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Edit Note: I wrote that "protesters are getting doctors' notes". It should have said "teachers". I apologize for the error.

In addition, the Taft-Hartley Act outlawed the closed shop in 1947, but allowed for union shops. The errors have been corrected.

February 23; this just in: http://www.freep.com/article/20110223/NEWS02/110223020/0/NEWS09/All...

February 24; more cuts looming: http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/Wire_News_Display/136...

I don’t mind telling you that all of the shenanigans going on in Wisconsin are making me meaner than a badger. All of the posturing for the cameras by the various “stakeholders” is, well, a bunch of badgering.

Fire, police, teachers and the other public sector employees would do well by having an experienced public information person release statements. Because they are so financially and emotionally vested; I don’t think that they are thinking too clearly and are therefore not communicating too clearly. And none of them will go deeper than “Walker wants to take away collective bargaining”. As I understand it, Governor Walker wants to “re-shape” collective bargaining and yes; it might very well weaken collective bargaining going forward.

I also wonder who is paying the bills on the 14 Democrats staying at the Rockford, IL Best Western hotel. Taxpayers should not be stuck with this “flee fee” and the legislators should have their pay docked for each day they miss until their return. For the record; I would say the same thing if it were Republicans or Independents.

And what about revelations that teachers are getting doctors’ notes to excuse their absences from work or that high school students are at the protest as extra credit work. What is that teaching our kids? Remember the TV series Welcome Back, Kotter? Epstein’s notes from home were always signed “Epstein’s Mother”. Would students be punished for bringing in a fictitious doctor’s note? Damn right they would. Is there hypocrisy here?

What would you suppose is the public’s perception from watching this congress of public employees?

I’m sure that to other union and like-minded folks, it gives them that Chris Matthews thrill up their leg, but to the everyday mom and pop, they are probably wondering who is teaching the school kids, who is fighting crime on the streets, who is collecting the garbage and plowing snow and who is fighting fires in the communities if THEY are in Madison, Wisconsin demonstrating.

I should thank the 14 Wisconsin state senators for bringing their business to Illinois. God knows that we can use the business.

And in Illinois, we KNOW that the governor supports unions, because after-all, he made a sweetheart deal with them before the last election and we also know the corrupt nature of politics in Illinois.

Yes; I’m glad that I live in Illinois, where, right after the state income tax was raised, many in government gave their staff a raise. How sweet is that? And in my own little school district, where we just approved a tax hike, single teachers still pay ZERO for their health insurance and family pays a premium above the single rate.

We talk a lot in the fire service about black eyes and how, as a nation of firefighters, even the “black eyes” on a local level can affect public perception on a national level. I know; the air of solidarity is thick in Madison, but still, the folks back home are forming their opinions from what they are seeing, hearing and reading from the news outlets and as we all know; that can be very powerful.

So; as my title indicates, are we seeing growing anti-sentiment against public sector employees, unions, government representatives who mismanage revenues or are taxpayers rising up and speaking up for what they are willing to spend for services, regardless of those services and are they wrong to believe that they will settle for less?

First and foremost, I am NOT anti-union, but I AM for freedom of choice. That would include the freedom to choose whether or not I want to belong to a union. I don’t believe that contract language between a union and an employer should include union membership as a condition of employment.

I was a card-carrying member of the UAW for ten years with a previous employer. Illinois, like Wisconsin, is a “union shop” state, so, in order to work for that company, I had no choice but to join the union after ninety days of employment.

“Closed shop” means that employees at unionized workplaces are required to be members of the union as a condition of employment. Union dues were automatically deducted from the employees’ paychecks. Closed shops were outlawed under Taft-Hartley in 1947.

"Union shop" is an agreement between union and employer to hire union workers or to hire non-union workers with the understanding that they will have a set period of time-at least 30 days-to join the union or lose their jobs.

Under “right-to-work”, employees have the choice of joining a union or they can choose not to. However; non-members are afforded the same contract benefits, even though they do not pay union dues.

As I write this, Wisconsin and five other states (http://www.redstate.com/laborunionreport/2011/02/15/new-hampshire-h...) are considering right-to-work legislation.

There is an interesting article that I found that was written by Leo Troy of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research entitled “Freedom of Choice, Business Climates and Right to Work Laws”. (http://www.nilrr.org/files/Freedom%20of%20Choice%20and%20Business%2...)

As I read the article, I could easily see the correlation to my current situation.

The company that I currently work for (closed shop) is moving the operation to another state (right-to-work) and I can tell you that it’s not because they are looking for a more experienced work force.

