Commentary: Wisconsin, How Not to Make Reforms

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Wisconsin

The brewing political fight in Wisconsin gives us a chance to hit the pause button and the recognize how changes need to be made.  I have been a strong proponent of fiscal responsibility within the City of Davis, for a variety of reasons.

First, I recognize that during this economic crunch, we have limited governmental resources and we must therefore prioritize those resources.  From the very beginning, I have argued that our first priority needs to be to continue our investment in education and the second priority needs to be maintaining social services at the county level.

That means that we need to find ways to cut back on other governmental spending in order to be able to maintain our commitment to education, quality health care, and other vital social services.

Second is the longer view, that we have promised too much to some of our public employees.  Not all, but some.  Firefighters in the City of Davis saw their incomes more than double in the last decade while at the same time the city was increasing the formula for their pensions.  Even without the current economic collapse, the rate of increase was unsustainable.

Add to that cities were engaging in a spiraling arms-race that would doom us all.  However, not all public employees are created alike.  The typical government employee in Sacramento makes less than $40,000 and gets 2% at 60 in pensions.  Even working 30 years, that is only $24,000 a year upon retirement.  Teachers are also underpaid, compared to their education level and importance of the job they perform.

Looking locally first, the problem is not the unions.  The job of the union is to represent the interests of the employees.  My wife has worked for unions for years, she has helped to organize employees, but the biggest job she performed was to represent employees in the grievance process or when discipline occurs.  Even in the public sector, workers have their rights violated all the time by supervisors who either do not understand the law, the rights under a collective bargaining agreement, or simply have problems themselves.

The City of Davis is in trouble not because of unions, but rather because the management, in this case city staff in conjunction with the city council, have failed to play their part in the collective bargaining process.  They need to stand up for management, in this case the voters who flip the bill. 

What has happened is that for ten years, the City of Davis has acquiesced to worker demands.  We gave them huge salary increases.  We have given them cafeteria cash-outs (a salary reduction plan where the employee chooses the full salary in cash, rather than being reduced and being used to pay for part of the employee benefits) to allow some workers to cash out their health benefits in lieu of coverage.  And we have increased the pension formulas for all employees. 

No one has been able to sufficiently say no.  It is not the union’s problem for asking, it is the council’s problem for giving.  Now, there is a problem that one union in particular has helped in the past to buy the votes of council by utilizing and manipulating Davis’ campaign finance system and using it to their advantage.

Moreover, the problems with pensions are not merely a union problem.  The biggest pensions, the biggest pension spikers, the most egregious examples of six figure pensions and double-dipping and spiking, are done by non-union management.

This is a separate issue from the influence of money in politics.

There is a huge difference between what has happened in California, where workers have been called on to make concessions, and what has happened in Wisconsin, where the Governor has completely attempted to abrogate the collective bargaining process in the name of fiscal stability.

Governor Scott Walker has unwittingly, or perhaps even wittingly, set off a war.  It is one thing to enact pension reform, it is one thing to ask government workers to contribute more to their health care, it is even one thing to ask workers to take furlough.  It is another thing to attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights.

This is the type of draconian revolt that we have attempted to head off in California.  For now, the minority party in Wisconsin have avoided a vote based on some sort of quorum rule.  But experts agree that is a temporary solution.

The question is whether Wisconsin can win this fight in the long run.  Yesterday, the Capitol square in Madison was overrun with protesters.  A large group of union supporters.  A small group of Tea Party members.

And yes, there are political overtones on both sides of the issue, as this becomes as much about 2012 as it does about Wisconsin.

Many of the union members told reporters that they would be willing to accept the proposed cuts but not give up their right to collective bargain over issues other than wages.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators are becoming impatient waiting for the Democrats to return to the Capitol so that a vote can take place.  Democratic lawmakers were on the run avoiding state troopers and threatening to stay in hiding for weeks.

Fourteen Senate Democrats left Wisconsin, which at least temporarily delayed action on the sweeping bill.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach said on Friday that the group was prepared to be away for weeks, although he would prefer to end the stalemate sooner.

“That really, truly is up to the governor,” he told The Associated Press Friday. “It’s his responsibility to bring the state together. The state is not unified. It is totally torn apart.”

Estimates of 40,000 people were outside of the Capitol on Friday with a much larger number on Saturday.  Schools were closed again after teachers launched a sick-in.

It will be interesting to see how much disgruntled workers are able to shut down the normal functions of government over this.

Governor Walker claims that “eliminating their collective bargaining rights, except over wage increases not greater than the Consumer Price Index, is necessary in order to give the state and local governments and schools flexibility to deal with upcoming cuts in state aid.”

However, Democrats do not buy those arguments.  Instead they say the fight is really about political power and quashing the unions, whose members are longtime supporters of Democrats.

Senator Erpenbach accused Governor Walker of trying to rush the legislation, which was publicly unveiled only a week ago.

“I’m not calling him a dictator. But this is dictatorial, almost,” Senator Erpenbach said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a draconian piece of legislation come down from any governor, Democrat or Republican.”

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane is correct when he argued that Wisconsin really does not face a worse situation than a lot of states, including California.

“What Wisconsin is going through isn’t all that different from other states,” he added. “But the way it’s being handled is.”

Instead of working within the system to gain union buy-in, he is trying to kill the power of unions.  The problem I think he will find is the same problem that Governor Schwarzenegger found back in 2005.  If you strike them down, they will become more powerful than you can ever imagine.

Republicans were able to win elections in part because of the weakness of unions and disinterest of their members.  Now that they have once again kicked the sleeping dog, they may regret doing so.

This is an issue that we need to pay a lot of attention to locally.  We have to bring the City of Davis into fiscal order and make our pension and retirement plans sustainable.  But we must do it within the confines of the collective bargaining process.

The last election, for the first time, allowed the city to escape the shadow of  one particularly powerful local union.  Now three of the four members of the current council and likely the new appointee will owe no allegiances to the firefighters or any other city employee bargaining group.

We must bargain in good faith and honor the collective bargaining system.  We need to bring workers along with us, get buy-in, and help them understand their part in our community and why we are in need of concessions and reform.

What has happened in Wisconsin serves as a lesson for what happens when reform does not occur.  Whether they succeed or not, everyone should take heed.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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98 thoughts on “Commentary: Wisconsin, How Not to Make Reforms”

  1. Neutral

    Hard to get the much-needed cost containment when we still send four people out to do a job easily accomplished by three. I don’t remember the numbers, but I do remember they were substantial. And for cryin’ out loud, hire a professional negotiator for labor agreements. That would be a good start.

  2. Dr. Wu

    I don’t agree with what is happening in Wisconsin. I have supported unions most of my life and am a union member.

    But the anger against public employee unions and other also has some legitimacy. Unions played a role in GM’s bankruptcy (and Chrysler’s) by adding in health care benefits which were unsustainable until GM became a health care company which also happened to make cars. Our firefighters union has not only made wages and benefits too high, but has made it virtually impossible for the City of Davis to make changes which would reduce firefighting costs. (David and Rich Rifkin have both written about this.) The NEA has resisted merit pay and other reforms–although their criticism has some legitimacy and the NEA has moderated some of its stands lately, one cannot say that the NEA has been a progressive force in education.

    Collective bargaining in public employee unions needs to change. If we don’t do it the courts will, as cities and some states become insolvent. I think its better to be proactive. Is Wisconsin the way to go? No. But it sure is a wake up call.

    Its not just right wing republicans who are fed up with public employee unions, at least those in certain sectors, jacking up benefits to unsustainable levels. Independents like myself are also getting fed up. Public employee unions are not part of the solution–they are emphatically part of the problem. Unions have a proud history in this country but the last chapter is shameful.

  3. rusty49

    So in the future will you Democrats be okay with Republicans running and hiding out when they see that the quorum numbers will stop a vote on legislation they don’t want? I don’t know the rules for a quorum in Congress, but what if Obamacare needed a quorum to pass and the Republicans ran from Washington not to vote on it? Maybe what the 14 cowardly Democrats pulled in Wisconsin will be the norm in the future.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Not all, but some. Firefighters in the City of Davis saw their incomes more than double in the last decade while at the same time the city was increasing the formula for their pensions. Even without the current economic collapse, the rate of increase was unsustainable…”

    Then unions are very much the problem when they are asking for unsustainable incomes/benefits. Whether or not the other side (local/state/federal gov’t) is not doing its job by standing up to unions in the collective bargaining process is only one part of the equation. Unions asking to feed at the public trough like a pig is not justifiable on anyone’s farm…

    dmg: “Many of the union members told reporters that they would be willing to accept the proposed cuts but not give up their right to collective bargain over issues other than wages.”

    And have the unions been willing to make any of these reasonable concessions on wage cuts up until now? I think not. It has taken draconian measures outside the collective bargaining process, like what the governor of Wisconsin has threatened, to get the unions to concede any ground to be reasonable in their demands during the current economic mess.

    dmg: “Meanwhile, Republican legislators are becoming impatient waiting for the Democrats to return to the Capitol so that a vote can take place. Democratic lawmakers were on the run avoiding state troopers and threatening to stay in hiding for weeks…”

    Running away and refusing to allow a vote to move forward is tyranny of the minority over the majority. It is subverting democracy, no matter which side of the issue one is on.

    dmg: “It will be interesting to see how much disgruntled workers are able to shut down the normal functions of government over this….”

    Another undemocratic union tactic that does not put unions in a good light…

    dmg: “We must bargain in good faith and honor the collective bargaining system. We need to bring workers along with us, get buy-in, and help them understand their part in our community and why we are in need of concessions and reform.”

    What we need to do is make unions understand that if they don’t become more reasonable in their demands, many of them may be out of work tomorrow…

    Dr. Wu: “Its not just right wing republicans who are fed up with public employee unions, at least those in certain sectors, jacking up benefits to unsustainable levels. Independents like myself are also getting fed up. Public employee unions are not part of the solution–they are emphatically part of the problem. Unions have a proud history in this country but the last chapter is shameful.”

