Wisconsin and Organized Labor
Wisconsin bad case for management
Government shutdowns and even the threat of such are symptoms of a failure to govern. It isn’t all executive or legislative failure, but some of each.
In the instance of Wisconsin, a new governor and chief executive assumes responsibility for a state whose financial affairs are bankrupt. Just as President Obama inherited a mess, so did Governor Walker.
So what would a successful management approach be to addressing the problem?
Executive sits down with legislature leadership to discuss the governor’s analysis of the situation.
Both identify and define problems.
Both identify and propose solutions.
In the Wisconsin case, governor identified government labor costs are too high and benefits too costly as compared with private sector workers. He identified a percentage of reduction needed to reach parity.
The process for addressing the problem is collective bargaining that other governors have employed elsewhere. It doesn’t always go smoothly because that is the nature of the business. Yet, in the end, a new agreement can be reached.
In this case, Governor Scott had a political objective and a philosophical aim to reach. He wanted to bust the union and to make Wisconsin a Right to Work State.
Such action is an attack on workers, collective bargaining, and unions. It is a distraction from 1) achieving labor cost reduction, 2) producing a workable budget, and 3) attending to job creation in the state that will ultimately improve the situation.
“Wisconsin Gov. Walker threatens to trigger layoffs for thousands of public workers
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 26, 2011; 12:00 AM
MADISON, WIS. - The jobs of thousands of state and local workers slipped into deeper jeopardy Friday, as Gov. Scott Walker threatened to trigger as many as 12,000 layoffs beginning next week unless lawmakers enact his plan to strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.
Though unions have offered concessions they say would close the state's budget gap, Walker remained determined to achieve a resolution that he said would give state and local governments leverage to limit employee costs well into the future.
Without legislation to pare back employee health-care and pension benefits while repealing most collective bargaining rights for many public employees, Walker said he would be forced to make cuts elsewhere in the budget that could lead to massive numbers of state and local employees losing their jobs.
"If we want to avoid the layoffs that will eventually come at the state and local level, the only way to achieve that" is to pass the bill, Walker said.
The layoffs would mark an escalation of a battle that has paralyzed the state capital. Fourteen Democratic state senators have fled Wisconsin to prevent the state Senate from having a quorum for considering the measure. Walker backed off earlier remarks that the layoffs would begin this week.
Nationally, Walker's efforts to break the power of public service unions - being replicated to some degree in several other Republican-led states - have thrown public employee unions into an existential crisis.
As a group, public employees generally earn less than comparably educated private-sector employees, but they tend to enjoy far better health-care and retirement benefits. The issue of their compensation has gained particular resonance at a time when states and municipalities across the country are struggling with huge budget deficits and ballooning costs for employees' health-care and pension obligations.
The controversy has lifted Walker to national prominence, and he says he is determined to make Wisconsin a leader in remaking the way state and local governments deal with their employees.
The clashes over public employee unions continued in other state capitals. In Indianapolis, hundreds of union supporters demonstrated at an otherwise quiet statehouse Friday as there appeared to be no end in sight to a partisan standoff that has paralyzed the legislature.
"I'm here to help save the jobs of thousands of hardworking Hoosiers," said Jim Szucs, a Teamster from South Bend, Ind.
Indiana's House Democrats remained in Urbana, Ill., denying the Republican majority a quorum it needs to pass legislation.
In New Jersey, where Republican Gov. Chris Christie has made public employees prime targets of his efforts to curtail spending, union members rallied in support of Wisconsin public employees. Meanwhile, union leaders and their allies are planning to hold rallies at state capitols around the country Saturday in opposition to Walker's proposal.”
Right to Work
“Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. However, employees who work in the railway or airline industries are not protected by a Right to Work law, and employees who work on a federal enclave may not be.”
“Prior to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act by Congress over President Harry S Truman's veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces are required to be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before the Taft-Hartley amendments, an employee who ceased being a member of the union for whatever reason, from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer's rules.
The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed the closed shop. The Act, however, permitted employers and unions to operate under a union shop rule, which required all new employees to join the union after a minimum period after their hire. Under union shop rules, employers are obliged to fire any employees who have avoided paying membership dues necessary to maintain membership in the union; however, the union cannot demand that the employer discharge an employee who has been expelled from membership for any other reason.
A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join such union.
Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further and authorizes individual states (but not local governments, such as cities or counties) to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule, an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if he or she joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not he or she is a member or financial contributor to such a union.
The Federal Government operates under open shop rules nationwide, although many of its employees are represented by unions. And while unions representing professional athletes have written contracts which impose forced-unionism requirements,, their application is limited to "wherever and whenever legal," as the Supreme Court has clearly held that the application of a Right to Work law is determined by the employee's "predominant job situs." Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, Int'l Union v. Mobil Oil Corp., 426 U.S. 407, 414 (1976) (Marshall, J.). Hence, players on professional sports teams in states with Right to Work laws are protected by those laws, and cannot be required to pay any portion of union dues as a condition of continued employment. Orr v. National Football League Players Ass'n, 145 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2224, 1993 WL 604063 (Va.Cir.Ct. 1993).
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia do not have right-to-work laws. If no union is formed in an employee's workplace, the lack of a right-to-work law does not mean an employee has to join or pay union membership dues to a union.”