Unions, Judicial Activists and Democrats Lose Big in the Badger State
Justice has been served in Wisconsin, with the rebuke of a judicial activist judge, union dues taking a hit, and Democrats losing a source of coerced donations.
What happened in the streets of Madison and in the unruly, mob-packed Capitol there in February and March, when enraged public workers, mostly teachers, took over, despoiling the place, was to us ordinary tax-paying folks, plainly despicable.
Events then foretold of a potential ripping of both the rule of law and doing fiscal damage to the state's taxpayers, besides physical damage to the Capitol. Thankfully, the law and fiscal sanity and some measure of respect for others' rights and property, finally prevailed when the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday, June 14, sided with the Governor Scott Walker-led bill to curb some, but not all, collective bargaining "rights" of public employees.
After the law was enacted and signed by Gov. Walker, you'll recall, Judge Maryann Sumi, a liberal activist judge, issued first a temporary retraining order, then a permanent injunction barring it from going into effect. In this she was doing the bidding of union attorneys. Legal experts en masse predicted this week's high court decision, so outlandish was Judge Sumi's orders. The new budget-fixing law limits certain collective bargaining for public employees, not including law enforcement and firefighters, and forbade their unions from tapping members' government paychecks for automatic dues withdrawal.
(It is said by Madison insiders the automatic dues withdrawal feature going belly up was at the crux of union bosses' opposition. It was the inner-deeper-hidden-secret behind their implicit orders for the 14 Democrat state senators to flee the state rather than stand up and be counted. Shutting down the democratic process somehow held appeal for these pro-union senators. Do you think, just maybe, campaign contributions had something to do with it? Just wild speculation here.)
Judge Sumi's action was a morale boost, at least temporarily, for the big-spending unions' special interests, and their army of attorneys, intending from the beginning to toss the issue to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where blame could be assigned to those dang "conservative" judges. Judge Sumi's injunction order was not given a snowball's chance in hell, but she held firm. Liberal judges, same as major league baseball umpires, are never wrong? (Point here: Bum calls prevail.)
Gov. Walker, vilified by teachers and the ardent left (or am I being redundant here?) as Nazi-like, was magnanimous in his comments the day the high court struck down Judge Sumi's order, "vacating" it in legal terms. Said Gov. Walker: "The Superior Court's ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again." Let's hope the public union folks "get it," unlikely as that is. "Getting it" is hard to do.
The new law in its first year saves the state over $300 million, and a lot more later on, say number-crunchers. Importantly, not much discussed, the law gives local municipalities more leeway in budget-balancing negotiations with their public employee unions. Its local impact on hard-pressed communities can be nothing but salutary. And the new law whittles down the state's $3.5 billion budget deficit. Good things happen with steely resolve as displayed by Gov. Walker and the never-give-in "Rs" in the Badger State. Our hats off to them for taking the hateful heat.
In the aftermath of the high court's order, news media kept up their constant drumbeat that the new law "stripped" public employees naked of collective bargaining "rights." (Wages are still subject of collective bargaining, same as work rules not related to individual benefits such as pension contributions.)
Under the law, public employees must now help fund their own pensions (!) and contribute minimally to their health insurance costs. (Shades of emulating hard-pressed employees in the Obama-forsaken, cost-oppressed private sector.)
Predictably, the Associated Press's report of the high court decision subtly almost imperceptibly takes the side of the public employees. It must be recognized, of course, that major newspapers and electronic media too, are staffed by card-carrying members of another union, the Newspaper Guild. Perhaps bias is inherent in their pro-union stories?
AP writer Scott Bauer hews to the ripsaw view of "stripping" of collective benefits for public union members. He writes public employees are "stripped" of such "rights." Not so. Once called "fringe" benefits, but no longer, they are curtailed, yes. Why this blind spot in media coverage? Getting it wrong I mean. Any theories?
AP's Bauer is impressed with the minority chief justice's ornery dissent in the final 4-3 vote, calling her dissent "blistering" in one fawning reference, "fiery" in another. He quotes liberally (a-hem!) from Judge Shirley Abramson's dissent, calling her fellow jurists names, such as "storyteller." But Bauer does not quote from the strongly-worded majority opinion. Ah, but what does the majority opinion count for anyway? Not much it appears.
Not a mention in Bauer's tale about phony "sick leaves" taken by teachers to protest at the Capitol on full pay, closing schools in Madison and Milwaukee. Would they sanction that bogus excuse for their students? Those Get Out of Jail Free cards came from fellow public union activists at the Madison-based University of Wisconsin. Unions' collusion, anyone?
AP's report fails also to note that the new law, enacted by a duly elected majority, does not cover law enforcement or fire department people. Nor does Bauer mention boycott threats issued by union bigwigs against private businesses if they did not "support" the union position, a form of extortion. Ugliness does not get reported much if it pops up on the union side. Why is that? Such silence of mainstream about such travesties is deafening. Who, then, will tell the public?
At the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reporters Pat Marley and Don Walker side with the unions, deriding the Supreme Court as acting "with unusual speed." The judges, they wrote, "issued their order just [sic] one week after hearing oral arguments." Just think. One week! Tsk. Tsk.
Republicans, they add ominously, "run the Assembly," as if a holding majorities in both houses is some sort of crime.
Finally, in a concluding paragraph, the Journal-Sentinel guys -- omitting dirty details about the protests on "sick leave" and the hate-filled labeling of Gov. Walker as Hitler-like -- their version of events gets something right by a quote from the high court order itself:
"In its ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court said it took up the case because the lower court had 'usurped the legislative power with the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the Legislature.'"
Rather than in its lead paragraph, though, or in the headline, the quote about usurpation from the high court's order appears in the Journal-Sentinel's very last paragraph. Talk about inverting the inverted news pyramid; this is it -- in spades.
An inadvertently humorous headline appears in the left-leaning Minneapolis (MN) Star Tribune. As recounted by primo blogger Powerline's John Hinderaker:
"Of course, the Democratic Party media are gnashing their teeth. This headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune made me laugh -- 'Wisconsin Supreme Court lets polarizing union law pushed by Republican governor take effect.' And that was a news story, not an editorial."
State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) nails it when she said Judge Sumi "stepped all over the people of Wisconsin." Sadly, it's just the beginning of turf wars of the public employee unions using judicial activist judges as they try to wrest control of legislatures from We the People. Senator Darling is quoted:
"You think of all the chaos and discord and acrimony that's gone on in this Capitol as the result of her [Judge Sumi's] decision... [for] which she had no cause, no basis, no rule of law. She just did what she wanted for political reasons. To me, it was despicable."
Good word for it, despicable. Not one editorial writers in the mainstream will use, certainly, but fits like a glove.
Gary Larson is a retired newspaper and business magazine editor in Minnesota.