Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reassessing what we already knew: Walker never campaigned on ending bargaining rights

Campaign focused on one aspect, not total eradication, of collective bargaining

A few conservative sites in the Wisconsin blogosphere have brought up a contentious opinion regarding Gov. Scott Walker, his removal of bargaining rights for state workers, and whether he campaigned on that idea or not in 2010. An assertion is being made on these blogs that, prior to what has been basic common knowledge up to this point, Walker DID indeed campaign on ending bargaining rights for state employees.

Take these two blogs as examples of that assertion. Tim Gray, of useyourgraymatter.com, and Steve Prestegard, of The Presteblog, have both made the claim that, not only had Walker campaigned on the subject, but that unions even knew about it at that point in time.

Gray referenced an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which stated:
Two leading candidates for governor [Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Scott Walker] say they could save taxpayers up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year by revamping the way schools and local governments buy health insurance for more than 200,000 public employees around Wisconsin.


What neither candidate highlights, however, is that their plans also will mean taking away unions' right to negotiate with their employers for their insurance carrier - a potentially explosive political fight.
(Emphasis added)

The other example, from Prestegard, looks at a flier from the American Federation of Teachers from 2010:

(Click to view a larger image)

The major aspect of the flier (for the purposes of the argument) is this little bit: "Walker supports a bill that would take away the right of unions to negotiate health care benefits."

A second flier from the 2010 campaign (this one from WEAC), provided by radio host Vicki McKenna (also available at Prestegard's site), made a similar mention of health care benefits being removed from the bargaining process:

What these two tidbits of information mean is that, yes, the unions knew that Walker was planning to take away some aspects of their negotiation rights. The emphasis here, however, is SOME. Not all.

It should be noted that both sources attribute the same idea: that Walker was proposing that negotiation be terminated when it came to health plans. Still, is that enough to say that the people of this state should have seen it (the "bomb" as Walker called his plan) coming?

Hardly. Walker campaigned on an idea of removing one aspect of bargaining, and then subsequently removed nearly all aspects of it. What's more, the Journal Sentinel article that was used above points it out as clear as day: Walker didn't exactly "highlight" the fact that his plan would end these rights for workers, as far as their health plans went. And as Capper notes at Cognitive Dissidence, Walker even testified to Congress that he didn't campaign explicitly on the removal of bargaining rights.

At best, you have Walker stating that he wanted to change how state workers' health plans worked. No mention was ever made of bargaining rights being removed in other aspects of their contracts.

Walker also implied that he'd keep collective bargaining in place, making cuts using furloughs if bargaining failed, never eliminating the bargaining process outright:

So where does that leave us? Believing that Walker would make greater cuts to the bargaining process -- making the jump from assuming he'd remove health care plans from that process, to nearly dismantling the process entirely -- is a foolish assumption to make. The assertion that these conservative bloggers make (that the people should have known better) is equally as foolish.

I liken it to this: It'd be like ordering a steak medium-rare from your favorite restaurant, getting a charred hunk of meat resembling what you ordered, and getting a quizzical look from you waiter as he says to you, "Well, you wanted it cooked, right?" In both cases (Walker "campaigning" on ending bargaining rights and the restaurant scenario) you have what was believed to be a smaller idea of what actually happened in the end.

Walker campaigned on removing one aspect of bargaining rights, and actually stated he was intending to use the remainder of the bargaining process to balance the budget, using furloughs where it didn't work. How one comes to the conclusion that that means what he REALLY meant was the total eradication of collective bargaining for state workers is beyond reasonable comprehension.


  1. quit whining. "elections have consequences"

  2. ...And one of those consequences is a determined recall movement when you engage in a sleazy bait-and-switch to implement a radical plan to end collective bargaining for public employees that you never campaigned on during the 18 months you ran for Governor...

  3. Elections have consequences. So we should ignore the constitutional right to recall that all Wisconsin citizens are legally allowed to utilize? Sounds a little unreasonable to me, especially given that Walker himself benefited from the very process he's now scrutinizing.

  4. if Walker didn't campaign on collective bargaining, why then did diamond jim call a special session AFTER HE LOST THE ELECTION, to extend public employee contracts, contracts that had not been renewed for over a year....they even busted out of jail jeff wood to secure the votes, only to be foiled by Decker of St. Point--more selective memory of the lefties!!!!

  5. hey Kris Walker, it is pretty clear to me from the sources in your article that the gov did indeed intend to eliminate at least a portion of collective bargaining. just a heads up, doyle didn't campaign on raiding the transportation fund, use one time funding to plug holes, or even use furlough days (GASP! NOT THE UNIONS!).

  6. Corey,
    Cute, changing my name. Not sure if that's meant to be an insult or not, but I've been called worse I suppose :-D

    I also think it's clear that Walker said he'd use the bargaining process -- USE it!! -- not dismantle it completely. Far bigger difference there, don't you think?

    I'm not expecting every gubernatorial candidate to stick strictly to their campaign promises, and nothing more (e.g. your examples with Doyle). But when someone dismantles 50 years of precedent -- especially when they themselves imply that they intend to stick by it -- I think that warrants a little bit of outrage.