    Nicely said.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    Just for added context, I’ve been in the middle of a union strike where I was the “scab” that crossed the picket lines. Unions can be vicious, undemocratic, tyrannical, completely unreasonable, and criminal in their actions.

    On the other hand, employers can be completely unreasonable as well, asking workers to take concessions while they give themselves bonuses and perks. I remember this happening at one airline. Workers were asked to make wage and benefit concessions to avoid the airline going bankrupt, on condition that when things got better, wages and benefits were be improved. The airline continued to claim insolvency even when the airline company was improving, as they gave upper management huge bonuses and perks.

    There needs to be more integrity in the workplace on both sides for the good of all…

  6. hpierce

    [quote]Dr. Wu: “Its not just right wing republicans who are fed up with public employee unions, at least those in certain sectors, jacking up benefits to unsustainable levels. Independents like myself are also getting fed up. Public employee unions are not part of the solution–they are emphatically part of the problem. [/quote]And as part of your integrity, you have donated the cost of all increased (if you got them) salary & benefit increases to charity?

  7. Rifkin

    [i]”The City of Davis is in trouble not because of unions, but rather because the management, in this case city staff in conjunction with the city council, have failed to play their part in the collective bargaining process. They need to stand up for management, in this case the voters who flip the bill.”[/i]

    I agree with this. However, I think the weight of the evidence suggests that the problem is ubiquitous, that elected officials almost never truly represent the best interests of the employer’s side of the bargain, save in times of crisis. And once the crisis passes, it’s back to business as usual, where the unions hold all the cards on both sides of the argument.

    If you care to know more of my view on this, I blogged about so=called collective bargaining, here ([url]http://lexicondaily.blogspot.com/2011/02/with-government-there-has-never-been.html[/url]).

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine:

    “Then unions are very much the problem when they are asking for unsustainable incomes/benefits. Whether or not the other side (local/state/federal gov’t) is not doing its job by standing up to unions in the collective bargaining process is only one part of the equation. Unions asking to feed at the public trough like a pig is not justifiable on anyone’s farm…”

    It is legitimate in a negotiation to ask for whatever you want. That’s why we have a collective bargaining process. The problem that we had is that no told them no. That’s not the union’s fault. That’s the manager’s fault.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    “I’ve been in the middle of a union strike where I was the “scab” that crossed the picket lines. “

    Well that’s a problem. They used to use scabs to break the will of strikers. Often they would use scabs to beat strikers. And they would bring in the militia and really take it to the strikers. A lot of the things that we take for granted, 8 hour work days, 40 hour work weeks, wages, safety precautions, were earned with the literal price of blood.

    That’s the history. The present is that most of that no longer occurs. Although we had a situation with blue diamond locally where women trying to unionize were getting beaten. So it does still happen.

  10. rusty49

    “The problem that we had is that no told them no.”

    They’re telling them no in Wisconsin, and look at the results, public servants closing down schools and not supplying many public services.
    We have to stop this stranglehold that the public unions possess.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    “So in the future will you Democrats be okay with Republicans running and hiding out when they see that the quorum numbers will stop a vote on legislation they don’t want?”

    Define “okay.” I imagine most Democrats will do the same things as Republicans are doing now. Depends on how you view politics – do you view it as an intellectual debate or a war.

    Personally I think the Democrats should let the vote come through and let the unions and Republicans battle it out in the streets and in the courtrooms and eventually at the ballot box. But then again, it’s not my family’s livelihood being threatened, so it is easy for me to say.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    “They’re telling them no in Wisconsin, and look at the results, public servants closing down schools and not supplying many public services.
    We have to stop this stranglehold that the public unions possess.”

    This is where I think you are failing to understand the debate. There is a difference between a hard line during a collective bargaining agreement and trying to break the union itself. That’s what is happening in Wisconsin. There is a process that plays out over a bargaining table. The legitimate approach by the governor would have been to have met and negotiated an agreement that enable the state to pay its bills. That is not what has happened here. What’s happened here is a bunch of people like you are in power who don’t like unions, and they want to as you put it not just break their “stranglehold” but break them. The result is what you see. Who would willingly submit to that?

  13. rusty49

    In Wisconsin they just recently did battle it out at the ballot box and the Republicans had an overwhelming win. The Wisconsin Democrats and public unions need to deal with it.

  14. David M. Greenwald

    No one is simply going to lay down and deal with having their livelihood taken away. As you should know, the last election is only a placemarker, there is another one coming up and that’s what the fight will eventually be about.

  15. rusty49

    “As you should know, the last election is only a placemarker,”

    The next election is almost 2 years away, but if that’s how you lefties can justify your huge defeat in the last election by saying it was just a “placemarker” then go right ahead if that makes you feel better.
    Obama’s the one that said “elections have consequences”.
    Deal with it!!!!!!

  16. David M. Greenwald

    And the result of Obama was the Tea Party Movement, was it not? Obama won the war but lost the peace. Is that the blueprint you think Walker should follow?

  17. wdf1

    rusty49: So in the future will you Democrats be okay with Republicans running and hiding out when they see that the quorum numbers will stop a vote on legislation they don’t want?

    What you highlight is abuse of the legislative rules. You are appalled by the Democrats’ running off to prevent a quorum. This kind of thing has been going on for a long time and with increasing intensity by both sides (most recently with Republicans) with the Senate filibuster tactic. The original intent of the rule was to allow for full debate, not to prevent a vote. I imagine you must be equally disgusted by such tactics when Republicans use them, say in a filibuster?

    Compromise has become a dirty word in politics, and I think there will be further abuse of legislative rules when compromise is not considered an option.

  18. Rifkin

    [i]”It is legitimate in a negotiation to ask for whatever you want. That’s why [b]we have a collective bargaining process.”[/b][/i]

    How is it “bargaining” if the union represents its side and the union pays off the other side with campaign financing?

    It seems to me your argument is built on a fiction created by the public employees’ unions: that there ever is real bargaining; that the employers ever really negotiate as if it were their own money on the line. (The only time this seems to happen is when there is a severe crisis.)

    In the private sector each side is actually represented at the table. If management gives in too much to union demands, a smarter, more competitive company will make a better product at a better price and win market share and profits. That’s what has happened with our auto industry, where the Big 3 gave away too much to the UAW and the result has been foreign transplants, which pay high wages but don’t have to deal with the UAW’s crazy “work rules,” now own the U.S. market.

    But if Don Saylor or other union-funded politicians in towns like Davis give away too much to the firefighters’ union, it’s not the case that a smarter, brasher government can move in, compete and provide better and cheaper fire protection and medical response services. The government is a monopoly enterprise. When it is badly run and it is corrupted by campaign donations, the taxpayers who the politicians are supposed to represent pay the price. Their bad faith negotiators just move on to higher office.

    [i]”The problem that we had is that no one told them no. That’s not the union’s fault. That’s the manager’s fault.”[/i]

    Except you are ignoring one important factor: the reason no one told them no is because A) the unions bought off the previous regime; and B) the other side, even if it is full of conservatives, does not personally profit by driving a hard bargain. As such, the taxpayers are not normally well represented in this “process.” It is rigged to benefit the public employees. That is why on a dollars per hour basis public workers make so much more at every equivalent job than private sector workers make. You think we are gettting a “fair deal” when landscape maintenance workers in the public sector get 7 to 10 times the hourly total compensation as their private sector equivalents make?

  19. Don Shor

    Jeff Boone: [posted on the plastic bag thread] “What I understand is that Walker wanted to get something done to prevent the economic collapse of his historically union-liberal-controlled, high-tax, state and knew he had to pick his battles carefully. Obviously he was correct since the national Democrat party, led by Obama, has sent in their armies to defeat him. I have no doubt that Walker will go after these other unions next.”

    It seems there are two separate issues here. The bill that would prevent collective bargaining by public employee unions is a political action, intended to neutralize certain public-sector unions. It is not specifically to do with the fiscal issues confronting Wisconsin, since the unions have indicated they are willing to cooperate in dealing with those issues. Whether Gov. Walker has made a reasonable fiscal proposal is hard to assess in view of the way he has presented it.
    Gov. Schwarzenegger decided to confront unions in 2005 when he put his reform measures on the ballot. He goaded the nurses and teachers, and lost at the ballot box. On fiscal issues, his governorship never recovered. Given the responses to Gov. Walker’s proposal by Republican governors elsewhere (and Tea Party adherents; check out their web sites), it is clear that Republicans think that taking on public employee unions is a winning political strategy for them. The problem is that their fiscal arguments are going to get lost in the uproar, and I doubt if it will have long-term benefits for them politically or for their states fiscally.

  20. Neutral

    . . . like what the governor of Wisconsin has threatened . . .

    All accounts – at least in legitimate print media – clearly show the ‘givebacks’ by the unions at or above 100 million months ago. Oddly enough, that is close to the amount Walker gave in tax breaks to the conservative business community that helped elect him. This has nothing to do with a ‘looming deficit’, and everything to do with throwing labor back into the early part of the twentieth century.

  21. Rifkin

    [i]”The bill that would prevent collective bargaining by public employee unions is a political action, intended to neutralize [b]certain[/b] public-sector unions.”[/i]

    It seems to me hard to defend Gov. Walker without also condemning him for his blatant bias when it comes to unions. He was supported by many of the the police and fire unions in Wisconsin; and so his bill exempts them from its attack on so-callled ‘collective bargaining.’

