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19 June 2011

What's next in Wisconsin? Unions make plans with maps.

"Making plans with maps" is a phrase I coined in a poem about a decade ago.  Surprisingly, it's not caught on.  (Heh.)  I use it to reference daydreaming or plotting for high-fallutin' or outlandish plans, in which the planning-for part is more complicated (and perhaps more emotionally fulfilling) than the actual execution (which rarely comes to pass anyways).  After one makes plans with maps, one might give up and just ask, Who is John Galt.

The WI unions are making plans with maps.  They are a wounded animal, licking their wounds, and they are an angered ex-girlfriend plotting revenge.  An angry ex-girlfriend with Borderline Personality Disorder will do something destructive to her ex-boyfriend to show him how much she loves him and how much she deserves to be taken back.  The stronger the emotion, the riskier the move.  I'm talking risky, like setting his car on fire.  (Emily Valentine in early 90210?  Classic BPD.  Just sayin'.)

The unions have lost the most recent collective bargaining battle.  They have retreated and amassed their army to fight on two fronts: recalls and federal courts.
Recalls: Nine recall elections this summer could swing the state senate to a Democrat majority.  In anticipation of the recalls, the Republicans have been passing two years' worth of laws in months.  I'm not sure how much more could be put on the table that's not been already passed.  Six Republicans are in danger of losing their seats to Democrats, three Democrats are in danger of losing their seats to Republicans.  The Democrats need to a net gain of three seats to flip the majority.  But even then, the Republicans have the the Assembly and the Governor, so it's not like this will undo anything.  It will just put assured union-lackeys in the Senate and preserve stagnancy in our state government for the next 2+ years.  

Normally I don't like quick change, but with the economy rolling downhill, we need able men and women of action in government throwing firecrackers at the rolling snowball.  An ineffective legislature will not help the unions nor will it help the state.

On the courts side, the unions filed a lawsuit last week, claiming Walker's being unconstitutional.  
1. The law, which restricts most collective bargaining, exempts most current fire fighters and cops. (New hires, transfers, etc. are not exempt.)
2. The law violates the first and fourteenth amendments "by abrogating the right of public employees to bargain, organize and engage in union activity."

I'm no Constitutional scholar, so I'm still trying to work through the premise of the lawsuit.   Obviously, the main purpose is to throw anything possible at the law, knowing that most will bounce off it but hoping that something might stick.  But they've got to be able to back up their claims.

I'll take the Fourteenth Amendment first, since I wouldn't know what it was without looking it up.  In it, the Equal Protection Clause is an extension of "all men are created equal" and is meant to prohibit states's laws from creating different classes of peoples.  So it appears the unions believe that offering current firemen and cops exemption is creating different classes.  (Perhaps the administration should go ahead and pass a law that includes them now.)

As for the First Amendment, yay free speech!  In addition to speech, it covers peaceful assembly and petitioning governmental grievances.  It appears that the unions think the collective bargaining law interferes with free speech in that monetary political donations are protected as free speech.  

With layman's eyes, I'm gonna take a stab at this.  If collective bargaining is a right that protects its workers, then to exclude a portion of its workers from accessing this protective right is prejudicial and creates two different classes.

Your honor, the state recognizes the importance of "equal protection under the law", as well as the importance of all state employees.  Those with professions that are already of a different class of non-protection, in that their profession involves them risking their lives on behalf of the citizens, have been grandfathered into the system.  New hires will be treated equally under the law, thereby abolishing the possibility of different classes of state employees.  

The biggest thing with this one, though, is that it rests on the faulty premise that collective bargaining is a right and that collective bargaining protects its workers.  It could be argued that collective bargaining protects its union employees at the expense of the workers.  It could be argued that collective bargaining has established systems that award benefit and job security based on seniority rather than merit, which creates different classes of people.  This is a much harder case to make, though, as it necessitates the state redefining the unions' PR campaign within the courts.

Next!  First Amendment.  Money is free speech.  There are a few things at play.  Under the old laws...
1. union membership was mandatory
2. union dues was mandatory
3. dues was deducted out of paychecks
4. the state was responsible for collecting dues (via #3) and delivering it to the unions
5. the unions invested much of that money in electing officials that would be beneficial to them during collective bargaining and elsewise during state lawmaking.

The new law does not prevent unions from donating their money to whomever they please.  As I understand it, that's the main deal for speech = $.  In the modern era, people express themselves with monetary interactions.  (Man, that makes us sounds like a bunch of whores.)  The law has nothing to do with ensuring that a group HAS money with which to speak, only that once that money is acquired, it may be used to speak.

I don't see how the First Amendment is at all applicable to this case.  At all.  Not one bit.  Am I missing something?  Please explain it to me.  As is, it appears to me that the unions are just grasping at straws -- that, and throwing the First Amendment in there makes the lawsuit and their cause appear more Patriotic! and Democratic!... or something.

It appears that the unions aren't hanging their hat on their lawsuit.  (Apparently, for that front of their battle, they are just doing what they do best -- spending tax payers' money.)  Mary Bell, the head of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said her organization would work in the coming weeks to restore balance in government through the recalls."I don't think we will reverse the kind of damage done to public workers," she said. "But the lawsuit may say what the Wisconsin Supreme Court didn't say, and that this was done as political payback." 

Political payback, which references early claims that the firemen and cops were exempted because their unions donated to Walker.  It should be noted that some firemen and cop unions donated to Walker's campaign, other fire and cop unions donated to his opponent.  

Regardless, WEAC is saying that the lawsuit is mostly to promote bad PR against Walker, presumably in  preparation for a Walker recall in January 2012.  Their main focus is the current state senate recalls, which, even if they do flip the senate, don't actually win them anything.

On the contrary, I would like to argue that for the long term "war", winning the senate battle is a loss in the end.  Recalling Walker will be incredibly difficult.  500,000 signatures will be needed, gathered over a two month period.  If you begin the campaign as soon as possible, that' 500,000 signatures out of 5 million residents in the middle of winter in Wisconsin.  

The hardest thing to wrangle will be to keep people revved up about the issues.  As the court case settles, the law moves along, and people see that the sky is not falling, they will go back to their apathetic complacency.  To accomplish a recall, the unions need to keep people fired up.  That's why Walkerville exists, that's why they're taking suing over the law... But January 2012 is a long ways away, especially when most people think that the recall can begin in November (his election day), as opposed to January (his first day in office).  

If the recalls are effective in flipping the state senate to a Democrat majority, it accomplishes nothing of substantial value, yet it will feel like an emotional victory to the protesters.  At every turn, they've been drowning, arms flailing, trying to grab onto anything that would feel like a victory.  Kloppenberg was supposed to be their moral victory, but Prosser won the state supreme court seat.  Sumi's judgement was supposed to be a moral victory, but her injunction was overruled by the state supreme court.  Et cetera, et cetera.  

With every failed moral victory, the masses were refueled to fight again, to keep on fighting, forever and ever and ever.  They've got their eye on the prize, and right now that prize is the recall elections.  If they win that battle, what do they have to be fired up about?  Sure, they still disagree with a lot of stuff in Wisconsin, but many have been looking for a way to not feel bad all of the time.  They need that moral victory, because they are emotionally exhausted.  Once given a moral victory, it gives the lesser-zealots the ability to allow themselves to stop fighting.  War is hell.

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