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Scott Walker's Views on Collective Bargaining No Surprise

10:30 AM, Feb 23, 2011 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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The paper followed up on September 13:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, each have proposals to lower health benefit costs.

Walker wants to make it easier for school districts and local governments to buy insurance through a state-run health benefits program. Barrett would require local governments to insure their workers through a similar program, and he is interested in having schools eventually do the same.

How much money the proposals would save is a question. But both would require legislation. That's because current state law makes it difficult if not impossible to make any changes in health benefits without the approval of the unions that represent government workers. Under state law, health benefits that are part of an employee's total compensation are subject to collective bargaining. 

So Walker’s campaign proposal to lower costs by changing the health care benefits of public employees would “require legislation” because the law “makes it difficult if not impossible to make any changes” outside of the collective bargaining process.

Sounds like precisely what Walker is doing now, no?

What’s more, as Milwaukee county executive, Walker used every legal means he could to circumvent collective bargaining procedures. In a Journal-Sentinel article that ran on October 29, 2010, just three days before the election, Richard Abelson, head of the local AFSCME chapter, accused Walker then of doing as county executive what he’s trying to do as governor. “The premise is still that they want to bypass collective bargaining and adopt wages and working conditions through the budget process.”

So contrary to the claims of Politifact/Journal-Sentinel, Walker’s press conference on December 7 was not the “first public hint” that he would seek to end some public employee union collective bargaining. (And the paper didn’t report it as a mere hint, suggesting that Walker was considering “essentially abolishing state employee unions” and that he “is following the path of other fiscally conservative governors, such as Indiana Republican Mitch Daniels, who used an executive order to rescind collective bargaining and union settlements for state employees on his first day in office in 2005.”) If Walker did not campaign on the specific collective bargaining proposal in his budget repair bill, it was no secret that Walker would be proposing dramatic changes to the state’s relationship with its employees – changes that the paper’s own reporting made clear would include collective bargaining.

As AFSCME’s Abelson said in the Journal-Sentinel’s article on that very press conference: “His union-busting attitude shouldn't surprise anybody.”

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