    Where Democrats have shilled for the teachers and other public sector employees, Walker seems to be little more than an apologist for the fire and police unions ([url]http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20110214/APC0101/102140455/Controversy-grows-over-Governor-Scott-Walker-s-union-contract-bill[/url]): [quote] Walker collected endorsements from the Milwaukee Police Association, the West Allis Professional Police Association, the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters and the Wisconsin Troopers Association during his campaign. And on Tuesday the governor announced he had hired Steven Fitzgerald, father of state Senate and Assembly majority leaders Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald — two figures Walker needs to advance his agenda through the Legislature — as State Patrol superintendent.[/quote] To be perfectly fair to Walker, some police and fire unions endorsed his opponent; and he took almost no campaign contributions from any police or fire unions ([url]http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/noquarter/116139104.html[/url]): [quote]Except the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association and Milwaukee Police Association don’t deliver much in terms of campaign donations. The firefighters gave Walker no money, while the police union chipped in $1,100 to his campaign and that of his lieutenant governor.

    What these labor groups deliver instead is an image that their candidate is tough on crime. You may remember that in addition to endorsing the eventual winner, leaders from both Milwaukee unions starred in one of Walker’s most compelling campaign ads late in the election season.

    “I can’t speak to whether any deals were cut,” said Patrick Curley, chief of staff for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat who was defeated by Walker in November. “But it’s obvious that these two groups received special consideration in this bill.”

    On Friday, the first-term Republican governor called it “utterly ridiculous” to suggest that the provision in the budget bill was a payback to Milwaukee’s police and fire unions.

    Walker noted that the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin – the two state organizations – backed his opponent. If the new governor really wanted to reward his supporters, he said he could have simply exempted the Milwaukee unions from his proposal.[/quote]

  22. Frankly

    David: “The state is not unified. It is totally torn apart.”

    I think this point is more media-emotive than fact. The state is not torn apart from what I understand. The majority of non PEU voters support what the governor is doing. The unions, like unions do, want to maintain the status quo at all costs. In any case where a politician tries to reduce union pay or benefits, and or deal with the stranglehold they have on state and local government spending politics, you would see this type of response. It is the cost of progress. However, I think all the protesting teachers should be fired for failing to do their jobs. Tax payers are paying them for the time they are spending to aggitate.

    I find it interesting that the national Dems, led by Obama, are meddling in Wisconsin’s affairs. For what reason? Because they oppose the concept of giving employees the choice to join or not join the union. This is a great window into the understanding of why public employee unions should be outlawed. PEUs give Democrats an unfair advantage of control over government spending at the expense of the tax-paying public. They can force strikes, they can mobilize armies of workers (who, by the way, would be fired from private sector jobs for failing to come to work) to agitate and work campaigns, and they can legally extort millions and millions of union dues to pay their executive salaries and buy political favors.

    As you can tell, I am 100% anti public-employee union.

    PEUs are a conflict of interest in our representative democracy. They are the fourth and fifth branch of government but they only represent a small minority.

    Unions formed to give employees negotiating power over their employer. Since We the People are the employer of all public-sector employees, PEUs provide a minority of citizens a sort of tyrannical power over the rest of us. A minority are breaking the budget and the majority are unable to combat it because it lacks a similar well-funded force of organized political mobilization.

    Unions also tend to lower overall productivity. A job is not a right, it is a privilege. If you don’t like your pay and benefits, apply somewhere where the pay and benefits are better. Market forces will equalize compensation: paying more for the higher-value, higher performing people, and less for those that contribute less. Unions screw this up… they equalize compensation regardless of performance… therefore lowering the motivation to strive beyond the norm (since it would not be rewarded). It also traps people into jobs that they are not well suited for… essentially polluting the worker gene pool and creating a culture of lower performance and lower enthusiasm than could otherwise be achieved.

  23. Gunrock

    Go Governor Walker!!! My fondest hope is that the public notices that the public employee unions all marched, chanted, shook their fists at “the man” and whined about how sad they were- all on work days. I hope that 100% of the fake sick-outs result in firings. That alone should help close the budget gap. Better still, I hope that the democratic legislators can be removed from office for defrauding the voters and failing to perform their duties. Its about time that this fight took place and I can’t wait until it makes it to California.

    The Public Employee Unions are 100% of the cause of the deficit and most of the problems with government.

  24. Frankly

    wdf1: “But given those exemptions, this looks more like political revenge rather than a principled position. Locally, firefighters earn far greater compensation than do teachers and custodians in the local schools. Why is that exemption appropriate in Wisconsin? “

    Political strategy with an end goal of providing Wisconsin with ongoing budget stability.

    [url]http://politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/18/scott-walker/wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-says-his-budget-repair-/[/url]
    [quote]So, what would change if Walker’s budget-repair bill is adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature?

    With an amendment approved by the Joint Finance Committee, the bill would require local governments that don’t have a civil service system to establish one, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

    Alternatively, local governments could establish a grievance procedure that would, at minimum, address employee discipline and workplace safety, and provide for a grievance procedure for employee terminations.

    Let’s return to Walker’s statement that under his changes collective bargaining remains intact.

    To be sure, those rights would remain intact for the State Patrol and local police and fire department employees. They are exempt from any of the changes. [/quote]

    It this last paragraph that I think explains why Walker did not go after police and fire. However, given their recent statements that they regret endorcing him, my guess is that he regrets not including them in his budget repair legislation.

  25. biddlin

    “How is it “bargaining” if the union represents its side and the union pays off the other side with campaign financing? “
    You’re right again Rich. It’s much better when the union business managers are in bed with the city management negotiators, which often happens literally and metaphorically. In my experience with 5 mou’s, the union held the status quo in 2, gained in 1, made substantial give backs in 1 ( in 92 ) and sold us out in one. In all cases, the city cried poor mouth, in all cases those unions that held out the longest did the best.
    “You think we are gettting a “fair deal” when landscape maintenance workers in the public sector get 7 to 10 times the hourly total compensation as their private sector equivalents make?”(and some still can’t afford to live in Davis ?)
    Sure, you could just hire a few drivers to pick up day labor at Home Depot as needed. What a progressive community!

  26. Mr.Toad

    “Gov. Schwarzenegger decided to confront unions in 2005 when he put his reform measures on the ballot. He goaded the nurses and teachers, and lost at the ballot box. On fiscal issues, his governorship never recovered. “

    He never recovered fiscally because he bought everyone off with 10% raises over two years. I remember saying when I got the second 5% raise that it would be the last one for years and sure enough it was. If he wasn’t such a bully taking on the unions in the first place he might not have needed to buy them off to get re-elected.

    This might be a huge miscalculation by Midwestern Republicans just as Arnold’s attack on unions was in 2005. The Republican wave stopped at the Rockies in 2010. It was a white midwest centered backlash to Obama. This could be a case of Republican over reach with a backlash bringing back the Dems in 2012. Jerry Brown will get concessions from public sector workers without rubbing their noses in it or going to war with them. It is the lack of respect for workers and the desire to bust the unions that is going to backfire on the Republicans not the consequences of the fiscal realities. If rust belt and midwest states go for Obama in 2012 the Republicans will have the Gov of Wisconsin to thank.

  27. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Prior to passage of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and the Rodda Act, public employees in California did not have the right to collectively bargain. What is happening in Wisconsin shows that what was given can be taken away. I am told by reliable sources that the “Wisconsin Solution” is being considered seriously in Sacramento by more than just the usual right wing legislators. The idea, the concept, is growing and Wisconsin is only speeding up the day it becomes a viable option. Just because this is California doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen here.

    I do not advocate for that. But I see it coming.

  28. Dr. Wu

    [quote]“How is it “bargaining” if the union represents its side and the union pays off the other side with campaign financing? ” [/quote]

    It isn’t. PEU’s can and have held governments hostage.

    Hawkeye: You assume that my wages have gone up. Guess what, UC and CSU unions have been worthless for faculty. My real wages have fallen every year for 7-8 years. Not all public employees unions are equal. Some suck. When a police officer with a high school education has a higher income and wildly higher benefits than a UC professor you have a problem.

    Want to know why our country is going down the toilet. Look at UC 40 years ago compared to today. Its night and day. Not all public employees unions are equal. Unfortunately another problem with PEUs is that they have sold out the best and brightest faculty. Prison guards, firefighters and police officers have done well. UC faculty and CSU faculty have not. Talk to your neighbors.

  29. Don Shor

    I am ambivalent about unions in general and in particular about public employee unions. I have no union background, personally or anywhere in my family. I recognize unions have achieved great things in the past, yet on the other hand some have been notoriously corrupt. A realistic view would be that unions are very good at providing for the interests of their members, particularly those with seniority, and that public managers have not been equally good at providing for the interests of the public. So professional negotiators are necessary. But I am curious as to how those who oppose public unions feel public employees should have their grievances addressed, and how they would achieve pay and benefit changes without representation?

    More to the point, all employees should be treated with respect. Gov. Brown is making a point of stressing the depth of California’s fiscal crisis at every opportunity, setting the groundwork for negotiated concessions. Gov. Walker has decided to demonize the unions. An adversarial approach is almost sure to backfire.

    No, I don’t think the Dem legislators should flee the state. I believe the vote should go forward, even though I disagree with the legislation. Similarly, I believe California Republicans should allow the governor’s tax proposals to go on the ballot. It seems a small minority of legislators intends to prevent the voters from exercising their vote on that issue. Elections, as I have seen quoted here, have consequences.

  30. craised

    Public employees don’t bargain for rights, they purchase them from politicians in exchange for money and votes at election time. At the so-called bargaining table, nobody represents the interests of the taxpayers.

    The unions make demands and the politicians give them anything and everything they want. Is that really the true definition of bargaining? From my fish bowl, I view this as unadulterated bribery, pure and simple.

  31. Rifkin

    RICH: “How is it “bargaining” if the union represents its side and the union pays off the other side with campaign financing?”

    BID: “You’re right again Rich.”

    Thank you, Bid.

    BID: “It’s much better when the union business managers are in bed with the city management negotiators, which often happens literally and metaphorically.”

    Are you inferring that our negotiator, Melissa Chaney-Guidara, did not act in good faith on behalf of the taxpayers [i]because[/i] she was a part of the City of Davis management team of “negotiators” when her husband was (and is) a City employee?

    I don’t know of any other couples in the City of Davis where your insinuation would apply.

