middle class worker should join that fight.
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    I think the main issue, at least where I live, is that the taxpayers cannot support guaranteed wages, guaranteed wage increases, guaranteed taxpayers where if the pension fund decreases the taxpayer must make up the difference, and tiny employee donations to pensions and health insurance. The taxpayers are losing their jobs and seeing their 401Ks losing value, but the public sector doesn't feel this. I am not against unions, but this type of union cannot be sustained by the taxpayer.

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    In case anyone is interested in facts on the plight of public-sector unions check out Media Matters.
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    Since I do not live in Wisconsin I will take MM at it's word that it's public workers are not paid the same as the private sector. I'm not sure what they are comparing though, since teachers in the private sector make far less than in the public sector. Generally what teachers like to say it that with their advanced degrees they would make more in the public sector. They think there is a direct corelation between earning credits and earning more monty. This may or may not be true. But I do know PhDs who are unemployed. I can speak for my own school district however, when I say that the average HOUSEHOLD income here is 46,000. We have teachers earning up to 150,000, and we have 8 assistant superintendents earning 180,000 each. One superintendent on the island earns over 300,000. Contrast that with the fact that there is one superintendent of schools in NYC, presiding over a district that is larger than the entire island. On Long Island, public servants are overpaid. Southold and Riverhead town police earn well over 100,000. These are not high crime towns by any means.
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    I did a quick comparison of teacher and superintendent salaries between Colorado Springs where I live (population about 500,000) and Long Island.  Our District 11 superintendent makes $180,000 per year plus $40,000 in incentive pay...total $220,000 if the bonuses are paid.  He is hired by the school board.  The average teacher salary is $49,000.

    A quick browse of teacher salaries in Long Island shows $75,000 for Nassau County (12 years experience) and $66,000 for Suffolk county (10 years experience).  So these average teacher salaries are higher than our Colorado Springs school district, but I also know that the cost of living in Long Island is much higher than it is in Colorado Springs.  I couldn't find a breakdown of those numbers, but I expect it very much depends on the neighborhood in which you choose to live. House prices and/or rent I understand are especially higher on Long Island. 

    All salaries to a degree are driven by market conditions.  Unions tend to negotiate total compensation packages rather than just salaries. To make a proper comparison of "apples and apples" with other disciplines one must consider location, cost of living, education levels, as well as the healthcare, pensions and other issues.

    In the private sector, one can generally only negotiate a salary, but the rest of the stuff...health insurance, 401Ks, vacations are a given...take it or leave it.

    Are there some distortions and inequities? Yes...and Long Island is probably one of them.  I have a hard time, however, laying all the blame on public sector unions.  Many of them across the country, despite their guaranteed contracts, have sat down with the governors and school boards and took cuts to share in the sacrifices.  You can find that in just about every state.  But they did not negotiate away their right to collective bargaining.  That's what differentiates Wisconsin's Governor Walker from other governors across the country.  He reminds me of the bully type of personality that is serving his own selfish agenda rather than the people of Wisconsin.

    I noticed that Media Matters highlighted Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia as right to work states...no unions.  Yet their financial difficulties are just as bad if not worse than many union states. Governor Rick Perry cannot blame the public sector unions in Texas because there are none.

    At some point the dialogue has to shift to those dirty words...raise taxes.  We cannot go on cutting taxes and cutting taxes and expect to provide a level of public service that is expected by the citizens.
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    Well my father was born in Brooklyn and raised in Oceanside growing up, so while I disagree with a lot of what JR's saying, I have got a lot of love for New Yorkers and Long Islanders, and I apologize for the rashness of my previous post.  All day long I hear FOX NEWs style reporting on the plight of unions from the supposed 'liberal' 'lamestream' media...and it's gotten my nerves a little whack. 
    In any event, I'm just gonna throw some bullet points out there...in no particular order.....and hopefully we can behave ourselves...and by that I mean me. 

    1.)  NYC has dozens of school superintendents.    List at NYC Department of Education (http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/superintendents/HSsupes.htm)  My apologies for the cut and paste. I can't post weblinks for some awful reason at the moment.

    2.) I know Long Island City is a little off the mark, but as a whole Long Island is one wealthy motherboard on the Eastern Seaboard...From Long Island Statistics and Demographics  (http://culturalblueprints.co.cc/blog/?page_id=356)


    Income (2006 data) Nassau Suffolk LI Ave US Ave
    Median Household $85,994.00 $76,847.00 $81,420.50 $48,451.00
    % Family in Poverty 3.30% 7.00% 5.15% 9.80%
    % Income less than $25,000 12.40% 13.27% 12.84%  
    % Income greater than $100,000 41.87% 34.72% 38.30% 18.90%

    3.)  One has to bare in mind that Superintendents and Teacher Unions do not line up on the same side when it comes to collective bargaining agreements. 
    4.)  Considering my many run-ins with the lawman, it's quite ironic that I'm now in the position of defending the pay of those who often stand in the way of my fun and weirdness, but that is where we are at now. 
    In Southold, Sergents may make a $100k, but most cops do not make a $100k.    Agreement between....(http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:FR0To4Nn87gJ:southoldtown.northfork.net/Accounting/PBA/PBA%252009-06%2520Contract.pdf+Southold+town+police+agreement&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgjl_UcaSfDUpZHwXnMJIhqYJJdncrunpv7yzWc8XbzJORkMf4W-UADsgt8QnaLAqWBoYP_P8xPw4_7U-QgRPn5R0Fn_IMJjiLI8fwuEo9Xv1W7DpLrQ6XytvFrq9OTpnYhadWN&sig=AHIEtbSPw4nwumPLgNM-ZOLETiK_e6c8Zw)

    5.) Frank's points are worthwhile reading
    EPK