CG Call-in Show Next TUESDAY: “Hard Labor”

(Update: Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network also will carry the broadcast)

To many union members, collective bargaining rights and the right to organize are hard-won, sacred treasures. But some in the business community see those as impediments to making our states competitive.

People came from all sides to Wisconsin Sunday. (photo: Chip Mitchell)

Now, public and private sector unions are under fire. Lawmakers in states like Wisconsin and Ohio want to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. Meanwhile, the conversation has begun about Right to Work laws, a mainstay of the South but long considered impossible in Great Lakes states.

Changing Gears invites you to join our conversation about those issues. Tune in next TUESDAY March 8 at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT for “Hard Labor,” a call-in program that will look at the situation from all angles.

You can hear the show on Changing Gears stations WBEZ in Chicago, Michigan Radio and ideastream Cleveland. It also will be carried by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network — the first time WPR has teamed up with Changing Gears.

Steve Edwards of WBEZ will host, and Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard will be in the studio.

Our guests will include nationally known labor experts Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University. We’ll also talk to business leaders and union members in our states. And we want to talk to you.

While the show is on the air, we’ll hold a LIVE CHAT here at Drop in and give your thoughts on these emotional, historical and economic issues that are so vital to the future of our region.

Meanwhile, keep listening for reports from Changing Gears on this fast developing situation.

8 Replies to “CG Call-in Show Next TUESDAY: “Hard Labor””


    . Wisconsin – Civil War vs Class War

    I am Shiva the god of death.

    Let’s get out of Milwaukee and we’ll talk about it.
    ………from Michael Clayton (the movie)

    The real issue which does not get articulated is that this protest is a class war but not the kind you think. It is only a civil war between the public govt worker’s unions and the WI state government. It is similar to a stock broker’s strike at Goldman Sachs. But the class war is between the old, unemployed and disabled who own their own home and the govt. worker’s unions, especially the teacher’s union.

    Most people support unions in the private sector because there are checks and balances. The union does well if the company does well or it fights the good fight for the workers. But public sector unions have no checks or balances. The property owners and working class are their deep pockets. Corporations have tax loop holes and hardly pay any taxes. In fact, they are subsidized by the taxpayers in TIF districts. In Milwaukee, the teacher’s union by collective bargaining has limited the number of voucher schools which can exist in a district. This has really angered mothers forced to live in the core by poverty and endure schools where violence is common. These women do not support the public sector unions. Notice those protesters are all white.

    Public sector unions have demanded Cadillac health and pension plans – their significant others are covered. This divides them from people demanding universal health care and equal rights. The comparable health insurance plans are cheaper for the taxpayer but the unions are opposed to them and do not say why.

    Right now, to sustain the public workers demands, people on fixed income must set aside three to four hundred dollars a month or more for property taxes or lose their homes. It is us against them. WHY? Because for years the old and disabled have complained that the school costs at least should not be on the property tax and their taxes should be reduced by 1/3 or more. Or people on a fixed income should have the schools removed from their property taxes. The cost of rent does not cover a mortgage and property taxes outside the affluent capital, Madison, where most of the workers are in the public sector.

    The unions and legislators say publicly: Yes, we know the schools should not be on the residential property tax—— but nothing is EVER done. So now, why should the elderly and poor support those who have ignored their real needs for decades?

    The old do not have children in school-their property taxes already paid for their children. Renters with children pay nothing in property taxes because rent income in this market is depressed. The schools bulge with non property tax paying families of four to six children. Old people are losing their homes to support the demands of the schools; their football teams, coaches, swimming pools and low reading scores. This is the class war.

    There are many more class war issues that should be discussed to unite the people; there are solutions to these divisions in the working class through institutional and systemic change. But just like with the real war in the middle east, reactions to the government’s civil war are knee jerk –people are just taking left/right PC positions without reflection on the root inequities.

    It is an unsustainable public sector system and needs institutional financial reform. Users need to be responsible for the education system. Govt. workers must mirror the benefits in the private sector. Then all workers will have common interests in labor law. But with all the focus on the civil war, the root problem of the class war is ignored

    The public sector unions are on TV asking for WI support. But they do not offer to use their collective bargaining power to make the structural changes that will bring majority support. They need to stop talking to their own interested parties and reach out to the community organizers familiar with the needs of property tax payers, the working poor, the elderly and disabled. They need to make agreements in writing with those other sectors of the community that they will use their collective bargaining power to make structural changes to equalize their status with non government workers (pensions and tenure vs 401K and merit pay) and take the schools off the backs of those elderly and disabled on a fixed income. Think what could be achieved if the elite public sector unions gave up some privilege to meet the needs of the entire community — used their power for the common good. Then there would be real revolution.

    When the unions bring their benefits in line with the private sector and remove the schools from the property tax demanding concurrent property tax reductions, they will have the support of the majority. The school user tax should be pro-rated by income, collected from parents and evenly distributed among all schools.

    Special education and English as a second language classes should be managed and financed separately from the regular school system. Mainstreaming is too expensive. Tax money given to UMOS and used to import farm labor from Mexico can be used instead to fund the teaching of English as a language to non English speakers. The churches should be taxed to help support special ed. The revenues the churches make from their adoption businesses and no abortion hospitals can also be accessed. Their buildings can house the special classes. This is consistent with their pro life agenda.