    Even if we did not have that problem, it has long seemed to me–and others, including Melissa Chaney, who told me this herself–that the taxpayers would strike a better bargain in negotiations if we had professional negotiators, as opposed to using city employees to “bargain” against other city employees, which is what we do.

  32. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    In any successful negotiation, it is a necessary condition that everyone at the table be free of any possible perception of any conflict of interest. Rich, do I take it that, in past negotiations between the City and its employee unions, this has not been the case? I am not challenging you on this; I just want to know for what should by now be obvious reasons.

  33. Kane607

    1. collective bargaining is not written into the constitution
    2. Jimmy Hoffa, was a notorious union boss who led a life of organized crime. collective bargaining does not have a perfect track record, despite what some people have us believe.
    3. it is possible for unions to abuse the collective bargaining process, just as with any bargaining. CEOS of prestigious companies sometimes use their bargaining power to make unrealistic salary demands upon the company, which often allows them to suck millions. by the same token, the firefighters union, used the public bargaining process to make unrealistic salary demands upon the city, in the form of salaries over 100,000, even though their employees often don’t have a college degree, and hardly put in 8 hours a day. and they did so with the help of campaign contributions to politicians providing them kickbacks.

  34. Avatar

    Dr. Wu ,
    “””””Unions played a role in GM’s bankruptcy (and Chrysler’s) by adding in health care benefits which were unsustainable until GM became a health care company which also happened to make cars. “””””

    No that would be because their car making abilities were crappy , unreliable , and not fuel efficient !

  35. rusty49

    “Walker said he would not compromise and predicted Wisconsin would pave the way for other states to follow suit, much like it did with welfare reform and school vouchers in the 1990s.
    “We’re willing to take this as long as it takes because in the end we’re doing the right thing,” Walker said.

    Stick to your guns Gov. Walker, an American hero.

  36. biddlin

    Not just in Davis, Rich, but in every municipal and federal job I’ve ever worked. I hear it happens in the private sector, too . I’ve even heard of such behavior between vendors and city staff !

  37. Rifkin

    [i]” Rich, do I take it that, in past negotiations between the City and its employee unions, this has not been the case?”[/i]

    I would say directly no, but indirectly yes. Let me take a step back to explain the little I know of the process.

    This is a copy of a closed session agenda item for the City Council, very typical of all such closed session notices: [quote] [b]Closed Session:[/b] Conference with Labor Negotiators pursuant to Government Code §54954.5:
    [b]Agency Designated Representatives:[/b] City Manager Bill Emlen, Assistant City Manager Paul Navazio, [u]Human Resources Administrator Melissa Chaney[/u], City Attorney Harriet Steiner
    [b]Employee Groups/Organizations:[/b] Davis City Employees Association; Davis Police Officers Association; Department Heads; [u]Executive and General Management[/u]; Firefighters Local 3494; Police Lieutenants; Program, Administrative and Support Employees Association [/quote] My assumption is that, in this sort of City Council meeting, there were no actual union or other labor association people in the room. I think this kind of a meeting would have been between the members of the Council and the Agency Designated Representatives (ADRs), where the ADRs explained to the Council where discussions stood between them and each of the labor groups and where the members of the City Council gave input or direction to their ADRs as to what the Council wanted from the negotiations.

    (I could be wrong about all that. But that is my understanding of the process. The council had in the last round of discussions maybe 20 or 25 such closed sessions. No one on the Council would ever tell me what was discussed in them, as leaking that information is strictly prohibited.)

    What is very likely–if not certain–is that one of our negotiators (Mrs. Chaney-Guidara) was involved in the closed door discussions with the council when the discussions involved her husband’s group’s contract. But I don’t think that is really the big problem.

    The big problem is that the upper echelon folks in the City’s administration (the ADRs) are all friends with and colleagues of other city employees. After any deal is reached, our ADRs (save the city attorney) go back to working alongside their fellow colleagues on a day-to-day basis.

    It is based on those personal and professional relationships that I say there is an indirect conflict of interest having city employees negotiate contracts.

    With regard to Mrs. Chaney-Guidara, I am fairly certain that when the ADRs met with the management group, she was not a part of the team. (Her own contract might be in that group–I am not sure of that.) So directly I don’t think there is a conflict of interest with her participation in negotiations, even though she is married to one of the City’s highly paid employees.

    (Note that when our city manager’s contract was renewed, the only negotiator opposite him was our city attorney. She did not have a direct conflict of interest. But it strikes me as peculiar that the day after the ink is dry on that contract, those two go back to being our two lead negotiators, and in all other matters essentially co-workers. Any possible indirect conflicts of interest would be removed by hiring a professional negotiator.)

  38. wdf1

    I agree with Don Shor’s last comment. Best way to antagonize and lose good workers is to use them as a scapegoat for your problems.

    On another note, I wonder if Florida’s rejection of the high speed rail grant ends up being California’s gain.

  39. Avatar

    Rich Rifkin < 1. “””” Let me take a step back to explain the little I know of the process. “””” 2. “””” I think this kind of a meeting would have been between the members of the Council and the Agency Designated Representatives (ADRs), where the ADRs “””” 3. “””” (I could be wrong about all that. But that is my understanding of the process. The council had in the last round of discussions maybe 20 or 25 I am fairly certain 4. “””” (Her own contract might be in that group–I am not sure of that.) 5. Little I know , I think , I could be wrong , I am not sure of that !!!!!! 6. Sounds like Hearsay to me .

  40. hpierce

    For the record, I have never belonged (nor will I ever) to a “union” which I define as a state/national organization which requires “dues” of its members, and/or will “exact” from employers (particularly in the public sector) ‘agency shop’ provisions where employees’ wages are garnished to pay for the union activity. Unions had a place in history. Most (with the possible exception of the UFW) are irrelevant today. Professional ‘unionists’ are paid pretty well for the ‘services’ they offer.
    In the 50’s, you couldn’t be hired as a machinist by an airline if you didn’t belong to the appropriate union… you couldn’t join the union unless you were employed by the airline… chicken & egg? Oh, you could “resolve” the issue by slipping a $50 (we’re talking the 1950’s here) to the shop steward… problem solved. CTEA (who also charges for NEA) exact their cut from school teachers, whether they belong to the union or not. Collective bargaining (not each employee separately negotiating their own terms) is a good thing. More efficient. It does have its limitations. Goes to “lowest common denominator”. Your talented/gifted/conscientious employees get the same salary/benefit boosts that the marginal/slacker employees get.
    The way things are, if the pay/benefits get reduced system-wide, you don’t reduce (by much) the inequity of private vs. public employment for the marginal folks, or those who had big increases over the years in the name of ‘comparable worth’, but you tell the competent/talented folks that they shouldn’t choose public employment to serve their community (and yes, generally have better job security — that is a REAL benefit). Not a simple problem, to my way of thinking. Yes, we need to address it.

  41. hpierce

    BTW, Mr. Rifkin…. my understanding is that Emlen, Navazio, AND Cheney were the negotiators with the Management unit. Emlem was the City Manager, and had a separate contract. Navazio was a Department Head (separate contract)… not sure if Cheney was a Department Head at the time.

  42. hpierce

    [quote]You assume that my wages have gone up. Guess what, UC and CSU unions have been worthless for faculty. My real wages have fallen every year for 7-8 years. Not all public employees unions are equal. Some suck.[/quote]
    With all due respect, Dr. Wu, you apparently didn’t see the [u]IF[/u] in my earlier post. That being said, I know of many faculty who delegate teaching to “lecturers”, and make a lot of money “on the side” by writing textbooks which they then require of students in their classes (whether the professor is there or not) and get their “kick-backs” from the publishers. There are and have been many great professors who share their knowledge and insights. Then there are a significant few who game the system. Kinda’ like all public sector employees. Many dedicated, some notable slackers.

  43. Frankly

    “But I am curious as to how those who oppose public unions feel public employees should have their grievances addressed, and how they would achieve pay and benefit changes without representation?”

    Don: Let me start with a rhetorical question… what do your employees do this?

    I’m really, really, really confused about the lack of any acknowledgement that 92.8% of private-sector employees, and 62.6% of public-sector employees manage without union representation.

    Unions had their place back when dinosaurs roamed the earth… before we had giant federal and state departments of labor, so many labor laws and regulations and armies of trial lawyers ready to sue, sue and sue again.

    Once upon a time in the private-sector there was this thing called job security. You remember don’t you, that time from about 1945 to about 1980… that period of time when you could join a company and plan to retire with a pension? Folks, it’s been about 30 years since this existed. What has changed? Everything. Employees in the private sector are all private contactors between jobs. Shit happens every few years, and employees have to move on. We are used to it. Now we have our own PR and marketing plans. Our resume, our network of contacts, our references… these are our job security.

    We compete. We are forward looking and strategic. We constantly update our education and skills to meet the needs of the changing needs of the markets. Most of us good at our craft have learned that we are much better off this way. We have learned that our past tendency to demand single-employer job security was actually just our insecurity, risk aversion and laziness… and that we are likely to turn into uninspiring, unmotivated deadwood having the same job for 30 or 40 years. The current private-sector world is much more interesting… and the cubicle farms and hallway offices are filled full of mostly inspired go-getters, seamless collaborators, experienced best-practice leaders, team-oriented, customer-service savvy professionals.

  44. Frankly

    So what does the public sector provide? Except for some exceptional hard working and dedicated public servants, they are largely a collection of less-productive people that cannot and could not survive in the dynamic private sector. I personally know many coworkers and some employees that didn’t cut it and then took government jobs. Most of them gravitated to the public sector specifically because they got chewed up and spit out in the world of hyper competition. Some of them just needed to professionally grow and develop more, but they had this public-sector out. Now, because of the Democrat-union connection, they have developed obscene levels of pay and benefits that dwarf the compensation of peers that kicked their professional ass. They work fewer hours and at less demanding jobs and they make more, can retire young with guaranteed retirements and healthcare benefits for life. What frosts me is the message that these less capable employees are somehow now deserving of it.

