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Wisconsin 'anti-union' bill justified

The next round of partisan bickering has inflamed Washington over the battle of the budget. These conflicts have spread from Capitol Hill to the various state governments. Wisconsin, in an even more volatile situation, has turned from a debate over the budget to the issue of public unions.

Outrage over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal to take away collective bargaining rights for most public employees has caused massive protest in the state capitol.

Furthermore, in an attempt to stall debate on the bill, all 14 Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate have fled to Illinois in order to prevent a quorum. With only 19 members, Republicans do not have the necessary 20 needed to proceed on budget legislation.

While delay tactics are common political ploys and are constantly used by both parties, abandoning the state to protest legislation is unacceptable and detrimental to compromise of any kind.

Although most protesters have already agreed to accept the first part of the bill, forcing state workers to contribute more to their pension and health care costs, they refuse to negotiate on collective bargaining rights. President Barack Obama referred to the bill as an “assault on unions.”

Opponents continue to attack the bill as an insult to those who serve the community on the local or state level. Regardless, this bill is still needed to buffer the immense power of public unions in public policy.

To understand why, an important step is to differentiate between public-sector and private-sector unions. Private-sector unions are subject to market forces and must act accordingly to protect their members. Public-sector unions act independently of these forces as their members are paid through taxes.

This enables public unions to demand more than any private union could get away with. A recent analysis by USA Today finds that public sector employees are paid more than their private counterparts in 41 states, including Wisconsin.

Another danger of public unions is the possibility of a strike. Imagine if a city’s police officers or firefighters simply decided to stop working. During the Wisconsin protests, some public school teachers obtained sick notes from doctors in order to attend the event, forcing certain schools to temporarily close.

President Franklin Roosevelt, a supporter of private unions, said, “Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public and to the Government …. The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.

“A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.”

In order to ensure fiscal responsibility, Wisconsin must do what is necessary to limit the enormous political power of public unions. California should seek a similar solution in order to close the $26 billion budget deficit.

For more opinions, read the Feb. 24 column, Social networking not to blame for lower grades.

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