A bad day for government unions

It is way too early to talk of a rout, but two developments last Thursday have to make public employee union bosses very, very nervous.

First, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who’s been more reluctant than most elected officials to come to grips with a fiscal crisis driven by union benefits, signedlegislation requiring retired state workers to chip in on premiums for health insurance they now get for free.

There’s still ample opportunity for this to go wrong. Quinn might be pulling a fast one: We smell the possibility of litigation over changing the terms of benefits already “earned,” and contribution rates aren’t set.

But even if he’s being too clever by half, Quinn has highlighted a problem with no conceivable solution that’s favorable to the unions.

And we’ll note that asking for contributions from current retirees goes farther than anything Scott Walker ever considered as far as we know.  So can we look forward to unionistas marching on Springfield with “Recall Quinn” placards?

In a potentially more significant development, the U.S. Supreme Courtruled decisively in favor of union members who objected to the Service Employees International Union taking their money without notice to bankroll a political campaign against then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What makes this decision a bigger deal than the Illinois legislation? The Wall Street Journal noted that Justice Alito’s opinion opened the door to explosive questions about “agency shop” rules that compel workers to pay dues for collective bargaining whether they join the union or not. Alito asked, shouldn’t people who choose not to join the union have a right to opt into its political activities, rather than have to opt out or lose control of their compulsory dues?

Sounds like an invitation for more litigation.

Why the unions had to lose

A hallmark of the recall campaigns was the difficulty recall backers had coming up with an acceptable explanation of why they wanted to remove elected Republicans from office.

The real reason, affirming the permanence of unchallenged union power, quickly proved politically toxic. Something else was needed and as we’ve seen, none of the reasons cooked up by the Left had much credibility.

But conservatives are still obligated to explain why the government unions need to have their wings clipped.  An analysis in U.S. News and World Report discusses why conservatives succeeded in Wisconsin:

  • Wisconsin voters understood unchecked union power has come to pose a direct threat to the ability to pay for legitimate and necessary government services.
  • They understood that the practical effect of government union power is that taxpayers work to support the unions and are expected to pony up, no matter what.
  • Taxpayers recognized that they were being shamelessly exploited to ensure a comfortable lifestyle with virtually no risk of unemployment, for people who, even when they work hard and do their jobs well, are net consumers, not producers, of tax revenue.

Importantly, the article notes that voters are way ahead of the political leadership and have told them it’s safe to take necessary steps toward fiscal sanity. We’d go a step farther and say it’s politically dangerous to avoid taking those steps.

Meanwhile, the unions and their Democrat allies are having just as much trouble explaining their defeat as they had explaining why they demanded a recall in the first place.

A media tutorial

The uneventful 21st Senate District recount remains useful in shining the light of truth on Democrat’s electoral cheating.

As a side benefit, the mainstream media clumsily shines a light on its own tactics. Consider Thursday’s Racine Journal Times story trying to debunk allegations that high school students were taken out of classes to drag Democrats to the polls. The headline: “Group, district, refute activist’s get out the vote claims.”

Note the verb “refute.” In media usage, Republicans accused of crimes “deny” a charge. Democrats “refute” it.

True, the Journal-Times had to repeat the GOP allegations in order to dismiss them, but the spin is insulting. Students weren’t sent into Democratic wards, we’re told; they were sent into wards with low turnout in past elections. We’re supposed to be too dumb to recognize two descriptions of the same thing.

Just so we’d know everything’s okay, the Journal Times talked to a member of the school board and reported the following:

“Racine Unified School Board member Sue Kutz, who’s been on the board since the get-out-the-vote events began, said students should have the right to take part in such activities.

“’I don’t care about the partisan politics. It gets them involved and helps them understand how the election process works,” Kutz said. ‘If this is something they want to do and the parents are supporting it, that’s their right and ability to do that.”

It took us two minutes to find there’s only one Susan Kutz with a Racine address and she signed both the Wanggaard and Walker recall petitions.  The Journal-Times could have discovered that as quickly as we did and arguably had a professional duty to do so, but chose not to mention it.

Deliverance!

Yesterday, the people of Wisconsin made history by standing in defense of fundamental human rights.