    We do not need unions. They are a relic of the past, and they are now much more destructive than beneficial. If any employee dislikes their level of pay and benefits, then the first need to have a discussion with their manager and make their case. When my employees ask for a raise, I ask “what more can you do for the organization to justify it?” If they are unhappy and feel that there are underpaid, they can go find another job. And… they don’t dare try to come to work with a bad attitude, because it will likely show up in measurable performance measurements for teamwork and customer service. If they leave, and I hire a replacement, today the likelihood is that I can do it for the same or less than I was paying the previous. If not, and I have to pay more, then I am a bad manager and I will likely lose my job for allowing talent to leave because I was paying less than market value. I have plenty of incentive to take care of my good employees because without them I fail!

    Don, does that answer your question?

  45. Don Shor

    Sure. You believe that individual public employees should approach their department managers to ask for pay increases, flexible schedules, or changes in benefits. Teachers should go to the principal and explain how many more students they are willing to teach, or what measurable improvement in class scores they will guarantee (regardless of who is assigned to their classroom).
    I’m guessing none of that is even remotely possible in the public sector. There are organizational issues that would have to be taken apart before public employees could begin to bid against each other for the shrinking financial resources. I doubt that department managers or school principals have the kind of fiscal discretion that you and I have.

  46. Frankly

    “I doubt that department managers or school principals have the kind of fiscal discretion that you and I have. “

    Possibly for small business. But what about that manager within the bowels of a large private organization? You know, the one with 200 HR employees overseeing his every move and 20 labor law attorneys making sure she follows all the rules? It is really bullshit hearing that excuse, because all managers can find a way to recognize their good employees, develop their employees with potential, and get rid of their employees that can’t cut it. AND, more importantly, if the employee doesn’t like the gig, then quit! You know there are thousands of educated and capable young people that would take the job. It is only after several years on the job, about the time they start to burn out, that they start the entitlement track. The great teachers make the same as the crappy teachers… not because of the lack of management discretion, but because of the unions.

  47. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    [quote]They work fewer hours and at less demanding jobs and they make more, can retire young with guaranteed retirements and healthcare benefits for life. What frosts me is the message that these less capable employees are somehow now deserving of it.[/quote]

    My wife is employed by the State of California. She works harder than anyone I know. Many times during the year, for weeks at a time, she goes in before the sun rises and doesn’t get home until late in the evening – and with a recent pay cut. The health benefits we have through her plan is okay but far from spectacular.

    There are many, many hard working people employed as public servants. Sure, there are lazy state workers. But you can look around any small or large private business office and see the same thing. Stereotyping someone as lazy and stupid because they work for the government is no less odious than stereotyping African Americans as lazy and stupid. Both are examples of unfair, and untrue, prejudices.

  48. biddlin

    Unions had their place back when dinosaurs roamed the earth… before we had giant federal and state departments of labor, so many labor laws and regulations and armies of trial lawyers ready to sue, sue and sue again.”

    I wonder how Jeff Christian would respond to that ?

    “We constantly update our education and skills to meet the needs of the changing needs of the markets. Most of us good at our craft have learned that we are much better off this way. We have learned that our past tendency to demand single-employer job security was actually just our insecurity, risk aversion and laziness… and that we are likely to turn into uninspiring, unmotivated deadwood having the same job for 30 or 40 years.”

    Yes, I’ve worked with a number of people who’ve used their job as a training ground and career development network, staying only long enough in one to move up to the next. I’ve also worked with many who do the same job for 30+ years because they love it and want to be better at it every day. Just because you become boring and lazy working for the same employer, don’t assume everyone else does.

    “The current private-sector world is much more interesting… and the cubicle farms and hallway offices are filled full of mostly inspired go-getters, seamless collaborators, experienced best-practice leaders, team-oriented, customer-service savvy professionals.”

    Yet all recent polls show job satisfaction at a 20 year low.

  49. Frankly

    ”My wife is employed by the State of California. She works harder than anyone I know. There are many, many hard working people employed as public servants.”

    Paul, I noted that there are exceptions and you repeat what I wrote in the second sentence above. I am not stereotyping.
    [quote] according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) National Compensation Survey, private-sector employees worked an average of 2,050 hours in 2008, 12 percent more than the 1,825 hours worked by the average public-sector employee.[/quote]

    ” Stereotyping someone as lazy and stupid because they work for the government is no less odious than stereotyping African Americans as lazy and stupid.”

    I wondered when someone would figure out a way to pull the race card to help state workers join a protected class. You might want to think a little deeper on this comparison. Last time I checked there was no history of slavery and discrimination for state workers.

  50. E Roberts Musser

    Rich Rifkin: “How is it “bargaining” if the union represents its side and the union pays off the other side with campaign financing?
    It seems to me your argument is built on a fiction created by the public employees’ unions: that there ever is real bargaining; that the employers ever really negotiate as if it were their own money on the line. (The only time this seems to happen is when there is a severe crisis.)”

    Nicely said. However, I am also am of the position that public unions should not be outright pigs, by asking for unsustainable compensation. I do blame public unions for engaging it engorging themselves at the public trough…

  51. E Roberts Musser

    Correction: “Nicely said. However, I am also of the position that public unions should not be outright pigs, by asking for unsustainable compensation. I do blame public unions for engaging in engorging themselves at the public trough…”

  52. Frankly

    “I wonder how Jeff Christian would respond to that ?”

    Thanks for the confirmation of my point. Again we see the mindset that he is entitled to this job and deserves mechanisms to resolve grievances greater than what is provided a worker in the private sector. If the law was broken firing him, then he has six months after the act occurs to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). He can also hire an attorney. That is what the rest of us would have to do.

    Most importantly though, stuff happens and people need to move on. Let’s say you are working in private industry things are going fine, and then there is reorganization and you suddenly are working for a new boss that you are not compatible with. If you are a government worker and something like this happens I guess you start a pity-me party and get your union to force the department to reassign you because the job-stress is causing a back and next pain disability. If you are in the private sector you either work to resolve your differences, get comfortable with the new relationship, or move on. No pity allowed.

    “Yet all recent polls show job satisfaction at a 20 year low.”

    Job satisfaction always declines during a recession. It is a market factor. However, in general I think we can thank the growing entitlement class. Welcome to the new era of pampered offspring of baby boomers that forgot that living has always meant working for a fair market-based wage… and think that government should take care of them after mommy and daddy stop paying for college. Note that more than 70 % of teachers, fire fighters, and other public-sector workers were found to be highly satisfied with their jobs. No doubt… until we run out of other-people’s money to pay for them to take a permanent fully-paid vacation at age 50 or 55.

  53. biddlin

    ERM-The nature of labor negotiations tend to be that each side makes “throw-away demands.” These are then used as concessions to appease the other side later on. Management demands reductions in staff that they know are untenable, then labor demands excessive pay and benefits and each side whittles away at the other. Is it childish and time consuming? Frequently. Is there a better way? Maybe, but this beats the hell out of the violent strikes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. By the way, in every instance I am aware of in my working life, when a municipality privately contracts public works projects, they inherit all of the mistakes and outright substandard work to correct at added expense, which is why most go back to having municipal employees do the work! Street medians and parks are the most common examples of contractors using cheap labor and deferring irrigation and electrical maintenance through the end of the contract, and usually the city workers bring the sites back up to standards, and then under the guise of saving money, the department managers brother-in-law or cousin gets the contract to “maintain” it again.

  54. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    [quote]I wondered when someone would figure out a way to pull the race card to help state workers join a protected class. You might want to think a little deeper on this comparison. Last time I checked there was no history of slavery and discrimination for state workers.[/quote]

    No. I thought deep and hard when I came up with the comparison, and it is a good one, elegantly illustrating the error of your thinking. Instead of me rethinking my argument, you should reconsider your prejudice. You prejudge state workers as stupid, lazy and undeserving of an employment condition that you also unfairly presume to be opulent. My comparison is accurate. Your characterization that state workers – as a class – are lazy and stupid is no more valid or fair than the still all too common prejudice that African Americans – as a class – are lazy and stupid. The fact that state workers are not recognized as a protected class is irrelevant to the argument.

    You cannot escape your apparent prejudice by ridiculing my analogy that proves your prejudice. Instead, the better solution is for you to open your mind and admit your mistake.

    Now, with that understood, I very much agree that labor law has evolved in such a way as to provide mechanisms creating barriers against resolving labor issues that do not exist in the private sector. For example, a bad teacher with tenure (i.e., having lasted two years without being non reelected) is virtually impossible to fire, and governmental employers unwittingly agreed to additional procedures via collective bargaining that make it even more difficult to fire any employ short of overwhelming proof of extreme wrongdoing.

    However, please note that my opinion is not based on an unfair characterization that all publicly certificated teachers working in public schools, as a class, are bad at their jobs. That is an unfair and untrue mischaracterization. There are excellent teachers out there. But the bad ones are protected by statutory, regulatory and contractual mechanisms that simply do not exist in the private sector – which ultimately affects the ability of school districts to not just improve their delivery of educational services, but to simply maintain that delivery.

    I think you and I would agree on this – without poisoning the discussion with prejudice.

  55. biddlin

    “Note that more than 70 % of teachers, fire fighters, and other public-sector workers were found to be highly satisfied with their jobs.”
    I would think that a positive for all concerned. Aren’t happier employees more likely to make sacrifices(as many in Davis already have)and be more reasonable at the bargaining table?

  56. Frankly

    “You prejudge state workers as stupid, lazy”

    Paul, I fear you are projecting quite a bit. I did not say any of this. I went back to read it all to make sure.

    “undeserving of an employment condition that you also unfairly presume to be opulent.”

  57. Frankly

    Sorry… edit problem…

    “You prejudge state workers as stupid, lazy”

    Paul, I fear you are projecting quite a bit. I did not say any of this. I went back to read it all to make sure.

