Collective bargaining through government power

Labor unions have been having a hard time of it.  So union activists have announced a new strategy:

“We are going to expand the idea of collective bargaining,” said Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco AFL-CIO. “You can have collective bargaining through legislation. You can have collective bargaining through ballot measures.”

Columnist Harold Meyerson thinks this is a swell idea. [Read more...]

Fast-food strike

Starting today, fast-food workers in at least seven cities–Detroit, New York, Milwaukee, Chicago,  St. Louis, Flint, and Kansas City–plan to stage one-day strikes.  The employees of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and KFC are calling for “a living wage,” at least $15 per hour. [Read more...]

NFL reaches agreement with Refs

The NFL reached a tentative labor agreement with the professional referees.  There will be no more replacement refs, as of the Thursday night game.  The Packers were a sacrifice that caused the reconciliation.   I was afraid President Obama would assure his re-election by sending out troops, not to break a strike, but to break the owners and their lockout..

Sorry about that, NFL chief says of replacements – CNN.com.

Chicago teachers’ strike

Chicago teachers are on strike, even though they are among the highest paid in the country and they were offered a 16% raise.  But they don’t want to be held accountable for their effectiveness:

For the first time in a quarter century, Chicago teachers walked out of the classroom Monday, taking a bitter contract dispute over evaluations and job security to the streets of the nation’s third-largest city — and to a national audience — less than a week after most schools opened for fall.

The walkout forced hundreds of thousands of parents to scramble for a place to send idle children and created an unwelcome political distraction for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a year when labor unions have been losing ground nationwide, the implications were sure to extend far beyond Chicago, particularly for districts engaged in similar debates.

The two sides resumed negotiations Monday but failed to reach a settlement, meaning the strike will extend into at least a second day.

Chicago School Board President David Vitale said board and union negotiators did not even get around to bargaining on the two biggest issues, performance evaluations or recall rights for laid-off teachers. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said that was because the district did not change its proposals.

“This is a long-term battle that everyone’s going to watch,” said Eric Hanuskek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. “Other teachers unions in the United States are wondering if they should follow suit.”

The union had vowed to strike Monday if there was no agreement on a new contract, even though the district had offered a 16 percent raise over four years and the two sides had essentially agreed on a longer school day. With an average annual salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

But negotiators were still divided on job security measures and a system for evaluating teachers that hinged in part on students’ standardized test scores.

via The Associated Press: Chicago teachers strike in bitter contract dispute.

What is at stake, if other teachers’ unions follow suit, is educational reform.  The politics here are interesting:  Unions and teachers’ unions in particular are key activists in the Democratic party.  And yet, these teachers have risen up against educational reforms pushed by Democrats.  The mayor of Chicago, who has taken on these teachers, is Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s chief of staff and a key fundraiser in his re-election campaign.  Could improving education, even against the opposition of incompetent teachers and their enablers, become a bi-partisan cause?  Or will political pressure from the unions derail educational reform?

Obama: “The private sector is doing fine”

President Obama said something that will be a much-replayed sound-bite in the presidential race:

Laying out his economic argument at a morning news conference, Obama said that cutbacks in state and local government spending have slowed the nation’s recovery and that Congress has “no excuse” for not supporting his jobs bill that would provide funding to retain public workers.

“The private sector,” the president added as a point of comparison, “is doing fine.”

The remark struck a discordant political note in the current economic climate, and Republican adversaries pounced on the assertion to lampoon him for being out of touch. And at least politically, Obama played directly into the GOP argument that he does not understand the depths of the economic crisis and that he is too dependent on government to solve the economy’s problems.

via Obama blames Congress for inaction on jobs while Romney calls president ‘out of touch’ – The Washington Post.

Unlike Republican operatives, I refuse to pounce on the remark and am willing to accept it as  careless speech.  But what concerns me about it is the assumption behind the remark and the ideology it demonstrates.  What the president wants is to increase PUBLIC SECTOR jobs.  What he thinks is wrong with the economy is that there aren’t enough GOVERNMENT workers.  Obama’s job plan is to hire more teachers, policemen, and firemen, which may be well and good but they are all government employees.  This orientation helps account for the Democrats’ uprising in Wisconsin when public sector unions were challenged.  (I don’t remember such an uproar when the autoworkers’ union in Racine had its plant shut down.)  The underlying issue, again, is how big government should be.

Wisconsin as the preliminary bout

Today is a big day not only because of the Transit of Venus (see below) but because Wisconsin will vote on whether or not to recall Governor Scott Walker for curtailing collective bargaining for public employee unions.

All eyes will be on my former state because experts are seeing it as a preview of what might happen in the presidential election.  If voters decide to keep the Republican Walker, that might be a sign they will vote Republican in the presidential race.  That doesn’t happen very often in Wisconsin, but if they do, it may well be enough to tip the Electoral College  to Mitt Romney.

In Wisconsin recall, it’s TV ad spending vs. boots on the ground – The Washington Post.

What do things look like, Badgers?  When I lived there, things were peaceful and people were nice.  My impression is that union supporters are in a frenzy, but that such a public display of emotion is turning off other citizens of the badger state.  If Walker is kept in, does that really also mean a repudiation of Obama, who has campaigned hard to recall him in favor of Democratic candidate Tom Barrett, who won the primary though he as mayor of Milwaukee also  battled the unions?  Or do Wisconsin voters see these as two different things?


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