Will Wisconsin's anti-union bill pass constitutional muster? Is it a good idea?

Story here

The story later details that unions won’t actually be outlawed, but will face new restrictions on what they can ask for at the bargaining table, how they must conduct their internal affairs, etc. Basically, it seems to be trying to make being in a union or running a union both difficult and with no visible benefit; IMO it’s trying to make unions go away without actually banning them. Kinda like trying to keep people from using the sidewalk by saying “well you can walk there as long as you wear purple stilts and walk backwards and only make turns to the left”. Pretty soon no one is using the sidewalks because it’s a PITA and the effort vs. the reward ratio is too high.

Anyway, I have 2 questions about this bill.

  1. Is it constitutionally sound? It seems to me that it places a lot of difficult and burdensome restrictions on a union and it’s membership which may conflict with federal law and possibly with our right to freely associate. In the case of teachers’ unions and other government service employees unions and what they can and cannot try and secure at the bargaining table, I question whether or not that is an attempt to limit people’s right to seek redress for grievances from the government as well.

  2. Is this bill a good idea? It’s being talked about by supporters as a good thing because it will expenses, but it may very well do so at the cost of hundreds or thousands of teachers, police, firefighters, etc. leaving the state, which will collapse tax revenues so much that the “savings” become a moot point.

What do you think?

Can someone confirm one way or the other the proposed legislation is only aimed at unions that did not support the Governor in his election bid? Apparently those unions that endorsed the governor in his election bid are not subject to this legislation.

Duckster where did you read that? It certainly wasn’t mentioned or hinted at in the article I linked to.

I don’t know about punishing unions specifically based on their partisan affiliation, but the bill does exempt some unions from its regulations. Specifically, police, firefighters and state troopers’ unions will still have full collective bargaining power. Kevin Drum thinks this is mostly about destroying Democratic-leaning unions.

From the article:

Wisconsin, like other states, has a budget problem. They need to cut costs significantly, and the way to do that is to cut pay, cut benefits, or cut jobs. It sounds like Walker was elected to do just that.

Of working class people, of course.

Actually, there is nothing inherent in a budget problem that automatically requires you need to cut costs significantly. An alternative is to raise revenues. But that might require rich folk to do their share. Much easier to fuck the working class over.

I am not sure it is whether or not the union endorsed the governor that controls it.

Is it Constitutional?

Is it a good idea?

Holding down expenses is painful, no doubt about that, but unions always scream whenever they don’t get what they want.

Can’t remember if it was Sam Gompers or John Lewis, or somebody else, but he was asked what he wanted for his union. He replied, “More.”

Sooner or later you reach a point where you can’t have that. Best case scenario is that this turns out like the air traffic controllers’ strike when Reagan first took over.


I’m sure it’s constitutional – I’m not sure it comports with federal labor law, which (so far as I know) grants reasonably broad protections to labor unions and their right to bargain. But this is not my area of law…

Ultimately, all a union is is a manifestation of the Constitutional right to free assembly. Suppose this law passes, and suppose that an influential teacher gets together with a bunch of es co-workers, and they all decide that they don’t like it. The influential teacher goes to the school board and says “If you don’t raise teacher pay (or increase benefits, or offer longer contracts, or stop requiring the teachers to act as an amateur bomb squad, or whatever the grievance is) then I and a bunch of my friends will all call in sick until you do”. Now, of course, if the teachers make good on their threat, then the school board can fire them for not doing their job… But if the influential teacher has enough folks on board with the plan, that might be very difficult for the school board.

OK, so suppose that all of this happens. What you’ve got is, for all practical purposes, a teacher’s union that has demanded a wage increase… But at what point did the teachers fall afoul of the law?

Yeah, because raising taxes in a recession works so well.

The private working class is tired of paying taxes so that public employees can have a defined benefit pension program that has not existed in the private sector for decades. The private working class has not had a raise either, nor do they get automatic raises just for being in a position.

THOSE are the people who voted Walker in.

I would say it was at the point where they said “You can’t get a job unless you join the union, pay your dues, and go on strike when we tell you to or get harassed”.

Of course, Wisconsin is also free to say “You want a 9% increase? You can’t have that - accept 8% and get back to work, or you will be fired and we will hire some teachers who will work for less.” Freedom works both ways, or it should.


At the point where they actively interfere with another teachers’ ability to negotiate with the school board for a job. As long as the school board isn’t prevented from hiringother teachers, and those other teachers are not impeded in any way from seeking out those jobs, those teachers are fine.

Republicans see the current recession as an opportunity to break unions nationwise. Look for them to try this stuff at both the state and national level. If they can destroy unions, they reason, they will have a much better chance of getting Republicans elected, as unions fund a lot of Democrats and damn few Republicans … for obvious reasons. So take the “economic” arguments as the smokescreen they are … the real goal is union-busting for political reasons, plain and simple. Karl Rove said so quite recently, and let’s face it … he would know.

Indeed. Raising taxes on the rich is bad in a recession, because it reduces their take home income to spend. Reducing salaries and benefits on the working class is good in a recession, though, because it reduces their take home income to spend.

Have I got it right?

This is a great idea. The benefits union members get today are ridiculous. And the public is who pays for it. I’d be much more forgiving of unions if, as someone others said, the freedom worked both ways. You can demand all you want. And the employer is free to hire anyone they want at a wage and benefits the two parties agree to. But the unions will have none of that, I’m sure.

We’ve been through this elsewhere around here. It’s not that simple.

Except the private working class is paying less in taxes then they have in decades (not to mention public employees pay taxes too…same as the privately employed). They need to get a clue:

Also, public employees are not paid more than the private sector. Less actually. Frankly their unions are failing them and they should demand more.

So, basically, all your issues are non-issues.

Such as what?

I’m trying to find the online local news article. I guess this is a multipart question:

Is there an online version of the bill?
Were they any unions that support the Governor? Names?

Only with enough information can one confirm, or not, the original question I posed.

Insulation from being fired due to poor performance.

No, I am afraid you don’t. We are no longer in recession. IOW, we are at the point where Keynesians believe a big deficit is a bad idea.

Of course, those liberals who were using Keynes’ ideas merely as an excuse to tax and spend will call for further taxes and more spending, especially on core liberal groups like gays/lesbians, blacks, feminists, and unions.

And Whack-A-Mole, do you have a credible cite for the claim that union workers make less than private sector employees do? Because that part where they talk about gender, race and ethnicity makes me a little leery about accepting what they claim at face value - especially that they are really comparing apples and apples.

And don’t you think the fact that we were in recession in 2009 might affect your cite of that deeply scholarly and well-respected source, USA Today?