Thursday, June 7, 2012

Recognition of Gov. Scott Walker's "Re-election" in Wisconsin

"The Message From Wisconsin" reads the headline of the lead editorial in todays New York Times.   As you probably know, the people of the State of Wisconsin had petitioned successfully for the recall-election of a duly elected sitting governor for reasons unrelated to any malfeasance in office, but because of his purported "anti-union" stand in attempting to balance Wisconsin's budget - in effect keeping a promise he had made in his campaign.

The recall was successfully rebuffed - Gov. Scott Walker remains the governor of Wisconsin.  Why?  Two reasons, says the Times in this editorial - 1)Democrats nominated "the wrong candidate," and 2)Contributions in "excess of $45.6 million" to Gov. Walker's campaign.

Nowhere in the editorial is it even remotely suggested that perhaps the majority of the people of Wisconsin actually agreed with Gov. Walker's policies, or that the concept of recalling a sitting governor, in office only two years, fulfilling his campaign promises and with no evidence of wrongdoing, is just counter to the way democracy works.

That is not to imply that the causative factors cited by the Times are not to be taken into account.  But to totally ignore other reasonable possibilities is not fair.

It should be clear that Gov. Walker's efforts to restrict or eliminate collective bargaining did not affect private unions at all.  It applied only to unions in the public sector.  It was not intended to eliminate unions, but to only eliminate collective bargaining rights regarding wages and benefits.  Many states and localities do not permit public employees to bargain or strike.  As President Franklin Roosevelt said:

 "All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters."

Courts have held that public employees hold a "property interest" in their jobs giving them an advantage in that they have a constitutional protection against any arbitrary and unjust actions beyond that of employees in the private sector.  The argument continues that public employees cannot bargain or strike against the "public," namely themselves.  Government is not business - it represents taxpayers, not shareholders.  The public can sell shares of a company with which they disagree but cannot "sell shares" in a government organization.  The government provides certain necessary welfare and safety services (e.g. police, fire, army, navy, etc.) which, if a strike were to occur, could not be replaced by "outside workers."

Sure, money and personality affect all elections, but perspective and fairness are important.  Gov. Walker is still Gov. Walker.  He deserves the recognition that his "re-election" may very well be the result of support for his policies, and not that of complementary factors.

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