Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Public Sector Unions Using the Custer Playbook

We are witnessing some rapidly changing times in America.  Some however have failed to read the memo.

This year, public sector unions proceeded against Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) with a vengeance, spending millions on a recall petition drive. Net result? More voters in Wisconsin voted not to recall Governor Walker than voted for him to become governor.

Governor Quinn has been at odds with several public sector unions in Illinois who are angry with him for not following through on agreed contractual pay raises and for closing prisons and mental health centers and institutions heavily staffed by union members. Several lawsuits are pending and working their way up to the Appellate Court and probably the Supreme Court on various issues. Governor Quinn and the presidents of these labor unions have traded angry insults.

The Chicago Teachers Union of the Chicago Public School System is now on strike. The strike is three days old and looks to go on for a considerable period of time. With President Lewis of the CTU and Mayor Emmanuel of Chicago playing hardball with each other, the end result should be pretty ugly for all concerned. Pity the poor school children, who are ping pong balls in this battle. If the "average" school teacher salary in the Chicago Public Schools is correct, then teachers are earning close to three times the average amount that parents of those ping pong balls earn.

The wealthier parents in Chicago send their children to private schools. No wealthy parents are screaming for that strike to end. They have no real stake in that battle.

Today, Lake Forest High School teachers walked off the job and are now on strike. The School Board and the Union for some reason is having a difficult time even scheduling meetings. Pity the poor school children, who are ping pong balls in this battle. But the difference between Chicago and Lake Forest are wealthier parents with the means to try to force a compromise between that union and the school board.

Does all this represent the last stands of public sector unions in America? Are public sector unions facing prolonged efforts at cut backs in salary and benefits they fought long and hard for over these years, similar to the battles the private sector unions have waged over the last three decades? Will the weapon of strikes being called in this economy by these two unions and with growing anger over public sector salaries and pensions, be renamed "Custer's Last Stand?"

Over the years, public sector unions have basically sided with Democrats during elections and against Republicans. They have been strong contributors to Democrats. They have supplied a steady stream of volunteers to their election efforts. Republicans now chafe at the thought of public sector unions and for the most part, treat them as enemies. Now public sector unions find themselves fighting with their supposed friends, Democrats, in Chicago and Springfield. They find themselves being forced to fight with their backs to the wall.

We've heard all the expressions over the years: "Putting all your eggs in one basket," seems the most appropriate one to use. But now has "putting all your eggs in one basket" been replaced with "Custer's last stand through these two strikes?"

Sure looks that way, at least with the more militant of the public sector labor union leadership involved.

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