However, it took an ugly confrontation between Wisconsin’s unionized public employees and their employer, the State of Wisconsin, to redefine the term and to finally shine the light of day on the incestuous relationship that exists between public employees, public employee unions, and state and local government. And while some in the left wing media would have us believe that both major parties have contributed to the development of that relationship, that charge is demonstrably false. The corrupt combine could never have developed had not Democrats let it be known that their loyalty could be purchased with campaign money and support at the polls.
While it is common knowledge that business interests have on occasion exerted undue influence over elected officials… the Teapot Dome, Billy Sol Estes, Duke Cunningham, and Enron cases come to mind… it is those exceptions that prove the rule. The rule being that the relationship between business interests and government is essentially an arm’s length relationship, one that consistently promotes the general welfare while seeking a business environment in which basic fairness and regulatory restraint is the rule.
This is in stark contrast to the Democratic Party where the all-encompassing goal is the winning and holding of political power, and where the party has shown a willingness to adopt the agenda of any special interest that brings enough money or enough votes to the table. In the post-industrial era, the Democratic Party has embraced a wide variety of often competing special interests, including private sector unions, public sector unions, trial lawyers, radical feminists, radical environmentalists, racial minorities, gays, and lesbians… any group with the capacity to subordinate its own special interests, when necessary, for the greater good of the coalition.
Never has that been more evident than in recent weeks in Madison, Wisconsin, when thousands of middle class private sector union members… many bused in from out of state… joined hands with the teachers unions and the other public employee unions to defy Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature. In many instances, those who picketed in support of the public employee unions were middle class taxpayers who not only pay as much as half the cost of their retirement and healthcare plans, but pay the state and local taxes that fund the exorbitant salaries and the overly generous retirement and healthcare benefits of public employees. Talk about dumb and dumber.
Now, as the Madison demonstrators depart the state capitol and put aside their picket signs until the next rent-a-riot opportunity, it appears that a recall petition war is breaking out in which recall efforts will be made against Republican legislators and against the fourteen Senate Democrats who hid out in various Illinois motels for more than two weeks.
The eighty-five percent of Wisconsin voters who are not members of labor unions may soon have an opportunity to show that they understand the nature of the relationship that exists between Democrats and public employee unions, and that what is at stake is the monopoly power of high-salaried union bosses… that, and nothing more.
It is the union bosses who collect hundreds of millions of dollars in dues from classroom teachers and other public employees and use a major portion of that dues money to elect more Democrats to the Congress, the state legislature, and city and county offices (95% of union contributions go to Democrats). The Democrat politicians who are elected with union support then return the favor by creating more and more government bureaucracies, resulting in more and more dues-paying union members; establishing costly and inefficient union-friendly work rules; reducing class sizes in the schoolrooms; and agreeing to salaries, retirement benefits, and healthcare plans that are far more generous than those of the private sector.
In short, when members of the same political family (Democratic elected officials and their brothers and sisters in the labor movement) are allowed to sit down across the table from each other for the purpose of divvying up other people’s hard-earned money, that comes very close to defining the term “incest.” It is precisely why labor icons such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and AFL-CIO president George Meany were so outspoken against public employee unions.
Most Americans would agree that the time has arrived when government at all levels must begin to reduce spending and to eliminate unfair and excessive union work rules. By now, almost everyone has heard about New York City’s “rubber rooms,” the Temporary Assignment Centers created to house unionized school teachers who are either too incompetent or too dangerous to be allowed near our children, but who cannot be terminated because they are protected by their union contracts.
For those who have not been paying attention, writer Steven Brill of The New Yorker magazine gave us a chilling look at the ugliest side of public employee collective bargaining. Describing a visit to a Rubber Room, he tells us, “It’s a June morning, and there are fifteen people in the room, four of them fast asleep, their heads lying on a card table. Three are playing a board game. Most of the others stand around chatting. Two are arguing over one of the folding chairs. But there are no children here. The inhabitants are all New York City schoolteachers who have been sent to what is officially called a Temporary Reassignment Center, but which everyone calls the Rubber Room.
“These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city’s five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent. The teachers have been in the Rubber Room for an average of about three years, doing the same thing every day – which is pretty much nothing at all. Watched over by two private security guards and two city Department of Education supervisors, they punch a time clock for the same hours that they would have kept at school – typically, eight-fifteen to three-fifteen.”
Brill says, “Like all teachers, they have the summer off. The city’s contract with their union, the United Federation of Teachers, requires that charges against them be heard by an arbitrator, and until the charges are resolved – the process is often endless – they will continue to draw their salaries and accrue pensions and other benefits.”
One teacher, 56-year old Brandi Scheiner, was suspended with pay from her job as an elementary-school teacher. She earns more than $100,000 a year and insists that she is “entitled to every penny of it.” She has been in the Rubber Room for two years and by the time her case is heard she will have twenty-four years’ seniority, which entitles her to a pension of nearly half her salary for life, even if she is found incompetent and dismissed. But because two per cent of her salary is added to her pension for each year of seniority, a three-year stay in the Rubber Room will cost not only $300,000 in salary but at least $6,000 a year in additional lifetime pension benefits.
It is estimated that the annual cost of the Rubber Rooms to the New York taxpayers is close to $65 million. It is the kind of thing that happens when greedy public employees and their greedier union bosses are given almost unlimited access to the public treasury.
In Madison, Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, the highest paid city employee in 2009 was not the mayor, not the chief of police, not even the head of the metropolitan transit authority. It was bus driver John E. Nelson. Nelson earned $159,258, including $109,892 in overtime and other pay. He and his colleague, driver Greg Tatman, who earned $125,598, were among the city's top 20 wage earners for 2009… They are among seven bus drivers who made more than $100,000, thanks to a clause in their union contract that allows the most senior drivers, who have the highest base salaries, to get first crack at overtime.
Within the Madison city government, any employee who takes a voluntary demotion, in lieu of layoff, continues to receive full pay, plus any subsequent across-the-board salary adjustments, unless the employee voluntarily demotes more than two pay grades.
Part of the job search for those who’ve been laid off involves notices posted on bulletin boards. However, the union contract is so detailed and so complex that it even dictates the size and location of new bulletin boards in the workplace.
A very crude old joke says, “Incest is best; love begins at home.” Not true. Most incest occurs when Democratic elected officials and public employee unions gather behind closed doors to divide up the spoils of a corrupt political system. Is it any wonder that Wisconsin now has more government jobs than manufacturing jobs?