    “undeserving of an employment condition that you also unfairly presume to be opulent.”

    Paul, I did say this, except that I “fairly presume” that pay and benefits for public sector workers are opulent by comparison to what the private sector receives. It is simple math.

  58. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    [quote] It is simple math. [/quote]

    Not in this case. Again, you presume incorrectly. Like some private sector pay and benefit packages, some public sector pay and benefit packages are opulent. And just as some private sector pay and benefit packages are meager, the same is true for some public sector pay and benefit packages. For example, certificated school employees, represented by the California Teacher’s Association at the negotiations table, have pay and benefits packages superior to classified school employees represented by CSEA. Many public employees are not represented at all and do not benefit from collective bargaining – and their pay and benefits suffer because of that lack.

    I re-read what you wrote, too. On first impression, your words seemed to reveal an apparent prejudice against public employees – implicitly arguing that public employees, as a class, are less capable than workers in the private sector and enjoy high pay and plush benefits they neither earned nor deserve. I apologize if I was mislead by what I read.

    With that being said – and back to the point – it appears that many Davis’ employees were very well represented during the negotiations that produced their wage and benefit packages – negotiated agreements so opulent the City cannot fund the liabilities those agreements produced. This is something everyone agrees with. The battle to come is centered on how to solve this problem.

  59. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    [quote]Is it childish and time consuming? Frequently. Is there a better way? Maybe,[/quote]

    There are better ways. What you describe is most commonly called “positional/adversarial bargaining” where each side stakes out an initial position, then defends or advances from that position, most often meeting somewhere in the middle.

    But positional bargaining is only one form of bargaining. There are others that should be considered.

  60. wdf1

    Something that is circulating around Facebook these days:

    [quote]Are you sick of highly paid teachers?

    Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit!

    We can get that for less than minimum wage.

    That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).

    Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

    However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

    LET’S SEE….

    That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

    What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

    Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

    The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!![/[/quote]

  61. E Roberts Musser

    biddlin: “ERM-The nature of labor negotiations tend to be that each side makes “throw-away demands.” These are then used as concessions to appease the other side later on. Management demands reductions in staff that they know are untenable, then labor demands excessive pay and benefits and each side whittles away at the other. Is it childish and time consuming? Frequently. Is there a better way? Maybe, but this beats the hell out of the violent strikes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.”

    Excuse me, but I do think there are better ways to bargain than to ask for pie in the sky as a starting point. Secondly, some of these unions have achieved pie in the sky wages/benefits by using this type of outrageous bargaining. These types of public union abuses by some public unions have got to stop for the good of not only the public in general, but for the good of the workers themselves. If the public unions don’t start making some concessions, they are going to be flat out of work… which will be disastrous for everyone! Unemployed people cannot pay taxes…

  62. wdf1

    Jeff Boone, from comment on plastic bag article:

    Have you checked the membership of the EPI Board of Directors? They are mostly union thugs and their charter is at least suspect of being biased toward union labor. Besides, if these employees are public “servants”, as the EPI says, then why make an issue over lower pay?

    Let’s try some more objective sources:

    Your dismissiveness overlooks solid evidence. You’re typically more thoughtful than that.

    Just to recap what you were reacting to:

    wdf1: Economic Policy Institute: Wisconsin public servants already face a compensation penalty

    [url]http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/[/url]

    Summary: In Wisconsin, public employees earn less than their private sector counterparts.

    You respond by offering some more “objective” sources. First, the Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance: [url]http://www.wistax.org/taxpayer/0709.pdf[/url]

    The problem with this is that it’s board is loaded with conservatives, Republicans, and likely even corporate goons. So I ought to be equally justified in dismissing this report because there is a likely agenda being promoted.

    But if you look at its methodology, they take all government workers and all private sector employees each in aggregate, without regard to comparing equivalent jobs. So for instance the private sector average is weighted down with many lower-paying hamburger flippers and grocery store baggers that are either not so abundant or non-existent in the public sector. But you have no way of knowing if you’re really comparing equivalent jobs or not.

    Your second source, [url]http://reason.org/news/show/public-sector-private-sector-salary[/url], is a little more credible. It begins to address comparing apples-to-apples. It also happens to cite the very same source as my link, a 2010 study by Bender and Heywood, who happen to be on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee:
    [url]http://www.slge.org/vertical/Sites/{A260E1DF-5AEE-459D-84C4-876EFE1E4032}/uploads/{03E820E8-F0F9-472F-98E2-F0AE1166D116}.PDF[/url].

    Your source from the Reason Foundation does a respectable summary of the study, but doesn’t refute it with any counter evidence, instead offering skeptical comments that it may be impossible ever do any direct comparison, that maybe public employees are overqualified (no data offered on that). Your source also cites a Cato Institute study that shows that private sector employees work more hours and are paid less. But again, it doesn’t disaggregate the data by profession, so again you have plenty of lower income/lower skilled private sector employees tweaking the statistics in a direction that happens to be more favorable to an anti-PEU, anti-government agenda.

    I work in the science field. Among my colleagues and acquaintances (all with graduate degrees), I know of no notable anecdotal instance where a career as a public employee professional would outgain a career in the private sector. Granted that there may be other fields that I know little of, but all my adult life I have observed the maxim, “if you want the big bucks, go into private industry”.

  63. Frankly

    wdf1: “all my adult life I have observed the maxim, “if you want the big bucks, go into private industry”.

    Yes, that is what I remember too. But a lot has changed in the last 10-20 years… the last 4-5 years has been the icing on the public-sector cake. Other than ignoring the clear evidence that pay levels between the private sector and public sector have at least equalized at this point, you and others continue to discount the value of public sector benefits including obscene pensions and full covered healthcare and significantly better job security. At the very least, I would expect some agreement that the trend lines are much steeper for comparative public sector total compensation.

    All my adult life I learned that risk-taking was required for higher rewards. Why then should I support a system that pays the higher rewards to the more risk-averse? How does that play out in the long run… incentivizing people to gravitate toward taking fewer career risks so they can be better rewarded? That is the main ill of collectivism. Without economic Darwinism we will fail. There are not enough of you broad-system-thinking scientific types that can devise a comprehensive system of central control that would succeed in engineering society to overcome the natural human tendency to pursue self interest. Risk taking in private-sector free enterprise is what pays your public-sector compensation. When your compensation as a public servant exceeds that which can be earned by taking risks in private free enterprise, then the rational pursuit of self interest sends more people packing for your job, and less pursuing jobs to pay the bills.

    With all this back and forth I am starting to understand a certain comparative disdain for the private sector that lacks transparency and is disturbing. In a nutshell, I see you and others in the defense of public-sector compensation valuing education more than economic risk-taking. In my book what you do matters more than what you know. For example, how many people have a better computer science education than Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

    Regardless, the Democrats have created the perfect storm with their responses to the Great Recession: both in policy and in rhetoric. Wall Street may deserve criticism (although I pin most of the problem on the failed attempts of government to engineering society); but mainstreet has been decimated. I fear this is not going to end well for either side. The unions will be destroyed (which in the long run I think will be better for all), and the country will be even more polarized and paralyzed.

  64. Don Shor

    For example, how many people have a better computer science education than Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

    Thousands. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands. I’m guessing Gates and Jobs would be the first to recognize that. They couldn’t have achieved anything at all without the highly educated computer scientists they hired.

    Interesting that the world seems to be divided between “union thugs” and “corporate goons.”

  65. biddlin

    “Secondly, some of these unions have achieved pie in the sky wages/benefits by using this type of outrageous bargaining.”
    None of them got to write their own mou. Except the cops, none of them should have brought guns to the council meetings. There are two sides in every negotiation. Your claim seems to be that the unions contributed more to council members than the rest of the public and therefore had more influence. That goes to the character of the council member and their conviction to represent your best interests. My wife and I were successful entrepreneurs, who went into public service so that our children would have a stable lifestyle and we would have the time to raise them together. The pension and healthcare benefits were good, but we both had much higher incomes before civil service. That said, it strikes me as disingenuous to condemn asking for the greatest possible compensation. I was brought up in a more bucolic, less materialistic culture, but having lived in California for most of my adult life, I haven’t seen too many people that don’t try for the biggest income, in consideration of the greater good.(Some public employees and Administrators being exceptions.)

  66. Frankly

    Don: Based on your response, I don’t think you got my point. Those highly-educated scientists working for Gates and Jobs are the “doers”. Certainly their education is important and valued… but more so because they were willing to take risks. Most of the pioneering scientists that worked for Gates and Jobs initially took stock options in lieu of pay. They were richly rewarded. Many others took risks this way that did not result in the same. On average though, we want the risk-takers to have the greater potential for higher compensation. Many in the public sector gravitate there because they don’t have the interest or tollerance for taking these type of risks. They should not make more than the average risk-taking private sector scientist.

  67. Don Shor

    It is clear that you value risk-taking and private enterprise experience more highly than other characteristics, so you feel those should be more highly compensated. But most scientific research, just to use one example, is better developed through public funds.

    On average though, we want the risk-takers to have the greater potential for higher compensation.

    I disagree. The skills and knowledge that scientists bring to their work are not necessarily better expressed in the private realm than in the public. In many cases they would be less effective, since private companies are more likely to require research directed to specific goals and in support of products. Pure research would barely exist, except as funded by foundations and the military. Gates and Jobs, for example, benefited from decades of publicly-funded research.

    the natural human tendency to pursue self interest.

    People are actually able to overcome this tendency. Many people find other rewards in their work that they value greater than monetary compensation. As you probably learned in your business classes, pay is not really the most effective or important motivator for many people.

  68. wdf1

    Andrew Reschovsky/CNN: Wisconsin risks losing its best public employees

    [url]http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/21/reschovsky.wisconsin.budget/index.html?iref=allsearch#[/url]

    Some good points in the piece, and it also cites another “union thug” study, which again appropriately adjusts for education level:

    [quote]However, a recent study* by Rutgers University professor Jeffrey Keefe for the Economic Policy Institute found that once adjustments were made for the differences between the public and private sector jobs, the compensation of Wisconsin’s public employees, including wages and benefits, was about 5% below the compensation of Wisconsin’s private sector employees. Wisconsin’s fiscal problems cannot be attributed to excessive employee compensation.

