Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why have public sector unions? Glad you asked

An occasional talking point spin job from the suburban sheep is that private sector unions have a place in society, but public sector unions are a special case because they are taxpayer-funded and therefore are less legitimate. Forget the obvious point that these dishonest people see no need for unions in any way and want oligarchs to run wild in the hope that one day they'll luck into being one themselves, their logic is completely backward. Public sector unions aren't just OK, they're a NECESSARY part of a government and education system that should be serving its public.

What do I mean by that? As a former teacher, it was important that I have the protection of a union to make sure I could do my craft with freedom and fairness. If I didn't have a group having my back, I could certainly be threatened by superintendents who may have agendas other than education on their mind (like self-promoting publicity, higher office, or a coach trying to keep his player eligible). Think about the people rewriting the Texas textbooks to indoctrinate a religious, right-wing point of view into students, instead of giving students the facts and encouraging them to LEARN and figure out answers on their own. And a union also backs up a teacher over obnooxious PTA moms that may not accept their child has deserved to be disciplined for acting out in class or getting an F for cheating on a test or failing to do work. If there is no union, the teacher has a much greater chance of being intimidated into being lenient or expressing favortism to a certain few students, which destroys the teacher's effectiveness, and hurts the overall quality of education.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be accountability for teachers or some kind of performance standards that should be tracked to measure results of teaching, of course there should be (although it shouldn't be the entire evaluation either). But you can't have teachers become scared yes men/women, because it's a disservice to the kids, and teaches an awful lesson that crying and intimidating can be preferable to work and ability.

Independence also matters with those faceless bureaucrats in the capitols. Just look to Scott Walker's budgets to see what the opposite does. The most recent example is how the top lawyer for labor-management mediation is designated to turn into a governor's appointee. Now, call me a little skeptical, but shouldn't a mediator not have to answer to the whims of management to hang onto his/her job? Maybe the mediator should be, ohh I don't know, INDEPENDENT OF POLITICAL HACKS putting on pressure to see things their way?

And that's hardly the only example for Scotty and co., as they plan to remove 37 agency and communications positions from civil service and make them political appointees. So instead of independent workers whose number 1 accountability comes to the taxpayers and the local governments they assist, appointed positions lead to hacks who have to suck up to the boss, results and taxpayer accountability be damned. Same goes for the Department of Commerce and the proposed board for UW-Madison. These unaccountable agencies will be stocked with governor-approved officials, and what the guv may want could darn well not be what the taxpayers care to see, and once these people get on board, it becomes a long time to get them off.

If this doctrine of replacing taxpayer-accountable public servants with hacks sounds familiar, it should, because it was the entire M.O. of the Bush Administration's 8 years. Remember, Brownie? You know, the guy who headed up the International Arabian Horse Administration before landing a job with FEMA in 2001 when Dubya took over, and then FUBAR'ed Katrina? Remember the gift-taking, coke-and-meth-snorting oil regulators that allowed oil and gas industry execs to write their reports, and looked the other way as BP did the unsafe drilling that eventually led to the Gulf oil spill and several deaths? Put in place by Dubya. When you have a philosophy that "government doesn't work", it is in your best interest to put people in place that will eventually fail, allowing you to turn around and say "See, it doesn't work," and then sell off the services to one of your buddies for a nice profit.

Now, you see what Scotty meant by "Open for business?" Tell you what, we need pros doing their jobs more than ever for the 12 months these guys have left, so they don't leave the state unrecognizable for the next administration that will have to clean up the mess. And if the Senate GOPs won't keep this under their control, recall their asses and replace them with legislators who recognize that the greatness of Wisconsin will last longer than any one governor, and put the "public" back into taxpayer-funded work.

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