But, that is relative to the private sector. What about the public sector?

Here is an article that suggests that the demonstrations in Wisconsin is all about power. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/opinion/21krugman.html?_r=1)

Are we seeing a backlash because the unions have left communities with the impression that they are unwilling to “give back”, because it’s regressive and weakens the union?

Does the lack of transparency between unions and its members make public sector employees easy targets for the backlash?

Are communities rejecting the political influence that unions have historically held in this country?

Will the events in Wisconsin force city and state governments to become more fiscally responsible with ALL tax money?

There have been several articles written about public employees being victimized for their salaries, benefits and pensions. For firefighters, it is eroding the pedestal that historically has been where the public has put them.

Firefighters who are willing to put their lives in Harm’s way for their citizens now find that THEIR lives aren’t worth their salaries and pensions to their citizens. It’s no longer what they get for their taxes; it is about what it costs. So; communities apparently believe that the safety of their firefighters and their community isn’t worth the cost. Both sides lose.

Let’s face it; we have always said that it is a thankless job and as we have seen in Detroit, Gary, Camden, Tulsa and other cities; they are willing to raise the stakes, blame public servants for their “bad luck” and believe that the next card will have them “all in”.

State and city governments have gambled their way to the current financial messes.

Unfortunately, they believe that they can gamble their way out.

Ante up!

More related links: http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/Wire_News_Display/136...

http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/Wire_News_Display/136...

http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/Wire_News_Display/136...

TCSS.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of any professional organizations that the author belongs to or  www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on April 8, 2011 at 8:39am

As of this morning, it looks like both sides of this issue in Wisconsin are prepared to spend more money to churn up sentiment in their favor.

Does anyone else see the problem with this? THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

Because so much money has been spent by the special interest groups in this case, it is the MONEY that has tainted the whole process. People are not being allowed to form their own opinions based on honest reporting and honest facts. They are being fed big, steaming buckets of BS from BOTH sides; almost denying them the opportunity for form an opinion, but to instead take a position based on who has spent the most money on the message.

IMHO.

Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on February 22, 2011 at 9:54am

John:

I am glad to hear from you and I will try to respond to your message.

My politics: lately, I have Independent leanings.

You’re right: I left out “teachers” with regards to doctors’ notes. I apologize and will correct that. Thanks for pointing it out. I was thinking “teachers” at the time. Brain fart.

John; the core of the blog is about perception. If you go back and look at it, that is what I say. What are the people seeing it, hearing it or reading it thinking? They won’t know that off-duty are at the capitol. That’s why there is a question mark in my title.

With the exception of my stating that I believe in the right to choose to belong to a union or not, I still don’t understand why there are these accusations that I am anti-union. I was in a union. My recall rights expired, was put on a preferential re-hire list and when I got a call to go back, I had already gone on to another career and turned it down. Hell, not only was I am member, but I was a steward and a strike captain. I went through THREE strikes, for chrissakes. I had a baby on the way and got 50 bucks a week strike benefits, but I didn’t b**** and we made it with the help of family.

I asked more questions in the blog than made points or opinions. Look at the last two sentences. Look at the links. I presented two sides.

Hell, I just read that San Jose TX  wants to lay off over 100 firefighters and a similar number of cops. It’s happening everywhere and I think that my opinion on cuts to fire departments is pretty clear.

Again; I see nowhere in the blog where I even mention IAFF; let alone denigrate them. The tone of the blog dealt with the ugly outcome of the decisions yet to be made.

Have you noticed any discussions comparing Madison to Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Bahrain and I guess, now Libya? These are scary times, man.

If I was “anti-union” or anti-IAFF, I wouldn’t have a friend in Galesburg. I simply am not anti-union.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on February 22, 2011 at 9:54am

As I said; I choose to work without union benefits.

And it may be lip service, but Gov. Walker said he would discuss the economic issues, but he still intended to push right-to-work legislation; at least that’s the way I understand it.

Don’t worry; I’m taking heat, but I have to wonder if some of the readers read the entire blog and tapped the links, because like I said, I thought I was giving a broad view.

And I cannot and will not ever say that I am anti-union. Past blogs Chillie Today; Hot Tomorrow and Lift Up the Laid Off would support that. In fact, my buddy at Chillicothe, Ohio told me that he posted my blog at the fire station and their morale “went up exponentially”.

Thank you for your civil reply. I appreciate it.

TCSS.