    *[url]http://epi.3cdn.net/9e237c56096a8e4904_rkm6b9hn1.pdf[/url][/quote]

  69. wdf1

    I try very hard to find the good in all things. And I think I have found a temporary upside to the situation in Wisconsin.

    Pizza – the latest weapon of protest: Pizza joint gets orders from around the world to feed anti-cuts demonstrators in Wisconsin

    [url]http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/21/pizza-latest-weapon-of-protest?mobile-redirect=false[/url]

    You, too, can order pizza for the protesters at (608) 257-9248. The link above also links to their facebook page.

  70. Frankly

    “Wisconsin risks losing its best public employees”

    Well, if I paid 125% or 150% of market price for employees, then I might be able to attract the “best” in my industry. However, I would likely go out of business from too-high expenses. Interesting though, have you checked with Nugget Market to see how they get rated as the 16th best company to work for in the nation without unions, and without paying top compensation?

    Regardless, here is where those replacement employees will come from. This is from a source you should trust I think. 🙂

    [url]http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec10/graduates_12-03.html [/url]

    On the Rutgers “adjusted” comparison… this uses the premise that higher education justifies higher pay. That is not how it works in the private-sector. Education is second to experience and accomplishment.

    In any case, why do grade school teachers need a Masters degree?

  71. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    Jeff – The Rodda Act granted teachers the right to collectively bargain, and when that happened it resulted in an infusion of private sector labor principles into public sector employment. One of those was the concept of “Step and Column” automatic pay increases. As a result, just about every school district in the California has a “salary schedule” that ranks teachers by the number of years they’ve worked (i.e., what “step” they are on). An employee moves on this grid each year and is given an automatic raise in pay to reward them for their longevity.

    But they can also move laterally, from column to column depending on their experience. These moves indicate the “extra” experience they have, which is rewarded by another automatic pay increase.

    So, does a grade school teacher needa Masters degree? Maybe not. But the theory is that, by getting one, they can be a better teacher, and that effort is rewarded with a pay raise that is automatic the moment something like it is achieved.

    These Step and Column mechanisms are creatures of collective bargaining and that means the extra efforts a teacher can use to get automatic pay increases vary from district to district.

    With that said, the entire Step and Column automatic pay raise system is on the brink of going away. Freezing step and column is a fast and sure way for school districts to save the extra money they would have to pay each year. More and more school districts are opting to put a freeze on the table, negotiate it, go to impasse, then PERB fact finding, and then, when all of that is done, impose the change – with the teachers having the option to either accept the change or strike. And they can’t really strike because no strike can survive without the local community’s support, and no community during these hard times is going to support a strike for an automatic pay raise every year – not when so many people are looking for work, any work.

  72. Frankly

    Me: the natural human tendency to pursue self interest.

    Don: People are actually able to overcome this tendency. Many people find other rewards in their work that they value greater than monetary compensation.

    Your point “People are actually able to overcome this tendency”, I think, is the essence of where you and I might differ on politics. I think liberals tend to believe that the historical record of failures in collectivism is explained by the fact that humans – especially the brutish American kind – were just not as historically smart or knowledgeable, and that “this time” we would be much more successful. Conservative libertarians like me believe that these other models of governance have been adequately proven as failures because human nature is natural, common and “sticky”; and collectively more powerful (positively or negatively) than can be the will and minds of a minority of better-educated social engineers. The reason… the better educated also pursue their self interest no differently than all other humans… except with more demonstrated entitlement and greater denial.

    For example, I’m sure you are on the bandwagon of voiced disgust over the displays of greed on Wall Street (for the moment I won’t get into the fact that government meddling in the free market was the actual root cause of the recent housing bubble that popped). How is that any different than a US professor spending 20% of his time teaching so he can publish more? How is that any different than a PEU that would defend the practices of obscene pay and benefits while programs are cut and other employees are laid off?

    All people pursue their self interests at the expense of others. It is those that deny it and claim some higher calling that are the most potentially destructive if given the keys to control. This has been going on for decades since the first great better-educated social engineer – FDR. What we are seeing now is another example of failure for this mindset that a few smart people at the top can control a large system of people through direct manipulation. We don’t need this and it is destructive. FDR extended the Great Depression, just like Obama has extended the Great Recession. We don’t need them to tell us what to do. What we lack as a people is moral compass and government that provides moral leadership and respect for our complete freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness through our own will and determination. Given that, we are much better equipped to solve our own social and economic problems. Government should stop trying to do so much more than our founders intended it to do. The private sector will pick up the slack much more efficiently and with greater quality.

    Signed – Ayn Rand

  73. Frankly

    Paul: Thanks for this great explanation. It cleared up a few questions I had about what would drive a grade school teacher to pursue a Masters or PHD.

    This again reminds me of the saying “what gets measured gets done”.

    When we start measuring the correct targeted results of performance and pay teachers according to their success or failure achieving these targeted results, then education will be saved.

  74. Don Shor

    All people pursue their self interests at the expense of others. It is those that deny it and claim some higher calling that are the most potentially destructive if given the keys to control.
    Since this is neither provable nor falsifiable, it is merely dogma. It entirely ignores altruism (which would probably be explained as some sort of self-interest in a convoluted attempt at extending the dogma). It ignores self-fulfillment as a goal that can be achieved without competing with others and without being ‘at the expense’ of others.

    I think liberals tend to believe that the historical record of failures in collectivism is explained by the fact that humans – especially the brutish American kind – were just not as historically smart or knowledgeable, and that “this time” we would be much more successful.
    Democracy and our republican form of government is a process of collectivism.

    “…the displays of greed on Wall Street….How is that any different than a US professor spending 20% of his time teaching so he can publish more?”

    Aside from the fact that we are talking about degrees of 100 to 100,000-fold or more in monetary value? And the fact that publishing research findings barely makes any difference in the remuneration of a scientist? I’ve known lots of academics very well. The ones I know haven’t particularly valued monetary rewards. They value academic prestige, the respect of their peers, and the freedom to study what and how they choose.

    Economics is a very narrow prism through which to view human behavior, and IMO Ayn Rand’s narrow prism is even more distorted. People are more complex than economic models would have you believe. I know very few people who are motivated primarily by money or by other financial incentives. Most of the ones I do know are Type A males, who tend to believe everyone else is also motivated that way. They work well on commissions. The vast majority of people don’t. Probably the least applicable for any kind of economic model of behavior would be the behavior of academic researchers.

  75. Frankly

    Don: I am not only talking about economics here. The pursuit of self interest includes anything and everything you are interested in as an individual. And everything you pursue comes at the expense of something else. For example, I am blogging with you right now, extending the time I have to work tonight and getting home later than I would otherwise get home… and depriving my wife and dog time with me. I have known people afflicted with a “savers syndrome” where they will give copious time and money to strangers while ignoring, and even damaging, their own family and or workplace. The “rational” pursuit of self interest is one that considers these types of costs and benefits and makes informed value judgments in how time and resources are spent and can accept the consequences.

    Altruism is a favorite topic of mine because I see a lot of destructive altruism. It the old “feed a fish, teach to fish” principle. Give a person a job and opportunity to grow their economic prosperity, and I think you are the perfect altruist. Give a person a meal and place to sleep, and you have given him comfort for a day, made yourself feel good, but potentially made him more dependent on you. Next is the growth of a symbiotic relationship… with you needing to help him to make yourself feel good, and him needing you more as he becomes more dependent on you.

    I think people are less complex in what motivates them. I’m no psychiatrist, but I think this goes back to basic human childhood development. We want to be safe. We want to be loved. We want to be accepted. We want to be valued. We want to be recognized. We want to be seen as capable. Some of us seem to want to accomplish things just because we want to… but I think most of what motivates us is still rooted in these other things. Many (not all) that claim some higher moral altruistic calling, in my view, are usually the people with the largest gaps in fulfilling these other fundamental wants/needs. It is not that I don’t appreciate what they do, I just wish they would come clean that they are stuck a few steps back from the competition and instead substituting the filling of their tank as do-gooders.

    For people that earn wealth, wealth is usually a byproduct of a thing they are trying to accomplish. It is a reward, but usually not the thing. Even the investment banker… in their case returns are the thing and wealth is the reward. For a scientist, some discovery, theory or research contribution might be the thing. For a teacher, I would hope that doing the very best job educating every student is the thing.

    I very much value, appreciate and respect that person that decides his or her career calling is as a scientific research professor or other public servant. I don’t deny them a fair wager and fair benefits. What I don’t appreciate is how a public-sector career, the one with less competition, less stress, less hours and much more job security, has become more valuable than the private-sector counterpart that gets to deal with hyper competition, stress, longer hours, less job security. The system has been gamed by politics and now it is time to fix it.

  76. wdf1

    To Jeff B: Where do you stand on Ayn Rand’s view of religion? Ayn Rand, like Karl Marx, couldn’t seem to account for religion very easily in her philosophy, and so disparaged it. She was an atheist (though born into a Jewish family, I think). One reading of Christianity is that it is all about altruism and figuring out how to get along with others; seems like she would have thought it all to be bogus. It also seems that she had personal issues and instabilities that seem at odds with her philosophy, for instance, justifying an open affair for herself, but demanding loyalty of many of her followers. To me those are places where her philosophy unravels.

  77. Frankly

    wdf1: “Where do you stand on Ayn Rand’s view of religion?”

    Rand, like many great thinkers, didn’t always model the behavior that her fame set as an expectation. FDR, JFK and Einstein were all womanizers to some degree and had affairs. Certainly there are conflicts with her views and modern conservatism… however, modern conservatism, despite left dogma, is combative and conflicted and constantly wrestles with moral and ethical questions. This is why Fox News is so much more entertaining than other more robotic news providers.