Let that sentence sink in. It is no exaggeration. What was at stake in Tuesday’s recall election was nothing less than the economic freedom and the free speech and property rights of every honest citizen of this state.  They have been under assault for 16 months by people who would abridge those rights for their own gain.

With our own eyes, we’ve seen those rights under assault:

  • Children below grade-school age used as props in mass rallies by teachers and day-care workers;
  • Union thugs threatening to destroy honest businesses;
  • Drum-beating ignoramuses deliberately obstructing the lawful functions of government;
  • Physical intimidation of innocent citizens by obscenity-shrieking mobs.

Allowing those mobs to control the governor’s office would have caused serious people to fear for the future of civil society and the rule of law in Wisconsin.  Courage was on the ballot Tuesday and courage won, as the good people of Wisconsin faced down the thugs and bullies and drew a line they are not permitted to cross.

Fix the recall statute

Conservative activists will be tempted to try turning Democrats’ recall tactics against them, and harass left-leaning officeholders over any policy dispute that seems opportune. Democrats richly deserve such treatment. The people of Wisconsin don’t.

It’s worth remembering that last year’s recall fever included grassroots conservatives seeking to remove from office some of the state senate Democrats who fled Wisconsin to sabotage the operation of the Legislature.

Those who initiated that effort can’t be faulted for holding their Senators accountable.  Public officials who hide in another state to avoid doing their jobs ought to be thrown out.

But that’s a very different thing from seeking to negate a lawful election simply because a duly elected official pursues altogether predictable policies. Accountability for policy choices is the reason we have regular elections. Democrats, and more specifically the government unions that dictate Democrats’ behavior, have wantonly violated that principle this year and last. Republicans should not imitate them, but rather put an end to their juvenile antics.

Most of the people of Wisconsin understand the recall as a remedy necessarily available but rarely used, and designed to expeditiously remove officials who commit actual crimes in the conduct of their duties or somehow blatantly violate their oath of office.

Regrettably, the statutory language fails to set this standard. We’ve now seen how openly it invites abuse by mindless political vandals.

In the 2011-12 Legislature, State Rep. Robin Vos (R-Caledonia) proposed a constitutional amendment to make the recall do what most people think it ought to do.  It passed the Assembly and died in the Senate. Assigning high priority to such a reform in 2013 would help defend the integrity of Wisconsin elections. Republicans who pursue it would earn the thanks of honest voters.

Things worth fighting for

Why is it essential that Democrats be defeated?  Check this editorial from Saturday’s Beloit Daily News.

It seems Diane Hendricks has run afoul of the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF).  Sounds like a high-minded civic organization, right? Guess again.

Diane Hendricks and her late husband Ken founded a company that does business all over the U.S.  Diane Hendricks is Governor Walker’s single largest contributor in the recall. This made her and the family company a target of sleazy, deceptive attacks by the IWF, implying but carefully not charging corruption.

The Daily News sees the Hendricks’ differently:

“They have been honorable, and they have been instrumental in transforming this community’s landscape, and in improving the outlook for the future.”

In fact, they’ve been job creators in a community that has badly needed jobs. They’ve made money and they’ve helped lots of other people do the same.

Can’t have that.  Time for left-wing unions to rev up the attack machine.

See, IWF attack dog Jack Norman is an ex-reporter and newsroom union organizer. The IWF’s 16-member board is headed by Milwaukee Leftist Barbara Quindel and features six union bosses.

When somebody makes a big contribution to Scott Walker the IWF-union-Democrat playbook response is automatic: Destroy their reputation.

The Hendricks’ could have chosen to locate anywhere. They could have moved their company to Waukesha County where politics, education, and crime rates are more favorable.  But they remained committed to Beloit, improving a community that needed their help.

As the Daily News put it:

“The Hendricks family has been good for Beloit, and Beloit has been good for the Hendricks family. It has been a partnership for the ages.

“THE NATURE OF politics these days is that no one who brushes up against it comes away unsullied. Public person or private individual, doesn’t matter. Getting involved puts a bullseye on one’s back.

“The price to be paid for that is evident each day — coarse, uncivil, angry behavior. If it continues to worsen, the country’s very existence may be at risk.”

Amen.  The remedy is to defeat the Left.