State Representative Don Pridemore was kind enough to grant me permission to re-print his recent update on what has transpired in Madison lately, as well as his views on public sector unions. I am sure you will find it as interesting as I did.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE DON PRIDEMORE - Newsletter from March, 2011
The drummers have finally left the building, the signs have been removed, and life has seemingly returned to normal here in the Capitol. The Budget Repair Bill (BRB) was passed and signed into law by Governor Walker and awaits posting by the Democratic Secretary of State. I’ve finally been able to take some time, hold some town hall meetings, and reflect upon the past month and all that has transpired. I’d like to share some of my personal experiences from this historic time.
The last three weeks were an extraordinary time in our State’s history. Not only did we pass a colossal piece of legislation that will completely restructure how the State does its business, the extraordinary measures that we had to take to make it happen were unprecedented in the Wisconsin State Legislature with a record 61 hours of debate. The Assembly actually voted twice on the BRB where the second vote was the same bill without the fiscal notes attached. This in itself may be a cause of confusion. A fiscal note is verbiage that spends state tax revenue or GPR. Other verbiage that may force local municipalities to spend or save tax dollars are NOT considered fiscal notes and therefore do not fall under the Three-fifth’s Rule for passage in the State Senate. That is why the Senate was able to vote on the stripped down version of the BRB with only a majority when the Senate Democrats failed to show up to take the vote.
Even though inside the Chambers was a steam-kettle of emotions waiting to explode, the atmosphere outside was already boiling over. My first encounter with the protesters was day 3 of the filibuster where we were treated to the same old tired arguments and Peter Barca ranting rabidly through his bull horn. To compare this to what we endured during the last session is laughable. During debate of the last Doyle budget, Republicans offered about 130 amendments. Yes, we went all night and every amendment we offered was rejected. I offered 3 and actually came the closest to getting one passed on a 49-49 vote to deny driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. As the hour of 3 a.m. approached, several Republicans gave up the opportunity to speak because the outcome of each vote was obvious and the hour was late.
When we finally took the vote on final passage at about 4:30am, we stayed and took the vote. We lost and accepted the result after a spirited fight. We didn’t leave the state to deny democracy, although the taxpayers now had to pay an additional $5B. There were no taxpayer groups parading around the Capitol and hollering to a methodical drumbeat, abusing the very building and grounds taxpayers have funded for almost 100 years.
WE WERE CIVIL.
Now just two years later, along comes Governor Walker’s BRB that removed most of the collective bargaining privileges that were written into statutes back in the 50’s and was left without any checks and balances for 60 years. You would have thought the end of the world was upon us. The first wave of protesters began peacefully with many of the legitimate Wisconsin public sector workers showing up to demonstrate their opposition.
The taxpayers and tea party people also showed up to demonstrate their support on a Saturday because, unlike most of the protesters who took time off of work, the supporters couldn’t leave their jobs. The second and third wave of protesters gradually become more obnoxious and belligerent as the working among them returned to their jobs and were replaced by the out-of-state, professional union thugs who were bused in. There was also the overly represented group of college students, and many from the Socialist and Socialist Workers party who decided to take up residence in the Rotunda. The elected Democrats showed their solidarity by wearing orange shirts and posting orange signs in their office windows. I chose to display my yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in my 3rd floor outside window.
After 60 hours of the filibuster, the Republicans forced a roll call vote, which they have the ability to do. The minority party knew this very well because, when they were in the majority, they used the same tactic and in much less time than 60 straight hours. As soon as the roll was opened, the Democrats, the audience in the gallery, and the protesters listening outside the chamber erupted. Fists were displayed, water cups were thrown, cuss words flew, and fingers were pointed as the words SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! echoed throughout the floor. I looked up into the gallery and saw a young man raising his fist and shouting. Just 30 minutes later, I found myself in the same elevator with him and five of his comrades. He began to debate me on the BRB and got progressively louder as the elevator moved down. Two of his friends had to remind him that this was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration and to keep his comments civil. When the elevator reached the ground floor and he realized he was not going to win our debate, he immediately changed the argument to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then Bush and Cheney, and finally to the Twin Towers. I said enough and proceeded down the exit corridor. He grabbed a bull horn and shouted insults at me until the door slammed in back of me.
I still had to cross the picket line on my way out when I was accosted by two young women who had got caught up with the mob. After an attempt at insulting me, one of them realized that I was her state representative. She was from Sussex and attending the nursing program at UW-Madison. Her main concern turned out to be potential cuts to the UW System and, in particular, the nursing program. After she realized that I was not a “cold-hearted Republican,” we settled down to a pleasant 45 minute conversation that ended about 2:30am. I gave her my business card with the understanding that she could call my office anytime and make an appointment if she wanted to discuss this or any other issue she had. She has yet to call my office.