    Objectivism, by its nature, has a difficult time with religion. Like Adam Smith, Rand certainly recognized that a necessary component supporting the rational pursuit of self interest was morality and ethics. Though like for many with a probing and objective mind, it is difficult to trust faith to provide these things. In some ways Rand was more like a modern day progressive… and believed that we had evolved in our industrialized society beyond the needs that religion provided.

    I am more apt to see humans as guided by emotional impulses than so much rational thought. Like when someone asks you “What do you think of that car?” The question is: “think?”, but your answer is wrapped up into “How does that car make me feel?” In fact, I think most of what drive pursuit of human interest is rooted in the emotional mind. Marketers know this. I think Rand was stuck in this conundrum of making sense of the emotional mind and rational mind. It was apparent in her writings… and she admitted that they were all philosophical works in progress…where the story would explore personal companionship, affection and sex in some weird way.

    Here is a good summary of one of my favorite Rand books “The Virtue of Selfishness”. [url]http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/selfishness.html[/url]

    This Rand quote sums up my perspective too:
    [quote] Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests.

    This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.

    If it is true that what I mean by “selfishness” is not what is meant conventionally, then this is one of the worst indictments of altruism: it means that altruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man—a man who supports his life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others. It means that altruism permits no view of men except as sacrificial animals and profiteers-on-sacrifice, as victims and parasites—that it permits no concept of a benevolent co-existence among men—that it permits no concept of justice.[/quote]

  78. wdf1

    Jeff Boone: In a nutshell, I see you and others in the defense of public-sector compensation valuing education more than economic risk-taking. In my book what you do matters more than what you know. For example, how many people have a better computer science education than Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

    and

    This again reminds me of the saying “what gets measured gets done”.

    When we start measuring the correct targeted results of performance and pay teachers according to their success or failure achieving these targeted results, then education will be saved.

    If you look at Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, it would appear that they are statistical failures of higher education. Both dropped out of college. From what I remember reading of their biographies a while back, neither was particularly stellar as a grade school student. I don’t think either viewed their college experience as completely worthless, though. Steve Jobs has a good anecdote about how a course on calligraphy at Reed College led to his approach of valuing a variety of fonts that were a real selling point of his original Mac line of computers.

    But you want to measure student results as a means for determining the worth of a teacher and an education system. By what measures could we identify a person like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates as succeeding and indicating that their teachers were doing a good job? In another age, you could have used Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison as statistical failures of education. This is an argument that teachers use against using test scores as a measure of success.

  79. Frankly

    “This is an argument that teachers use against using test scores as a measure of success.”

    Ah yes… that concept of “successful intelligence”… the thing that public education does not grow very well. The main value of public education, and some higher education, is that it teaches young people how to survive boredom and temper their expectations for creative problem solving.

    [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U[/url]

  80. wdf1

    Ah yes… that concept of “successful intelligence”… the thing that public education does not grow very well. The main value of public education, and some higher education, is that it teaches young people how to survive boredom and temper their expectations for creative problem solving.

    and how to read, do math, maybe pick up some history & science, work together in sports and performing arts.

    So how do you propose to measure what can’t be measured, but what still may be going on in public education, and which still may be of some value to a child’s education?

  81. Frankly

    and how to read, do math, maybe pick up some history & science, work together in sports and performing arts.

    My expectations are higher for the academic side. The sports and performing arts seem to be high caliber. This is probably because these two domains tend toward participatory, high-sensory, skills development… and not just rote memorization of copious data or abstract theories without practical context.

    Public education needs to be turned over to for-profit, private providers to completely transform it into a dynamic, high-tech, service-oriented education delivery system that meets the needs of our modern, global economy. Tweed and tradition notwithstanding, the old system just doesn’t cut it anymore.

  82. wdf1

    This again reminds me of the saying “what gets measured gets done”.

    When we start measuring the correct targeted results of performance and pay teachers according to their success or failure achieving these targeted results, then education will be saved.

    This comment too glib to be useful.

    If we follow your guidelines for saving education, then we will cut performing and visual arts, and possibly P.E. Because how do you know if a music teacher is doing his/her job or not? Already that is the basis for making budget decisions in many school districts. There’s no standardized test for music that has a direct impact on a district’s measure of success or failure.

  83. wdf1

    Public education needs to be turned over to for-profit, private providers to completely transform it into a dynamic, high-tech, service-oriented education delivery system that meets the needs of our modern, global economy. Tweed and tradition notwithstanding, the old system just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    But if you want to involve taxpayer money, then the taxpayers will want accountability and measures of success. A long-standing assumption of our society is accessible education for all. The U.S. has long been a leader in that and still is. There’s no workable model to have that without taxpayer money. So you will still have a system that tends to ignore what can’t be measured.

  84. Frankly

    “If we follow your guidelines for saving education, then we will cut performing and visual arts, and possibly P.E. Because how do you know if a music teacher is doing his/her job or not?”

    Private schools already exist and do these things… most of them much better than the public-run schools. You don’t have to cut P.E. or screw up music programs. You can keep the facility and outsource the running of it. The government resources would be contract administrators.

    I think we should meet for coffee or lunch at some point and I can explain modern performance management… the art and science of hiring, retaining, motivating and rewarding employees toward a constant vision of improvement. You can develop measurable goals for almost any desired targeted outcome. They can be both quantitative and qualitative. Well designed surveys to collect customer and stakeholder opinion, combined with hard data that measures outcomes… these are the tools of most well-run organizations to help them make sure their employees are always optimized doing the right things. You might not have experience with this as a public sector employee, it would explain why you don’t understand how it can apply to the service of education.

  85. Frankly

    “But if you want to involve taxpayer money, then the taxpayers will want accountability and measures of success. A long-standing assumption of our society is accessible education for all. The U.S. has long been a leader in that and still is. There’s no workable model to have that without taxpayer money. So you will still have a system that tends to ignore what can’t be measured.”

    Vouchers and tax credits. Let parents decide where their kids should go to school. Today only the wealthy get to do this. It will require a public-private partnership. The first step would be to break the union’s stranglehold on the status quo. If only the good teachers could understand how much better their career choices would be under this model… sigh.

  86. wdf1

    The first step would be to break the union’s stranglehold on the status quo. If only the good teachers could understand how much better their career choices would be under this model… sigh.

    To get anywhere with that, I think you have to dispense with standardized tests. But that means asking the taxpayers to trust that their money is being well-spent. But I think taxpayers are of the mindset, “trust but verify”. So I don’t think you’ll get any significant movement.

    As it is, some of the first charter schools are in the process of being shut down because of poor performance on standardized tests.

  87. Frankly

    Standardization test should still be part of the set of performance goals. Think of it as a subset of the school audit standard.

    If you give me a voucher and tax breaks to select the school I will send my children too, the verification becomes my problem and my power. Consumers already do a great job finding the best value for services they need. They do a much better job than politicians.

  88. wdf1

    The first step would be to break the union’s stranglehold on the status quo. If only the good teachers could understand how much better their career choices would be under this model… sigh.

    Oops! I read and responded on the fly without absorbing what you were saying.

    I think the insecurities that the vouchers would cover the cost of the education without obligating the parent to pay more, that students wouldn’t be denied admittance to their school of choice, and that it wouldn’t fund religious activities and affiliations.

    I think better to try it out on a small scale somewhere for a while and see what it looks like.

  89. Frankly

    “I think better to try it out on a small scale somewhere for a while and see what it looks like.”

    Well it needs economies of scale to really test it. You won’t get enough private sector innovation and investment without a large enough pond of customers to please.

    I say we know enough already. There are plenty of private schools doing a great job teaching kids. Let’s just expand it. At the same time I would take all the money the state is given to the UC and CSU system and hand out student vouchers and tax credits instead. Then let these colleges raise their tuition as high as they want. That way the students can simply protest by going elsewhere and competition will inject a motivation for greater efficiency into the business model of the UC and CSU system.

    I will never forget the 11th hour article on the UC system saving $500 million over several years by combining 16 separate HR and payroll systems… this of course after a couple of years whining about lower state contributions and having to raise tuition. In any competitive industry this $500MM would have been low hanging fruit plucked years ago. At UC apparently there is not enough motivation to get rid of this type of waste. It needs more competition.

  90. wdf1

    Let’s just expand it. At the same time I would take all the money the state is given to the UC and CSU system and hand out student vouchers and tax credits instead. Then let these colleges raise their tuition as high as they want. That way the students can simply protest by going elsewhere and competition will inject a motivation for greater efficiency into the business model of the UC and CSU system.

    I have the feeling we’re not understanding each other. I assumed you met vouchers for K-12 education. You’re talking about higher ed.

  91. Frankly

    No, I was talking about K-12; but I added that I think there is another ideas and benefit to puting the money we give to the UC and CSU systems directly in the hands of the students and/or their partents to pay for tuition. In this era almost everyone needs some higher ed.

    In this way I am a consumption-sider and not a supply sider.

    I just tacked on the higher-ed thought since I was on a roll.

  92. wdf1

    This is why Fox News is so much more entertaining than other more robotic news providers.

    Maybe. But I’m concerned what kind of Koolaid I’ll be served. Fox News was cited twice for reversing the numbers on this poll, which says that 61% of Americans oppose taking away collective bargaining rights from public employees.

    Poll: Americans favor union bargaining rights

    [url]http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-02-22-poll-public-unions-wisconsin_N.htm[/url]

  93. Paul Nicolas Boylan

    [quote]Poll: Americans favor union bargaining rights [/quote]

    Oh, please. The average american has no idea what collective bargaining is or the extent to which labor law impacts business and employment. Give me twenty minutes with an average American and I assure you that when I am done he or she will be adamantly against “union bargaining rights.”

    And even if it is true that “Americans favor union bargaining rights” that has nothing to do with whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. At one time Americans favored racial segregation. The popularity of discrimination had no bearing on whether it was good or right.

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