The landslide results of the re-call vote on Governor Scott Walker sent a powerful message echoing across the country: Unions are out of control and must have a very limited role in the public sector. Despite multiple mid-day protests flooding the capitol in Madison (does anybody have to go to work anymore?), the voters stuck with the direction their governor and state legislature have coursed. That direction is toward curbing the unprecedented power unions hold of a portion of the economy that operates as a monopoly.
The state simply could not afford to indefinitely pay artificially inflated wages, benefits, and bloated pensions created by the unsustainable public employee union contracts. The union employees enjoyed absolute protection from performance standards, and balked at any attempts by the administration to curb spending. So the governor took bold action. It was especially bold, because a majority of the benefits will not be immediately realized – this is a very rare display of courage for an elected official.
Walker and the state legislature cut spending almost immediately and passed legislation giving public employees the right to choose whether they want to be a part of a union. They will also have to recertify every year in a secret ballot. As a result, union membership declined dramatically over the past two years. The people spoke, and they are saying that these public employee unions are irrelevant. With the exception of police and firefighter unions, in what way do they add value to society?
These bold changes will help control costs, but more importantly, they will enable a culture shift. This shift will open the door for business-like approaches to public service that would have been nearly impossible to implement in unbending union-represented public organizations.
This landslide victory for the reform incumbents now puts Wisconsin in play for Mitt Romney in November. But the key question for us is, will unions in Illinois take the events in Wisconsin as an early warning and work with Governor Quinn to help cut spending? Don’t count on it. The teacher’s union in Chicago will soon authorize a strike. Illinois unions will dig in and we will continue to sink down the financial toilet.
Illinois will never learn.
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