Driving home that night was a challenge, but I wanted to sleep in my own bed after 60 hours of non-stop physical abuse to my body.
TO BE CONTINUED IN MY NEXT NEWSLETTER...
Public Sector Unions are out of control.
Does anyone have the right to demand more in wages and benefits than their employer can afford to pay? What if those same workers spend millions on getting their candidate elected to office, and that elected official is the one dishing out the money (not his, the taxpayers) and thus the union has representatives on BOTH sides of the bargaining table.
That is not a hypothetical, it is reality. It is the reason that FDR knew public employees should not collective bargain. It is very different in the private sector. Both Mercury Marine and Harley-Davidson both got concessions from their workers to remain in Wisconsin. Obviously we cannot move public sector jobs to Kansas; we must be able to control the cost of government.
What is to be collective bargained?
Pay, OK Gov Walker has left that alone. How about insurance and pensions? The unions have agreed to the Governor’s terms. What is left?
How about that question, what IS left? Unions dictate how many part-time workers their employers can hire. Teacher’s unions have bargained how many parent volunteers the school district can use, what kind of curriculum will be taught, and the size of their classes. These are all issues that elected school boards and the administrator should be making on behalf of their communities.
Does anyone really believe that the teacher’s union is more concerned about our children than we are? The very thought that WEAC (teacher’s union) is about great schools has always been a source of frustration for me and I have always said so.
I felt that all public unions should have been included into the bill. Although I understand the Governor’s thinking on the subject, I will support including police and firefighters in the future.
What I have seen from WEAC: First off, let’s go back to that “hypothetical” situation where the union gives millions to get their candidate elected. Governor Doyle was that elected official and the rewards were huge. He put caps on school choice and virtual schools. Doyle revamped the mediation laws going as far as making a community’s ability to pay as not a factor to consider.
Can you imagine not being able to consider your ability to pay in negotiations?
I recently watched a taxpayer get asked to leave a meeting between local WEAC officials and concerned citizens when Hartford JT1’s Union rejected a 2.8% raise in the middle of the worst economy in 40 years. The taxpayer was pointing out that the money is gone, there’s no more money: No more millions, no more billions. The money is gone. That same union just settled on a .6% raise. Funny how all of a sudden public sector unions are willing to make all kinds of concessions.
Does anyone believe for a second that as soon as they can get another Jim Doyle into office that they won’t be back to the same self-interest antics that got them to this point in the first place, if they still had collective bargaining?
Here is a list of questions that I need help understanding.
1. How does a having a union like WEAC attract young teachers?
WEAC is a union that protects bad teachers, negotiates benefit packages that reflects the wants of older teachers (like giving up pay for bloated insurance packages), and a seniority layoff system that guarantees that younger teachers will be the first to get laid off, regardless of their ability. That doesn’t sound like a system that rewards young people and entices them to enter into the profession.
2. How did WEAC ever believe that they could oppose school choice, virtual schools, photo ID (yes, out of the 74 hours of lobbying on the measure, WEAC was responsible for 61 of them!) and still not be seen as the self-interested lobby arm that they are?
3. Finally, how could they not see public opinion turning against them when the private sector has seen their jobs disappear, their pay cut, their benefits (which never matched that of the public sector unions) dwindled or vanish completely.
WEAC’s insistence on demanding more and more in this environment is mind boggling.
The Public Union Mob Mentality is on display for everyone to see:
I would like to start out this paragraph by admitting that I do understand that people like to have lots of money, job security and a future that is virtually worry free. I would love that too. But very few ever achieve that. Perhaps some ball players, movie stars and extremely successful businessmen, but that is about it. The rest of us live in the real world and we have learned to live with it. Public union members have not. Their sense of entitlement compels them to send threatening e-mails, use profanity, close schools, use bullying tactics and physical intimidation and millions of dollars in property taxes. They have convinced themselves that they are entitled to taxpayer money no matter what. It is an unsuitable and expensive combination that has to be curtailed.
How to Contact Me
In Madison, Phone: (608) 267-2367 or (888) 534-0099 Mailing Address: Room 318 North P.O. Box 8953 Madison, WI 53708 Email Address: Rep.Pridemore@legis.state.wi.us
Phone: (608) 267-2367 or
Room 318 North
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708