Art

Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on February 22, 2011 at 9:52am

This reply appeared at another website. John gave me permission to post it here.

Art,

I read your blog on FireEngineering via a facebook link. Since I'm not a member there I figured I could get a hold of you through here. While I know you are an ardent republican and you side with the govenor, you do have your opinions, but there are fallacies as well. The number one issue to write in is your crack on fellow firefighters and insinuate that they are calling in sick etc to protest. Not the case at all. Matter of fact there have been off-duty firefighters going to Madison daily, so who's fighting the fires? The firefighters who are on duty are the ones. As much as I wanted to go down alongsde my union brothers I have been staying home because of my duties. I think it would behoove you to understand that sentiment and comment on the blog.

Do you understand that police and fire have been carved out of the budget repair bill? Yet, they are still showing up to show support. Why? Quite simple, solidarity. While this means nothing to an anti-labor person, the reasonings behind it do come into play, namely looking out for the middle class. You mention about unions failing to budge, tell me this then, when the unions said they would concede to the concessions, as the gov wants, to keep CB, the gov said no. Where is the failing to budge? Do you realize many unions have given concessions and foregone raises, yet the rhetoric is that we are creating the budget woes?

C'mon Art, I know you are smarter than this. What is the biggest factor in spending? Welfare and entitlements, yet I have yet to see anyone address that elephant. Instead we see the public worker villified, meanwhile corporations are getting tax breaks. If we are all to "share" in this together, why do we keep seeing tax breaks for the wealthy, etc?

Let's go one step further here and look at some reality. The gov says this bill needs to be passed so local gov

Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on February 22, 2011 at 9:51am
John Crabbe's reply continued from below: can have the "tools" to handle cuts in shared revenue, which comprises much of a local gov budget base. Right now, there is word that the mayor wants to cut 21 to 45 positions in the fire dept, which will significantly reduce service to the community. How is that a "good thing" why not ask that question on the blog? After that is the reality at stake and the reasons for protesting, it is about fairness of those doing the job. It will get even further when we take our lumps in pay and retirement, which has been unfairly pushed on us, will the public realize the gravity of such cuts and how they will affect public safety?

After all the gov says he want to protect the core services, but he is doing everything to be the one to say "I didn't raise taxes" and yet the core services and public safety WILL be affected.

John Crabbe
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on February 21, 2011 at 2:00pm

Michael:

From what I can gather, it appears that many public service pensions are underfunded because:

- Agreed upon contribution was not made

-Contributions were made, but then "borrowed" upon

-Pension money was used as a piggy bank and went into general fund to balance budget

-Pension money was invested in hedge funds from the mortgage industry that went down in flames

But, the recurring theme is that contributions were not made by the various governments and have grown to such a degree that they would have to borrow or raise taxes to pay for the contributions.

Media is forcing communities to play "Connect the Dots".

Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on February 21, 2011 at 12:05pm

-People are acting like unions stole money or have been taking more than their share when in fact they received their wages and benefits through legal negotiation. They asked and it was given. If there wasn't enough money for the packages asked for than it was the responsibility of management's negotiators to not give something that wasn't there; if in fact that's the case at all.

Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on February 21, 2011 at 12:03pm
Comment by Michael Bricault just now
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-Gov. Walker is nothing more than another politician trying to blame labor for the financial woes of the sate when in reality the blame for crisis rests more squarely on the shoulders of politicians mismanaging public dollars. 

-This is nothing more than union busting in another guise endorsed by those who would like nothing more than to just have public sector employees be quiet good little boys and girls and be satisfied with the handouts they're given. Reduce operating expenditures on the backs of the very people providing the services. 

-The reality no one wants to talk about is that unions can be busted, salaries reduced and the operating budget for the FD will remain almost the same. The excuse will be that costs have gone up. We've already seen this happen. Cut the work force, cut the salaries of those remaining and the operating budget remains the same.  There's no immediate cost savings to anyone. The only one to suffer will be the end user of the FD services when the FD try's to provide the same service with less manpower and/or with a less skilled workforce. Same price but less service?  Yeah, that makes sense.

-Its to easy to blame labor. Irresponsible Politicians have done a great job of painting themselves as the victim when it was their financial irresponsibility in the first place. NJ is a perfect example. Not paying the retirement fund for years?!? This is pension raiding by a different name; stealing the money before it's in the fund, then blaming labor when the fund is no longer solvent.  Who the hell does the math there?!?! Christie should go to jail!!

-People are acting like unions stole money or have been taking more than their share when in fact

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