Several Republican governors — most notably Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) — are trying to legislatively strip public employees of their right to collectively bargain, under the guise of a budget crisis. These governors are using the economic anxiety being felt across the nation as a justification for eliminating the ability of workers to bargain, even though such rights have no bearing on a state’s fiscal soundness.
Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) already stripped public employees of their right to collectively bargain in 2005. But even having personally implemented such a policy, Daniels can’t explain how it would help Wisconsin get its budget into balance. In fact, Daniels admitted to NPR’s Diane Rehm yesterday that removing collective bargaining rights from public employees is all about kneecapping unions politically:
REHM: Help me to understand how taking away the rights of collective bargaining would fix or help to fix the budget shortfall.
DANIELS: Well, the most powerful special interest in America today are the government unions. They’re the leading financial contributors. They have the biggest PAC’s. They have muscle. A lot of times their contracts provide for time off to go politic and lobby. And over the course of the last few decades, if there were ever injustices or shortfalls in how we took care of government employees, it has been fixed and over-fixed. And so I think that the — you know, he’s trying — what he’s trying to do is, in the public interest, interrupt this fortuitous process in which taxpayer dollars pay for very solid salaries for government employees. […]
REHM: I still am totally in the dark as to how bargaining and the bargaining power of unions and taking that away is going to affect the budget process.
DANIELS: Well, if my newspaper is correct, he is not talking about that. He’s talking about narrowing the scope down to wages and, you know, that…
REHM: But they’ve already conceded wages.
DANIELS: Well, you know, this is — I think he’s trying to fix a structural problem, which I’ve demonstrated or discussed to you already, Diane. The problem comes from the, you know, forced expropriation, whether they like it or not, of money from — that started with the taxpayers, from the salaries of government workers, circulated back into a political machine that is the most powerful out there.
Daniels can’t give a reason for how eliminating collective bargaining would reduce state deficits because there isn’t one. In fact, “states with no collective bargaining rights for any public employees saw an average budget shortfall of 24.8 percent in 2010 while states (including the District of Columbia) with collective bargaining for all public employees had an average budget shortfall of 24.1 percent.”
Daniels is dealing with protests in his own state that mirror those occurring in Wisconsin. In fact, Indiana Democratic lawmakers left the state today — denying the state legislature a quorum — in order to block a bill that would make Indiana a “right to work” state, which would allow non-union members to free-ride on union contracts. Central Indiana Jobs with Justice called the bill “an attack on the middle class.”
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.