I understand why Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is couching the Left’s tantrum (H/T: Instapundit) over the Wisconsin budget bill in terms of having public sector employees contribute more of their fair share to health care and restricting harmful collective bargaining practices; both sides of the issue are publicly and politely pretending that this were the central issues. Only, they were not. Oh, sure, limiting collective bargaining via statute (which makes it harder to reverse) is a clear and present danger to the ability of organized labor to keep its leadership fat and happy; nobody’s debating that, although some (dumb) people would dispute my depiction of said leadership. But the real problem with the bill for the Democrats is much simpler:
The ending of automatic dues checkoff for public sector unions in Wisconsin.
Mickey Kaus – a Democrat who hates organized labor in a way that I, the son and grandson of good union men, simply cannot – called this provision “arguably the change unions fear the most” – and he’s right, except for the “arguably” part. Simply put, what automatic checkoff does is make it trivially easy for unions to collect dues: the employer (in this case, the state government) simply deducts the money from an union member’s pay and sends it along. No fuss, no muss, no debate… it’s just one more thing that the government takes from your paycheck. This turns the collection of union dues into a guaranteed revenue stream (instead of the colossal pain in the neck that such things usually are); most people don’t even notice, frankly. And it’s from union dues that unions get the money that they use for political advocacy*.
And it’s something that public sector unions will not voluntarily give up. If you look at the way that the situation in Wisconsin resolved, the triggering mechanism was when the Democrats announced that there would be no further negotiations, and the Republicans shrugged and passed the bill in response. Given the concessions actually being offered, this might seem surprising on the Democrats’ part – after all, at this point any concession by Wisconsin Republicans would have met at least moderate hostility from the Right – until you realize that the concessions did not address structural changes on the level of making the unions collect their own [mild expletive deleted] dues, and it’s not the government’s problem if they can’t. The Republicans refused to make any concessions there at all – and when it comes right down to it, they obviously didn’t have to. Which is something that Wisconsin Democrats abruptly learned last night.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Which is, by the way, mostly being used on the behalf of Democrats, at a ratio far out of sync with how their members vote.