    Included in the same bill that takes away the right to collective bargaining are measures that would both weaken the state’s “Badgercare” health care program for hundreds of thousands of residents who cannot get regular insurance; and allows the unregulated sell-off of state-owned power plants to the Governor’s corporate allies.

    Walker is proposing a $1 billion cut to health care programs that serve the disabled, elderly, and low-income residents currently served through BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

    He plans to weaken the BadgerCare program by reducing legislative oversight. The Governor wants to allow the Secretary of Health, who came from a recent job at the Heritage Foundation, to be able to change the requirements for enrollment, premium charges, and other basic parameters — resulting in potential losses of coverage due to lack of affordability, loss of coverage altogether, or losing the federal matching funds that currently account for about 60% of the total funding for the program. These changes will affect approximately 700,000 Wisconsin residents.

    Provision 16.896, which would allow the sale of the state’s heating, cooling, and power plants to private corporations without the solicitation of bids. Adding insult to injury, Walker also aims to strip away the ability of the Public Service Commission to approve or certify this buy-out. In other words, if this bill were to pass, state-owned utilities could easily be bought by corporations as the latter wishes.

    The new governor recently proposed a wind turbine siting law that would effectively shut down most wind power production. The new law, if put into effect, would require wind turbines to be set back at least 1,800 feet from any nearby property unless all affected property owners agree to the turbine in writing.

    Only one-fourth of Wisconsin’s current wind turbines would ever have been built if this rule had been in place in the past. In other words, 2,250 fewer people would have construction or maintenance jobs, over a million fewer dollars would be flowing to rural communities in the form of land leases, and the 21 manufacturing plants in the state that supply the wind industry would have far fewer orders and would likely be closing their doors.

    Other policies that Gov. Walker advanced since coming to power included corporate tax giveaways, the imposition of a two-thirds legislative majority to pass tax increases, the rejection of $800 million in federal funding for high-speed rail, and a “voter ID” law.

    Gov. Walker pushed through almost $140 million in corporate tax breaks and spending that benefits large businesses. The Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now, Scot Ross, commented that he was “handing out [millions] in special interest spending to his corporate pals …

    If only the public unions could make concessions to their less privilege brothers and sisters to use collective bargaining and organizing staff to save our homes and environment, and to reduce our energy costs, we could all have enough and fight these policies together.

  2. Your professor (Expert??) is very wrong -governor Walker DOES have an agenda, – it is NOT a fuzzy issue. He uses the budget to take away the State of Wisconsin employees’ rights. He is angry that the Union has historically not given him what he wants so he’s taking it out on the State employee. There are many ways to make up this budget deficit such as a short term increase in the sales tax, make business pay their fair share of income tax
    The first act committed as the new Governor was to take income taxes AWAY from any new business that moves into or opens in Wisconsin for the first five years. Oh, and to give huge tax breaks to his Koch brothers cronies.

  3. The state employees HAVE made huge concessions for their “less privileged” brothers and sisters. You know not what you speak of, my friend. The AVERAGE state employee makes LESS than that comparable public sector worker makes – I’m speaking job for job, secretary, attorney, real estate agent, chemist, fill in the blank….. As for benefits, I think that the State SHOULD allow non-state employees to join their health-care plans; the more people, the less the cost. Don’t blame the state employees for the mess we’re in – blame those who voted for Walker

  4. the sales tax is not a progressive tax in that the poor pay as much as the rich- we need user tax not sales tax

  5. I am talking about property taxes and you are responding with avoidance. I am saying that either the public unions restructure the source of their income with the property tax payers or they will lose all. I do blame union organizers for their stubborn stupidity. Still doing the same things that worked 40 years ago. GM workers in Janesville acted the same way for years making gas guzzlers and saying everyone loved them. The plants closed and they are all unemployed today. Wise up – new strategies are needed.

  6. America, we are barking up the wrong tree and ignoring the elephant in the room:
    We ask labor & middle class families to sacrifice, balance budgets, and rein in spending. Yet CEO pay is a whopping 300-500 times greater than the average worker’s pay; compared to 26:1 ratio in the 1960s.

    While the war economy pulled us out of the Great Depression, the Middle East skirmish is draining our economy of billions. What jobs have been saved are not proportionate to the outflow.

    We are complaining about teacher retirement when we should complain about corporate welfare to the tune of tax breaks, free land, and more.

    During the recent Bush administration there was a lot of talk about the need for attracting and retaining talent in the teaching profession, and pointed conversations about low teacher salaries.

    The reason government institutions are so very important is because they are NOT tied to the self-serving mission of profit at any cost.

    Thanks to the caller from Wisconsin who pointed out that America as a whole benefits from what unions have fought for: the Fair Labor Standards Act–important wage and hour provisions, safety in the workplace (OSHA), and more.

    Somewhere, somebody, has to draw the line before there is no line to draw.

  7. I should have used “by using” to make it clearer thus:

    If only the public unions could make concessions to their less privilege brothers and sisters by using use collective bargaining and organizing staff to save our homes and environment, and to reduce our energy costs. Then we could all have enough and fight these policies together.

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